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What's Really Under The Hood of your budget website?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there’s extremely cheap labor out there somewhere, but what you don't see under the hood will destroy your dream of achieving a worthy presence on the internet.

I'm not trying to toot my own horn on this, but I’m always amazed at how many small business owners call us every week with their tail between their legs wondering why the last web designer they hired for $300 did not deliver.

I am writing this article to backup and support my fellow web developers and designers that believe whole heartedly in their work but still struggle with being undercut by wannabe web professionals and startups that have no experience.

I’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping web design and internet marketing for 12 straight years now. It doesn’t matter whether I'm explaining it to my mother, an old high school buddy or a young entrepreneur. The web design and marketing business is like any other business. If you want to see results you need to hire a professional. The sad dilemma is that most people that do not know much about websites and how they work see everything only skin deep. A decent high school grad or even trusted family member can push all types of eyecandy at you, rotate logos or implement short-winded “WOW techniques” and sell you the car right off the lot. Unfortunately, in the end you will either get a bad taste for doing business on the internet or you will convince yourself that the service is not working for you because the internet is just “smoke and mirrors.”

I have to admit, when I started Blue Light Labs in 2000 we had no money and were a couple of kids struggling without venture capital to survive. We cut corners on what we delivered to our clients because we could, we were in a world where their were no standards and honestly we were still working for $8 an hour even when omitting things that should have been implemented between the lines. The reason I'm relating this article to cars and car maintenance is because I feel that there are similar communication issues. Most people have become used to the idea that replicating and copying data is a new future allowing web developers and designers to produce the same product over and over for a fraction of the price it used to be.

In many respects our tools have become more advanced and user friendly, yet as we move into the future of the internet, numerous other requirements have surfaced forcing us to be human again.

Just like in the old days, hard work, honesty and devotion to your skill prevailed!

1. Price always breaks down to time. Custom Web design is a very time consuming trade. Even after the communication is clear with the client we’ve already burnt through 3hours+. A few hours researching concepts and color schemes doesn’t even touch the surface of the workload required for a small brochure site. In some cases I will reuse some of the same code snippets in my tool box , but only the ones that have been proven to work for a company in a similar industry. A full day of work can be spent alone going back and forth with the client on design concepts. Building the home and sub-page templates, implementing the formatting and checking browser compatibility, if it does done correctly, can take up another full day at that. Things that our clients are not aware of, or cannot visually see, can throw sizable hurdles into any project. To list few:

  • Are The URL's Search Engine Friendly?
  • Does the Design avoid Tables?
  • Was it checked against WC3 Compliance?
  • Is the Site Map implemented correctly?
  • Are Titles Headers and Content Structure adjusted for you to have a fighting chance of being found on search engines?
  • Is it built into a CMS system with the tools to grow and expand in the future?
  • Has the site been checked against webmaster tools for errors and cyclic links?
  • Are all the images Flash, CSS and JS files optimized and loading correctly?
  • Can you pull the site up on a smart phone?
  • As the articles and content change with time, does the system report changes and modifications to Google and other search engines?
  • Is the Robots.txt working for the site?
  • Does the framework print content before or after loading their massive amount of formatting code which is typical in cookie cutter websites?
  • The list above consists of about half of our checklist no matter the size or site we’re delivering.
  1. Knowledge and experience is the key. A web design firm that has cutting edge experts with real world experience is worth the extra money by far. Most experts refuse to take shortcuts and would rather stay dedicated and consistent with the quality of their work even if it cuts into their time and pocketbook.
  2. Double Checking is very important. Most of the time a designer or developer will set the site up, give you the keys and never look at it again. A website grows and matures with age. Watching and comparing results after the website has some age to it is becoming a new vital part of continuously improving a business web site.
  3. Above all, great web developers are obsessed with their work. Some are filled with drive and determination while others can unfortunately burnout. Find a web design company that has some history (sometimes not the cheapest), loves the work and has a sincere interest in helping you achieve your web based goals.
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