Resources for this Episode
Darryl: Welcome to My Bloody Website, the show where we talk all things online for small or medium business owners, or executives, who still refer to their bloody website. I'm one of your hosts, Darryl King.
Edmund: And I'm Edmund Pelgen.
Darryl: Hello, Edmund. Good to have you here.
Edmund: Hey, Darryl. An episode right up your alley today. What are we talking about?
Darryl: Well, episode 10. Rating your web guy or gal.
Darryl: Yeah, it's probably a follow-on. We did rating your SER a while back.
Edmund: I think a lot of people are going to be interested in this one, because this is a challenge that they face every day, you know?
Darryl: Sorry, I was a bit out of focus. I was feeling blue.
Edmund: Can't have that!
Darryl: Alright, so we're getting into the business end of 2018 now. We're heading towards the end of the holiday period, we'll shortly have our Australia Day weekend and everyone will be absolutely 100% back in the business. So why don't we crack on and [inaudible 00:01:00] episode over.
Edmund: Excellent. So I'm gonna start this by asking a bunch of questions about it, because I'm gonna step into the shoes of the business owner who needs a new website, it's 2018. My biggest question is what am I looking for? Because I always see this thing online of people calling themselves web developers and web designers, and you Google web developer and you see one thing, and designer, and people use those terms interchangeably. Now, am I doing the right thing by asking a web developer to build my website? Help me out here.
Darryl: Yeah, that's a good question Ed. I don't think there's a clear answer, because I don't know that everyone necessarily defines themselves properly. In an ideal world, you'd be able to gauge that. I remember in our last episode, I believe, you spoke about ... you were looking for someone, and you went to lots of websites and when you got to the one, they told you exactly what they did. So I think the key thing there is understanding, finding out what the people do. But in my way of thinking, a designer and a developer are potentially different things.
Darryl: So a designer ... and there's probably three tiers. There's design, and there's front-end coding or development, and then there's back-end. So design is what it sounds like. Someone that's a designer is orientated around creating the visual design. And they, hopefully, will have experience in a number of things, like they'll understand design principles for mobile conversion, optimization, UX and all those things. That's more detailed stuff. But design would work in Photoshop predominantly, or Illustrator, somewhere like that but probably Photoshop. And they would create PSD files from Photoshop ...
Edmund: What's a PSD file?
Darryl: A PSD file is from Photoshop. That's the output file from Photoshop.
Darryl: So if, say, you went to 99designs or somewhere like that and engaged a designer, they would be just a designer. So if you went looking for "I want a website design", right, and you engage someone to do a website design, the expectation I would have is that you would get designs, you would approve the designs, and they might do every page, it might be just a theme design, you know, home page, a general theme. And then they would give you PSD files. So you'd have JPEGs or PNGs of what it looks like, but you get a PSD which is all the source files for those designs.
Edmund: So, it's not actually a website, right?
Darryl: No, it's not a website. And then that would go to, which is the lump of people we call developers. The people that do the development role, the people that do front-end design, so those people would cut, what we call cutting the image design, the PSD, into HTML. They're the people that will bring it into, say, WordPress or just create HTML files for us. That, we just call cutting the design out. And they cut it out, 'cause they pull out the elements from the thing and make ...
Edmund: Yup, all the graphics and stuff, yeah.
Darryl: Yeah, and line it up in HTML. So in WordPress terms, they've loaded it in, get everything lined up, put the theme in. Now, where I differentiate is the back-end developers, the sorts of people that might build plug-ins or write PHP code, or ASP, you know, that code, or other code. Ruby, or Java. Anything like that, they are back-end coders. So if you have a dynamic website that does a lot of highly functional stuff, well, you want custom plug-ins in the WordPress site, you would invariably use a back-end developer to do that. What I would call them.
Edmund: Right. Here's a question that is already sitting in the front of my mind. Is the designer and the front-end developer, you talk as if they're two separate people. But a lot of times when people get websites built from the local guy or gal here, it's just one person. So can those two roles be fulfilled by a single person?
Darryl: Yeah. And in the early days, they didn't. Years and years ago, when people first transitioned from graphic design doing groceries and stuff, to "I wanna get into the web", or they were doing that and that, they would do the design elements. And then they would hand them off. Now, I would suggest that in a lot of cases, that's where problems come up. Because they apply offline design principles to online without an understanding of the functional elements. And many, many years ago, someone said, "Oh yeah, you guys are really functional designers. We do design design." It was like, "Yeah?"
Edmund: That's classic.
Darryl: This was like 20 years ago. "Yeah, 'cause our shit works, and your shit doesn't work on all these browsers and stuff." Like, they designed without the devices in mind. And I think that's really important, that you get that now. So quite often you'll get someone that is front-end, that's learned to do design, or design that's become really strong in front-end. 'Cause they needed to, 'cause that's where they wanted to specialize. But not necessarily. So like in my agency at the moment, we have some people that can do all elements, but I always look for strengths. So I want someone that they are just kick-ass designers, that understand the total utility of what we're doing, and conversion and all that stuff, but they just specialize in knocking out design.
And then I have people that know all the little intricacies of well, you know, using this widget in WordPress and this effect, and I put in this, and I haven't turned on the SEO plug-in beforehand, suddenly the page disappears ... you know, that can cause a lot of stuff. But there is no reason that that person can't do that, it's whether they're ... we're not all experts in everything, and you really have to make a decision about whether you want to be an expert, or generalist, or yeah.
Edmund: Would I be right in saying that at an entry-level website price point, I suppose, is this even an issue? Because you're familiar with, as am I, that a lot of people who sell websites, they start with a web theme. Right? So this whole concept of designing it in Photoshop and then cutting it up, and building it into WordPress, is kinda moot because they just work with themes, right? So how does ...
Darryl: Well, that's an approach, and that's a low-budget approach. Or it's a speed approach. It's one I was okay with and in the last few years I've moved back away from. Because I think ...
Edmund: What are the advantages of the split approach, where you get a designer who focuses on creating that design?
Darryl: You know what, it actually comes back to planning. And I think the obligation actually goes back to you, the website owner. And what I mean by that is that buying a theme looks like X. So I can put my colors on it, I can brand it, but the thing comes with this structure, this layer. So before I've even thought about my Jennies and my content, I've bought into a layout, and a structure, and a way it's gonna work. And that probably goes to the point, I think in the last episode I was talking about, you know, everyone gets caught up on the prettiness, and the functionality elements, rather than what its role is. And if we're talking about mobile and all the rest of it, does that theme work well for what you want? So the split approach is, I've engineered and planned what I want, now I need someone to help bring it transitioned. But not everyone has a budget to spend all that money. Doesn't mean you can't plan upfront, they would help you choose your theme.
Now, the theme speeds all that up. So then, if you get a theme, and that's working pretty well. Say you put in stuff. But it doesn't quite do everything you want, then you would get a front-end developer, or front-end person, to help massage it and extend the theme to do what you want. Now, if you just chose a theme and you had all your content thought out in strategy, you would then also get someone which is sort of that front-end general web developer, would help you implement it if you didn't wanna do it. So they would load the theme, the pages. So that's where that person fits in really well. A programmer can do that too, like a person that's more suited to it, they have to because some people want one person to work with. So the programmer will do it, but they're much more orientated around, you know, "Is the plug-in working right? Where's the data going?" And they don't have the aesthetic side, they might not be an expert at color matching and ...
Edmund: Yeah, and to clarify, that back-end programmer might be someone who might hook up your website, your e-commerce shopping cart, to another third party inventory system, or a legacy system, or something like that, correct?
Darryl: Or an API for something, yeah. And look, lots of people have experience across these things. So I think at a general level, if I was putting up a website, that the most complex thing that I had was putting some forms on there, and I wanted the forms to also hook to MailChimp, the average definition of a web developer, someone that's a generalist or a couple of people running a small shop, they would be able to handle it. That's that person in the middle. So I would classify that as kind of the generalist front-end person, they do a bit of design, they can do a bit of working with plug-ins, putting it together. They give you that result where, yup, I've got the website, I've followed the path, I've got the theme, I've implemented the content, I know these different plug-ins will do these different functions, and you've got a site that matches that, basically.
Edmund: Alright. Is there something that I should be looking for, or are there questions that I should ask my front-end designer and my front-end web developer, to make sure that they're focusing on best practices? You know, that my front end guy or gal is not designing just for pretty, but like you said, for mobile, they're considering all those design elements as they relate to usability, et cetera et cetera. What kind of things should I be asking?
Darryl: Well, I guess the first thing is, a lot of people will say, sign up for a program having looked at some generalized themes or design ideas. Message to people going to get a website: do not ask for free design work up front. Don't ask for it, that's a bad way, don't do tenders that ask for conceptual designs, 'cause you're just ripping off people's time. So what that means is, you look at some previous work and you agree with this designer-developer. Do a project, in doing that, ask them what theme they might be using. What themes, what theme are they thinking of using, don't be afraid of them using a theme, and get them over the point of being worried about using a third-party theme. "Hey, I get that you're probably gonna use someone else's theme to meet my budget. I get that. What I would like to know now is, I wanna see that in a demonstration mode. I wanna see what it looks like in mobile mode." 'Cause most of these things are up on places.
Now, in asking that question, if the answer is "Well, we have our own custom theme", then that's a really important thing to know. Because what you wanna know as the business owner is if it's a custom theme, and I don't use that developer in three years' time, how supportable is it gonna be?
Edmund: That's a good point, 'cause that actually leads into my next question, is that the consideration of the tools and the CMSs, the software that they're building my website on, what problems can happen there? I know WordPress is a very common platform that people build on, and it's open source, meaning it's supposedly free. Should I make sure my web developer is working with this, and are there other systems that I need to be aware of that could lock me in?
Darryl: One of the things, for years, is we had preferred content management systems, but our approach was always "Let's understand the problem, and create a solution", like map it out, is how we think through it, and then once we understand what we're trying to do, then make the recommendation. Which of the content management options, or custom program, whatever it might be, is best gonna suit these needs? And so, one-off, someone will probably go "Yeah, you know what, I'd use WordPress." Then this might have stronger data needs that we might've found didn't quite work at that time, still might've used Drupal.
So that approach, if someone just does WordPress, hey, for a lot of people that might be fine. But they're not offering you an open-minded option. You just have to be aware of that. So one of the questions could be, "Hey, what platforms do you build in? What content management systems? What if our option isn't gonna work well in there? What other options do you have? What other pathways are there?" I mean, most people probably are gonna be okay.
Edmund: And some of these custom solutions will have ongoing support and maintenance requirements, too, and licensing costs. Which is something you need to be aware of, right?
Darryl: Yeah. And also, our role here isn't to take down or bag other providers. Many years ago, we used to rent tools to people for ... before they existed, right? I mean, been at it a long time. Before e-commerce options like Shopify, and WooCommerce, and all these things were there, we rented out tools of our own. Proprietary systems. Now, it was always a problem because they're locked into that. So if the developers are gonna offer you a proprietary solution that's theirs, or that they are licensing from someone else that has ongoing costs, obviously, "How much is it gonna cost? How many developers are there to work in this?" That's a really, really good question, 'cause if you go, how many people work in WordPress and WordPress plug-ins? You know, large numbers. How many people work in Drupal? Okay, not so many numbers. Joomla used to be huge, I think their market's really starting to shrink away now, but not an expert at those numbers so I can't tell you.
But if I'm over here ... ColdFusion was a really good example. I remember when ColdFusion came along, it was gonna kick everyone's ass, all these content management options turned up, and now, it's probably a pretty hard job to find a pool of ColdFusion developers or anyone that wants them. So you have to be really careful, and there are a lot of tools that are being used, Ruby and other stuff, but they're not the biggest ones in the market. Doesn't mean you shouldn't use them, but you have to ask, "What is that? How many people can do it? Can I move this from your support to someone else's? Not saying I am, but let's just say we have been divorced in three years' time, who else ... how likely am I gonna do it?" So do some research, they might be honest, they'll tell you, "Look, it's pretty niche. That's why the cost is only half", blah blah blah, whatever.
Ongoing license fees, as you said, annual renewal fees. "Do I have to have a specific type of hosting for it? Is it gonna run on everyday hosting?" And this is something I understand, because some systems need the grunt. Magento Enterprise stuff requires serious gear. If you've got a five product shop, don't go and jump into something that needs a whole Mack truck to deliver it, when you can get Shopify, WooCommerce, or stuff like that, which'd do it easy and low cost.
Edmund: And I think, let's be clear, it's not saying that some of these more custom solutions which require ongoing fees or whatnot are bad, it's horses for courses, right? Like you said, you start with understanding what does the business need, and what are the tools that are available to deliver it, and if it requires a customer-dedicated solution, even the cost of that may very well be small pickles compared to the upside and benefit that a system like that can deliver, correct?
Darryl: Absolutely, and if you keep in mind that ... it's like everything else. You paint your house every X few years. You do maintenance on stuff. There is still this feeling of like, a website is this massive investment, when in reality it's not. People spend way more on marketing, and shop fit-outs, and leases for a physical presence, way more. Like, 10, 20 times as much. Throw it out every three years, anyway. Like, if you think like that, "I'm gonna throw it away in three years anyway, so you know what? If this is gonna deliver it, and these guys have been doing stuff really well ... " Which is another question. "Show me some of the stuff you've been doing." And ask questions just about, "How would you approach problems?" So, I do this when I'm doing online interviewing or conversations, I might have three conversations happening at one time, and I've got, "Oh, that's a really good answer." And then I'll weave that into a question for someone else.
So if you've spoken to one developer, and they've given you some answers to stuff you hadn't even thought about, make sure you re-query people you've already spoken to. Say, "Okay, in this scenario that this happens, how would you handle that? How would my website handle that?"
Edmund: Actually, that might be a great thing for our resource list. A bunch of questions that a business owner can ask a web developer, a web person, before they engage them.
Darryl: Alright, I'll put that together. And look, that's the same thing across all of it. Because if you ask good questions, if you say, "How are you gonna interface with my point of sales system?" Now, plenty of people that don't have great back-end skills are gonna go looking for a couple of plug-ins, talk in generalities, and not have experience in that area. Now, that doesn't mean that they're not gonna help you solve it. What happens if there's overruns? What happens if there's problems? Whereas someone that's got a back-end arm, like if you've got people that have multiple people on their staff, or in their pool of contractors they use, whatever that might be. You know, have they got people that can program? So if we're talking WordPress, do they have PHP programmers? What if we need a custom plug-in to do something? What about if the theme gets awkward to use, how are we gonna do that? What's the upgrade path? And so, do they understand the concept of child themes, and can I continue to upgrade in WordPress, or Joomla, or Drupal? Will it keep upgrading, or will there be big upgrade costs?
This is probably a really important question to get answers from. For example, Drupal has done some major upgrades over the past half dozen years, and really reworked what they've done. This happens in all systems, but a site that's developed at this point in time relies on modules. So with WordPress, it's plug-ins. How many of those things are going to upgrade in the next major revision? 'Cause some of those developers just don't do the cut over. So can I upgrade the core without it breaking everything about my site? Or, how upgradable is all this stuff? Can I upgrade the plug-ins, the modules, without it breaking my site, or am I going to need you guys to do it? Those are some of those questions, like how much of this can I do myself, how much of it am I gonna need you? Which is probably a question I get asked occasionally, and I try to explain to people this. I am investing in this website, who's gonna run it?
Darryl: Who's gonna run it? Is it going to be people within your business, or is it going to be the developers and the agencies? Because that will help you gauge the type of developer or designer.
Edmund: Yeah, and that has massive impacts on cost as well, which leads me to my next question, which is ... and I know everyone'll ask this, because they'll get a proposal for a website and they'll fall over with stick shock, is, what is the difference between a website that costs $5,000 and $50,000? I mean, at the end of the day, an owner is thinking, "Hey, it's just a bunch of pages", and maybe this is an issue of education for them, but just explain to our audience, what goes into a $50,000 website that's not in a $5,000 website?
Darryl: That's a good question. I guess it depends on, you know, apples and oranges. So typically, something with a bigger budget like that is going to be more custom-built, but it would start with a level of planning, and the amount of production. So what we're saying is most likely with $50,000 developers is that a lot of the ancillary work is being done as part of the project. So you might have commissioned content in there, photography and things like that. It may not be, they may still be third party. Size and scale is going to be part of it. So, let's use e-commerce as an example. Not everything that you can get off the shelf will work for every business, and I used that example before with this stamp business, where the tool that allowed you to design the stamp on the screen, in typical terms off the shelf was very cludgy, it's not easy to use.
So a lot of cost goes into building custom stuff that works. But building your own platform all the way through where it does custom experience requires time. So if I wanna install WordPress myself, so say I do it on my staging server, I could log on, I can set up a base site in under an hour, easy. 35, 40 minutes. I can download it, set it up, put in all the default plug-ins, the default themes I would set up, I can install WooCommerce, I can get things going. So I have, effectively, a shop. I don't have design in there, [inaudible 00:23:50]. That has with it a default shopping cart process. Add to cart, a checkout, blah blah blah. It has default language, probably basket, or something like that. So that works.
But if I suddenly go, "Well, okay, I wanna change the language. I wanna change the way the cart appears onscreen when I add stuff to it", that will add a little bit of cost to it. If I want that whole process to not be in WordPress, or to be really custom-engineered, so I want every product to be hand-placed by the developer. I want the wording done, I want the on-page optimization done, I want to make sure there's enough copy, I want to make sure the placement of every button is specific to that product, not just generic. You know, hey, here you go, so we've put in two products, here's your base site, now you load the rest of the content. That's typically what that lowering cost is gonna be, right. Now you load it all and go, "Ah, this one overlaps a little bit 'cause I put a paragraph this long."
On a larger one, all of that will've been manually engineered. So you would've worked through it. You would've gone through every screen up front, mobile first, and desktop, compared them, placed sample content that the content developers were working with, fed back to the content developers, "Hey, look, we really want to work with this user interface", so they would adjust the copy accordingly. So there's a lot of time. Now, you add up an hourly rate, and you go well, an eight-hour day for one developer might have manipulated the car. Two functions of that car, it's an eight-hour day, that might be the better part of thousand dollars, one day's coding, essentially. So it doesn't take much to boot it all up. But it's that customization, it's the ... we've covered everything from usability, to conversion, all kinds of [crosstalk 00:25:34]
Edmund: Yeah, so it's planning, and the customization.
Darryl: Yeah, a lot of customization. And checking it. "Oh, no, now I see that onscreen, I want to manipulate that. I want to do it", but also, really clever choice of photography, manipulation, not just "I whacked a stock photo on."
Edmund: Yeah. So I guess the question is, for a really big business, let's say Optus or Telstra was rebuilding their website, they would never launch a website without a lot of that pre-planning, and design, and planning, because it has major financial implications. And I guess then you need to ask yourself, if you're a local plumber and you receive a $20,000 quote, now you're armed, you're informed to ask questions, say, "Okay, I understand that if you were doing X, Y and Z and doing a lot of this planning, but really all you built me is a small site", then you can start to say, "Well, hey, should it really cost this much?" So I think people instinctively understand. Sorry, I'll let you ...
Darryl: No, all I was gonna say, I would suggest that the plumber still needs to do the planning up front. And they can do a lot of it themselves, hey, they can buy a book. But they can do a bit of the planning themselves, and they understand it. I would suggest on a lot of smaller sites that are going to evolve over time where you're building the basic foundation, they should be very clearly able to understand what the value equation is. And they shouldn't need to be paying 20, 30 grand for something that there are options available. They should be able to pick fairly carefully. They may want a custom experience, they may want a design to have its own look and not be just a theme like all the other plumbers that you could tell, but they should be doing that from a perspective of "This is what I wanna achieve, this is the language I wanna use, I'm not a copywriter but I wanna appeal to this type of audience. I want these results, and I want a 24 by 7 dial-on-demand thing if your hot water tank has blown up. You can press this button and it will call through to me."
They should think about that upfront, because that one bit might cost a grand. The rest of it might only cost $1500, but that one bit might cost $1000. And they have to understand that. I suppose you asked at the beginning, "Oh, it's just pages and things." But some things take programming, or you have to buy a widget from someone to do. And if you wanted to do it and it's got a business value, the cost really is just, "Can I afford to pay it?" And work to give them in return, but don't get caught up on what it actually ... don't say, "Oh, a screen. It's just a screen of content. That should just be 10 bucks." Go, "I want it to look right, and represent my business." 'Cause they'll go out and get stickers on their trucks and spend a few grand doing that, and I know I'd just go, "That's just vinyl, just stick it on." But it's not. There's design, and fit, and quality, and durability. Well, just because it's text on screen, they should [crosstalk 00:28:22].
Edmund: That's right, same thing. So if I'm approaching my web guy, gal, and I get them to build my ... so what other things should I expect from them, what can they do for me? I mean, what do you typically see that ends up being the web guy or gal's job? I'm thinking specifically of hosting, but there must be other things that you must see these requests all the time. What can I expect my web person to be helping with, and what shouldn't I expect them to help with?
Darryl: Yeah, well everyone has a different offer, too, because obviously they're all in business as well. I mean, a common thing over the years is that a lot of customers say, "I want one person to look after me." And we've all benefited from that, I mean I used to own a really large hosting company, Ireckon hosting was part of Ireckon, and we sold that off. But there was always that issue of, "You don't have to host with us, you can host with someone else, but this is the benefit of hosting with us." And we were actually the hosting company, and a lot of people resell hosting. Because they get to make a margin every month, when they're also trying to get hours done and all the rest of it, and so it makes sense. The question has to be though, who's going to support your website, and who's going to support that side of it? Because if you ring your web developer, and then they've gotta ring the hosting company, and then they've gotta get that, that's a lot of people in the chain to get something fixed if your website's offline.
And it comes back to that area of specialty. Are they a hosting provider, do they know all the hosting stuff? Now, a lot of hosting providers don't provide a lot of useful help. Some do, but some will say, "You've gotta go back to your web developer for that." So there's a real issue there. I would suggest that maybe hosting should be separate to your web developer. You wanna be in control of it, and you want hosting experts to manage the hosting issues, and web to do the other. Sorry, all you developers and designers out there that make money on it. That's my feeling, that I see the negative of it. But from a businessperson, if they don't want lots of supplies, then the questions to ask around that are, how long have you been hosting? Who are you using for your hosting? Because if your web developer has their own single server stuck in a farm somewhere, I would be inclined that that's bad. If they're reselling HostGators and GoDaddies and whatever, that's better because the infrastructure is large-scale.
You don't wanna be sharing hosting with a whole bunch on one server from someone that's bought that VPS or dedicated box, and they're still relying on someone else to do it. If they don't have their own systems administrator looking after it, then I wouldn't use that, myself. If they were reselling someone else's, I'd wanna know who it is, that's fine, I want you to look after it. But I also need to know for my long-term protection, where it is, do I like the performance? Because think of this, you've been hosting on, say GoDaddy, or someone like that. You move to a new web designer. You moved off GoDaddy 'cause you really, really had the shits with the service or whatever. Sorry GoDaddy, I'm just using you hypothetically. Didn't like what they did, you get a new website and this guy, "Ah, I'll get your hosting", "Ah, good I'll move to them. Checked a couple of their sites, seem good." And they're just using GoDaddy as well. As the example.
You know, you've not fixed that problem that you wanted fixed. So I think you have a right to understand who they're reselling it through. It's like telephone companies, they tell you, "Well, we use the Vodafone network. Or we use the whatever network." Well, that should be transparent. Hey, if you're a smart businessperson, you would understand if I'm relying on that web developer to do it, they're making five bucks a month or three bucks a month off that, they're in business too. They shouldn't be doing these things. Using their knowledge to help me, I want the simplicity of one person. So there's both sides of the coin. Feel free to use them, but make sure you understand who they're using and what they're using, and hosting's super important to speed, performance and everything else. I don't wanna be on some tiny little network. I wanna be in an environment where it's running fast.
What things are you gonna be up for, what pricing? If they're using all their developer level plug-ins, which happens a lot, like I have plug-ins where I buy the developer unlimited site license, what happens if I move away from them? What would be the cost in the future if I needed to get my own licenses 'cause I wanted to get my home [inaudible 00:32:42]. And then I think you need to understand how your website's going to run. So let's just say you decide you're going to write a blog post once a month. You're gonna put up a blog every month, you've got a list of topics, you think that'll work, it's gonna help with the ongoing strategies. Who's gonna post the blog post? Who's gonna format the picture, and things like that. Now, if you're gonna do that internally, that's fine, so make sure you've got full access, blah blah blah. But the other thing then is if you're not going to, and you want the web people to do that, then the conversation needs to be, "Okay, what's your availability? Can we block it in, I need it to go out the same week, every month. I wanna make it regular." And in those questions, you should know what their [crosstalk 00:33:27] are and all those things.
Edmund: Absolutely, and that actually leads into a good question I see a lot, I see sites get built and they're pushed out into the world, and there's no discussion about what comes next. And then you're right, the owner will go, "Hey, I need this blog post up", and they ring up, and this is where people get frustrated, because they get these phone calls in the middle of the night and there's this massive expectation that, "Hey, you built it, you fix it", or "Can you upload this?" So in terms of ongoing support, what are the expectations on both sides? First of all, what should I be expecting from my developer, and what are the options available for me as a business owner to have them on my team to help me out on an ongoing basis? 'Cause you're right, it's not just a set and forget, this is an ongoing opportunity, your website. So maybe if you can talk about that from a business perspective.
Darryl: Okay. A lot of people go to these third party sites, the Upworks, and [inaudible 00:34:18] to get a site built. The difference between that and using a person, and they're not necessarily in the neighborhood, they could be online as a freelancer, or an agency, is that the freelancer and the agency are in the business of wanting you as a customer and supporting. So they might all do it differently, but if you go and get construction, so it's a bit like getting a new house built. I bought it from this place, I've got a warranty of X many days, but after that the house developer is not turning up to fix the leaky pipe, unless it's in the warranty terms. That'll ... the maintenance guy.
Now, the good thing with web stuff, is that a lot of the people that you work with do wanna do maintenance. So they've built, and they'll help maintain. Good ones will offer you the option. "You could do it, we'll be here in the background to support you, you get busy, we'll do whatever you want." Then you've gotta set the parameters, but realistic expectations. And the reality is, there's a great phrase that I love, which is, "Your lack of foresight and planning doesn't constitute a crisis on my behalf."
Edmund: That's a great one.
Darryl: Basically, don't ring me at 4:30 on Christmas Eve, expecting a whole new web page to be put up. Because it's not gonna happen. Because the reality is, I'm probably on the turps at that point, having a beer, but the likelihood is me and my team aren't sitting around twiddling our thumbs going, "Hey, we're waiting for you, John or Mary, to give us your work. We're just here doing nothing." Your business isn't like that, their business isn't like that. Our role is to give services, if you're like that, but we're not gonna have slots open. We're in the business of selling time. So we're gonna fill the time up, and we're gonna get on with it. So what both sides need is some form of schedule.
And I would think most developers are a little bit like this. If there's a life crisis, you divert all your energy to a life crisis. If something broke a lot. WordPress did a core update, and signed me offline, I'm losing money, normally, your normal circumstances, we would move, handle that first, other people's projects, tell them, "Hey, we've got a life crisis. We're dealing with that, we'll come back to your project." Anything outside of that should be planned. It doesn't have to be planned six months in advance, but if you have open conversations, if you're a developer or designer, have these conversations in the quoting phase. What's it gonna look like afterwards?
If you're the client, have this conversation upfront. "Hey, what happens once it's built?" And say, "Okay, what's your hourly rate, how do you bill this?" 'Cause people will do different things. Some people will do a monthly maintenance charge, "Hey, you can get up to three hours updates, Twittles, whatever, for X many dollars a month." And other people, like my agency, we do an hourly rate, we charge by the minute, we're told the material stuff, so you send through a request, it goes into our work system, and we do it. And at the end of the month, we bill out, you did 10 minutes here, 2 and a half hours there, blah blah, here's the work list, we send it out. Other people have the set fee, bang bang bang, they keep a record of it, but they benefit because some months you don't want anything, they don't roll the hours over, whatever.
And there's the retainer model, like if you're working with someone doing emails, and social postings for them and helping them, 'cause some bigger agencies or developers do this stuff to help the online marketing. They might have a 10, 20 hour a month retainer where they're guaranteed to fulfill that. So there's a different expectation, that client should expect that I'm gonna get stuff every few days. But there should be a schedule, still. You know, first week of the month, we typically do this and this, or every Wednesday there's a blog post goes out. Then the developer knows I need that by Tuesday lunch time, and if they haven't got it, they're chasing it up.
Edmund: Yeah, I think that the word you use there is expectation, and that's really critical. It's making sure that both parties have their expectations managed, and they're both aware of what the other expects, and what the options that they've signed up for are. And you've seen some of these third party sites where there's a, you know, 60 bucks, free for all, as many fixes as you ...
Darryl: WordPress support sites.
Edmund: Yeah, what do you think of these? There's a million and one I've seen pop up lately.
Darryl: I think every service serves a need. These services wouldn't've existed if there wasn't a need. Now, everyone has a different budget level. I mean, I would suggest, and I'm not doing it from self-interest, say, "Hey ... " I did a video a couple of years ago about how much a website costs. And the truth of it is, if you have any form of offline business, you spend quantifiably more on your shop, your shopfront, your warehouse, your marketing offline, than you do. Like, go and get a bunch of business cards printed, and go get a flyer and do a letterbox drop for 10,000 people, and you're spending a heap of money that you'll question for online update. So when you go into the web, just budget decent money each month. Now, decent money might be 300 bucks a month for you, might be $2000 a month for someone else. But do it based on the size of your business, actually just budget it in.
There's a couple of clients of ours that did this, they got to a point where they said, "All of our growth is coming online", so they stopped a lot of their advertising in offline magazines that they'd been using. They said, "We're just going to allocate that in our mind, 'cause we were spending it there, now we'll spend up to that anyway." Now I can tell you, 90% of the time we never get anywhere near it. So it's not like everyone's just going to soak it up, like [inaudible 00:39:35] work to do. But the flip side of that is, if you say, "Oh, I've got all these things to do", but you give them an $80 a month budget, well, that stuff's not gonna get done. And I think most of those support sites, Edmund, I believe are for ... I see them as an update, and "fix a leaky pipe" type thing. "Oh, there's all these plug-ins I want updated. I don't wanna touch them. I'm afraid of them." Well, that's fine. That's the sort of thing that you get done.
But if I want a new landing page done, and I want it to work for my business, I should be doing it because there's some dollar benefit. It seems silly to me that I want to get a really great landing page done for 50 bucks, that I'm hoping to generate 20 grand this year. That just doesn't seem sensible to me, but I understand what people are the audience. I see that as sort of a fix thing, but I would also go, if your goal is to be working with someone to better your online business, you would be better to come to some arrangement with your freelancer or agency to say, "Look, I don't have a massive budget, but I'm gonna want stuff every month. And rather than it being a surprise to me, can I have a monthly amount? Bank up the hours if I don't use them, run them down if we don't." Come to some mini retainer model. So if it's only $100 a month, at least you can go, "I've got that relationship."
And you know when we had Brendan on for legal, we talked about, you know, have a relationship with your lawyer. So when you ring them, they know you, and it won't cost that much. Whenever we get a new job off, we have to spend time, which equates to the client's money, to get, understand their website. Just 'cause it might be a WordPress website, what theme has it got, how is it constructed, this problem you've got, I've gotta dig in and understand what's going on there. Now, it might just be a page title issue, but then I go, "Oh, they're using some really weird method to put page titles in." Now I've gotta understand that, so two hours go by. But if I had that ongoing relationship, so six months later, something comes, "Oh yeah, I know what that is." It's a five minute fix. You know, I send out some bills that are five minute fixes, and it seems daft to send out $18 bills like that, but that's having that relationship. You're gonna get more value out of it.
So I would go back to the developers and say, "How can we work in an ongoing fashion, at a budget I can work with?" And that helps you, as well.
Edmund: Yeah, and I think one thing that people should do is reset, or change their mindset, in that a lot of times we look at the cost associated with the website, and the upkeep, and the maintenance, as costs. Whereas we would bucket the spend on the Yellow Pages as a marketing expense, something to generate revenue, and I think that we need to reset that. Because the reality is, these investments are all about making money, right? Updating the website, creating landing pages, and like you said, if you have a relationship with the designer over time, with a fixed budget, they'll know your business. They'll be more effective and efficient. And so it becomes an expenditure that actually grows your business, rather than, "Oh, it's just another cost that I'm trying to squeeze." And that never works, right, if you've got one person squeezing.
Darryl: Yeah, and then because what will happen is, you get someone that questions every bit of work you do, as a developer, and I'm talking from a developer now. So if you have that customer, "Oh, that seems really expensive. I just wanted some photos to crop." Well, it all takes time. And people don't say to the guy that comes to fix the poo-clogged toilet that's spilling over, they get the phone call, the husband's at home, he's not one of those handy guys, rings the wife, "Oh, the toilet's overflown! There's poo all over the floor!" And she's going, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" It's like, "Well, who do we use?" And you ring some guy, and he does all this work, and it's all gone away, and it's all cleaned up. No-one says, "$200, I didn't want that!" Right? That's like, it's all gone.
Edmund: Yeah. "You're taking too long!"
Darryl: Yeah, so if you say to him, "Dude, I've got $20", he's gonna go, "See the hose out there? Shove it down, turn it on, and wait for an hour. And also, block the door, 'cause more is gonna come out before it fixes." Right?
Edmund: That's right.
Darryl: And that's what will happen, from the developer. You have a history of challenging, "Oh, that seems a lot." Or "Oh, I need this, but I can't do it. Can you do me a deal? Poor me." They're gonna put you in the bottom of the queue, you're gonna get the least effort, because why would they put up with that? Eventually they're gonna go, "You know what, we're not working well together. We think you need another developer." And that means you've gotta reflect on it. And also, there was another thing I wanted to throw in there, we're talking about what you should ask. Something I've been seeing a little bit of, in fixing up some sites late last year, was WordPress custom work done by agencies, where they give the site owner partial access.
And I don't buy into this. I understand why. "I don't want them just ... "
Edmund: What do you mean, partial access?
Darryl: They might have an [inaudible 00:44:26] to log in, or they've got customized log ins, so they don't get the ability to update things and plug-ins properly. Or they can't do everything, they can't control user access, or stuff like that. Now, we talked about in episode 3, owning your own assets. If you have a site with anyone, if you're gonna get it, in your agreement or your contract, make sure that you say, "We will have full access, both at a hosting level and administrator to the log-in, to be able to do everything to our site. Whether we choose to do it or not is irrelevant." You can have the conversation, developer says, "Yeah, but we don't want you breaking stuff", well, "Teach me what I should know up top. I want access, it's my website, I want access to it."
Now the only caveat there is that if you're renting something, you don't have the same rights. You don't have the same rights to it, so you don't expect to get it. You're not gonna be hosting [inaudible 00:45:17], you're not gonna get a thing. But most people don't have that any more. So if you have it, you should know what full administrator rights are, and you should have it, and the trust should be there between you and your developer that that's what's happening and you can see everything. 'Cause I believe that's what you should have.
Edmund: That's awesome. I've seen that as well. Mate, this was a really informative episode. Just a round-up to what we talked about, we talked about the difference between a web designer and a developer, understanding who that person is and what their responsibilities are. We also talked about the difference between a lower cost and a higher cost website, understanding why those bigger sites cost more, and it's about that investment and planning, an investment in getting things done properly and checked before they go live. We also talked about the different tools that people use, and whether that will cost more, and what the issues are with regard to those. And also we talked about things that the web developers can help you with, and the questions, I guess, that we should be asking. You'll probably put together a list of questions as part of this episode's notes, yeah? About what they should ask?
Darryl: Yeah, I will. And I'll also throw in there that when you're working with someone, sometimes you go, "I don't feel like working together any more." Understand that difference, between designers and developers, because as you get more complex, as your site evolves, your needs are gonna change. So you may move from "Well, that guy was really good in the early days 'cause my questions weren't real complex" to "Now I'm moving to this gal over here, or this agency over here, because I've got more complex needs and that person wasn't able to fix my problems or help me with them." But also, understand that price isn't always an indicator of quality, but sometimes it can be. There are awesome freelancers out there at an hourly rate of this, or agency at this rate there, you've just got to meet your needs.
So just think about your needs, and try to work out if they're happening. Most times the problems are expectations are wrong, so just set good expectations. And find someone that meets them
Edmund: Awesome. Mate, I really enjoyed that episode. I think people listening to this today will get a lot of value out of it. What do you reckon?
Darryl: I reckon. Hopefully they will. Hopefully there's some useful info there. Look, if you've got questions and you want to hit us up, hit us up on the Facebook page, I'm happy to answer them. If you've got questions about something specific, if something you didn't understand, or you want to go deeper, feel free on our Facebook page, ask a question there. I'm happy to answer.
Edmund: That's awesome, and that's it for today, I think. If you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, please sign up to notifications on our website, at mybloodywebsitepodcast.com, or subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, and if you enjoyed this episode, please, please leave a review in iTunes. It really helps people find us, and enjoy the content. Seriously, leave a review, we'd love it. We'll actually call you out in the next episode, the first person who leaves a review. We hope to see you next week, when we'll continue this conversation about My Bloody Website. It's goodbye from me.
Darryl: It's goodbye from him.