Outsourcing Web Development: The Ups and Downs & How to
You might just be starting out you web presence and need a new site. Or perhaps you are an existing site owner wishing your website could be better. There are many situations through which I’m certain you’ve toyed with the idea of outsourcing your web development, either entirely or in parts.
Before you read further, I must let you know that I am of the school of thought that business should always focus on their core capabilities. This means that if your main income is to come from activities other than web development, then outsource your web development!
Just keep in mind that outsourcing web development isn’t exactly going to take all the strain off your shoulders, just the necessary parts.
How it works
Web Design vs Web Development
While many people might say it’s just nit-picking over terminology, web design and development aren’t really the same thing. Design pertains to the aesthetics of the site – how nice it looks. Development may cover site design but includes the building of the engine that runs the site.
PSD to HTML / PSD to WordPress no longer works
Quite some time ago, business owners used to describe to a designer how they wanted their website to look like. The designer would draft up the look and feel of the site using something like Photoshop and then hand it to a developer who would turn the PSD file into HTML code.
This is mostly outdated now, thanks to the massive influx of devices with varying screen sizes. A ‘one size fits all’ design is no longer feasible, and unless you’re willing to spend the time and money doing separate design and development for each device type – PSD to HTML isn’t realistic anymore.
Just look at WordPress for example and consider this fact. Using templates can ease a lot of the design burdens and many of them are responsive, meaning the templates adapt themselves to various screen formats.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still do so, in fact you can even turn your PSD files into WordPress templates, but is it worth the trouble?
How Outsourcing Web Development Works
The first thing you need to know is that even with outsourcing your web development, as a future site owner you are still going to be very much involved in the development process. From choosing the right partner to defining the exact scope of your online activities, your input is vital if you expect not to be disappointed by what your web developers turn out.
Remember: Web developers are the same as other business owners – they are experts in their own field. What you need is to be able to pass on your expertise in your domain to them and allow them to transfer that knowledge into their technical design. Make sure that things are spelled out in as simple terms as possible so there isn’t any room for misinterpretation.
What to Expect
- Delays to the project timeline
- Suggested alterations to your designs
- Internal staff will need to be assigned time to liaise with the developer
- At least minor cost overruns
What not to expect to be included:
- Content for the website
- Any special images/videos
- Search engine & social media marketing
- Web hosting and domain name
1. Choosing the right outsourcing partner
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how can you tell if a web developer is a right fit for you? It’s not as easy as it seems.
Aside from the usual spam from Nigerian Princes and the IRS asking me to reclaim millions attributed to me somehow, over the past years I have started getting spam from web developers as well. These are usually individuals and the spam has even evolved to cold calls trying to sell their services.
There are literally thousands of web development companies around today and an even greater number of freelance web developers. The problem is finding the right one to work with you on your website.
Here are a couple of tips for choosing one;
- Ask them for references – All web development companies can come up with a decent site of their own and tout it, but the proof is in having happy customers. Check up on those references and take note of their comments.
- Evaluate communication flow – Ask how the work communication flow is like. I once worked with a developer who had a very siloed approach – I communicated with their support staff, who communicated with their technical staff and separate other people handled billing, complaints and so on. The process was painfully slow and many times confusing.
- Fit your budget – It will often be tempting to go with a smaller developer who promises you the moon and the stars for a pittance. Comparatively, a bigger, more reputable company might be leery of some of the things you require – listen to both sides realistically and impartially before deciding on the level of risk you’re willing to assume.
One good resource you might like to look at is Codeable. These guys are a team of various experts in web development who specialize in outsourced development. Because they have specialists in various fields, they will be able to link your projects with the right people for maximum efficiency.
2. Know what you want
What I mean here is that you need to have a vision for your website. What are your intentions? Do you want your website to simply be informational and support your primary place of business, or are you looking to use it as a virtual extension of your business?
There are key differences in scope here that the web developer needs to know.
Once you’ve decided what needs to be on your site, make sure to convey his information clearly to your web developer. While looks are important, don’t get carried away and focus overly much on your site design.
3. Establish clear milestones
Work with your developer to come up with a timeline that is acceptable to both of you. At each stage, there should be an evaluation point to make sure you can call a time out in case you feel something is not going the way it should.
The timeline also gives you a better feel of when your final product (the website) will be available, so that you can plan supporting activities such as a soft launch, some promotions or other marketing activities around the launch date.
4. Draw up a contract
By now you probably realize that your website can be an invaluable tool you can build even more business activities around. Because of that, you are going to be committed to it in many ways. Having a contract protects both your investment as well as the web developer’s interests.
Be aware, however, that should you decide to outsource to a third party in, say, India, then you need to also learn how enforceable any contract you might have with them is.
5. Build a good relationship with your developer
Once you have your website, it is usually the norm that occasionally, some things might go wrong. Keeping a good relationship with your developer will help ensure that any bugs or other problems you have will be resolved quickly.
It also further builds on trust and gives you a good option in case you ever decide to add a ‘Phase 2’ to your website. The guys who built it will usually be able to develop it further on a shorter timeline and with less resources.
Success Story: Credo
As a marketing consultant at Credo, John had a hard time competing on his own against other companies who gave clients the assurance of ‘size’. There were limits to how much he could achieve each day on his own and decided to outsource to a WordPress developer.
Through a working relationship, John reached a point where he no longer felt stressed by developmental issues in his consulting work and is able to focus on his core business goals.
Avoid these 5 Mistakes When Outsourcing
- Choosing the wrong partner
- Establish an unrealistic budget
- Not having key goals clearly defined
- Being too ‘hands off’ in the development process
- Not building a marketing plan around your website
Conclusion: Is Outsourcing Right for YOU?
Every business is different, both in what they do and what point there are at in it. If you’re wondering if outsourcing is the right choice for you, it likely is. What you should be looking at is much of what I’ve covered in this article.
Don’t get me wrong – the outsourcing path isn’t lined with roses and contains more than its fair share of thorns. However, at the end of the day, if it is done right then you’ll have gained an extremely professional asset to your core business activities.
The key difference between outsourcing or not lies in a few fundamentals. If you outsource, rather than focusing on technical competencies that you’ll never need again, you instead build on other good management qualities – communication and project planning.
These will work well to your advantage no matter what business line you’re in, even after the web development project is done.
* Free quotation service via our partner, Codeable; only available for WordPress development.