Learning to Buy a Website

CaptureLearning to Buy a Website

Remember the first time you bought a business card? I sure do, I was about twenty and the excitement was indescribable. I was actually doing it, I was starting my own business and just knowing that within a few days I could rub elbows with the local business crowd at lunches and after hours mixers gave me an incredible feeling. I was starting.

Nowadays, it’s easy, Vista Prints and the like have streamlined the process of purchasing your first business card, not to be awe inspiring in fact it’s probably safe to say it’s considered, “ah whatever”. But back in those early days of my entrepreneurial infancy, I wasn’t aware that the card buying process would give me some valuable insight into the rest of my professional life as a marketer, web designer, and developer.

From picking out the stock, to selecting clip art, the one, two, three system for purchasing business cards makes the task relatively easy. The reason for this in a nutshell, there’s nothing overly complex, it’s point and click and for the most part, we as business owners or managers have an idea of what we want on our cards before we start the buying process. Knowing what we want (or at least an idea), is the largest single difference between purchasing a business card and a web site.

Put another way, when you’re buying your business cards, you know you want your logo on the top left, your email and telephone on the bottom right along with your contact numbers. Considering those wants, most of the previously mentioned is actionable meaning you can tell a Kinkos representative to “Move the logo to the top left”, “place the contact numbers on the bottom right”. Unfortunately when buyers engage a web designer their instructions aren’t anything close, “I want a great web site.” or “Here’s a couple of photos on a zip drive and a three year old press clipping for my web site.” Unfortunately, both of these statements aren’t actionable and leave a considerable amount to assumption and translation.

Now it goes without saying that building a web site is much more complex than crafting business cards, but in concept the idea is the same. The product (card) is something creative which automatically causes issues when defining the start and stopping points for some buyers.

Let’s clarify by asking, is it the buyers responsibility to provide a useable and ready logo to the printer? What happens when a buyer doesn’t have a logo for the card? Both questions are reasonable but truth be told, uneducated buyers attempt to push their own lack of preparation or short comings onto their printer as from their perception the process should be all inclusive.

Solving this problem online is simple, the buyer selects a logo and card style from templates, and viola, the card is ready for printing. However, in the brick and mortar world, unprepared buyers tend to lean on their card printer making the process of logo creation unfairly the printers responsibility. Truth be told, design services, specifically logo design versus card printing are two different animals entirely which I found out quickly after asking for my fourth or fifth revision to the logo on my first business card.

“Sean we can tweak this for you some more but we are really getting into design services and need to compensated for that time.” I recall thinking, “Oh, I didn’t know. I hope they don’t think I was trying to get something for nothing.”

The point, having a hand sketch of your web site, a word document with a few tables and text will speak volumes to getting you what you want and need from your web site. Approaching the purchase unprepared (nothing actionable) will yield less than desirable results. Over the years I’ve had clients literally hand me a business card and say, “Build me a website.” Candidly, these types of clients are my least favorite as they represent hours and hours of discussions and back and forth often with the expectation that it’s our job to read their minds either purposefully or not, without compensation.

Unfortunately what can’t be expressed or shared simply can’t be built. It’s important to keep in mind that just because a provider offers creative services this doesn’t mean that they don’t expect to be compensated for planning or architectural hours. To avoid this issue and others like it, ask the following question, “Am I expecting my designer (or developer) to solve my business problems?” if you answered yes, you are  receiving consulting services which typically aren’t part of the overall builders process.

In closing, the more you do up front to represent your vision for your web site the better. It’s paramount to note that the more you provide a designer and developer, the better the final product as there’s less room left to interpretation, miscommunication, and  mistakes.

Photo by David Leggett – Attribution License Creative Commons

Leave a Reply