Briefing Web Developers: 3 Technical Mistakes to Avoid

Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn

This post is part of a series on writing goal-led web development briefs, adapted from our eBook How to Brief a Web Design Agency – Part One.

Scroll down for links to the previous blogs in this series, or download your free eBook to get 32 pages of expert tips today.

If you’ve been following these posts, you’ll know how important it is to write detailed web development briefs that align with your marketing goals. This is the only way to ensure you end up with a website that looks great and delivers ROI.

After all, your website is a crucial tool for business generation, not just a ‘nice-to-have’.

In our previous posts, we’ve covered content and SEO considerations, shown you how to protect your budget, and more. This time round, we’re going to cover a topic that many marketers approach with reticence: technical concerns.

It’s easy to put technical SEO and web development considerations in a box marked ‘nerd stuff’, and forget about them. However, it’s just as important for marketers to consider the technical side of things, as technical oversights can truncate your traffic, ravage your revenue, and wreak havoc with your site’s usability.

The easiest way to avoid these oversights? Cover them in your web development brief.

Here’s what not to do when putting your brief together.

1. Choosing the Wrong Platform

The e-Commerce platform or CMS you choose will have a big impact on the website you end up with.

Image of shopping basket overlaid on computer keyboard.

These systems are the ‘engines’ that run your website. Some will allow for lots of ‘behind-the-scenes’ customisation and modification, and some will be quite restrictive.

You can choose an inappropriate platform and, on the surface, there may be no visible problems with your website. However, you could find yourself tearing your hair out as you try to implement SEO, conversion optimisation, cross-platform e-Commerce integration and other ‘behind-the-scenes’ elements.

Surprisingly, the most popular platforms are often the most restrictive. And bespoke, self-developed platforms offered by many web development agencies may be very limiting.

If your agency offers you a platform that’s developed in-house, and is ‘tailored for your business’, you should ask yourself what you’re paying for. Is this really the affordable, all-in-one solution it claims to be? Or are you, in fact, shelling out for your developer’s research and development costs? And what happens if your developer goes out of business and leaves you with an ageing, unsupported platform?

Needless to say, it’s really important to consider your choice of platform before you brief your web development agency. Carry out as much research as you can to help you make an informed decision. Ideally, you’ll have some idea of the platform you want to use before you write your brief.

A good agency will also be able to give you informed, independent advice to help you choose the perfect platform before work begins.

For more advice on this subject, download your free guide to choosing an e-Commerce platform.

2. Not Considering Migration

If you think ‘migrating’ from your old site to your new site is as easy as flicking a switch, think again.

A hand flicking a switch. Source: Yutaka Tsutano at Flickr.

An improperly performed migration can play havoc with your organic search rankings and traffic. Worst case scenario: You drop out of Google’s search results altogether.

Unfortunately, we see bad migrations all too often. They can take lots of time to put right, and they’re often a result of basic technical mistakes made by developers.

It’s not necessarily their fault. Many web development agencies feel their expertise lies in creating websites, not doing technical SEO. But the reality is this: If a web build is to be successful and profitable, technical SEO considerations like migration are just as important as design and content.

By highlighting the importance of migration in your brief, you can ensure your agency:

  1. Understands the importance of site migration.
  2. Knows how to carry out a site migration properly.
  3. Has factored for migration in their costings.

For more information on migration, and tips to ensure your agency does it right, download your free eBook: Technical SEO Best Practices – A Marketers’ Guide.

3. Not Requesting a Version Control System

Put simply, a version control system (VCS) is a backup plan. It protects your website from mistakes and other issues by allowing your developers to easily revert to a previous version.

Version Control: A developer's best friend. Source: Sean MacEntee at Flickr.

Here are a couple of scenarios to think about.

  1. You work closely with your web development agency to create a great-looking site that supports your marketing goals. As the project is comfortably underway, a senior manager decides to take a look at the site, and he or she decides an earlier version is better. You argue your case, but to no avail – you have to go back to the old version. But this requires lots of work from your agency, pushing your deadline back and stretching your budget.
  1. You implicitly trust your agency to get things right. The project deadline is approaching, but you’re comfortably on course to meet it. However, just as your agency is ironing out the final creases, you get a flustered call – a member of staff has committed a big error that’s going to take days to put right. As a result, you miss your deadline.

Both of these scenarios could be avoided, but only if you implement a VCS at an early stage.

It’s easy to think these kinds of things won’t happen to you. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry, as the consequences of major mistakes can derail a project at any stage.

A good VCS will have numerous other benefits, including safeguarding against file overwrites and allowing multiple staff to work on the same file, at the same time.

Other Posts in This Series

Communication Mistakes to Avoid

SEO and Content Mistakes to Avoid

Conversion and Design Mistakes to Avoid

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid

Planning and Scoping Mistakes to Avoid

Subscribe to our blog and get the latest industry-updates direct to your inbox