Gulo Gulo

Endless Web Projects: Have you considered a Support Contract? (part 1)

It’s easy to think about web projects as one offs. Each new website, maintenance or design project can be tackled as necessity presses the issue. The build out of your presence on the web is a long road.  And you’re building this road ahead even as you drive right towards it.

You have questions about the digital avenues for your business. You’ll have countless more in the months and years ahead. Because building digital roads isn’t your business, even if these roads are vital for your business.

Paving the Road

From full strategic website site redesigns, to small one off graphic design projects, site optimizations, user experience testing, or any manner of custom dev, there are a million reasons to solicit a digital agency. So, on a project to project basis, you reach out to agencies to build our your web-based infrastructure.

Of course hiring and rehiring support isn’t an ideal process for you or your organization. But you don’t have unlimited resources; you can’t hire full-time digital professionals for every digital need that arises. Under ideal circumstances, your best long-term strategic bet is to set aside a budget for a support contract with a trusted (full service) digital agency.

Why wouldn’t we want to have a full-service agency at their disposal? Who wouldn’t want a team of web experts to think strategically for us? Why would we not want each new project immediately tackled? It really is the ideal scenario, to have a contract with a proven team that is intimately familiar with our existing digital infrastructure and our end goals.

Still, despite the benefits of a long-term agency partner, support agreements are relatively rare. But this isn’t surprising. Like any ideal scenario, it invites skepticism. Heck, it would be foolish to enter into a support contract with a firm that hasn’t proven deserving of your trust. And, as always, it’s hard to think about the road too far ahead, especially when you’re busying yourself with one step at a time.

But what if you’ve found a firm who has earned your trust? What if, at the end of the day, you know that you’ll have a number of web development needs down the road? What if you need to save time and money?

Well, that’s when it become s bit foolish not to explore the benefits of a support contract.

Let’s consider a few questions:

  1. First of all, did you even know that a full-service agency can handle just about any facet of your web needs?
  2. Do you worry that you’re not seeking strategic support enough?
  3. And how often have you sought agency support? How many different agencies have you worked with already: how long does it take each agency to actually understand your organization’s unique needs?

Support contracts are an overlooked option. It’s usually as simple as folks not knowing the full scope of in-house capabilities offered by an agency. If an agency provides great support, but doesn’t communicate the skills and service offerings also offered by their various teams, well… that’s on the agency. And such a lack of communication can account for why you’ve sought web design or development assistance from a number of teams, without even considering the possibility of going steady with one good catch.

Of course you might prefer to hire a team for their specific ‘core competency’, from designing a logo to building a website, to developing custom ecommerce or CRM tool integrations.

But what will you discover through this project-to-project hiring process?

Well, you’ll no doubt learn firsthand how no shortage of time is wasted in discovering what, exactly your business needs in terms of web construction. And then there’s the endless repetition of discovering any number of teams that can knock it out. This process can entail dozens of emails, several phone calls and hours of proposal reviews. And once you’ve finally hired your support team, you’re not even actually sure what level of service to expect.

Does this all sound familiar? Does this sound like an ideal solution?

Building out and maintaining your digital presence shouldn’t be an endless cycle.

Here’s a hint, if you take nothing else away from this post. When you find the digital agency that gets it done for you:

Lock.

Them.

Down. 

A support contract with your web development partner is the smart long-term play. Because the best, most direct service you can get from your web development partner comes after a support agreement. It’s not just the best value either (with cost savings built into most agreements), you’ll actually recieve better overall service.

And in my next post, I’m going to break down why you’ll receive better service under contract. AND your cost (and time) savings under contract!

 

How to Hire Web Developers

New websites or web-based applications don’t necessarily innovate or streamline practices. These tools can hurt your business if they aren’t developed strategically. Opportunities are missed. Time and energy is misappropriated. Money is wasted.

Many organizations keep web developers on staff. But the need for innovative or highly customized work often requires outside help. What do you do when you’ve recognized that your organization needs to hire a web developer for a project? What if it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for? Do you know what your options are?

Passing along the conceptualization process to your chosen web developer isn’t enough. If you’ve chosen good web developers, they’ll double as consultants and will include you (or one of your trusted stakeholders) in the conceptualization process. This is our process at Gulo. And I know of several other web development agencies who also make a point to engage their clients in the process.

Most will just take your money.

aint-that-the-truth

Clients often approach web development agencies with only a vague sense of what their business’s new web-based project will accomplish. Such clients are in need of web development consulting first, and the actual development second. Unfortunately, the consulting stage is too often glossed over. And the truth is that few web development agencies think of themselves as consultants, most are all too willing to take their client’s money and start building based off whatever vague instruction their client has given them.

But it’s not surprising that many companies don’t reach out to web developers for assistance in the conceptualization stage.

Their fear is simple (and justified):

What if a web developer sells us on something we don’t actually need? 

This situation is no different than when someone who is woefully ignorant about vehicle maintenance, like myself, finds himself at the local auto shop. Professionals who understand a very specific and technical type of work can sniff out those who do not. In this case, the mechanic is in a position to potentially over charge me, or sell their helpless prey on any manner of unneeded work. I hate being in this position. But such fears don’t change the fact that my car needs a pair of eyes more trained than my own, just like web developers are sometimes needed to build out your company’s web-based tools.

These fears are the very reason that there is less strategic consulting in web development projects than their ought to be.

But you can avoid this trap.

e201111031

Web applications, no matter how flashy or well built they might be, can be a double edged sword. They cut you when they are built without proper consideration for the role they play in servicing your business’s bottom line. A developer needs to work with the client, clearly defining what goal(s) the project is building towards, be it revenue generation or more efficient teamwork. If a project is multifaceted, developers must consider: how are these applications working together, towards the business or organization’s bottom line?

It’s worth keeping in mind that web developers build websites and web-based tools for every industry. It provides them with unique insight. The best development houses learn about each industry they build tools for, and they use their experience to provide strategic counsel.

Once a business has built its website or application, their business model can become irrevocably attached to these new tools. Projects such as e-commerce functionality, Salesforce integration for a sales team, internal training tools, or thousands of others, can become deeply embedded in a business’s structure. And one poorly constructed piece can slow down, or even sink, the ship.

You want a web development team that takes the time to learn how each project factors into your bottom line and day to day practices.

Strategic web development takes time and careful deliberation. But it really can be as simple as taking the extra time to speak with your web development team. Web developers can’t even begin to build something worthwhile until they understand exactly how the project will service your business’s bottom line.  If they aren’t interested in learning what drives your company, find another developer immediately.

 

Yay, Error Page Found

We don’t see them very often, but a creatively designed 404 page can really bring a smile to your face. In the case of our redesign, since most of you will never see our 404 page, we thought we should share it publicly. Why not make it whimsical? Wikipedia tell us,

The 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was requested.

The web site hosting server will typically generate a “404 Not Found” web page when a user attempts to follow a broken or dead link; hence the 404 error is one of the most recognizable errors users can find on the web.

However, modern times calls for more modern practices. Put some thought and creativity into your 404 page and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get some social mo-jo from it.

Chicago EL Crashing at O’Hare

Chicago EL Crashing at O'hare

Russian Workers Dancing

Russian Weirdness

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber

A little privacy for the sheep, please.

A little sheep privacy

The Lego man unplugged everything

Lego man unplugs the power

Creative artwork and phrase

Flown the coop

Sneak peek of CSS code

Code App 404

Where’s the Princess?

Thank you Mario!