Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You get what you pay for

I have several pretty unhappy clients. Fortunately, its not my fault. Its theirs, and I'm the shoulder they come to cry on. "Go on, let it all out!"

Right, here's why I have a soggy shoulder: The temptation for small businesses to use the inexpensive services of web developers in India, Pakistan, the Phillipines etc is too great. For a fraction of the price that I quote, they can get their site built by Sanjiv in Delhi. If they are lucky, they will get a really good Sanjiv who will deliver (on time) a beautiful, cleanly coded website that works like a dream in all browsers. Well done, you've found a bargain and I am genuinely glad for you. But that is not a common experience.

I have clients whose projects have gone adrift for any number of reasons: Shodddy workmanship, language barriers, cultural differences, poor planning, brief-creep etc.

Honestly, what did these people expect? I've already moaned about the fact that any Tom, Dick or Harry can set themselves up as a photographer/designer/web developer. And that is what has happened - except that Tom Is Sanjiv, Dick is Abdul and Harry is Anil. The internet is almost log-jammed with badly designed websites thanks to the DIY crowd and the plethora of Far Eastern people trying to scratch a living by building websites for naive westerners.

I'm not having a go at the Far East for taking our work away. Not at all. I use Far Eastern suppliers from time to time but that is because I can tell the good from the bad. I can also communicate far more efficiently with my Pakistani developer because:
  1. I would have made sure in the first place that there are no language obstacles. I want to easily understand and have understood what is said on the phone and in emails.
  2. I will have had a look at previous work from a much more technically aware perspective (that's usually where the problems occur)
  3. I would have designed the website so that the developers are not going to be given unnecessary hassles
I am amazed by the number of people I meet who have complex transactional websites with complicated databases and product catalogues etc, that they have entrusted to someone they have never met and whose quality of work they cannot judge. People! Your website is the heart and soul of your business! If it breaks (and it probably will), you have no business!

This is my advice: Talk to a local professional designer (okay, me!) face to face. Together you can develop a brief, set expectations and determine a budget. Then let that designer build your website for you, using, if he so wishes, subcontractors and specialists he knows and trusts. People who have a track record with him. If those people are in the Far East, that is of no concern to you - all you need worry about is the result.

Finally, which is cheaper:
A) Scrapping a website that is not up to scratch and starting again with local designer (that would be me, once again ;-) or
B) Having a crappy website that doesn't work properly, that people don't like to visit or use?

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