Things Your Web Developer Won’t Tell You!
I'm spitting facts and I'm not sad about it.
Owning a website is a crucial step to taking your brand or business to the next level. Many people only have a notion of what their site should look like but few find the time to get into the nitty-gritties. In this article, I'll hold you by the hand and walk you through basic precautionary steps that your developer may not get into with you.
Before you contact a Web developer, there are a couple questions you have to answer:
- Why do you want a website
- What do you want your website to do for you?
Some people treat websites as a blended version of themselves - they want to be able to sell merchandise as well as digital products, write about their hobbies, display their art, skills, and crafts, etc. Okay, we get it - you're talented. While one website could do all of that, it really shouldn't.
Websites function best when they're centered around a specific theme that your viewers can identify with. It's best to deconsolidate by using social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc as creative outlets. Basically, if there's a social site that could do perfectly the thing you want a site for, then you most likely don't need one and you can stop reading right now.
Now you know why you want a website and you're sure it's the right option for your brand or business. You've got two broad options to pick from:
- A website builder.
- A Content Management System (CMS).
Both options are made to meet specific needs and your "why" will determine which option you'll go for.
If what you want is a simple website - for a blog, a contact page for your brick-and-mortar business, a portfolio, a little e-commerce shop, or for your CV so you can provide future employers or people in your networking circle with a link rather than a piece of paper - you do not need a developer. What you need is a website builder.
Website builders pack just enough functionality to handle simple websites. They provide uncomplicated, drag-and-drop features, as easy as building legos. There are tons to choose from, popular ones include Squarespace, Wix, Beaver Builder, Siteorigin, etc.
CMS's, on the other hand, are meatier platforms in terms of functionality, advanced features, and scalability. They are perfect for larger, more complex, websites. If you have big plans for your brand and don't want to restrict your site's functionality then you absolutely need a developer. CMS's require a good amount of mental brawn to operate because they have a steeper learning curve. Of course, if you're determined, you could register for a 'Create Your Website with CMS' course, but why go through the trouble? Developers literally spend hours of hard work up-skilling themselves and hiring one would get you your site for a fraction of time.
Moving on, it's time now to hire a Developer. There are many out there to choose from. In addition to the many other deciding factors, you basically want to keep two things in mind before you make a final decision:
- Previous work done.
- Quality of previous work done.
Notice how I didn't include years of experience. That's because how long you've been on a job doesn't matter as much as how well you can actually do a job. So be sure to ask for a link to your Dev's portfolio site and see if you're impressed. You basically want to see if the work is as responsive as it is beautiful. By that, I mean a number of things to look out for like:
- Page load speed (every millisecond counts)
- Simple layout / framework
- Adequate use of Search Engine Optimisation tools
- Would it still work if you used a keyboard only?
- Does it look the same on different viewports e.g. desktop and mobile?
There are several sites that can help you check all these. Nibbler's free site analyser can tell you how efficient any site is. All you have to do is type in its URL - e.g https://www.reallygreatsite.com and the analyser does the rest.
These little details are what determine whether a site gets featured on Google's top search results or not. If a site is not properly optimized, people won't find it because Google won't show it and if a site takes too long to load, visitors will get put off.
A good trick to getting a site to load faster is to only upload compressed images. Panda's free image compressor lets you upload up to 20 images at a time. When it comes to websites, better a clunky site than an ineffective one, I always say.
Moving on, now you’ve decided on a developer to work with, let’s talk duration and pricing.
Time taken to develop a website varies from Dev to Dev. If your Dev is as good as they seem to be, your project shouldn’t take more than 2 weeks - all things being equal, but things rarely are. Sometimes, simple projects span into months because Dev’s usually work on multiple projects at a time so you want to be patient.
Personally, my team and I finish projects in less than 12 days using CMS, but only because there are several competent people working on the same project at once. This makes the job faster but it also scales up the price.
Speaking of price, Developer charges vary largely from Dev to Dev and there isn’t much wiggle room. Be that as it may, I can’t imagine a good website costing less than ₦80k whatever the case may be. I always tell Devs to charge a price that will motivate them to do a good job and finish on time. To clients, I say, pay your Dev well because you’re getting hours of hardwork and practice in exchange for your money. The price of which is not something you want to argue with a Dev about.
Moving on, before you sign an invoice and hand out cash, there are a few standard charges you want to be aware of beforehand.
One of them is for Web Hosting. This refers to the server space you pay for so your site can stay accessible online, 24/7. This charge is billed annually and costs anywhere between ₦2500 - 20,000k depending on how large a space you want. Think of Web Hosting like a phone's specifications - a 2GB RAM with 16GB storage space would cost less and be slower than a 4GB RAM with 32GB storage space. The bigger the space, the faster a website's load speed and the more data a site can carry.
Up next is the domain charge. This is also renewed annually and varies in cost depending on the domain extension you choose. For example, ".com" domains cost more than ".ng" domains, ".net" domains are more expensive than ".xyz" domains, and ".com.ng" domains cost more than all the above (for some weird reason). The important thing to remember is domain charges start as low as ₦400 but are capped at about ₦9,500, give or take. My advice is to pick an extension and ask Google for its current price.
Now, depending on the kind of site you want, your Web Developer may need to install special plugins to perform special functions. For instance, if you want an e-commerce site that allows cryptocurrency as a payment option, your Dev will need a plugin to do that. Plugins are simply tools that extend a site's functionality. The vast majority of them are free but some aren't. My advice is to ask what plugin your Dev will use and then ask Google if it's free or not. Keep in mind that even though a plugin is free, it most likely won't come with tech support. This means your Dev is likely to charge you for it. However, you may infer that the charge here is not for the tool itself, but for the time spent working with it, integrating it and trouble-shooting - things you won't be able to do by yourself. But take it up with your Dev if you like.
Moving on, now you’ve hired a Dev and work on your site has begun, it isn’t time to sit back and wait for the job to be done. You want to stay in the loop. A good start is by requesting for the cPanel login details of your site. A fancy way of saying you want access to view the "behind-the-scenes" work your Dev does in real-time. You may not understand everything that goes on back there but that’s okay because you can ask your Dev questions. You can ask your Dev any question you want but don’t overdo it and become a bother. You also don’t want to waste your Dev’s time by making them answer questions when they should be working on your site. The best practice is to ask Google before you ask your Dev. This will save you both valuable man-hours.
When your site is done and deployed, an important thing you should not forget to do is ask for a backup of your website then store it on the cloud. You could use Google Drive or Microsoft's OneDrive. Do this because cyber security is a serious thing - your Web Hosting servers could go down and all your data could be lost.
Moving on, now your project is complete and you and your Dev part ways. One important thing to remember is an effective website won’t matter much if it doesn’t convert visitors to customers.
Getting a website is only one end of a successful brand’s trifecta. The other two are PR and marketing. After your site gets deployed, you must be ready to implement effective marketing strategies and fight for as much PR as you can. As a client, it’s up to you to make your site work for you. I, personally, offer my clients 20 days free marketing and tech support after a project is completed which is usually enough to get them going. But for the long run, you will need to hire a PR outfit to bring you much coveted convertible leads and loyal customers.
I want to leave you with a final tip. Few people realise that a good marketing strategy is to only use a corporate email account on your website. Support@yourwebsitename.com is more authentic than email@example.com (??). Your Dev may cover this or you can get one yourself. G Suite is Gmail for custom email addresses. Register there with their 14-day free trial and see what I mean.
In summary, anything is possible in this digital age and the same goes for Web Design and Development - if you can imagine it, there's probably a plugin for it. I've done my best to explain all the facts to save you money and hours of research. Now, go make that website! 💚