Are You Ready For a Website?

What does a developer think when a person says, "I need a website."? 

Sure, I'm happy to take someone's money to build a website, but I quickly run through some mental questions.

  • Websites are trendy for some people. Others have one; they want one. Without some followup statements from them, I likely smile and give them an encouraging statement that is a bit different than what I'm really thinking. I probably won't pursue the opportunity to take their money because they may not be ready for a website--just the trend for having one.
  • Are they trying to build a business, or just "treading water." If they're happy enough doing what they're doing, they're not likely to put much effort into developing the content or keeping the content alive enough to grow their business. I'd rather not develop a business plan for them if they're not interested, and a website is an intergral part of a business that wants to grow.
  • Are they thinking about what their customers or followers need, or is this just an opportunity to push their services, goods, or information out to people hoping that they want it? If it's the latter, when the website fails their expectation, I'd be the one they'd blame.
  • How much help will they be in creating the website? Will they expect me to do what is needed? My experience tells me that if I'm expected to figure out what they need, they won't like my solutions.
  • Will they really track the success of the website and make adjustments? I know that the maintenance process of a good website takes much more time than the initial creation. I don't want to waste my time making a good splash and forget about it. For a good customer, I'll keep them up to speed on how well I see the site doing, but I'll expect them to see results first-hand.
  • (Finally!) Will they pay what the job requires? I have significant experience in doing jobs for little or no funding because I thought the site was important.

Lessons Learned

For a business that wants to be the leader, the business owner must be involved constantly. They may worry you with daily exchanges about changes and adjustments, but the website will grow the business.

An obligatory website is mostly a waste of my time. I replaced a county website with a modern version that a model that provided a complete suite of information that could be accessed with no more than two or three mouse clicks. It turns out that the county leaders didn't use the website, follow the website, understand what the people were looking for, or suggest changes or updates to the site. They wanted the website because they got points for doing a new website from the state's economic development program. The results of the website didn't matter. As soon as they could get points again, they selected another developer at several times my cost to build a new site that barely works and still gets little maintenance. 

It doesn't take a lot of results to pay for a website. No matter how well the website is constructed, some sites will generate very little traffic. It's not the amount of traffic that counts. A welding website generates little traffic. When a call comes in from a trucker on the nearby Interstate because they found the site while broken down, one call pays the yearly cost of the website--and more.