Outsourcing Your Website Design & Development

Yet another overseas web development company wanting to partner up

I get cold callers from web design agencies around the world at least three times per week. Some weeks it’s actually every day. Some days I’m nice, other times I’m a bit . . . passive aggressive. After purposefully wasting their time by answering questions with a terse “yes” or “no”, I immediately feel guilty, thinking back to my time in India and how they all had to compete for water and food. Today I was a little . . . playful.

It was a Queensland number. There was a lag before the person spoke. I heard some papers shuffling. The lady had a very strong Indian accent. She reacted slowly to my responses – as if reading from a Website Q&A broadsheet . . .

  1. If he says this – do this
  2. If he says that – go to Q15
  3. If he says this – hang up
  4. Rinse and repeat

I answered questions laconically. Without enthusiasm. Wondering about her life. For five boring minutes.

Finally I bottom-lined it.
“I don’t want to outsource my web work.”
“You don’t want to outsource?”
“No, thank you.”

With that, she hung up sounding a little hurt!?

I understand that these people are on slight commissions. But the horror stories I’ve encountered when working with “managed” off-shore Indian partners (managers are often sales people who have no idea how to code or assess the quality of a coder’s work).

Here are just two outstanding examples . . .

Incomplete Website

Approving one page design, thinking the hole site is included

I had a guy approach me from the Financial Advice industry. I spoke with him regularly, asking for more and more detail about his business. I did a quote (I think it was a small site for about $3,500) and I eventually met him at his office. He told me that my quote was on the high side and that he had a guy who could do the same thing for $1,500. That happens. It’s normal.

I told him to go with that guy if he’s doing the same as what was in my proposal. I couldn’t compete. We left on amicable terms and I asked him to ping me if he needed any help.

Several weeks later, the guy calls me and asks me to have a look at his new website. “Sure.”

The page looked good. It wasn’t responsive and seemed a bit old-fashioned, but it looked the business.

I clicked around the site a bit – noticing that none of the forms worked and pretty much all of the inner pages were giving a 404 Error (missing page). So there was just a home page.

Unfortunately, the Financial Advisor had paid $1,500 for the one (home) page. Each new page to be added was a comparable price. Form functionality was extra.

He finally got a full (albeit non-responsive) website and paid nearly twice my original quote.

The thing is – Indian web developers (and others) know exactly what we pay for websites. The reason why we put our prices up there is to drive away time-wasters and attract people who are serious about their online presence. But it also means that the world gets to see what Australians are paying.

Google Search Ban

Is your website so spammy that Google removes your site from search?

This next story is a doozy.

I had a client for many years. Not a high-end client, but someone who paid his bills regularly and liked my work. I’d developed his original website and worked on various aspects the the site’s SEO quite rigorously over the years. Single-handedly I had him in pole position. He owned the top 3 links in his industry. It was one of my finest (ethical) SEO contracts.

Then one day, I’m wading through a bunch of WordPress updates and tweaks and I see it’s time to update his website. A completely different website. Ok. These things happen.

“I see you have had someone redesign your website.”
“Yes.” I was going to tell you.”
“No it’s cool. I work with other designers all the time.”
“I paid $1,000 for it. What do you think?”
“Well, for that price, they’ve done an excellent job. India?”
“Yeah. It’s a lot of money for them. Not much for us.”

I swallowed my pride. It was easy $4,500+ worth of work. There’s no way I’d work full time for 4+ weeks for that kind of money. And it looked great.

I checked the linked pages. All there.

“I see it’s a complete site, too.”

I told him about the other client.

“No – you got a great deal. Do you still want me to work on your SEO or do you have someone else doing that?” I asked.

“I still want you to maintain the site and there’s a bit of SEO work in the pipe i want you to do.”
“Ok. Speak later.”

I guessed, from my prices, that I must seem to expensive. And anyway, he was still a client. So I went about my usual routine – updating websites, building new websites and working on SEO for others.

Sure enough – about 2 weeks later I get a phone call.

“Hey Ed, have you been fiddling with my site?”
“I’m not on Google.”

Check the code

You need someone who knows what they are doing to check the code on your site. For a general code check, I use the W3C Validator. It gives me a brief overview on how the coder has employed best practice / standards with their HTML and CSS. I also use SEO Site Checkup to check for basic SEO issues.

It turns out that the new website had not only removed all the SEO work we had achieved (and then got into balance) over the years, but the coders had linked back to their own site hundreds of times. They were using black hat SEO techniques to hide their work. Black writing on black backgrounds, tiny text, keyword stuffing. It was as if they had purposefully flouted every Google Webmaster SEO recommendation.

The site, and the domain itself, had been blacklisted.

I went through the code, but there was so much rubbish in there, I had to admit – it would be easier to redo the website on a new domain. The domain had such a great reputation. Number one ranking for most of his chosen search terms.

It was a complete disaster.

The Moral of This Story?

If you decide to work with cheaper offshore alternatives, asks for a sample of their code. Many providers (not just overseas) simply outright lie on their services pages. Ask for a sample of their work. Run it through the W3C Validator or SEO Site Checkup to find glaring errors.

Or you could pass the sample through to me so I can vet the code.

It’s great when you get a great deal, but if you swing a wrecking ball through your 5 year old plus domain reputation, it will take you another 5 years of painstaking work to get back up again.

I have another 5 stories like this. And I see that some local Australian Agencies are happy to work offshore. Me? I’d rather pay a local programmer $180/hr if I need to – to get it right. Getting it all wrong is very easy.

Not all websites are the same

Choose wisely.

Choose Geoffrey ;)

Author: Edwin James Lynch

Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jumpjet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites utilising best practice, future-proof web development, online marketing and SEO. He lectured for 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best out of 2,500+ university lecturers in Australia.

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