With over 20 years of working with new website builds of all sizes, customers, freelancers, small business owners and outside agencies; we've heard and seen it all. Every horror story imaginable. Missed deadlines, surprise costs, half finished builds, underwhelming design; we could go on and on. Where does it all go wrong? Is there such a thing as a perfect website build? The answer is a bit complicated but it's something we're going to tackle in this post. We've narrowed it to 8 helpful tips that may help you avoid these common issues so you won't make the same mistakes.
Here are 12 of the most common complaints we've heard from clients who have had website troubles:
- My website took too long to finish.
- I wasn't impressed with the quality of our new website.
- My website was missing features we requested.
- The company we worked with kept asking for more money.
- The final website is underperforming.
- My new website doesn't show up in search result pages.
- The company we worked with was not flexible to changes.
- My website isn't very fast.
- The company we worked with did not understand my vision for the project.
- We were locked out of our new website.
- The company we worked with will not give us our domain name.
- We're now expected to pay extra money monthly now that the site is finished.
We've heard these comments so many times over the years and they still make the hair stand up on the back of our necks. The truth is, every one if them is avoidable. That is of course, if you're working with a company or business that's dealt with similar situations before. That's the first thing you're going to want to ask yourself: Does my website contractor know how to prevent these things from happening?
How do I avoid making one of these mistakes with my new website?
There is a lot to be said about doing your due diligence. You've got to inform yourself what you're getting into if you sign a contract for a new website.
It also never hurt to have a bit of knowledge on how websites are built. Research any confusing language in the contract.
Below are some helpful tips that address the 12 common complaints above.
Tip 1: Understand Your Website Contract
Website contracts can fall into a couple particularly troubling areas. Number one being that they are simply too lengthy and not readable without the help of a professional. Second being the contract is too simple. A contract is not going to do any good if it doesn't cover the basics. The third being that there may not be a contract at all which is the ultimate destroyer of a new website.
Don't let yourself fall into any one of these three categories. If you're in any way concerned about the language of a contract, always seek out an attorney for help.
Get a clear scope. Make sure that all your needs for the project are addressed in the scope of work (SoW). This is crucial. If something is forgotten, both you and the company you're dealing with can get clarity by referring back to the scope of work. Make sure the scope is comprehensive.
The scope of work should be detailed and cover all the specifics of your project. If you're going to be paying thousands of dollars for a new site, make sure that all the details are in place so there is nothing to worry about.
Tip 2: Agree to a Project Timeline and Milestones
We've seen too many websites with open-ended deadlines. It's the kiss of death if you haven't defined the projects timeline. Milestones are a great way to pin down time frames when a major point of websites progress will be completed.
Keep in mind, if a timeline or milestone isn't met exactly it isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Simply having a date or range when expected progress is being made is a huge game changer. As long as you and who you're working with have solid communication, you should always know what to expect and when something might be running a little behind, or even early.
Tip 3: Receive Progress and Project Updates
You should never be in a situation where you have to reach out to the agency and ask what the status of something is. If you do, it's likely a major sign that something's not right. Many companies or agencies may have a system where you can see the progress of your project at any time. If they don't, they may need to be reaching out to you on a regular basis.
Nobody likes waiting around for news. If you've established a project timeline and milestones, as mentioned in tip #2, you'll be in an even better position to know when you'll be hearing from a project coordinator. Be sure to know who that person is in case you need to touch base or if you have a question.
Tip 4: Communicate Your Business Needs if Things Change
Some website builds take longer than others. If you've got a major website construction ahead of you with a lengthy timeline (6 months to a year) a lot can change in that time span. Make sure you understand the flexibility of the agency you're working with. In some cases, if your business has changed drastically, you might need to discuss adding an addendum to the project so that new features your business needs can be incorporated.
It's up to you as the client to communicate changes in your business during your website construction. Everything from changes in your inventory, company restructuring, or new fruitful opportunities are likely helpful to those who are working with your online brand. Make sure they stay informed, you might be surprised that as your needs change, the work may also have some flexibility.
Don't Make One of These Mistakes When Starting Your Next Web Project
Tip 5: Agree to on-Going Costs and Maintenance Prior to Signing a Contract
Nobody likes sticker shock. We hate it when costs are hidden. Make sure that all the costs are up front prior to signing a contract. This includes what website maintenance will look like down the road. We once saw a new website build all of sudden stuck under a $1,000 monthly bill once finished just for routine updates. Make sure you know what you're getting into for the life of your website prior to starting it.
None of us like it but we're now living in a micro-transaction world. We can't seem to escape it for websites either. Everybody wants $5/monthly here or $100/yearly for that service. These are going to pop up and you want to make sure that you are aware of on-going costs that will be your responsibility after your new website is launched. This includes website plugins and add-ons.
Tip 6: Make Sure You Own Your Own Domain Name
Our least favorite subject of the bunch. It brings physical pain when a client says that they never purchased their domain name or it has yet to be transferred to them. Always make sure you own your own domain name. This should not be the property of any other business but yours. It's super easy to buy a domain name and most of the time you can call support directly with companies like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Hover and more.
In the event you have lost contact with the person or business that purchased your domain name, you are likely going to need some help recovering it. That may includes hours of someones time to track down the details and try to reason with them assuming they are reachable. Sometimes things work out wonderfully and sometimes they don't. To avoid the hassle, make sure you purchase your own domain name directly, or ensure that the domain name is transferred to you by your professional as part of your contract.
Tip 7: Agree On the Goals of Your Website Build
Goals should be established up front before work has begun and, in most cases, likely even within the contract itself. If the agency isn't defining the goals for you, you need to weigh in.
Sometimes we know someone needs a website, but what are the expectations? Do you expect to rank on the first page of Google? Are you wanting more sales and transactions? Maybe you're only wanting to increase your readership or see more podcast downloads? Whatever your goals, lay them out on the table so everyone understands what needs to happen.
If you haven't been asked what your goals are, take it as another key point and sign. Maybe it's no the right fit, or maybe you're going to have to be the one driving the conversation and making sure your business needs are met.
Tip 8: Communicate Your Design Requirements
Design goes a few different directions. Either you're letting your agency guide you through the design decisions and what's right for your business or you know exactly what you're looking for. Maybe it's somewhere in the middle. All we know is that you want to make sure the project doesn't go too far off track before design decisions are made.
All companies who work in web design approach the design phase differently and there really isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to do it. As long as it's done. The agency or designer needs to understand what your likes are or guide you on what direction makes the most sense for your business through some market research.
Which one are you? Do you trust the agency to take the reins and tell you how your website should look? Do you know exactly what colors and images should be used and want to be in the driver's seat? Maybe it's somewhere in the middle and you want direction, but also want to be involved. Whatever way you prefer, make sure it's clear and everyone is in agreement.
Adrilan Can Help With You Next Web Project
We enjoy helping clients navigate the frustrating process of building complex websites that drive results. If you're not sure what to do, that's what we're here for.
Adrilan is located in Ozark, MO. We service the Springfield, Missouri area, surrounding cities and work with many companies in the USA. We help small, large and international companies through the complexities of web and digital services. If you want more information be sure to learn more about how we work and contact us if you have any further questions.