21 StreetSmart Tips to get a Great Website

eCommerce Questions to Ask1


If you want a good business website without lots of headaches, you need to choose a digital agency or web development firm that is the right ‘fit’ for you and your business.

It may surprise you to learn it’s a two-way selection process. You need to assess their experience, skills, technology, service levels, culture and capabilities. A good digital agency will assess you and your business as well, and not just to decide if they can provide you with a good website that meets your needs and your budget.  At the very least, they will assess whether you will be a ‘Good Client’.  Please remember, what the agency really wants is a Great Client.  Are you going to be one? 

Here are 21 StreetSmart Tips you can follow to help your business get a Great Website. 

Being a Great Client will help you get a Great Website, often without having to spend a lot of money. You’ll get better service as well before, during and after the development part of the project. Good digital agencies usually bend over backwards for Great Clients.  That’s why you need to be a Great Client.

1. Show the agency the website is important: You need to demonstrate you treat the new website project as an important part of your business. One way to do this is to make sure a senior person in your business will be looking after the project. Don’t leave it up to a junior. That’s a sign no one in your business really cares.

2. Show them you are a growing: You need to demonstrate your business is growing. If your business is growing, then it is highly likely you and your customers will frequently discover new needs and uses for the web. This means your website is not just a one-off web development project, but rather there is a high probability of ongoing web development work for the agency as your web partner. Conversely, it’s a bad sign if your business appears to be shrinking and your plans for the new website are getting smaller even before start of project.

3. Be Compatible: Make sure that you and the digital agency have compatible cultures and attitudes. Systems and organisation skills are important but often this can mean showing that even if your business is large, you are flexible in your thinking and not overly bureaucratic.

4. Ask and Listen: Be open to learning new things. Ask the digital agency for their advice. It’s great to show you already have some website experience & knowledge, but even the professional full-time web developers and programmers don’t know everything. As a client, you don’t have to pretend you know everything. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Try to understand the advice, and don’t be embarrassed to ask what unfamiliar words actually mean. Don’t be baffled into silence by BS and industry jargon. If you don’t understand something, ask. Explain to the agency that you always will ask for more information if you don’t understand something.

5. Make Decisions: Demonstrate that you and your business can make timely decisions. During the web development process, there will be different decisions to make quickly, especially if you want to work within your agreed timeframes. Don’t procrastinate over petty decisions. Explain any specific decision-making processes you need to follow and make sure the project plan is realistic in decision-making time allowances.

6. Think Long-Term: Your business will benefit from a strong long-term partnership with a good agency. Treat the website development project and achieving the launch of the new site as the start of your relationship, not the completion of it. You don’t want the agency or web development firm starting to think it would be good to let you go as a client when this initial project is finished. Show that you and your senior team are going to be good to work with over the next few years.

7. Have Long-Term Staff Involved: Avoid taking on a website project manager on a short-term contract just for the duration of a new web development project. It’s better for you and the agency to know that whoever is allocated from your business to manage the project will be with your business for the long term.

8. Play Win/Win Of course you want to get a good deal from the agency or web development firm, but it needs to be a fair deal. It’s important to show you believe in Win/Win outcomes, and that you will always be fair in finding answers and resolutions to any issues that arise. As an example, project requirements often change during the development process. If you ask for changes to be made that cost more money, then accept a fair price. Let the agency know that ‘fair’ means fair for both parties, not just good for you.

9. Show Harmony: Avoid internal clashes within your business. In many businesses, the two departments most involved in web projects are IT and Marketing. IT and Marketing don’t always agree, and they usually have different agendas, KPIs and even different languages. It’s never good for different departments within your business to openly argue or disagree with each other, especially in front of the digital agency or web development firm that is engaged to build your website. Ideally, the agency needs to see that your CEO is very supportive of the new website and related systems, and that your senior people will ensure harmony between departments.

10. Show Financial Security: It’s helpful to show you have a good track record in business and that your business has financial security with enough money to get what you want and need.

11. Encourage Champions: Encourage internal Web Champions within your organization. It’s always great for a web agency to work with a client business that has several or many “Champions” for the new project, especially when the Champions are in senior positions in the business and sincerely want the project to succeed. It’s a bad sign if there are no real champions for the project within the client’s organization or the client’s CEO thinks the web is a waste of time and/or money.

12. Agree on Fair Pricing: Show that you understand how pricing works. No one wants to pay too much and get ripped off and hopefully you will get what you pay for, but to start with, make it clear you don’t just want to select the supplier with the cheapest price. The relationship will become a lot stronger if you trust the web firm; can understand what you are buying and how the price has been calculated; and if you then accept the pricing as being fair and reasonable. It’s okay to haggle a bit but it’s always important to know when to stop.

13. Agree on The Project: Both parties must agree on the Engagement process. You and the web firm need to agree on what is required in the project. It’s worth taking the time to document your requirements, and it’s also important to read, understand and intelligently clarify any documentation you get from the web firm. Then both you and the web firm need to provide written sign-off. Don’t allow everything to be ‘verbal’ and make sure documentation is signed when you are asked to do so.

14. Agree on processes for Changes: It’s not unusual for client requirements to change during a development project. Poorly managed changes can lead to disputes, which are seldom healthy for your relationships. Try to agree up-front how changes will be treated. Ask your agency about the key stages and project milestones at which changes can be made for different parts of the site, and understand the cost and time implications if you do make changes after these key milestones have passed. Be careful if you change your requirements during the process. A lot of work goes into a good website and it’s not fair to push for a low price and then want to include more work for no extra money, especially if the extra work is a result of you changing your mind.

15. Share Processes: If you’re going to work together, then it’s worth making sure both parties understand each other’s processes abut meetings, approvals and payment schedules. Talk about who is going to make records of what is discussed and agreed, but understand that the more work you ask the agency to take on, the more they are probably going to need to charge you for the project.

16. Pay on time: In a nutshell, if you can’t afford an expensive website, don’t agree to buy it. Make your payments when they are due. Good clients pay bills when they are due and great clients are happy to pay in advance when required, but don’t be naïve or overly trusting. Ensure the payment milestones are very clear and agreed up front.

From the agency’s perspective, nothing destroys a relationship faster than being mucked about for payment. Demonstrate you have a good payment history with your other suppliers, and let the agency know you understand about on-time payments. If your financial circumstances change during the time of the project, then tell your web firm as soon as possible so they can be prepared. Don’t just delay payments. Get agreement to vary payment terms.

17. Agree on Payment Stages or Milestones. Set your payment stages based on achievable and unarguable milestones. From your perspective, you probably want to set payment stages based on your approval of work stages as milestones. Your agency may want to base the payment stages on their delivery of work stages as milestones.

Their delivery of something is very different to your approval of it. This difference can cause conflict if not understood and defined up front.

If there are problems with an invoice associated with a project milestone payment, let the web firm know about the problems when the invoice is received, not when it is due for payment or already late.

18. Have high standards, but don’t be petty: It’s great for you to have high standards and expectations, but make sure you tell your agency or web firm about your high standards before the project commences, not when it is almost finished.

If you do find problems with work done for you, then try not to be petty. Don’t find petty problems and use these as reasons to delay paying accounts. Don’t be petty – but do make sure small problems or issues are corrected. It’s a balance.

19. Become a Reference Site: Right from the start, tell your web firm that you want to become a great reference site for their firm. This means offering to provide references for the web firm to other prospective clients they may have.

This one point alone can make you a Great Client. The web firm or agency will usually go out of their way to make sure you get great service and a great website so you are always a happy customer. Then you can provide a good verbal or written reference when asked in the future. You may even like to offer to provide a video testimonial.

If the project starts to go off-track at any stage, remind the agency that you really want to be their best reference site, and that you want to tell others about how the firm resolves issues quickly.

20. Share Your Prestige: If you’re a prestige business, then be prepared to share your prestige with the web firm. Web development firms gain huge market credibility by having a high profile prestigious client in their portfolio, especially when a good client with a good project allows the web development firm to be publicly associated with the client’s well-known trusted brand name. If you’ve got a good business reputation, then your web development firm can benefit from it.

21: Both parties need to be Choosy: You need to be careful who you choose to build your next website. It may surprise you to learn the other party needs to be choosy too. Despite your money, power and reputation, not every web development firm you talk to will consider it a privilege to do your work.

Good web development firms and digital agencies are usually really choosy who they take on as clients. From their perspective, their whole business can succeed or fail based on their reputation and their portfolio of work. The long-term grief that can come from a ‘bad client’ is seldom worth whatever money they may make in the short-term.

Developing and maintaining a great relationship with your chosen web development firm can be the difference between your success and failure online.

Don’t just be another customer. Try to be a valuable client right from the start. It will help you get a great website.


By Richard Keeves

September 2, 2014

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