In a separate blog article I cited free website hosting (and development) as an example of the ‘freeconomics’ trend in business, a race to the bottom that removes quality both from the service that is provided and from the website that is produced.
The adage “You get what you pay for” is as true today as it ever was and I’m happy to mount a spirited defence of paying to have a website hand-crafted. So here goes…
A website is a website is a website, right? Wrong! Every website is required to be distinctive. When it loads in your browser, it should be immediately recognised as being your website. Everything about it should be how you want it to be. Individuality and site recognition are too important to be left to chance. Everything needs to convey a bespoke, hand-crafted feel.
But there’s a paradox here: web standards mean that however distinctive your site is it needs to render in all browsers, to comply with web standards, be accessible to those visitors who may have special needs, such as limited vision, and be search-engine friendly. A cross-browser, compliant website that is distinctive and recognisably yours simply cannot be squirted out of a software process. Bringing all of these requirements together is a craft, combining technical know-how, more than a flare for design, and a sound knowledge of ‘communication-arts’. This isn’t ‘bling’ or techno-wizardry, but a conscientious bringing-together of different – often competing – skills.
Every product has a process, and the process of how a website gets built is equally important. This doesn’t relate to how the developer codes or designs everything. That can be judged by the end result. Instead, I’m referring to the exchanges that go back and forth between the client and the developer. Firstly, it’s personal. When I develop a website, it’s me with whom you’re dealing, not a salesman, not a helpdesk operative. If you send me an email, you don’t join the queue that’s processed by any member of a team. It’ll be me who gives you a reply. It may seem odd, but I’ll actually read your email! I’ll do my utmost to pick up all the points you make, however insignificant some of them may be, and I’ll address them all in my reply! You may raise all sorts of questions, and have all sorts of concerns over any aspect of the site – and I’ll give you clear, reasoned answers which will help you make decisions. I won’t be trying to dazzle you with technology; but if you ask something technical, then I’ll do my utmost to give you a balanced and informed answer.
In the round, it’s the service that I provide – the process of collaboration and the end result itself – that I want to be judged by. A satisfied client is what I remember more than the fee paid, not the other way around! Getting your website properly thought-through, designed and launched isn’t only a matter of business: it has to involve trust and a personal service.