Cautionary tales of cheap website development

Need a website? How are you going about selecting your web development company? If your main criterion for choosing a web developer centres around ‘cost’, let us just stop you there. Having a budget for your website is all very well, but is someone tempting you with words like ‘cheap’ and ‘budget’? If so, we’d urge you to read the rest of this blog post as a matter of urgency.

Pay cheap, pay twice

It’s become a bit of a mantra with us. At least once a month, we’re approached by a business that has been burnt by engaging a web development company that has failed to deliver. Sometimes this arises because people understand too late what they need from their website, but often, on more occasions than we’d care to mention, they’ve been lured by promises of a ‘cheap’ website. And in our experience, cheap simply doesn’t cut it.

Third time lucky?

We were talking to a business owner running a business, in a niche sector benefiting from a rich online community to tap into. She was looking for someone to build her third website. That’s right — her third website. She’d paid for her first website and the web developer had then disappeared — albeit leaving a website behind. The second web developer she used was someone she’d found advertising in the Yellow Pages. Despite promising her bells and whistles, she ended up with a standard website. By which time, she’d pretty much spent at least as much as she would have paid using a reputable, experienced web developer, plus she would have had the website her business needed, and avoided the heartache and unquantifiable loss of business and brand damage that having a shoddy website has caused. With apologies to Oscar Wilde, to buy one cheap website may be regarded as misfortune, to buy two cheap websites looks like carelessness. And as for paying cheap a third time? Well you can imagine our views on that.

The kindness of strangers?

Well, perhaps not ‘strangers’ per se, but those apparently well-meaning friends or volunteers who’ve ‘done a bit’ online and can help you out. They may well have some experience of the online world, or websites and domain names – but unless they are themselves professional web developers, the chances are you’ll end up in a pickle. Like the

leisure facility we know that’s opening soon. The domain name was purchased and the website, such as it was, built, by a helpful volunteer — who then unhelpfully disappeared, and with him, the ownership of the domain, the website and content. All gone. The facility is now in a position where it has to start again creating its online presence, this time without the domain name that they wanted — unless they manage to track down the person responsible, and persuade him to hand it back, along with the website and its content. Even the loss of domain name on its own may compromise the online brand before their doors are open.

Experience is everything

Our last case study gives a different perspective on the problem — that of the well-meaning but ultimately inexperienced and, dare we say, in many cases, incompetent web developers who don’t really know what they are doing. This can result in all sorts of website problems. As an example that which we’re currently dealing with where the website has been developed with hashtags in the urls, which causes issues for the search engines and can result in pages not being indexed. He’s having to think about reworking his landing pages (among other things). No doubt the original web developer didn’t understand the implications of his coding — or didn’t keep up to date with Google’s search engine optimisation ‘rules’.

Using a professional web designer should ensure that from the outset, you and the developer are working together from a comprehensive briefing document that is clear about what your website needs to achieve . You will have the security of solid web hosting and website security, and web support, as well as well thought out search engine optimisation for your website. You’ll end up with a website to be proud of, one that reflects your business and will stand as a platform from which to launch your online marketing activities. Good value for money is not to be confused with ‘cheap’ — our experience bears this out time and again when we’re called upon to clear up the mess left behind maverick or incompetent web designers, the helpful volunteers and the well-meaning but ultimately inexperienced website developers.

Buy a cheap —buy twice. Or come to us first.