In the last two years we have dealt with three different web site designers, and learned a lot what not to do, and how to do things on our own. We are upset about the time and money we lost dealing with the different people but at the same time we are grateful things happened the way they did. We now have a wonderful website that James designed and created on his own. He decided that instead of paying more and more money to get people to work on our site that he would just learn how to do it. Now he has 100% control of the website and what is on it. I was forced to learn how to market a website with both hands tied behind my back. Now that we have a properly functioning website I can use the tools and skills I had to use before, but ever so much more effectively. We learned and changed because of our experiences, but I don't want anyone else to have to go through what we did.
With anything you need to do your research. Put the time into finding the right person or company that fits your budget and creative ideas. Never forget that it is your website and needs to reflect who you are or your companies image. Don't just go with the first person or company that fits your budget. You are hiring someone to do a job for you. Treat this as you would if you were hiring on staff, contact references and find out what other people have to say. Don't just look at what is posted on the persons website as reviews, actually call them and talk to past clients. You’re the boss, not the other way around.
Look on the Internet for other sources of information. If there is something negative about a designer or company it is probably out on the net, it is just a matter of finding it. See how many websites have links back to the designer. Try to find a couple that indicate that they were created or designed by this person or company that is not being used as a reference. Contact them and find out their opinion. Sure it is going to take time and work, but it can save you a lot of time, money and effort on your part.
When you have decided on a designer make sure you get a clear contract that stipulates exactly what you want the website to do and look, when you need the site up and that everything needs to be purchased in your name or your companies name so that you own the website, not the designer. You may also wish to include the term functional website in the contract, small thing that can make a big difference. This helps both of you to know what is expected and when. This way if something was not done you can refer to the contract and have the work done. If you find that the web site is not doing something you want it to do now the web designer can refer to the contract to show you it was not included in it and you can either re-negotiate the contract or do another one just for that part.
It is important to make sure that you keep on top of the project, not just assume things are being done when and how you want. Our first designer took 3 months and no website. He had all sorts of reasons for why there was nothing to see, but we knew there was something wrong. Our dead line came and went and still no website. We put some pressure on and finally was told our website was done, take a look. Then came the sucker punch, before he would give us our site we had to pay 3 times what we agreedapone. Why because it took him longer then expected and he wanted to be paid by the hour, not the job. So after three months we had no website, but a nice lawyer.
The second designer agreed to do the work in a timely manner and within our budget. He came back to us after three weeks and let us know that a retail website of our site was beyond his experience. He was fine doing information sites. We accepted that and appreciated his honesty, but were also glad we had a contract.
Always make sure that you change your passwords once the work is done and if you need more work you create temporary passwords for the designer. Also make sure hosting companies, licences and software are all purchased in your name, or companies name or signed over to you once the work is done. The third designer was hired because he could get the site up and running in two weeks and we were 4 months behind schedule. We did our research, and got a very clear contract. He did give us a site with in the two weeks that appeared to be functional. We had some problems and concerns but that was explained away as issues or restrictions caused by the shopping cart. There were things that did not do what we wanted and some of his explanations did not make sense to me, but he would not talk to me and explained everything away to James as a problem with the shopping cart that could not be fixed. Eventually the only solution he would suggest was to buy a new shopping cart and pay him to do all the work again.
Every couple weeks something would go wrong and it was $50.00 to fix it, or there was an upgrade that would make things easer with the shopping cart but again $50.00 for the designer to install it. I kept asking for contact information for our hosting company and shopping cart company. He would not release the information, so every time something went wrong or we had a question we had to go through him, and yes it cost money. We started to question things, had some independent web designers look over the coding only to be told that there was malicious coding causing the problems, not our shopping cart. We tried to contact the hosting company and shopping cart company only to find everything was purchased in his name and there was no record of us purchasing anything. We demanded the license be transferred to us, why had it not been transferred when the job was done. We had to threaten legal action to get the licence in our name. At that point he severed business ties with us.
What we found, he had charged us for installations and used up our service points with the shopping cart company to do a lot of the work, so we actually paid for it twice. There was what is called malicious coding causing our website to not function properly, our products would not index on the Internet and we were limited to the smallest pictures for our product. The shopping cart company discovered this, and they insisted that it was deliberate coding designed to prevent the shopping cart from working properly. This could not have been done by accident. Then Canada Post previewed the non-functional shipping calculator and discovered something called a siphoning code. It was designed to invoice a customer extra for shipping on their invoice, show the correct shipping on our copy and then deposited the difference into his paypall account. I guess he did not expect us to test it when we got it, we just thought there was a problem with the Canada post calculator and did not use it. There were quite a few other coding issues discovered and we were looking at legal action when suddenly our hosting company shut us down and we lost the site.
It seems he had kept the hosting company contract in his name so he cancelled it without warning and we lost the entire site. Or at least he thought we did. What he did not know is that James was already in the process of designing a new site. It was a work in process still and we did not have the shopping cart up and going but it was there. It took 4 days to have the shopping cart installed and be a working site. We also had backed up the old site the day before. All we lost was some time, though we have to re-enter our entire product manfully due to an incompatibility between the old shopping cart and the new one.
Over all we learned a lot, are able to do things ourselves now and have a much better website that is just going to keep on improving and growing.