Does this scenario seem familiar?
You’re ready to build your first website … or maybe the first website for your new, improved brand or your new line of business. But if you’re like so many business owners, you feel overwhelmed by all the choices you need to make. Many of my own clients compare the experience to entering a jungle without a guide.
Most of your resources will be honest, hard-working and well-intentioned. But when you’re new or when you’re in a hurry, you become vulnerable to the bad guys lurking in the shadows. It’s all too easy to ignore your inner voice whispering, “Watch out! Maybe you’d better find someone else!”
Here are 5 common dangers lurking in the Internet jungle and tips for protecting yourself and getting a hassle-free website.
The Venus fly trap company begins with an offer that looks beautiful on the outside: they’ll do everything, including the purchase of your domain name and web host. But once you’re folded between their beautiful petals, you can’t escape.
When your domain is registered in someone else’s name, you don’t own it. The owner gets renewal notices. If they go out of business, move or come to an untimely end, they won’t be in a position to renew your name or host.
One of my clients paid over $200 to get her own domain name back after her developer disappeared. Another couldn’t get into his own website to change a seminar date. His developer wouldn’t release the password and they charged for every update.
Kudzu companies give you a contract that keeps growing… and growing. You start out with a simple website. Then you find yourself paying for extras, buried in the fine print. Your contract includes a provision for accounts with Google, Bing and Yahoo, even though you’re not likely to advertise online and anyway the accounts are free. You’re charged for a temporary “placeholder” website to deal with visitors while the company makes the new one… and you just need a few pages that should take three days or less. Your original reasonable quote has grown so large you wonder if they think you’re a Fortune 500 company.
The rare fruit company charges you premium prices for things you can get free or cheap elsewhere. My favorite is the $50 a month “bargain” web host, with a 2-year non-cancellable contract. ($50 is a reasonable monthly fee for premium hosting – as long as you get more than bargain basement service levels.)
Your contract includes a $500 logo, which is very reasonable for a seasoned going concern company. (If that’s your budget, choose your own designer.) Some businesses find it makes sense to skip the logo altogether when they’re just getting started or they visit logo-making sites.
In extreme cases, you charged for creating a QR code (the machine-readable graphic that directs people to your website). You can get one free and it takes five minutes.
You get promised a dashboard to manage your site, ease of changing pages, and other benefits that come automatically with a WordPress site; your developer just adds them to inflate the benefits you’re getting so they charge more.
The spider company invites you into her parlor with a small request buried in the very, very fine print of your contract. You might find yourself agreeing to add the developer’s name to the bottom of each page of your website. It’s a nice thing to do, if you still like your designer or developer after six months or year. But it shouldn’t be required.
And be especially careful when you see a contract clause insisting on confidentiality. Why should your contract be a secret? It is reasonable to note, “The rates we quote may be higher or lower for other customers in the future.” But run, do not walk, from confidentiality clauses.
These rare exotic birds are alas, not extinct. They’ll recognize that you have no idea what a website should cost. They’ll charge you an amount appropriate to a company that’s ten times your size. They’ll take your money. And they’ll find reasons to delay delivery. A few of my clients had to threaten these vultures with the fraud unit of their credit card company.
Three ways to equip yourself for the journey:
(1) Create your website content – page by page – before you think about theme, images and the ultimate goal of a beautiful site. Copywriters often will help you choose graphic resources that increase the strength and persuasiveness of your message. Web designers finish faster – and sometimes cheaper – when you’ve got ll the content in place.
(2) Sign up for your own domain and hosting with your own credit card. Refuse any offers to have someone do this for you.
(3) Say “no” to anyone who cold-calls you on the phone or invites you to lunch. Busy, competent people don’t have time: they might meet you at a networking even, but they won’t linger over a meal unless you’re a totally qualified, ready-to-move prospect. When dealing with a new resource, start with a small project (such as a consultation) before signing on for something big.
If the caller sounds really amazing, you can turn down the lunch and do some serious research about her company. Ask about services, prices and a sample contract.
Your turn …
What website services have you worked with recently? What do you like and dislike about them? Is the idea of an all-in-one solution appealing? Let me know in the comments!
And if you liked this article, you can download my free report on planning your next website.