5 Challenges Faced by the Web Design and Development Business
October 16, 2012

Hovhannes Avoyan

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Talented web designers and developers who set out to start their own businesses often count on the strength of their work to carry them to success. However, many of them quickly realize that they are not as prepared to successfully scale their business and ensure healthy growth.

There are five key challenges that often present themselves to designers and developers faced with this task. Luckily, each of these challenges has a clear solution that can be implemented quickly, strengthening the business overall and increasing revenue.

Challenge 1: Ending the Endless New Business Cycle

Web developers and designers striking out on their own spend a massive amount of time seeking out new customers, winning their business and delivering the final project. This leaves little room for steady, predictable income as the designer must focus all of his attention on ramping up a project before returning to an arduous new business cycle once it is completed.

Solution: Designers can tackle this issue by contracting with existing customers on an ongoing basis by providing maintenance and support services at the beginning of an engagement.

Website monitoring tools have often been seen as a technology reserved for enterprises with large IT budgets and a dedicated IT staff. However, there are a number of web monitoring tools available at prices that are more palatable to small business owners and independent web developers. These tools often offer automated features as well, decreasing the amount of human management necessary to effectively monitor websites and proactively avoid issues that may arise.

By leveraging these tools, web designers and developers can better grow their business by establishing monthly support contracts and strengthening existing client relationships.

Challenge 2: Ensuring Ongoing Support and Maintenance Contracts Are Profitable

The biggest danger that developers face when they begin establishing ongoing fixed-fee support contracts is pricing for much less work than they are actually expected to perform.

Solution: Designers and developers should ease into their contracts and compare the cost of support against their income. They can use a call tracking/helpdesk system to track the time expended on each request against each of their customers in order to ensure that they are not undercharging for the amount of service required by each client on a monthly basis. This also allows them to track which tasks still need to be completed, to spread the workload among other employees, or to save time by having users log the requests themselves.

Challenge 3: Demonstrating Value

In order to establish lasting business relationships and to justify monthly service costs, the developer must demonstrate an active presence in the background and highlight successes achieved or potential disasters proactively averted.

Solution: Many web monitoring solutions are equipped to generate reports that provide a client with a complete view into how their website is performing and many offer the ability to customize the branding on the report so that it appears to come directly from the developer.

Providing a standard, monthly report offers a perfect way to detail the amount of uptime and downtime experienced by a website each month, average page load times and transaction workflow completions so that the client has a complete view into how their website has been performing. This also allows the web developer to illustrate issues that the client did not know existed because they were fixed or prevented before they lead to a major site failure.

In addition, helpdesk systems are often designed to itemize the work being done so that it is easy to detail how performance was improved.

Challenge 4: Standing Out From the Pack

With potential clients having so many quality options to choose from when picking a web designer/design firm, independent developers are faced with the critical need to differentiate themselves in order to win new business.

Solution: By including website performance monitoring as an additional service provided to clients after the website has been designed and deployed, developers can demonstrate that they are a one-stop shop for their clients’ website needs from creation to future maintenance. The developer can show sample monthly reports, potential issues that all websites face and the proactive solutions that are made possible by investing in an ongoing support contract.

This also demonstrates that the developer is not only interested in churning out a new website, but also in maintaining it to support the client’s business well into the future.

Challenge 5: Increasing Time Spent Fixing Problems

Clients often encounter issues with their website and turn to the designer/developer to correct them, but when they check the site, it looks fine from their end. Sometimes, these issues are caused by out-of-date web servers or changes made incorrectly by the customer. Time spent detecting the source of a problem means a delay in tackling the problem itself.

Solution: Automated website monitoring solutions often allow the developers to view their clients’ websites in real time and to set alerts to notify them when potential issues begin to arise. Not only does this allow the developers to identify a problem before the customer does, in many cases it also gives them the chance to fix it before the issue has any impact on the client’s business.

By proactively fixing a problem, they can demonstrate their value by reporting that a problem was averted before it began as well as how much additional uptime was achieved by being proactive.

By keeping these additional opportunities in mind, web developers and designers can turn one-time projects into recurring contracts that support the growth of their business even if their new customer pipeline is not as full as they had initially hoped. The additional service and skill set that website monitoring tools enable developers to offer can also help them to position themselves as more comprehensive providers who are heavily invested in the success of their customers’ websites and businesses.

Hovhannes Avoyan is General Manager of Monitis at GFI Software.

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