Chapter 1: Choosing A Supplier

There are three essential ingredients you should look for in a web presence provider. This is true whether you plan to design and produce your website internally – you want to be your own web presence provider – or you wish to find a partner to help with your web presence development.

The first ingredient is Technology. Look for the technical ability to go beyond producing a simple web presence. You want a supplier who can provide you with the technology you may want down the road, if not immediately. Whether it’s secure credit card transactions, real-time inventory, streaming video, threaded messaging or interactive, forms-based quotations and calculations, look for a supplier you won’t have to change mid-stream.

The second ingredient you want is Graphics. Your supplier should have the ability to make you look like the kind of company people want to deal with. Graphics, in this context, includes the ability to make it easy for web users to find what they’re looking for. You want someone who makes your site intuitive to navigate, within an attractive package.

The third – and, in our view, most important – ingredient, is Marketing. You can have a site that works perfectly and looks great, but if no one goes there it is just an expense.

All web production shops have the first and second capabilities, to one extent or another. They have to have these capabilities to be in the business. However, shops of fewer than twenty or twenty-five people (the vast majority) are generally stronger in either technology or graphics. Usually that strength is in the area of the expertise of the owner of the shop. As one client put it, if the president or owner is a ‘propeller-head’, the shop will be stronger in technology. Often, if the principal comes from a desktop publishing or other creative background, the shop will be stronger in graphics. These shops can lead you to a web site, respectively, with lots of technical bells and whistles (that may not do a thing to sell your products and services – or get you closer to a transaction) or to a site with killer graphics (that may simply slow the site down too much, or that may lack some of the technical strengths beneficial to your web presence).

You want a well-rounded supplier with depth in all three capabilities, technical, graphics and marketing. If you are a company owner or sales and marketing executive who will be able to devote considerable time and resources to the marketing aspects of your site, and you have significant creative, graphics and marketing resources on staff, you may be able to have your IT (Information Technology) department handle the technical aspects of the job. However, too often IT departments are charged with the ultimate responsibility for a company web presence without the creative, and especially marketing, capabilities to properly handle the job.

We believe marketing should ultimately direct and be responsible for your web presence. Marketing should be responsible, whether the project is in the hands of a web developer or in-house team. The marketing reasonability is, of course, for the substance, look and feel of the site. Marketing must delegate the responsibility for uptime and functionality to the technical team (of the web presence provider or the company).

The mindset of each team member on a web development project is different. The technical people are concerned with making it work in a functional sense, whatever ‘it’ is. The graphics people are concerned with making it beautiful (and, hopefully, easy to use). To my mind, it is up to marketing to provide leadership for both other facets, defining what ‘it’ is for technicians and distilling the most important elements for artists, along with the most intuitive way to get there.

It is most important for the marketer to approach the project by putting herself in the shoes of the buyer (see Introduction). The marketer should guide technicians and artists to deliver what the buyer wants in a functional and attractive package.

Additional content covered in the print edition of WebForging includes a paragraph to a page or more on each of the following:

  • Other ingredients to look for in a supplier include:
    • Work Load
    • Commitment
    • Rapport
    • Depth
    • Experience