So, you have decided that your business needs a new website. But, have you considered what sort of preparations you have to make before you start working with your web designer or developer? Are you expecting your web developer to take care of issues that are indeed your responsibility? This article takes care of some of the more common situations where incorrect expectations cause rifts between web developers and their clients.
1. Do you have your content ready to go?
This is by far the most common issue that arises during the web development process... Who is actually responsible for the content?
For whatever reasons, quite a few business operators seem to have an impression that one of the responsibilities of a web developer is to generate all the needed content that describes their business, products and services.
This assumption is incorrect. The web developer has the responsibility of creating an attractive, intuitive and functional website based on the content a business operator provides. As a business operator, you will need to gather and supply good and relevant content that describes your business, products and services. For business owners who do not have a high standard of writing skills, a marketing professional or a writer should be engaged to assist.
Correct understanding in regard to images, photos and other graphics is also vital. If your business offers a large array of products, it may be a wise course of action to engage a professional photographer. Stock photos are another issue that deserves a mention – a business operator may be expected to provide their your own stock images or pay per image from stock photo suppliers. Web developers may have some basic stock photos on file to offer, but expect to pay for any imagery that is decent in quality.
Lastly, your web developer is not responsible for producing a logo or brand for your business. This is a whole separate service that is best left to a professional marketing agency. Brand components should always be produced before a web development project is undertaken.
How do you be prepared? Organise your content, product images and staff photos prior to engaging a web developer and have it ready.
2. Are you in possession of your domain name?
Do you know who controls your business domain name, where it is registered and how to administer it? There is a pretty high chance that you may not have this readily available.
Losing control of a domain name seems to be a very common scenario. A large number of clients I worked with did not know who their domain name registrar (the company responsible for registering and holding control of the domain name) is. This always became a problem once the time came to re-delegate (point) their domain name to a new web hosting account.
Luckily for business operators, the domain name registration system in Australia is excellent. Corporate and organisation domain names (.com.au, .net.au, .org.au) are required to be bound to a particular company or other legal entity, and as long as you are the decision maker within that entity, there generally isn't a problem with intellectual property. If there is, a process to dispute ownership does exist, but it's quite complex and professional legal advice would be required in this case.
Where the problem usually shows itself is that business owners do not know how to access the domain control panel at their domain name registrar, or sometimes they may not even know who the registrar is!
There is a system freely available called WHOIS that allows one to lookup domain name information – including registrar and registrant details by simply entering the domain name of interest. This system can assist in finding a starting point for the recovery process.
How do you prepare? Find old invoices from your registrar that refer to a domain name registration fee for a period of 2 years. Get in touch with them and ask them to send through access details to their control panel and domain name registry key. Have this information ready for your web developer before the project is started.
3. Web developer can't and doesn't give legal advice!
There are a few common situations that arise during the web development process where legal advice should be sought.
• Collection of credit card details;
• Intellectual property rights in respect to the work completed by the web developer.
Collection and storage of credit card details is a serious matter. While using a third party payment gateway (e.g. Paypal) to process credit card payments is a viable solution for a lot of scenarios, sometimes a website will need to be designed to collect and store live credit card data. In this case, seeking legal advice on what you can and can not do would be a prudent course of action. For more information about this matter, research “PCI DSS Compliance”.
Finally, just because your web developer finished your website doesn't mean that you end up with rights to everything that has been completed. While you will likely obtain full ownership of developments that were completed specifically for your business needs, there is one large component in modern websites that will come with its own license. This component is the Content Management System (CMS) that serves as the base for your website. Proprietary Content Management Systems developed by companies will come with varying proprietary licenses and Open Source Content Management Systems can come under a myriad of licenses to advance the Open Source community causes (e.g. restrictive licenses such as GPL, permissive licenses such as BSD). The key point to remember is that just because you paid for web development, it does not mean that you will own the Content Management System that the website is developed upon.
How do you prepare? Ask your web developer about these issues and see how they can assist. Your web developer won't be able to give legal advice, but will be able to point you in the right direction.
4. Do you have a clear idea of the project requirements?
A typical eight-page business website doesn't need a lot of discussion and planning. If the business branding is in good order and content is well prepared, the web development process shouldn't require complex planning and custom programming.
This isn't the case when your business needs a custom shopping cart, custom ordering systems, booking systems, credit card processing, etc. With custom requirements, the web development process quickly turns into what is known as software engineering. This introduces a requirements analysis, planning and design process that may be quite tedious, time consuming and expensive.
It's quite often that business operators underestimate the costs of developing a custom online solution. Seeking short cuts (e.g. using an open source shopping cart system) to save on costs is generally not the best as you may end up doing the project again in the future that will be indeed suited to customer needs.
How do you prepare? If you do expect your website to have advanced features, make sure that you prepare a proper project plan that outlines business requirements before meeting with a web developer. With no plan, one can expect to pay hefty consulting fees just to work what needs to be done.
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