Why I don’t claim to be a “web developer” anymore….

Ten years ago, I launched my own "web development" firm and called it Virtual Impax.  I left the wild and wonderful world of advertising (these were the days when the web wasn’t viewed as yet another advertising medium) to venture into the unexplored lands of the Information Highway.

greatidea.jpgAs I’ve written before, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that my clients came to me seeking a more effective way to advertise or market their businesses.  While they were ASKING for a web site, their DESIRE was for said web site to act as an effective marketing tool.   Because I had nearly 15 years of experience in the advertising arena… and because  I had learned by working with literally HUNDREDS of small businesses to create effective advertising campaigns…. I found myself providing a LOT more than just web development services.

KISS should have been my motto:  Keep It Simple, Stupid!  They ask for a web site, I should have DELIVERED exactly what they hired me to provide: a web site.  However, I just couldn’t provide JUST a web site….  I was dedicated to "Creating exceptional online marketing vehicles for your business."

When I created HTML web sites for clients, I went above and beyond.  The web sites I delivered were Search Engine Friendly…. notice I did NOT say I engage in SEO or Search Engine Optimization.  The skills I developed were above and beyond simple HTML coding, which were honed through much research and through my own trial and error.   I made sure that the title tags included keywords, that image tags included those same keywords and most importantly, that the page’s content was tightly targeted and featured those desired keywords.

Then, one day, I was contacted by a former client.  She had decided to hire another web developer for a joint project because his rates were signficantly lower than mine were.  She was surprised to discover that her new web developer’s quote did not include copy creation, only the design of the web site.  It was her job to provide the copy.  When she hired a communication firm to create her copy, she was stunned at their $360 per page rate.  She was even more stunned when she asked them if the copy were keyword focused and they literally laughed at her.   Of course the copy wasn’t keyword specific!  It was traditional copy, not WEB copy!

I am grateful to her for sharing her experience.  She pulled  back the veil for me and allowed me to see how others were running their web development businesses…. which was a MUCH different manner than I was running mine.  In the end, my per page rate was roughly 1/10th of what my competitors were charging…. yet I didn’t know enough to educate potential clients on the difference between my services and theirs.

These days, I know better…. so I can say to a client who balks at my pricing structure:

Here is the difference between working with a traditional web developer and working with me:

When you work with a traditional web developer , he’ll give you EXACTLY what you ask of him.    On the other hand, when you’re working with me and my team, we look to the future and try to lay the ground work today for tomorrow’s marketing.  We’ll advise you on what elements you need to supplement your web site.  We’ll draw on our experience to help you "see around corners" building a solid foundation for tomorrows marketing efforts as well as for today’s.

With a traditional web developer, you’ll need to specify " I need a newsletter sign up box on every page.  Here is the HTML code that need to be used."

For example, when a traditional web developer developed a site for a marketing client of mine, the image he used for the "logo" was a transparent image.  When my client began working with a PR specialist, the first thing the PR specialist asked for was a copy of my client’s logo.  Technically, my client didn’t have one.  What he had was the image a traditional web developer created for his web site.

I pointed out to my client that he didn’t ASK his web developer to create a logo to be used in other applications when he hired him.  So it’s REALLY not the web developer’s fault that now my client is having to have a logo developed… a logo which now need to be designed in a certain style with certain elements to maintain continuity.  My client agreed that he didn’t KNOW to ask for that element in his web site…. he didn’t ask and his web developer didn’t deliver it.

That’s the difference between a "traditional" web developer and what I provide in my practice.  I’ve found that most clients ASSUME everyone offers the depth and breadth of knowledge and service that I do and are surprised when they discover that all they got was a web site… and not a marketing tool!

I’ve learned that I tend to act more as an analyst in the web development process instead of as a typical programmer/designer.  There are many traditional web developers  who will do an EXCEPTIONAL job of creating your web site but they are not going to provide direction on using that web site as a marketing tool.

A traditional web developer won’t be able to advise you on how to use your web site as a marketing tool.  He/she will simply create a web site for you.  If you’re lucky, he or she will guide you on domain name registration, web hosting and other essential elements.  However, in the end, you’ll just have to be very certain of what you want to do and how you want it done.

Recently, I’ve found it difficult to provide a traditional HTML coding services to clients.  More often than not, the people who contact me would be MUCH better served by launching a blog than a traditional HTML web site.  Most service based businesses don’t need a brochure style web site but instead should be launching and maintaining blogs.  But that’s another entry…