To move my business to the next level, it was time to have a professional Web developer transform the Web site for my bath and body products into a sleeker, user-friendly experience for my clients. But my goal in doing so was to avoid being sucker-punched when it came to cost and my ability to control my site once the design was done.
Two years ago, I hired a Web designer in Canada to design a user-friendly site that could be updated on a daily basis. The National Collegian, an online newspaper that aimed to cull the top news stories from the nation’s campuses, launched in 2005. It was my first “Web baby” and I spent countless hours obsessing about the look and feel that I wanted.
Having a nearly two-decades-long career in journalism, I had done layout and design for community papers and was excited about taking that challenge to the Internet. I had found the Web developer through a professional organization and figured that because of that relationship, she would be the perfect person to create my vision.
I asked for a hip, sleek site that I could update easily. What I got was a clunky site that I had to twist into a pretzel in order to update. I clocked four hours one night trying to figure out the system that had been designed for me at a cost of more than $2,000.
The Web designer’s answer to my dilemma was a $200-a-month maintenance contract in which I would e-mail my changes to her and she would update the site. Less than efficient, and hardly cost-effective. After a month, I took the site down and sucked up my financial losses.
In retrospect, I believe the mistakes made were two-fold: I was not able to articulate my requirements for the project, and she knew I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, hence the ability to take advantage to some extent.
It was a hard lesson to learn, but it wound up being a Godsend when time came for me to hire a new developer for my site. Sometimes you have to fail in order to learn.
A first lesson was to learn what they are doing so I know what I need to have done. Not being an expert by any stretch, I decided to, at the very least, learn the basics. My initial site for ChesapeakeBayBathandBody.com was created through a Web development site that allowed me to create my own Web site using pre-fabricated templates. It gave me a “do-it-yourself” lesson in content and design, and helped me articulate what I wanted and how I wanted my store presented to the world. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my vision.
I learned about stock photos, content, HTML code and e-commerce basics. I got lessons in domain names and Web hosting. I found out that not all such “do-it-yourself” sites are created equal. I had read about a local firm, FreeWebs.com and practiced putting a site online there at no cost, but the capabilities, of course, were limited, so I moved over to Homestead.com., where I found a home for my site for nearly a year.