When I first got involved in the web, back in ‘98, things were great. Fewer languages, fewer browsers, fewer off the shelf systems and themes. Everything was bespoke. Life was simple. These days, there are a glut of open source systems, cheap or free themes, templates and web based DIY design tools. Browser and web technology roadmaps and new evolving web standards. Enquiries these days still come through, like they have in the past. But the expectations and approach is now much different. As a designer and developer, the skills required are vast. Project manager, content architect, ux designer, creative designer, usability/accessiblity expert, sales expert, security expert…etc. Yet, there is this notion that development is cheap, or that it “should be” cheap. Unfortunately, wordpress (and other open source systems) have played their part in creating this illusion, that all you need are plugins, and if it works for you, bang.. job done. The problem here, is that this is far from a secure, efficient, properly built system which has all the qualities that lend themselves to an end result which works for you and your customers.
Installing a plugin does not make you a developer.
Almost daily, I encounter people who call and market themselves as developers, yet when anything slightly more technical than installing a plugin is required, they call on people like me. I have then the enviable task of taking a poorly hatched together, on the cheap system and somehow make it do what is expected. Once the amount of work required has been established and a quote submitted, this is followed by a “why so expensive? when i built the site i didnt charge that much?”. That is because, a theme and a plugin does not constitute development at the market rate, so don’t compare what you did to it. i.e. if you could do it, you wouldnt be asking me and you, yourself, would therefore be a developer. The end result to all this, is a perception that we are cheap, and when quotes are submitted, you either get back a rejection or even worse, don’t hear anything at all. Clients need to understand that we don’t install plugins and walk away, we craft and create something to the best of our abilities that will give them every chance of a successful web site. The recession hasn’t helped, often enquiries come in with not only a long list of tasks, but also a price at which they are happy to pay which is far, far less than what is required. Would you walk into a branch of Curry’s and choose a £1000 TV and say you are only willing to pay £200? Another industry issue, are small agencies, or highly experienced freelance designers and developers undercutting each other in order to win work, ending in a day rate close to minimum wage. All this does is define an unsubstainable low rate which companies expect for development from all agencies and freelancers. This short sightedness means we are literally destroying the industry from within. The number of projects I have lost out on, because of other companies willing to do the work for far less than what it should cost. A concerted, joint effort is required from the industry to keep costs at its market rate. There needs to be an appreciation of small agencies and freelancers who go through the full planning, design and development life-cycle. Not only in creating for site launch, but future proofing for growth. As important as design is, it is just one part and can only work in combination with what developers craft.
What goes into a professional web design and development project?
Where do I start? Giving every chance of a web site exceeding expectations and goals starts from the very first meeting. It is impossible knowing what to build until you know who you are building for. This means acquiring an understanding of who your customer is, what they want, what you want to achieve and joining the dots up. Having reached this point, the next stage is design. The design needs to reflect the goals outlined in step 1. Trust is built in how your site looks. Messages are communicated through layouts, type, colours, organisation, content heirarchy, this takes time and skill. Next step is the build, making the designers plan a functional reality. Giving the users a seamless, joined up ‘flow’ of an experience. Not only giving what the user functionally expects, but also giving the site owner a place to edit their content, from simple text changes to running an e-commerce site. (...I could go on) Needless to say, you wont get all this with a $30 theme! :)