Site Generators
17 May 2020

Pay for Web Development

By Benji

My first ‘official’ web project was for an old friend, a successful musician with a 5-year-old single page with some links. I was so confident in my delivery that I told him I’d do the project for free! This is bad business, but it wasn’t the worst part. After hours and hours of collaborative design ideation and development, he went out and bought a subscription to a site generator.

Every developer you know has a similar story. There’s something ephemeral and subjective about web design and development. It’s not a physical product that you can be proud to walk home with, and the difference between success and failure feels technical and difficult to quantify.

It probably feels like that because small businesses are long-term investments, and the impacts of marketing don’t increase revenue immediately. There are actually plenty of ways to show how better development affects your business. I’ll list a few here.

Time

This is the most easily quantifiable value when it comes to your site. A quick search will tell you that 0.9 seconds will slice off a quarter of your user conversion rates. But skimming 0.9 seconds is rarely straightforward. Here’s a short list of custom troubleshooting thoughts that a web developer naturally has when it comes to speed:

  • Server calls
  • Server allocation
  • Caching: server-side and browser-side
  • Session maintenance
  • Content Delivery Networks
  • Enqueuing and script bloat
  • Browser support
  • Webpacking, autoprefixing, and minification
  • Limited redirection
  • Image Optimization
  • Preloading

Sure, we developers think of all of these things on almost every site, but the true beauty of custom web development is that it’s straight up impossible to match all of that customization with a website generator. The premise alone means your site will be built on a server, with inevitable work-arounds for pre-compiling the styles you choose to your specifications.

That’s one of the reasons I say WordPress probably isn’t for you. A big, multi-tool site is naturally going to be slower and clunkier.

Accessibility

The common consensus is that 20% of people who use the internet have a form of disability. The most common accessibility issues come from mouse use and visibility. Without tools for screen readers and proper mapping and organization, your site will literally stop a fifth of your viewers from accessing the content.

Building a properly accessible site is notoriously difficult. Go to a site like Amazon and try to navigate with only your keyboard. Now go to your favorite blog and try it. This level of accessibility and site architecture requires a tailored approach.

Money

This blog started when that developer’s friend said “but why does it cost more than [WYSIWYG site generator].” But your long term costs will actually shrink when you do the job right the first time. Site generating services intentionally charge an extra few dollars more per month. They’re in it for the long game.

Compound that with licensed code that you may not reuse or download. Proprietary domain names that you can’t take with you. And generally terrible migrations. Check the fine print before you sign! It’s like renting an apartment - you’re not allowed to take it with you when you leave.

There are degrees of separation to be sure. Want a cheap site? Hire a new developer! But be forewarned: make sure that even that budget developer knows what she or he is doing. Development consultants charge incredibly high premiums for ‘cave dives’ into other developers’ code. Cheap code smells like bigger problems.

Your “Seongsu Style”

When I was doing a very different kind of program development in Seoul, South Korea, I had the opportunity to work directly with a few of the country’s best interior designers and architects. They walked into hollow shells of construction sites and saw things that noone else could see. They came back with plans that brought out the best parts of a space. Everything they did seemed so … apparent! But without them it would have never been done.

You are a unique individual, with a unique business. Highlighting your value and talent is a web developer’s job. It might make perfect sense after it’s all done, but it took work and experience. The addage goes something like this: “You’re only paying me for 5 hours, but you’re asking me for 5 years’ experience.”

And there’s going to be something you want to change, just the eensiest, tiniest bit. If you haven’t contracted someone who can smooth that out, that little thing is going to bother you every time you visit your own site.

Remember, you will be your site’s top visitor. It’s about you after all!

We’re Not Only Here for the Main Project

Hiring a professional to design and develop will make a huge difference in the lasting success of your site. It’s faster, more accessible, and often a more accurate representation of your business needs and goals.

Every situation is unique, and the choice is a major one. It’s a big decision, and one you need to make with all the facts. If you’re on the fence about it, hire a consult! The fee for a recommendation will be significantly cheaper than the cost of fixing a mistake.


About the Author:

Benji is a professional web dude. He works at Top Hat making cool web things for money (and sometimes beer).

Disclaimer! Photos on this blog are sometimes taken by me, but sometimes free for use with attribution from Unsplash.com.