5 Cardinal Rules When Creating a Web Site

Over the years – working as a developer I have seen both a lot of great and horrible things with clients. In order to avoid the “horrible things” – I would highly suggest taking a moment and reading through the points below.

Step 1: So you need a web site…

Your development options:

  1. You also know someone who has a cousin who does web sites on the side
  2. You outsource it to a company who charges $10/hour
  3. You find a reputable web development company

Cardinal Rule #1

Realize your development decision has consequences. All options have costs you might not be thinking about. Not everyone wants/can spend a large amount of money on a project so they decide to choose option #1 or option #2. The initial project cost is lower on paper so you go with it. The costs you really need to consider with the first two options are often hidden.

  • Communication: How can I get ahold of you to talk about the project/status/any issues? (If this is someone who does it “on the side” or is located in another time zone – are you ok with a delay or odd hours of communication?
  • Quality: Can your cousin’s friend who does this on the side create something that you want to represent you? Perhaps sometimes – but more than often – you will get something for less money and quality and it will show.
  • Cost: Option #3 is not always the best for you either. Perhaps you have a new business and you want something really professional, but you do not have a budget to match what you want. I have seen companies put so much money into their site – that their business fails because they overspent.

No options is perfect – but you need to be comfortable with the decision and realize there are potential downfalls.

Cardinal Rule #2

Get a contract in place with guarantees/terms. If whomever you decide to work with does not want to get this in place first thing – huge red flag and good luck. This is an essential part of any business as it sets expectations and protections for both the client and developer.

Step 2: Let’s start this!

Now that you have started the process and selected the right web developers – it is time to start building your site. The fun (or nightmare) is just about the start.

Cardinal Rule #3

Never let your developer register for all needed accounts/licenses. I have seen it time and time again where a developer registered something, stopped working for their company/client and with their departure also went all the licenses/accounts. Example – your developer offers to register your domain name for you, but when they do – they then get all notifications of when it expires, and control renewal. The developer then ends their business relationship with you for whatever reason and when your domain name needs to be renewed – you have no control over it and after spending money/time on building your online presence – lose it all because your domain name has been bought by someone else. Ouch. I have seen it. Another example: your developer sets up your hosting account. The developer leaves and they stop paying for/close the hosting account. Good bye web site. Better yet – you do not own the account and cannot even request a backup of your site. OWN YOUR DATA/LICENSES/ACCOUNTS

Step 3: My site is amazing!

After the development is over – now you can enjoy the end product (or can you?).

Cardinal Rule #4

Know what your backup policy is/make sure you actually have backups. Some people think $5.00/month hosting is a great deal until they realize they do not have any backups or that backup are an added cost that they never sign up for. Whoops. I have also seen more expensive hosting packages that only keep backups for 48 hours. This may work for some people – but if there was an issue on Friday, and you get in on Monday and realize it – your backups are not going to help. Make sure you are comfortable with your backups.

Cardinal Rule #5

Keep your software up to date. If there are security updates – apply these sooner than later. No excuses. If you are worried about an update breaking something – set up a staging environment and test there. If you do not have a staging environment but feel like testing is still important – spend the time and money to get one. I have seen clients who have had a security breach because they decided it would be best if they “only update quarterly” which may sound nice in a written report to someone – but when security issues come up and there are patches – they need to be applied ASAP or your site becomes vulnerable. Resolving security issues always cost greater than applying the updates.

In summary – not everyone knows the process or what they need to do when starting a web site project or maintaining their own site. My company has helped a lot of clients from start to finish and will make sure we go over the items above. We have also seen/helped a lot of clients who had an issue with one of the cardinal rules above and I, if possible, hope reading this has made you more aware of potential things to think about when doing any web site development. Creating and maintaining a web site can be a great experience or a nightmare. I hope your experience is great!