Website Development Companies: FAQs and Misconceptions
If you’ve never done it before, approaching website developers can be a daunting prospect. You need to know how to explain what you want in terms that they will understand and know the right questions to ask. To help make the process a bit less like pulling teeth and a bit more like pulling, we’ve come up with a quick rundown of FAQs and common misconceptions about website development companies.
What’s the difference between web designers and web developers?
Web designers, as the name implies, are usually design-oriented. They are skilled at designing the graphics and layout and sometimes writing copy for the website in order to make it attractive and engage your customers visually. But lots of companies need websites that do more than this. For example, eBay and Amazon have complicated online shopping software integrated into their websites; Facebook and Myspace utilise social networking features with huge numbers of users; property sites like Rightmove have complicated, searchable databases and integrate with other websites like GoogleMaps; betting sites also have complicated databases and live games. All these features need to be written (or ‘coded’) by people who have skills in the relevant programming languages and/or software packages. These people are website developers and their involvement is necessary in any web project which requires bespoke interactive features.
How do I explain to a website development company what I want?
It’s not as scary a process as it may at first appear. You don’t need to know what programming languages are required or what the technical jargon is – that’s the job of the web developer. You just have to come up with a way to get the ideas across. Usually the best way is look for other websites that incorporate the kind of features you need or that could be adapted slightly to provide the function you’re looking for. Coming up with a written brief that describes these requirements will help a website development company to quote accurately for your project.
So will I need to hire a web designer too?
Almost certainly not. Website development companies generally work on larger, more expensive sites and so will have more staff working for them. This staff will usually include designers who work on the visual aspects of projects alongside the developers.
How much do web development companies charge?
It varies a lot but do remember that website developers are highly skilled individuals; they spend many years learning their trade and as a result their time does not come cheap. This has in part led to the rise of the IT industry in India, China and the Phillipines where highly qualified workers are paid less and this wage differential is exploited by western companies who outsource their development work. Companies like Facebook and eBay who rely massively on their websites have large teams of developers in-house and have spent countless millions of dollars on developing their sites over the years. But don’t be put off – for many kinds of businesses the development work required is routine and will have been done many times before. Sometimes there will be ‘off the shelf’ software solutions that can take a lot of the strain off the developers – especially true for most kinds of online shops.
Will there be ongoing charges for my website?
If you want the site to continuously develop, or want someone on hand to fix any problems that occur with the site and you’re not going to hire your own in-house web developer, you’ll probably want to pay a website development company a retainer to look after the site for you.
Does that mean I won’t be able to make changes myself?
If the web developers have included a content management system (CMS) then you’ll definitely be able to change text and images on the site and, depending on the level of sophistication, perhaps create new pages, manage files available for download or videos for streaming. You may also be able to manage permissions to a secure area or update and amend a database on the site (essential for a property site where new listings will need to be added and old ones taken away or for an ecommerce site where the same applies to products). But if you require significant structural changes or changes to the functionality of the site, you’ll need a website developer to oversee them.
How long will it take to develop my website?
This is the key factor that will also determine the budget required and it all depends on the complexity of the website you require. The more in-depth and complicated the functionality, the longer it will take to put together and the more it will cost. If you want to keep your budget and timeframe manageable it’s a good idea to excise any unnecessary requirements from your brief. For example: how necessary is that online quoting tool if you can get the customer to call in instead? Do you really need a search function when you’re only selling a couple of dozen products? Cutting out flashy but unnecessary features could save you a lot of time and money.
Common Misconceptions about Website Design Companies
- I’m going to make a new eBay-type website, but on a smaller less expensive scale. Sites like eBay, Facebook, Betfair and Amazon have huge development costs because of the complexity of the operations which they carry out. This takes a long time and a lot of skill to programme. Just because you’re restricting the size of your market, it doesn’t mean that the costs of developing the website are necessarily going to be lower.
- But sites like that exist already, can’t we just copy them? Not unless you want to breach copyright and patent laws. If you want to replicate the business models of these sites, you’ll have to find your own way of doing it.
- I have a web development brief but I can’t show it to anyone because they might steal it. I need a non disclosure agreement signed before getting a quote.This could be a valid concern if your idea is completely unique and likely to start generating revenue instantly. However, it’s worth considering that there are six billion people on earth, all having ideas, all the time. In other words, ideas are cheap. What makes a great business is the effort and commitment which goes into the execution of the ideas. Web development companies have their own businesses which they spend their time and effort running: they develop other people’s websites and get paid for it. They are therefore unlikely to want to invest time and energy on starting a risky new business venture. That’s your role.