With over 20 years of working with new website builds of all sizes, customers, freelancers, small business owners and outside agencies; we’ve heard and seen it all. Every horror story imaginable.
Missed deadlines, surprise costs, half finished builds, underwhelming design; we could go on and on.
Where does it all go wrong? Is there such a thing as a perfect website build? The answer is a bit complicated but it’s something we’re going to tackle in this post.
We’ve narrowed it to 8 helpful tips that may help you avoid these common issues so you won’t make the same mistakes.
To get things started. Here are a few examples of the most common complaints we’ve heard from clients who have had website troubles.
Common Website Complaints
- My website took too long to finish.
- I wasn’t impressed with the quality of our new website.
- My website was missing features we requested.
- The company we worked with kept asking for more money.
- The final website is under-performing.
- My new website doesn’t show up in search result pages.
- The company we worked with was not flexible to changes.
- My website isn’t very fast.
- The company we worked with did not understand my vision for the project.
- We were locked out of our new website.
- The company we worked with will not give us our domain name.
The harsh truth is, every one of these is avoidable. That is, of course, if you’re working with a company who knows how to properly construct and maintain a website.
That’s the first thing you’re going to want to ask yourself: Does my website agency know how to prevent these issues from happening? Have they ever dealt with them before?
How do I avoid making one of these mistakes with my new website?
There is a lot to be said about due diligence. You’ve got to inform yourself what you’re preparing to sign with a contract for a new website build.
It never hurts to have a bit of knowledge on how websites are built. Be sure to research any confusing language in the contract.
Below are some helpful tips that address the 12 common complaints above.
Tip 1: Understand Your Website Contract
Website contracts can fall into a couple particularly troubling areas.
- First: Contracts that are overly lengthy or use undefined terminology.
- Second: The contract is too simple (Napkin contracts). A contract will not do any good if it doesn’t cover some details.
- Third: No contract at all. The killer of all new websites.
Don’t let yourself fall into any of these three categories. If you’re concerned about the language of a contract, always seek advice from an attorney.
Get a clear scope of work.
Make sure all your needs for the project are addressed in the scope of work (SoW). This is crucial. If something is forgotten, both you and the company you’re dealing with can get clarity by referring back to the scope of work. Make sure the scope is comprehensive.
The scope of work should be detailed enough to the specifics and basics of your project. If you’re going to pay thousands of dollars for a new site, make sure all the details are in place, so there is nothing to worry about.
Tip 2: Agree to a Project Timeline and Milestones
We’ve seen too many websites with open-ended deadlines.
Avoid moving forward on a website build that does not have clear deadlines or an estimated completion schedule. Milestones are a great way to pin down time frames when a major point of websites progress will be completed.
Keep in mind, if a timeline or milestone isn’t met exactly, it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
Simply having a date or range when expected progress is being made is a game changer. As long as you have solid communication, you should always know what to expect and when something might be running a little behind, or even early.
Here are a few reasons why an agency or contractor wouldn’t want to provide a website build timeline with milestones:
- They don’t want to spend the time making it (it’s not important to them).
- They don’t know how to do it properly (lack of experience).
- They don’t have enough details to complete it (haven’t asked the right questions).
- They are not confident they can meet the timeline (shifting priorities on projects).
- They are rushing to get you to sign a contract (over promising).
Tip 3: Receive Progress and Project Updates
You should never be in a situation where you have to contact your agency and ask what the status of something is. If you do, it’s a major sign that something’s not right.
Many companies or agencies may have a system where you can see the progress of your project at any time. If they don’t, they should still be reaching out to you on a regular basis.
Nobody likes waiting around for news.
If you’ve established a project timeline and milestones, as mentioned in tip #2, you’ll be in an even better position to know when you’ll be hearing from a project coordinator. Be sure to know who that person is in case you need to touch base or if you have a question.
Tip 4: Communicate Your Business Needs if Things Change
Some website builds take longer than others. If you’ve got a major website construction ahead of you with a lengthy timeline (6 months to a year) a lot can change in that time span.
Make sure you understand the flexibility of the agency you’re working with.
In some cases, if your business has changed drastically, you might need to discuss adding an addendum to the project so that new features your business needs can be incorporated.
It’s up to you as the client to communicate changes in your business during your website construction.
Everything from changes in your inventory, company restructuring, or new opportunities is likely helpful to those working with your website. Make sure they stay informed. You might be surprised that as your business needs change, the website build in progress will likely benefit from it.
Tip 5: Agree to on-Going Costs and Maintenance Prior to Signing a Contract
Nobody likes sticker shock. Make sure that all the costs are up front prior to signing a contract.
This includes what website maintenance will look like down the road. We’ve seen website builds suddenly stuck under a $1,000 monthly bill once finished just for routine updates.
Make sure you know what you’re getting into for the life of your website before starting it.
We’re now living in a micro-transaction world. Small, monthly costs will pop up and you want to make sure you are aware of ongoing costs that will be your responsibility after your new website is launched. This includes items such as website plugins and add-ons.
Tip 6: Make Sure You Own Your Own Domain Name
Always make sure you own your own domain name.
This should not be the property of any other business, but yours. It’s super easy to buy a domain name, and most of the time you can call support directly with companies like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Hover and others. Their support is happy to help you through the process.
In the event you have lost contact with the person or business that purchased your domain name, you are likely going to need some help recovering it. That may includes hours of someones time to track down the details and try to reason with them assuming they are reachable.
Sometimes things work out wonderfully and sometimes they don’t. To avoid the hassle, make sure you purchase your own domain name directly, or ensure that the domain name is transferred to you by your professional agency or contractor as part of your contract.
Tip 7: Agree On the Goals of Your Website Build
Goals should be established up front before work has begun and, in most cases, likely even within the contract itself. If the agency isn’t defining the goals for you, you need to weigh in.
Sometimes we know someone needs a website, but what are the expectations? Do you expect to rank on the first page of Google? Are you wanting more sales and transactions? Maybe you’re only wanting to increase your readership or see more podcast downloads? Whatever your goals, lay them out on the table so everyone understands what needs to happen.
If you haven’t been asked what your goals are, take it as another sign. Maybe it’s no the right fit, or maybe you’re going to have to be the one driving the conversation and making sure your business needs are met.
Tip 8: Communicate Your Design Requirements
Design goes in many directions. Either you’re letting your agency guide you through the design decisions and what’s right for your business, or you know exactly what you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle. You’ll want to make sure the project doesn’t go too far off track before design decisions are made.
All companies who work in web design approach the design phase differently, and there really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to do it. As long as it’s done. The agency or designer needs to understand what your likes are or guide you on what direction makes the most sense for your business through market research.
Which one are you? Do you trust the agency to take the reins and tell you how your website should look? Do you know exactly what colors and images should be used and want to be in the driver’s seat? Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle and you want direction, but also want to be involved.
Whatever way you prefer, make sure it’s clear and everyone is in agreement.
Carefully Crafted Can Help With You Next Web Project
Believe it or not, we actually enjoy helping clients navigate the frustrating process of building complex websites that drive results. If you’re not sure what to do next, or have questions, that’s what we’re here for.
Carefully Crafted is located in Springfield, MO. We service the Springfield, Missouri area, surrounding cities, and work with many companies across the USA.
We help small, large and international companies through the complexities of web and digital services. If you want more information, be sure to learn more about how we work and contact us if you have any further questions.