Getting someone to build a website for you? Here’s one thing you must know.


Photo from mikebaird

I received a very distressed phone call from a friend last week.

She said, “These freelance programmers are like mechanics! Always trying to cheat me!”

I laughed a lot, because I thought it was a funny metaphor.

The sad, unfunny part is, this is the second friend this year who went through great pain just to get a website up.

A website which doesn’t really work.

For my friends, this sort of pain was long and intense, involving many months and much moolah on fighting. Fighting with the technology built, and the person who built it.

I don’t want this happen to any more of my friends.

So here’s the tip.

If all you want is to build a website with content (not a spaceship, or worse, a web2.0 application)…

Don’t ‘build from scratch’

If it’s anything like a blog, or even a brochure website, get whoever is building it for you to use an opensource content management system like WordPress.

Even ecommerce websites and photo-gallery sites etc all have great opensource solutions out there. Your programmer or web designer should be able to recommend one, and tweak it to work for you, and get out of the scene.

Not ‘build from scratch’. Why?

  1. Don’t waste time and money re-inventing the wheel. There’s a gabillion websites out there, it’s been done before, and they’re giving their best software to you. Take it.
  2. Most opensource solutions can be customized by anyone to look fantastic! Many of your favorite websites and blogs ride on these content management systems. Even the New York Times use opensource solutions like WordPress.
  3. It works for thousands of private and business users from across the world, in a whole variety of industries and contexts use opensource. Will your ‘ build from scratch’ solution be as reliable and user friendly?

Worse, what if your built from scratch solution requires the existence of your web designer / web developer?

Usually, if you use a system only your programmer knows (coz she built it) you’ve got a few extra worries:

  1. When your programmer gets abducted by aliens what are you going to do? Find someone else? It’s going to be messy when you get some other programmer to step in and take over. If you use popular opensource stuff, everyone knows how to tweak and modify it. No worries.
  2. Relying on someone else to update content on your site is like saying you need a mechanic to drive your car. Like your car, your website should be a smooth ride, without needing external assistance to function. Again, I’m assuming you’re just publish content, or rather ‘updating the site’ with new news etc… not making any new features etc.

Personally, I only choose to work with developers who know how to use frameworks and opensource solutions. Here’s a deeper explanation by Andy from Assembla.

But then again…

There are of course many reasons to build from scratch, especially if you want more than just a website / content publishing system.

This blog post came as just a quick word of advice, for my friends who got burnt by badly designed ‘built from scratch’ solutions for what supposed to be a simple website/ blog/ CMS.

Oh and please don’t email me for free advice, I do NOT help people with websites for a living. I build my own businesses, mess around with my hobbies, and squeeze in just enough time for my parents.

If you have more questions about web development, really, the picture of the seal should say it all. Or you can ask Google! Hope this helps.

4 comments on “Getting someone to build a website for you? Here’s one thing you must know.

  1. Kris Khaira September 11, 2008 2:10 am

    Encore on everything you said, but with one addition – an exception would be popular but not open source solutions like ExpressionEngine.

    They have a very complete documentation site – one of the best I’ve seen, and developers can download the Core version for free to learn how to customise it.

  2. Clarence September 17, 2008 3:59 am

    Hey thanks but sometimes I just cant help it. You have so many websites under your belt, feel so tempted to ask you for opinions.

    Anyways thank you for sharing.

    It has been a great help.

  3. ikram November 4, 2008 5:46 pm

    web development is like an overweight seal that doesnt know any tricks?…

    i dont get it man.. haha..

  4. robin June 15, 2009 7:41 am

    Thanks for the article man 🙂 love the seal.

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