I should say right away that this post is in danger of turning into a rant. That is not my intention. I am not here to whine. I am here, though, to put out into the universe a concept that needs to be discussed. So, here goes.
The web is not cheap.
There. I said it.
Before diving too deep into that argument, let’s review what the web IS.
–The web is fluid. Every document that exists on the web, in order to be really useful, must be a living document. Because the web is, by its very nature, a living, ever-evolving, content repository.
–The web is accessible. Anyone with a small amount of knowledge can publish to the web. I always say the web is the great equalizer, suddenly we all have a voice and the vehicle through which we can be heard.
–The web is immediate. Case in point – I was reminded about how much this issue bugs me about five minutes ago, and here I am saying something and publishing it to a (potentially) global audience five minutes later.
Let’s face it, everyone knows someone who does ‘web stuff’. That’s what makes having high standards in this business really hard, and really necessary – the fact that everyone has a cousin or son or nephew or babysitter or neighbor girl who can make a website on a Saturday afternoon while goofing around in their garage/office. Because the spectrum of talent engaging in this kind of work is so broad, and the perception of value associated with the work is equally as broad, it is really hard to truly understand the value of the necessary skillset and expertise that play into a well-defined web strategy and execution. Heck my mother recently said she’d mastered ‘copying and pasting’ and maybe she could ‘help me out’ since we’re so busy. She was joking, of course, but the irony is in the fact that she’s a trained professional — a physician. I suggested that we just swap jobs for a day. I’ll deliver babies, and she can build web stuff. No problem.
The fact of the matter is, the web is an investment. A real strategic approach is necessary to doing business on the web. You can’t just expect to slap up a site and have it work miracles. And once you do launch a site, you are not done, you’ve only just begun. I think most people’s perception of their website is informed by an old school traditional marketing approach to print work. You jump into drawing pictures and coming up with catchy, brand appropriate copy, you execute in line with the creative, you launch, you’re done. That is entirely the wrong way to think about your website. Yes, good creative is essential. But creative is not strategy. You have to define the why before you consider the how. Creative is a ‘how’ not a ‘why’.
The web is transactional. You are engaging in some kind of business interaction on the web. Hopefully in the process you’ve managed to learn more about your audience that allows you to interact with them on a more on-to-one level. A microsite has its place. But microsites aren’t appropriate as often as they happen, trust me. So you’re not getting off cheap by building half a site. You might end up paying more in the long run by not considering how micro-content fits into your overarching strategy. And any interaction with your target should have some kind of integrated component with your primary brand presence on the web. Even if its just data. Data is really the key. But that’s another post entirely.
Most people walk into a web shop and expect the vendor to define their budget. They send RFPs out to a number of vendors that fall in a variety of spots along the pricing spectrum, and generally they award business based on price. The lowest price, then, becomes their budget. By selecting a vendor that way they miss the opportunities to think comprehensively about how to address their business objectives on the web, and how to appropriately evolve on the web. Meghan always tell clients they should come to us with a problem, not a solution. This is great advice when thinking about how to extend your brand, and do business, on the web. Don’t walk in saying I want these 44 things and I want them all for under 10 bucks. Instead, prioritize your objectives and look for a real strategic development partner to help you think about how best to implement your priorities. This might require iterative development, or incremental roll-outs of features. But that’s ok. By moving some or all of your business to the web, you’re making promises to your audience. If you are smart about how you move, and you choose quality and ease of use over cheap and fast, you’ll keep those promises and your audience will stick with you. They will wait for a good experience to get better. And they will be key influencers in how you improve on your feature-set.
Money is an issue. Don’t get me wrong. You have every reason to want to control costs. And you should. But control them in a way that makes sense and doesn’t compromise the deliverable. Control costs by working closely with your vendor/partner to identify your priorities and the time it will take to address them. Then have checkpoints or deliverables on the path to getting there. Budgets are generally eaten up by the intangibles — vapor. Don’t let that happen. Insist on helpful documentation, in language that makes good business sense, to help guide the project. Then follow those roadmaps closely. Be collaborative and don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one knows your business better than you. Ask for what you want and be clear about what you’re asking for before anyone starts coding.
The web is not cheap. But it does make good financial sense if you approach it prudently. It is an investment. You can start small and work up to your ideal solution. But don’t compromise good sense looking for a deal. You end up paying for the work twice in the long run. Once trying to be cheap. And you pay the second time when you decide to do it right. Get it right the first time.