1.22.2009

Defining Web Standards

The Business behind the Web

I don't understand the way people devalue technology careers and businesses due to their lack of understanding. I have met all too many clients that will try too negotiate prices with me, as if I can wave a magic wand and make the exact same project take half of the time... or maybe they just want me to cut my hourly rate in half... I'm always tempted to ask if they negotiate prices at the gas pump.

One of the most difficult aspects a web development company inevitably faces involves establishing standards. Standards being how much time to bill for various aspects of production, which aspects are somewhat flexible, and when to draw a line with a client.

Web development companies vary drastically amongst themselves. There are the template guys: the ones who will give you a pre-fabricated site for you to fill in the blanks. There are the inexperienced guys: The ones who will promise you the world, but will never actually be able to get there. There are the bang-em-out guys: These guys are just trying to get paid; they usually have very limited design ability but somewhere along the line figured out how to use Dreamweaver. There are the corporate guys: Those guys who will provide you with a pretty decent website, after countless drawn out meetings, numerous worksheets and a highly over-structured contractual agreement. There are the outsources: These actually can be any of the above, but they are distinguished by their web inexperience and careless sort of business mentality. And then there are the freelancers. The Design Group, for example, is a network of freelancers.

All these different types of web development businesses make it very difficult to create unified standards. The template guy will sell you a pretty cheap website, but he will not tell you that eight other companies like yours share the exact same site, and he certainly does not offer any customer service. The inexperienced guy will probably give you an alright deal on a website, but you will definitely not get what you expect, and you may not get what you want. The bang-em-out guy will tend to limit client input on the website for the sake of speed and will likely charge too much for what he is producing. For a price, the corporate guys will usually get you a pretty good website, so long as you can endure all the rules and the semi-overbearing development process. The outsources can potentially produce an alright website, however the standards will not be up-to-date in a year or two, and they may not understand that if you are a dentist you don't want a giant picture of a needle as your home page banner.

Freelancers usually will give you a pretty good website for a decent price. By decent, I mean more than the template guys guys, but less than the corporate guys. They may be slightly slower than, say, the bang-em-out guys, but with a sensible price, an impressive design, and a laid back development process, it's usually worth the wait.

A professor of mine in college started numerous businesses in his life, which was why I asked him be my mentor when I began my own. He once told me a rule of thumb for businesses that I will never ever forget: Price. Quality. Service... Pick Two.

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