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Buyer beware: expensive websites are not always quality websites. Here are five points that should make entrepreneurs squint a little harder when reading the fine print of their website contracts.

1. Your web coder is also your host provider.
A good number of web developers like to clump their services together. They will offer to both create your website and provide hosting for it. Pay attention when dealing with developers such as these, because creating a site and hosting it are two services that are completely independent of each other. There is no reason a coder couldn’t just build your site on a third party host like GoDaddy, and pass along GoDaddy’s costs directly to you without any additional overhead. In fact, many web coders do use a third-party host to do the actual hosting of your site. To save some bucks, insist on using your own host.

2. You’re not matching the tool to the job.
There are roughly 650 million websites online today and just as many approaches to coding them. With so many sites, clients are bound to think there is some standard approach, but this is rarely the case. Coders code using the method they know best, not the method that’s necessarily best for their clients. A coder usually has a few old “go to” tools in their box that they’ll keep around for awhile even if they’re no longer the best tools for the job. The best way to avoid coders with a narrow or old set of tools is to shop around. Make sure you understand the coder’s approach and toolset before you hire them.

3. You’re paying for software when a free version will do.
Even if they don’t choose to use them, most web coders are at least familiar with open-source Content Management Systems like WordPress, Joomla, or Magento. These free CMSs — that provide coders full access to source code — have grown from having an almost non-existent market share in the late 1990s to being the foundation that drives nearly 40 percent of all websites existing today. Web companies who have proprietary CMSs as a core offering instead of open-source ones may steer you away from cheaper alternatives in lieu of sticking to the paid solution that they’ve grown to thoroughly know and recommend, even if it’s more expensive. If they use the same CMS for every job, you risk overpaying for your site. Both the developer and you should agree on the best platform for building the site beforehand.

4. Agency vs. Freelancer
When commissioning a website, budget usually dictates whether you can go with a web development agency or with an individual freelancer. Freelancers will typically provide you lower cost. As well as being cheaper, they simplify the project management since you’re always dealing with the same person, and their skill level in web development can be comparable to what the bigger guys offer. Agencies offer wider capabilities because they have more specialized professionals on staff. Also, an agency is far less likely to abandon a project or do shoddy work that might compromise their reputation. However, they come with a higher overhead cost which translates to higher costs for the customer. Freelancers are cost-effective, but limited by the breadth of their capabilities. Agencies offer more capabilities, but are more expensive. Understanding the difference will save you money.

5. You don’t have clear requirements up front.
“I had a guy build my site, but it needs some changes and now he’s completely unresponsive. It takes him days to get back to my emails and when he does all I get are single sentence answers.” Sound familiar? The problem is a miscommunication of expectations. This scenario seems to happen most often with clients who don’t have a clear path of communication with their web development company. From the client’s point of view, they are sharing ownership of the website with their development team. They would think the developer is equally invested in the success of their website. From the developer’s point of view, they are hired to do a specific job. They are looking for a “to-do list” of changes to complete, not share ownership of the site. The client and coder need to create a specific list of deliverables before starting the project. This is a crucial step that — if skipped — can easily result in mismatched expectations and wasted money.

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