[–]chbrules 18 points19 points  (7 children)

As a high-paid developer, yeah, we're going to cost you $10k's. I've had multiple clients paying me literally close to 6-figures without a scope document and open-ended contract before they backed out. I couldn't even fathom a business model with what I was working on for them.

Some people have more money than brains. That's not my problem, though. My problem is if you're paying me or not. You're not paying me to plan your business for you. Think about that next time you want to plop down many thousands to make a website.

[–]almithani[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

This is valuable perspective, I wish people wouldn't downvote it.

I've tried to buy a few clients in on validating their idea, but most of them want to go all-or-nothing. It's such a needless risk; I hope people who read the article think twice about taking that kind of plunge.

[–][deleted] -4 points-3 points  (5 children)

I understand what you're saying but I don't find it ethical. I'd prefer to build a client over years than soak them once and get myself a bad reputation within my industry. As a consultant that would be career suicide.

Technology is like witchcraft to many people, they don't understand it and they're not just buying your technical services but also your guidance and expertise.

[–]corybyu 3 points4 points  (4 children)

How is that building a bad reputation? If he is building excellent websites for terrible ideas that are poorly implemented it is not his job to fix the idea. Some ideas just don't work out, and people are going to get someone to build their website either way. If the person who builds it does a good job building what they ask for, it ends up failing, and they turn around and speak poorly about them, that is unethical on their part, not his.

[–]raleighwood 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I suggest you learn about the strategy of preeminence advocated by Jay Abraham. Your goal with a client is to provide value. If the project your working on is doomed to fail, and you know it - you are doing a disservice by not helping the client become successful.

Is it unethical? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely is myopic.

[–]corybyu 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I'm not saying you can't make suggestions, etc. But the job of a web developer is to develop websites, some people have really unrealistic/terrible ideas. If you are a freelance web developer, are you supposed to just turn down a good paying job, from someone who really wants to try out their idea, because you think it is a bad idea? They are paying you to create a website, you can create a website, and the business might still fail. It isn't your job to make sure the business is a success, but to do what you are paid to do in the way the business creator wants you to do it.

If you pay someone to come and clean the bathrooms for your company, and they think you have a poor business idea, is it their job to fix your business? Someone who creates websites is performing a specific service, and is not necessarily a consultant for how good an idea is. It isn't their responsibility to make someone's idea a good idea, and someone who creates websites may not even have the technical/consulting expertise to know how good an idea is in the first place. So, unless you are selling yourself as a consultant, you aren't doing anyone a disservice by creating websites to the client's specifications, period.

[–]raleighwood 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I agree with you, and I think it's myopic. Short sighted. So yes, if you need some short term cash flow - hopping from one doomed project to another is a good tactic.

But if your goal is to make a lot more money, high impact solutions are required.

With your bathroom cleaner analogy - If the bathroom cleanliness was as important as website function is to profit, I would gladly pay a premium for someone to fix my business.

[–][deleted] -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

I understand what you're saying. There's a difference between writing a solid website doing the best you can and knowingly taking someone's money. It's an ethical decision rather than a business one. My corner of the industry runs on handshakes and everyone knows everyone. If I intentionally took someone's money on an idiot it would hurt my business and make me feel crappy about myself.

[–]beansedb 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I understand your point and it does have merit. If your business is software, SaaS or an e-commerce site, you absolutely need an interface professional and a developer. If you don't know if and when you need a developer, you probably are in the wrong business (and I'm sure there are lots of those).

[–]Marquisk2 3 points4 points  (3 children)

I'm a developer and I don't want to spend too much time developing a custom website initially until I get some traction. So I use wordpress, buy a template for about $50 and modify it enough so it doesn't look like a template. It might not work for all types of businesses but if it does it lets you focus on other aspects of your business instead of coding your website.

[–]almithani[S] 3 points4 points  (2 children)

I work the exact same way, and I also come from a development background. I think it's people who aren't developers who end up looking at developers as a panacea for their ideas. They also tend to underestimate the amount of development work required to execute their ideas.

Do you run into non-developers who work the same way as you?

[–]Marquisk2 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I haven't ran into a non-developer yet who works that way. I've mentioned it to a few non-developers in the past and for some reason they get the idea that it's somehow cheating.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I think its part of the general misunderstanding a novice has about what a product is. They see websites as monolithic products so it's hard to conceptualize re-use and modification as they've never given any thought to how the sausage is actually made.

[–]JessicaZahra 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I agree. Another way is to buy a premium wordpress theme and get a developer to shuffle things around for you. That's only going to cost a hundred or so on eLance.

[–]jplopes 4 points5 points  (3 children)

As someone who runs a high end custom Web development business, I have to disagree. Here's why:

  1. overall quality and credibility;
  2. search engine optimization;
  3. performance and security;

If you decide to create your Website on your own and not invest in a fairly decent Web developer, unless you actually know what your doing there's a big chance the end result isn't good at all.

There's a lot to take into consideration when building an e-commerce Website.

Starting with the interface and overall user experience, you want something clean, intuitive, that presents the products in just the right way, regardless of the platform (mobile, desktop), to make it easier for your consumers to buy it, thus maximizing sales.

You also want your Website to be found. Face it, you can spend a million on it, but if no one finds it, it will bring no value into your business.

Third, but not least, if you're going to deal with orders and handle sensitive information you also want to make sure you keep it safe. If you have no idea about what you're doing and decide to just "get a plugin" for every feature you want, I can guarantee you I can get into it in just a couple of hours.

As someone mentioned on another post, you do not get to make second first impressions, and that is exactly why you shouldn't underestimate the benefits of hiring a decent Web developer.

Now, please keep in mind you also don't need a $ 10.000 Website either.

Any fairly decent developer can set you up with a basic e-commerce site based on proven open-source solutions, for way less than $ 1.000, in less than a week and with a custom made layout/template.

Most of the benefits of a proper Website don't have a positive impact on small businesses and, as such, they do not actually need that kind of services.

[–]almithani[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

The best website in the world won't be of any use to a business who doesn't know who their customer is, or how much they should charge them.

I'm not saying investing in a website is a bad thing - I'm saying investing in one too early is a bad thing.

[–]jplopes 1 point2 points  (0 children)

If a business, if we can call it that, doesn't know who their customer is or how much they should charge them, than it's definitely too soon to be investing in a Website.

A Website is part of a strategy, and that strategy doesn't exist at that point.

When I wrote my post I assumed the "business" was past that point.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you. I didn't want to get into prices, but people here seem to think a developer is $10K minimum.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (6 children)

I'm not sure I agree with your main statement entirely. I do agree that for a new business there are very few reasons to make large investments in technology before testing your assumptions.

I am in full and emphatic agreement that any technology investment should start with minimally viable - even if that is doing it manually on a basic blog. You're right, it's the process that matters, which is why going super stripped back is a good test of assumptions.

How about "Don't distract yourself with features and eye candy"? Personally I would consider throwing someone a few hundred dollars for an initial WP site to be a reasonable first iteration if they don't have the skills themselves to build it.

Recently I seem to be hearing more and more about people who get ripped off by designers, developers and SEO people for tens of thousands of dollars on weak business ideas.

[–]TheAdventMaster 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Recently I seem to be hearing more and more about people who get ripped off by designers, developers and SEO people for tens of thousands of dollars on weak business ideas.

Developer here. Just know we're not usually trying to rip you off. You get what you pay for, ask for, etc. and we often simply charge market rates.

What business owners often want from the technical side is someone who's a business partner. At the company I work with, we treat client like business partners, even though we have no more stake in the company than their patronism. That's not everyone, though.

Also worth nothing, most of my clients have been techie millionaires or Fortune 500 companies who can make a purchase order for $80k without anyone batting an eye. If something takes longer or costs more than expected, there's a shrug of shoulders, sometimes an audible sigh during the phone conference, and some additional talks to get everyone back on track. (In the 2+ years I've been here, our company has never been the fault of delays.)

So yeah, considering there's a guy who's experienced managing larger teams, sometimes even technical ones, and has almost infinite pockets, and there's also you, the startup guy with some time and a little money, but no revenue yet, it's definitely worth your time looking up how the web will benefit you and how to create a themed site in Wordpress.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I think by and large you're correct, I have run many development teams in my career and work with several different development companies and contractors currently. I also think that because your average developer is really smart he can be seen as an expert in business by the client. This can be a recipe for disaster. The client looks at the developer for reassurance his product's a great idea. The developer isn't actually qualified to make that judgement but might think it's a cool idea, or has something interesting about it and reinforces the client. Or they're just unethical and willing to take a suckers money.

[–]TheAdventMaster 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I've personally recently heard of a CTO for a large tech company demand everything be re-written in Scala.

I won't say who, but what are your bets that guy has stake in Scala (ex: someone interested in the language) or is using that company as a proving ground for something they want on their resume?

[–]almithani[S] 2 points3 points  (2 children)

I agree with everything you said, but I wrote the article because many first-time entrepreneurs have the mindset that if they could just get a developer to make their idea, then they'd be successful.

It's a self-defeating mindset. Rather than assuming you know everything, assume you know nothing and validate along the way. There are times when throwing up a WP site for a few hundred bucks is exactly what your business needs - the successful entrepreneurs are the ones who know when their business needs that action.

You seem like you've been through this before - at what point do you decide that you need a web presence?

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I work purely on web properties and businesses and have been doing so for over 20 years. In my group of peers the approach is generally:

  1. Have the idea.
  2. Consider monetization and research the market.
  3. Build super simple website that conveys enough of the concept to work. In wordpress this can happen in a matter of hours or a day or two at no cost - or if you don't have existing infrastructure you can find cheap/free hosting to do it.
  4. Start marketing/calling prospects. Watch website traffic.
  5. If there's some traction/interest build out some more of the website - this might need developer investment.
  6. Monitor your traffic.
  7. If things still look good I'd consider making a real investment.

What novices seem to misunderstand is:

  1. Branding/Design have far less value than you believe. Make a clean, usable site. You can have a teenager or friend do that for the price of a night out.

  2. Websites are not static products. Create only what you need to prove your business model. You can add things whenever and as often as you want and your wallet allows. You do not need to build everything at once.

  3. The less baggage and BS you bring to your idea the faster you can get it up and running. You can create products in less than a day to test them. I'd much rather waste 8 hours vs 8 weeks and thousands of dollars.

Most of the business ideas that my friends and I come up with we spin up on less than a few thousand dollars. Granted, between us we have a lot of skills and that offsets a lot of cost.

For someone who's bad with technology and no access to experts I think that it's reasonable to invest a few hundred on step 3 and maybe a few thousand on step 5 if the data is there to justify it.

Sorry for the long answer :)

[–]almithani[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It's a great answer! I think everyone in this thread should read it.

Thanks =)

[–]RandyHoward 0 points1 point  (4 children)

Your business is what you do, not how you do it.

I really can't agree with this statement. There are so many companies out there that aren't doing anything unique, they're just doing it really well. How you execute is as much if not more important than what you're selling.

[–]almithani[S] 0 points1 point  (3 children)

Can you name an example of one you mean? I'd love to get into a discussion about this =)

[–]RandyHoward 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Sure, let's talk about the 800 pound gorilla... Apple. Apple didn't invent the smart phone, but they executed very well. You can see this trend in a lot of the things Apple does (but they are innovators in some areas too).

More often than not it really comes down to execution. There are always going to be competitors selling the same thing you are, and at the end of the day execution is probably what makes one sell more than the other. Even if there aren't competitors selling the same thing when a business starts out, eventually someone is going to come along and become competition. If they execute better than you, you're going to be in trouble.

[–]almithani[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

In your example of Apple, when the first generation of iPhone came out, what did people say about it? Almost everyone said it was "easier to use". And they were correct. People might argue that Apple's UI was 80% similar to other smartphones at the time, but that 20% of difference is what made the product better, what made it simpler.

So what did Apple's iPhone do for consumers? Essentially it allowed anyone to use a smartphone without reading a manual.

How did they do it? The average consumer doesn't care - they only care that they can watch cat movies out of the box.

Ultimately, I will admit it comes down to a question of terminology. The what is pretty much ANYTHING the consumer cares about, so it's a moving target.

[–]RandyHoward 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I feel like you're mixing up the what with the how here. The what isn't "ease of use", that's the how. The what is simply the iPhone, the how is that they made it easy to use. The ease of use is the result of executing well. Ease of use is a feature of the product, but it isn't the product that's being sold. In this case the consumer cares about the how not about the what. The consumer wants a phone (the what), but they want the one that's been executed well (the how).

[–]ShoeRepairMan 0 points1 point  (3 children)

I agree with your sentiment, but disagree with the customer not caring on how you do it. User experience is fundamental, and will set you apart from your competitors.

[–]almithani[S] -1 points0 points  (2 children)

I tend to think that simplifying the process to solve a problem (aka having better UX) is still a what and not a how.

I guess it might be a terminology difference between the two of us - I completely agree that UX is fundamental.

[–]ShoeRepairMan 0 points1 point  (0 children)

If you look at it that way... Then I agree

[–]jplopes 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It is a HOW... a how well, but a how either way.

[–]cirvitis 0 points1 point  (0 children)

If you are not a developer yourself and not even technology savvy then don't even try to jump into technology scene. Because you don't have any idea how things work and what developer should do and how to hire the right person for the right task. Good friend of mine have spent 6 figures trying to jump into tech startups without any luck. His developers were playing games with my friend as he had no idea about what it takes to create a feature X or product Y. He believe in his programmers and turned out that they were just lazy students with no real coding knowledge.

If you want to build a nice informative website with portfolio, product section, blog/news section, contact form and other basic functionality you don't need a developer for that. You can use CMS such as WordPress in combination with any of these themes.

You will get all the functionality you are looking for, design you have always wanted and will spend between $50-100. It will take some time to setup everything but no more than few days with absolutely no knowledge about WordPress. Once you do setup yourself you will be able to maintain this website in the feature. In case you will hire developer you won't learn a thing and you will hire this developer again just to add news in news section. That's huge waste of money because your kids can do it for a fraction of the cost.

[–]conciergecto 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I can't say I 100% agree with all the specifics, but I completely agree with the sentiment. The idea that you can just build a fancy site and turn that into a valuable company is a dangerous idea. Talk to your (potential) customers, get them to pay (or figure out why they aren't) and do it over and over and over and focus the time on your copy and value proposition not on whiz bang features. This is my shortest posts, but I think one of the most important http://conciergecto.com/you-dont-need-a-fully-custom-software-solution/

[–][deleted] -1 points0 points  (5 children)

Good stuff, thanks.

Plus, the learning curve isn't that bad for most languages, at least Web based, and it will save you money by doing it yourself.

[–]oneonetwooneonetwo 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Additionally, worst case scenario is you don't quite have enough money to pay the developer for something. Being able to roll your own sleeves up in lean times can be a business saver.

It's never good to have a critical part of your small business that the directors can't possibly do anything about themselves. Your staff might be infinitely better at it but at least, if they weren't there, it could still get done.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Yup. You should always know how to do the job of people under you, even if you can't do it to their level of expertise and speed, you need to know how to do it, even at the most basic level.

[–]almithani[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Even if you have absolutely no programming ability or interest (a real issue for some entrepreneurs), you can get a Wordpress site up for $5/month and customize it with very little technical skill.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

And for many small companies, that's more than enough.

[–][deleted] -1 points0 points  (15 children)

I dunno, if you start a business without an attractive website, you're going to scare off customers.

A designer and developer can make that process so much easier.

[–]okayifimust 0 points1 point  (7 children)

For a subscription box company - a trendy type of business, but the technology doesn’t need to be crazy. Put up a WordPress instance with a landing page, get a plugin that collects all required information and manually copy it to a spreadsheet for fulfillment.

You don't need a developer for that. I think you should throw a few hundred bucks to a designer - but you don't need a custom shop or anything of the sort.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (6 children)

No, but someone has to implement the design -- that's typically a developer unless the business owner has some knowhow.

I agree, there are scores of off the shelf shop solutions that are easy to manage.

[–]okayifimust -1 points0 points  (1 child)

Well, if the the job description of the guy who changes the background graphics of a theme is "developer" then I have no argument here.

But they shouldn't be needed for more than a few hours.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

So, they are needed...

[–]ZebZ -2 points-1 points  (3 children)

I think you're confusing developer vs designer.

Developers write back-end code that change the lower-level functions of a site. Designers make front-end improvements, which in all likelihood involves not only layout and graphics ideas and creation, but also basic CSS and JavaScript tweaks and implementation of plugins.

If you are on a platform like WordPress and want to hire someone to change the appearance of a site and adjust some basic functionality, you need a designer not a developer.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I'm not confused. I build websites on the side.

Most designers I work with know only very basic code -- if that -- even HTML/CSS typically takes them a prohibitivly long time. Of course it varies from person to person. But most people with a graphic design degree and are over 25 were not required to learn any code at all.

Designer and developer are both very vague terms in the real world.

[–]ZebZ -1 points0 points  (1 child)

If you want a flyer printed, you go to a graphic designer. If you want a website made or redesigned, you go to a web designer.

If you (the hypothetical you, not you specifically) bill yourself as a web designer, you'd damn well know basic HTML, CSS , maybe a little Javascript and definitely have some understanding of user interaction design. Otherwise, you're a fraud.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

And if you want a housing complex, you get a land developer.

See the vagueness of saying designer vs developer?

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (3 children)

But there's a major difference between attractive and a full design. I can show you websites that have horrific designs but are usable and generate millions in revenue every year - why? because they connect the customer with a service or product that they want.

[–][deleted] -1 points0 points  (2 children)

Duh. And of course, there are lots of exceptions to the rule -- along with every rule.

But do you honestly think that launching a business without learning how to make a good website or hiring someone is in any way logical?

If so, good luck finding investors, or customers, or your elbow.

[–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I think you've misunderstood me completely.

[–][deleted] -1 points0 points  (0 children)

Nope, I got ya.

[–]almithani[S] -1 points0 points  (2 children)

It depends completely on the type of business, and, as /u/okayifimust says, you don't necessarily need a developer with the host of software packages out there that allow you to create beautiful websites.

There are restaurants that I know that are always packed to the brim. They don't have custom websites, their menus are terrible, and you always have to wait in line to get to them. But they are doing great business - why? Because the food is incredible.

For a restaurant, the food is the most important. For a design agency, the website is very important. For a lot of businesses, the website isn't even in the top 10 of things you need to consider.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Yeah, if your food is phenomenal and people already know about you, you don't need a website. Good luck getting there.

Nobody will know about your business, be able to check our your phenomenal food menu or even call you (When's the last time you used a phone book?).

Bottom line, the website is the first point of contact for almost every single business. I cover industries as a journalist that historically "don't need a website." Those that don't are dying out or selling off to companies that understand digital very well.

And sure, there are tons and tons of options for a website that you don't need a developer for. But the time your spending learning those packages could be better spent on perfecting your product, service or other collateral. Someone with no experience will waste days putting together something worse than a developer/designer will in a couple hours.

I think your last statement is flat out wrong. The website is your brand, the website is your first interaction and the website must be considered. It might not be No. 1, but if it's not thought out, the business is going to have a hard time starting and growing.

[–]almithani[S] -1 points0 points  (0 children)

If you're talking about local businesses - I know many of them that have opened only a few years ago with nothing more than a Facebook page that are doing incredibly well. Whether or not this type of business needs a website when they launch depends on how they are going to get their customers. And as the post title says - you don't necessarily need a developer to create a website even if you decide you need one for your launch.

Now let's talk about the kinds of businesses people on this sub talk about - ecommerce businesses. There are so many tools out there for this kind of business, you don't need to talk to a developer until you've made at least your first $20k in sales.

[–]ZebZ -1 points0 points  (1 child)

Reading through this thread, I think a number of people are confusing the roles of a developer and a web designer.

Developers write back-end code that change the lower-level functions of a site. Example: Custom shopping cart databases and transaction processing or the custom creation of some functionality that doesn't exist.

Designers make front-end improvements, which in all likelihood involves not only layout and graphics ideas and creation, but also basic CSS and JavaScript tweaks and implementation of plugins.

Put differently, the guy who made the plugin is a developer. The guy who implements it is a designer. If you are on a platform like WordPress or Cratejoy and want to hire someone to change the appearance of a site and adjust some basic functionality, you need a designer.

[–]UA2013 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I thought designers were considered the people who design the layout in a .psd file and the developer created it in html/css.