At Agency Fusion we occasionally learn that a potential client has chosen to use another vendor purely because the price is lower. Naturally we’d love to win 100% of the projects that come across our desk, but in the real world we recognize that customers have options and that this competition inspires us to stay at the top of our game. So it’s a good thing in the end.
It turns out that not all websites are created equally and that it does matter who builds the website and what technologies they use in the process.
How we got here
A big part of the Web’s explosion over the last 10 years is due to the ease with which content can be published. Anyone with a little time and a WYSIWYG tool can create a website. This do-it-yourself side of the Web is great for getting information posted quickly and cheaply. Having all of these of do-it-yourself’ers milling around, however, can make it confusing for someone who needs a website to know the difference between the kid down the street who “builds webpages” and a professional web development company.
The client might say, “Why are the prices so different? It seems like they’re both giving me the same thing.” For those without much experience in the world of websites it often seems that the lowest cost is the best deal.
More often than not we find that clients who choose to gamble and hire the boss’s nephew to create the website will end up starting all over once they realize the solution they purchased doesn’t really address their needs. We’ve constructed websites for countless clients who tell us that their existing site is a mess and that they’re dissatisfied with the “guy who built this for us.”
The problem isn’t so much the client’s fault, but is more likely the fault of professional web development companies (ourselves included) who don’t adequately communicate the benefits of their offering (that, and unqualified people overselling their capabilities).
So what’s the difference?
Each of these points could be covered in its own article, and maybe someday we’ll do that, but for now we’ll just summarize the key benefits of using a professional, skilled, web-development vendor over using a less-qualified resource.
Without proper attention to a website’s usability or ease-of-use, an otherwise desirable website can fail. Experienced vendors respect established conventions for navigation, style, and functionality.
Design is the most visible and obvious difference between two website vendors. At Agency Fusion we partner with world-class designers because we recognize that design is critical in a website’s success. Inexperienced vendors may try to do too much themselves and cause the project to suffer overall.
Coding standards are a “universal language” that developers use so that others can add to or modify what has already been done without the painful process of rework. We often get calls from people who need help because a web developer created a website for a “bargain.” Many developers can cut corners and cost by not developing to standards. When the client wants to upgrade or change the site, they may discover that the developer cut corners to save cost. The result is a painful and expensive process to fix or expand the website. Standards-compliant coding ensures the portability and extensibility of a website.
Accessibility is related to the use of standards when coding. Accessibility typically refers to a site’s effectiveness in reaching audiences with disabilities. Screen readers and Braille devices are examples of utilities that benefit from an accessible website. While small websites are often less concerned with overall accessibility it does benefit the client to address accessibility since the effort required to make a site accessible usually leads to a more search-engine friendly website. Experienced vendors make accessibility and search engine optimization a powerful combination.
Clean, standards-based code is leaner and faster than clunky, junky code created by novices. Optimization of images and other media files can also drastically improve a website’s performance when properly done by an experienced professional.
Most clients need more than just a web developer. Experienced and professional vendors can help recommend “best practices” for websites and design technology strategies to help clients succeed. Professionals are proactive in their response to a client’s need, rather than reactive.
Ensuring that a client’s website performs reliably in various web browsers takes time and experience. Ask your potential vendor if they develop for IE, Safari, Netscape, and Firefox.