7 mistakes to avoid when shopping for a website provider

What is a ‘website provider?’

For the sake of this article, we’ll use that term to refer someone who will provide you a website.  This could be a marketing firm in an expensive downtown high rise, a 1990’s template from a budget hosting company, or anything in between.

Mistake 1: assume a free provider will meet your needs

Volunteer website providers are great until they start missing deadlines.  Perhaps you don’t have a deadline and so it’s ok if they get to it ‘when they can.’  But if you have real online goals, you’ll wish you had leverage to motivate them to produce on time.    What’s worse, is that you might also…

Mistake 2: unnecessarily lock yourself into a provider

Trying to find a trustworthy website provider is worse that finding a mechanic.  At least if you need to leave your mechanic you know that they won’t have customized your car to the point where you can’t drive it or another mechanic can’t work on it.  But that can happen with website providers.  They may do this intentionally (ethically questionable) or unintentionally (nice person but lacks the skills).  This could be in the form of over-customization or withholding passwords and other access.  It could even be the hosting template you put a lot of time into, only to realize you can’t add key features later on.  But this is not an uncommon error, especially if you…

Mistake 3: fail to know what you need

It is not always fun to sit down ahead of time and plan out what your online project goals are or what exact features you will need.  If your budget is flexible then you don’t have to.  But if you need to work within budget constraints this is a crucial step.  Without being armed with this information you are likely to add features late in the project when the development costs will be higher than if they had been established before beginning.  It can also cause you to make this mistake…

Mistake 4: assume all providers offer the same features

Provider 1 says he’ll do your website for $2500.  Provider 2 says $6500.  Provider 1 isn’t able to give much detail beside leading you to believe that websites don’t vary much from one to the other.  Provider 2 is able to delineate exactly what features you’ll get or what the specific value added to your project you’ll receive.  If you don’t probe further, you’ll likely…

Mistake 5: fail to compare ‘apples to apples’

An itemized estimate is gold in this instance.  It allows you to really drill down and see two things:

  1. what features are included (and sometimes more importantly, what are explicitly not included)
  2. what the cost of those features are

Without this, you might…

Mistake 6: assume the cheapest is the cheapest

If we summarize things mentioned above, you can begin to see several ways why the cheapest in the beginning is not always the cheapest in the long run.  Here are some ways that the cheapest can actually be more expensive:

  1. when they change your cost because they weren’t planning to do something you thought they would
  2. when they change your cost because they forgot something
  3. when they change your cost because they made a mistake
  4. when they add cost because they customized you into a corner and they’re the only ones who can fix it
  5. when they lack a key set of skills and you have to shop around again and then pay extra for your two experts to integrate their work.  Avoid this by avoiding this mistake…

Mistake 7: assume all website providers have the same skill set

Let’s use the mechanic analogy again.  We all want to find a mechanic we can trust: we know that if they are dishonest, they can tell us we need something we don’t and we’ll end up wasting money. But we encounter a whole new dilemma when we look for a website provider: what if they are trustworthy but lack all the skills we need?  Suppose they are a good graphic designer but a mediocre web developer… the best case is that your project could have unnecessary time or expense while they do some “on the job training.”  The worst case is that they could cause your site to crash or be lost because of that lack of skill. This is a risk with a one-person website provider.  It’s rare to find someone who has enough skill to do everything well… and who can invest the time to keep their skills up-to-date.  The skills involved in a typical website include:

  • project management (communication, task organization, meeting deadlines)
  • marketing (do you want an increase in revenue from your site?)
  • design (creative type who knows their way around Adobe tools and even simple photo editing)
  • web development (coding and configuring)
  • legal (not a lot required here, just a couple key things to keep you out of hot water)
  • search engine optimization (do you want to be found in Google?)
  • hosting / server (backups, email hosting, domains, security, spam prevention, etc.)

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