Outsourcing to a web developer: An entrepreneur’s top tips

When building a website business owners need to watch out for exploitation from tech freelancers and web developers, argues millionaire entrepreneur Lyndon Wood

The technology industry is being hailed as Britain’s fastest growing sector, which is no surprise considering that traditional “over the counter” businesses are becoming an archaic blueprint of how companies used to do business.

Any entrepreneur serious about taking on the challenges of starting a business should not underestimate the importance of having a strong online presence. Developing an appealing website should be a large part of any business’ strategy.

It’s not as easy as just creating a website. Customers are less likely to do business with a company that has website which isn’t up to date or is particularly difficult to navigate. While start-ups are digitally aware, around three million small businesses are missing out on custom because they aren’t using the correct platform or e-commerce software.

The majority of start-ups opt for a relatively static site that is limited to a low amount of pages with very little content management – if any. Sites generally lack essential marketing tools and use out-dated software and as a result start-ups are likely to experience difficulty gaining SEO visibility and converting leads into clients.

Rising demand outsourcing web development

Business start-ups, from budding builders to beauticians and general non-technical individuals, aren’t likely to specialise in web-development or web design nor are they likely to have the funds to be able to employ full-time developers.

Hence, most small business or start-ups opt for outsourcing web development, as the prospect of conquering the internet and the tech industry can prove to be overwhelming and costly. In addition to saving the pennies, outsourcing work allows you to concentrate on core goals and business objectives.

Of course, IT outsourcing is not a concept born from technological advancements. On the contrary, the trend of outsourcing was rife in the 1990s when technology was vastly inferior to the cyber age that we are now privy to. However, the tech industries’ recent advancements has meant that its regulatory body hasn’t been able to keep up.

There’s currently nothing from preventing individual web developers and designers from exploiting a lack of awareness surrounding the industry and profit from unsuspecting business owners wishing to have an online presence.

What to do if you don’t want to outsource your web development

In order to prevent start-ups suffering from outsourcing a web development project, I would consider using the checklist below before committing to sub-contracting it:

  • Make sure your core business strategies are firmly in place. You need to know exactly who your customers are and what they want out of your site. Ensure that you know what experience you want to give potential customers when they are using your site.
  • Identify your purpose as a business. Even before you begin researching, you should have an idea of what you want your website to achieve based on your business’s mission.
  • Look out for ideas on other sites and note things you find easy to use which you could incorporate into your site.
  • Do continuous market research into your sector. Be aware of any corporate updates that could affect the way you do business.
  • Make sure your website is as “future proof” as possible. This will allow for changes in technology to be incorporated into your site without the need for a complete re-build.

What to consider before outsourcing to a freelancer or web developer

  • Before embarking on your web development and design project, make sure you know who is in the design chain and how many tiers to the chain there are.
  • Make sure you are aware of the software and skills required by the developer in order for them to successfully be able to complete the project.
  • Ensure that the web designer fully understands the brief and what specific functionality is required to bring your brand to life.
  • Put milestones in place to ensure that deadlines can be met and continuously check-in to ensure that time-scales are being adhered to.
  • Ask to meet or speak to previous clients to gauge their experience of the company and their journey of developing a website.

Risks of outsourcing web development

  • It’s difficult for start-ups to maintain state-of-the-art software systems and services and by outsourcing it can become difficult for critical issues to be amended in good time. This may lead to critical system failures along with loss of productivity and revenue.
  • By outsourcing you run the risk of losing the personal touch.
  • Security can be an issue when outsourcing, especially when dealing with offshore companies; they may not have laws to protect intellectual property or private data.

Evaluating and measuring outsourced technical talent

Even the mere mention of web development stirs up involuntary obliviousness. How on earth are you supposed to make sure you’ve got the right person for the job if you don’t know what you’re looking for?

Imran Ghory has developed a simple coding test called “FizzBuzz” that good developers should be able to complete within a few minutes. He advises that if they take longer than five minutes they probably aren’t as good as they think they are and you should continue your search.

It is the web developer/designer’s responsibility to ensure that they utilise the brief to make sure that the finer details are adhered to. These enable the site to be successfully used by potential clients.

How to know if you’ve hired the wrong person for the job

Below are a few indications that you may have outsourced your IT to the wrong person:

  • They aren’t clear about the expected outcome – remember that you are paying the fees and expecting the work to be completed within a realistic time frame with a clear idea of how the website is expected to function and look.
  • They do not have a measureable plan – all projects need to have a beginning, a middle and an end. The developer needs to evaluate your business objectives and translate them into measurable objectives.
  • They do not contact you with relevant updates – it’s your business and it’s the developer’s duty to ensure that you are involved in the development process.
  • They sacrifice functionality for aesthetics – while it is important for your website to look good, this will stand for nothing if your potential clients are unable to navigate your site.
  • They do not pander to your technological ignorancethey need to understand that you’re a business entrepreneur and not a computer genius. If they continuously dazzle you with tech jargon, it’s likely that they are compensating for something.
  • They do not give you adequate after-care information – what good is a website if you don’t know how it functions? Make sure that you are fully aware of how to use your platform including how to publish content and the use of any additional tools.
  • They are impossible to get hold ofduring times of critical error they aren’t able to provide support and guidance meaning that you could miss out on potential revenue.

Like all other aspects of technology, web development changes from one week to the next, making it particularly susceptible to internal exploitation. By acknowledging these tips, you should minimise the risk of falling foul to this exploitation and appreciate a professional and productive relationship with your web developers in conjunction with a well-designed website.

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  1. maximilian-2
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    I think the major issue for start up businesses is having the right skills in evaluating what the technology needs are and preparing an IT strategy. This is especially true for companies whose primary focus is not within the IT industries. In some cases where IT plays a major support function to business workflows but the costs of having an in-house team to maintain infrastructure and software is unacceptably high, an IT outsourcing contract makes a lot of sense. But I do agree on the importance of understanding outsourcing risks and more importantly not committing to binding SLAs that may not be beneficial in the future. In London, conosco.com is the only managed IT service company that I know of that offers 30 day rolling contracts. As a start up, it would make sense to look for such short-term contracts as the needs of the company are adjusted.