The internet is festooned with articles about “what not to do” about one thing or another—what not to eat, what not to wear, what not to buy, what not to give to your children…the list goes on. It’s getting to the point where if you paid attention to all those “what not to dos,” you wouldn’t do anything at all, including thinking and breathing.
So we’re taking a different approach. Here are nine things you should do—specifically, what you should do to make your web designer or developer work harder for you. By following these tips, you’ll foster a positive, collaborative relationship that benefits both of you.
These are some things you should take care of first before embarking on a web development project—before even engaging with a web developer. The more of this you can work out ahead of time, the fewer billable hours you will spend having your web developer extract it from you. Your web developer is not a dentist, so getting this information from you shouldn’t be like pulling teeth.
- Understand your own business needs and goals first. Your website is an investment—that is, you expect to realize some financial return on it. As such, you need some idea of its purpose. Do some brainstorming on what you want your website to achieve for you. Is it to be a purely informational marketing tool, with mostly static content? Do you want to publish a blog? Do you want customers to be able to buy things (or at least place orders) on the site? Do you want visitors to be entertained? Who is your target market, anyway? Are you looking for a traditional website only or one that’s optimized for mobile? The more specific you are in your goals and requirements, the better.
- Check other sites for ideas. You can get inspiration from your competitors, related businesses, even completely different industries. Gather some ideas about different features, design elements, site organization, navigation, and other cool things that will make your site easy to use and pleasant to visit.
- Determine your budget and timeline. An open-ended project is one that’s never finished. With a more or less fixed target in mind for both time and money, you and your developer can work out what is achievable within those constraints and flesh out a project plan accordingly.
Collaborative Design and Development
Keep these in mind when working with your developer in the design phase:
- Separate “must haves” from “nice-to-haves.” Look at all the features and requirements and prioritize them, because not all of them will fit within your budget or schedule. Figure out what are the absolutely required features of your site, and which ones could wait for later.
- Understand the web development process. Ask your developer about the development process and the project lifecycle. When you understand how the developer works through the process of design, development, and testing, it’s easier to…
- Set realistic expectations. Your web developer may be brilliant and talented, but is not a magician. If you’re expecting magic, you will be sorely disappointed. Be realistic in what you are expecting in the budget and time constraints of the project. This means documenting exactly what the developer needs to deliver, and by what dates. Having a detailed list of deliverables and dates gives both parties an unambiguous set of expectations.
- Stick to the plan. Once you and your developer have settled on the scope of the project and a design and schedule that will meet it, stick with it to the end. Requesting major changes and additions in the middle (or at the end!) of a project adds time, cost, and frustration. If they’re not must-haves, save them for the next version.
- Commit to doing your part. You will need to meet with your developer periodically during the project to provide information, monitor progress, look at prototypes, answer clarifying questions, perform testing, and more. Set a regular schedule for these activities and commit to keeping those appointments. Failure to do so will introduce delays in the project schedule.
Finally, the Obvious
- Pay your bills! If you have done your part, and the developer has met all the documented expectations by the due dates, make the payment promptly. In other words, treat the developer the way you would like to be treated. Remember, your web developer probably has your production site admin password, and can make things embarrassing for you if you don’t pay up.