Bad News.

January 20 2015

We've got some bad news.

We’ve got some bad news.  When your company or organization needs a new website or cloud based application it's almost impossible to know who you can trust to design and develop your project. Everywhere you look there are nightmare stories about people getting taken advantage of by development companies.  Promises about capabilities, deliverables, and timelines which are clearly a misrepresentation of reality just to "close the deal". We hope this doesn't sound familiar, but if it does we want to apologize on behalf of our industry.

There is some good news, however. Here are five questions which can help you see through the fog when choosing your next designer or developer.

1. Do you know who you're getting into bed with?

Hiring a designer or developer is not a “one night stand”, it’s a long term commitment.  Take some time to get to know them.  Just because they look really hot out there on the dance floor, doesn’t mean they are the one.  The best way to find out who they really are is to talk to their previous boyfriends or girlfriends; or in this case their previous clients.  Ask pointed questions about how the project was managed from beginning to end.  Trust us, it won’t take too long for you to figure out if they are the right fit for your company or organization.

2. Are the portfolio pieces real?

Some designers and developers will post projects that were never completed to their portfolio.  Maybe there is a website design that looks incredible, but was never brought to life as a living breathing website.  Sure it shows they are great designers, but maybe they don’t have the ability to develop with the same level of expertise.  Websites and web based application projects are significantly bigger than a good design.  Maybe the Site was brought to life at one point, but is no longer in use by the client. Sure, there are good reasons for this, but sometimes it’s evidence of poor execution in the development phase. It’s very important to use a portfolio as a research tool to determine if a developer can bring your idea to life and then help you keep it moving forward.

3. Who is actually doing the work?

You would be surprised how many agencies outsource their development work overseas. We love the global economy just as much as anyone, but sending your project overseas has several cost factors that can’t be measured by the dollar amounts on the invoice.  While the ability to communicate internationally has gotten much easier, there are many “things” which get lost in translation when space, time and language become barriers.  In many cases overseas “coding farms” are focused on cranking out work as quickly as possible. This usually results to a significant drop in quality and can also make maintenance almost impossible. The person or team who wrote the code will not be the same ones you are eventually connected to when you need support. Most importantly, when agencies outsource their work they are shipping local jobs and money out of your community. The adage “buy local” is just as important in this industry as it is for the mom and pop store around the corner.

4. Do they put the client first?

Websites and cloud based applications are very complex projects.  There is likely a huge crevasse in the knowledge sphere between you, the client, and your designer or developer.  Unfortunately, there iis a mindset which is rampant in the development realm.  Leveraging this gap they loudly proclaim, “Let us show you how awesome we are!”  In reality, a good firm will take the time to help you understand what you are getting into.  They will do what is best for you and not merely what makes them look good in the eyes of their peers.  They will understand they don’t exist without you.

5. Are you dealing with a salesperson or an actual designer or developer?

Many design and development agencies will have a designated person for sales and project management. They are typically not designers or developers.  Their education and training revolves around getting a deal closed and a project out the door as efficiently as possible.  Unfortunately, this disconnect with what it takes to design or develop usually yields unrealistic expectations.  The budget will be off because of an underestimation of the scope. Next thing you know the firm is calling you asking for a change that’s always going to cost you time or money.  The design will be less awesome because, let’s be honest, how many sales people do you know who have the flair and panache of a real designer? If your designer or developer has sent their best salesperson to handle the job, before you commit, ask to talk to those who are actually going to be doing the work. Make sure you are comfortable with them and they are comfortable with you and your project.

Midwestern Interactive would love the opportunity to meet and talk with you or your team. We would be more than happy to answer these 5 questions for you along with any others you might have. We wish you the best in your quest to find the perfect team for you project and hope you'd consider us in your search.