10 things businesses should know before building a website

A couple of months ago Andy Budd asked his readers about 3 Things You Wish Clients Knew About the Web. The comments contain many good examples of how people misunderstand the Web.

It's prefectly understandable that people who do not work in the Web business don't understand everything about the Web. But the same way you need to do research before you buy a house, a car, or a dishwasher you need to make sure you know at least some basic facts before you start paying someone to build a website. If you don't, chances are you won't be getting what you need.

Many of the clients Andy's readers have would benefit from reading Esther Schindler's article Becoming Clueful: What You Should Know Before You Redo Your Web Site. The article brings up seven really good tips for organisations about to start a new website project, whether they are building a completely new website or redesigning their current one.

The tips are excellent, and all web professionals are likely to have clients who could learn a lot from Esther's list of tips:

  1. Understand what you want
  2. It costs more and takes longer than you think
  3. A Web site has several pieces. Don't cut corners.
  4. Balance glitz and guts
  5. If you build it, they won't necessarily come
  6. Avoid bit decay: the site needs maintenance
  7. Treat the Web team as professionals

I'd like to add a few points of my own:

  1. Most people in the Web industry are clueless. It may sound harsh, but I really think that's the sad truth. The majority of Web workers out there should either update their skills to what is required in the 21st century or find something else to do.
  2. You only get what you pay for. If you get something cheap, there is always a catch. The lowest bidder is the lowest bidder for a reason. Remember that.
  3. Don't start your project with buying a CMS. So many organisations walk into this trap, especially in the public sector. A municipality buys a cheap CMS that looks good to them, then goes looking for someone to implement a website on top of it. The end result is very often both inflexible, inaccessible, and dull looking.

Throughout my career as a web professional I have had many clients who really would have benefited from understanding these very important points. Like I said, that is understandable and excusable to some degree. Much worse is that I have also worked in organisations where most project managers would have needed the tips mentioned here. They simply did not understand the Web. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that clueless project managers are still a common problem in the Web industry, especially at larger Web agencies and IT consultancies.

Got any nice stories related to the tips on Esther's list and my additions? Please share!

Posted on August 31, 2006 in Quicklinks, Web General