Outsourcing Your Website
Most Australian Web Design Agencies Outsource. Period.
Geoffrey gets cold callers from web design agencies based all over the region. I get calls from India, the Philippines or Indonesia at least three times per week. Some weeks, I get calls every day.
Overseas Web Development Company
Wanting to partner up
The calls are usually from established overseas web companies wanting to “partner up”.
Some days I’m nice on the phone, other times – not so. If I’m not too buried in code, I’ll answer a cold-caller’s patter of questions with a terse “yes” or “no”. It’s a hard job and I immediately feel guilty if I give cold-callers a hard time.
Thinking back to my time in India I reflect upon how people had to compete for water and food. I also think that paying $10/hr (the usual rate for an un-managed Indian / Filipino coder) means that the family will be doing well. Really well. A$10 can be a month’s income for a family.
When I was in India, a full meal at a cafe cost only 30c – a chai only 5c (2006).
Back to my cold-caller.
If you are going to accept an overseas call, you have to give points for honesty. Most of these agencies start with a lie. Obvious lies are an obvious red flag.
The lady was calling from a Queensland number. It was obvious she didn’t live in Queensland. The line was poor and I could hear very unfamiliar honking in the background. She was pretending to be based in Queensland. I can only assume that Australian numbers result in a higher open rate (answer rate). There was a noticeable lag as she gave me her pat spiel. I could hear papers shuffling. She had a strong Indian(?) accent and reacted slowly to my responses – as if reading looking things up on a pro-forma broadsheet . . .
- If target says this – do this
- If target says that – go to Q15
- If target says this – hang up
- Rinse and repeat
I answered questions laconically and without enthusiasm. I vaguely pondered about her life for five boring minutes. Did she have children? Was she a coder? What did her husband do? I was barely listening to be honest as it’s the same patter every time.
Finally, and not wanting to waste anyone’s time, I bottom-lined it.
“Thank you for your time, but I don’t want to outsource any web work.”
“You don’t want to outsource?”
“No, thank you.”
“But we are very cheap.”
“I understand that.”
With that, she hung up – sounding a little hurt!?
Outsourcing – An Australian Obsession
I notice that a lot of people here in Perth, don’t just “outsource” but outsource openly.
Web agencies here literally have offices in India, Thailand or the Philippines. Not sure if it’s pro-activity on their part or if they simply answered a call like mine.
It’s not a great thing because of the poor quality of work (more about that later) but I can understand employers paying $10-$15 per hour for web work is certainly more attractive than the usual Australian tradie rate of $100 per hour.
Poor Quality Websites
If it works, don’t fix it, right?
The horror stories I’ve encountered when dealing with “managed” off-shore partners. A “Managed Team” usually means an Australian is managing a bunch of Indian workers. Managers rarely have the ability to judge the quality of code, but can come over quite chipper and up-to-date.
Here are just two examples from a treasure trove of similar stories . . .
An Over-priced, Incomplete Website
Client approved home page design, thinking the hole site was included in $1,500 price
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 (It was a small site and I quoted around $3,500). I eventually met him at his office in the city. He told me that my quote was on the high side and that he had been in touch with someone who could do the same thing for $1,500. It was a registered company and, because he was risk averse and I was a sole trader, it was easier to go with him.
Cool. That happens. It’s normal.
I told him to go with that guy if he’s matching my proposal. Perhaps he could use my services later. He agreed.
We parted amicably and I asked him to get in touch if he needed me to give the code a once-over.
Several weeks later, the Advisor did call. He dutifully asked me to look over his new website. There was a big problem.
The home page looked great. It wasn’t a responsive web site and the layout seemed a bit old-fashioned to me, but it looked fine. Lots of financial stock images. Hand-shakes, happy girls in offices.
I clicked around. First thing I noticed was that none of the forms worked. Forms are the first thing I’ll test on a site (here’s a funny story about web forms). Additionally, all of the navigation buttons gave a 404 Error (missing page) when I clicked on them. All I could see was the home page.
And that was it!
Unfortunately, the risk-averse Financial Advisor had paid $1,500 for a home page. Each new page would cost more. Form functionality was extra. He got a full website for twice my original quote. He wanted me to quote on the other pages, but after checking the terribly outdated code, it wasn’t worth the chance.
Foreign Web Designers Charge The Same As Us
Australian streets are lined with gold
The thing is – Indian web developers (and others) know exactly what we pay for our websites. I list my web design prices right here. The reason why I put prices up is to drive away the time-wasters and attract those who are serious about building an online presence (and making money – which you have to spend in order to make more).
Unfortunately it also means that the world gets to see what Australians are paying. And $10/hr overseas designers can match those prices (because they know that Australians are willing to pay them).
Google Search Ban
A website so spammy that Google removed it from search?
This next story is horrible.
I had a tradie client for many years. Not a high-end client, but someone who paid his bills regularly and liked working with me and my content writers. I developed his original website (WordPress straight out of the box) and worked on various aspects of SEO quite rigorously over the years. Single-handedly I had my tradie friend in pole position. He owned the top 3 links in his industry for many years. It was one of my finest (ethical) SEO projects.
One day, I’m wading through a bunch of WordPress updates and tweaks and I see it’s time to update his website. I go into the back-end and see . . .
A completely different website.
Ok. These things happen. It looks as though he has defected. Bit sad. Never mind.
“I see you have had someone redo your website.”
“Yes. I was going to tell you.”
“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, you got a great deal.”
“Can I ask where you had it done?”
“Right. It’s a lot of money for them. Not much for us.”
I swallowed my pride.
It looked like $4,500+ worth of work. There’s no way I’d work full time for 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 Financial Advice client.
“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. Just ping me when you need me.”
I guessed, from my prices, that I must be to expensive. I hadn’t lost anything. He was still a client.
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. I’ve been de-listed.”
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. It’s also good when you’re on an iPad and can’t right-click to view source code. I use SEO Site Checkup to get a general look at basic SEO issues.
It turns out that the new website had not only written over all the SEO work I had done over the years, but the coders had linked back to their own site (and other very low quality sites) hundreds of times. They were using black hat SEO techniques to hide their work. Such techniques include; putting black writing on black backgrounds (hiding text), tiny text and keyword stuffing. It was as if they had purposefully flouted every Google Webmaster SEO recommendation.
The site, and the entire domain associated with it, had been blacklisted.
I went through the code, but there was so much rubbish in there, it would be easier to rebuild the website on a new domain. The domain once 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?
Or why you should “buy local”
If you decide to work with cheap, offshore coders. Coders who aren’t familiar with standards – ask for a sample of their code. Many providers (not just those overseas) simply lie on their services pages.
Ask for a sample of their work. Run it through the W3C Validator and SEO Site Checkup to get a brief overview. If you find glaring errors (my favourite SEO error is no Meta-tags and my favourite HTML error is “Error on line 1”).
If error checking code makes you feel nervous, pass the sample through to me here so I can give you my opinion.
You get what you pay for
Sometimes a lot less
It’s great when you get a great deal, but if you swing a wrecking ball through 5 years of great domain reputation, it will take you a year of painstaking work to get back to where you were.
I have many stories like this. Enough to never outsource and only use Australians.
Some Australian Design Agencies are happy to work offshore.
Me? I’d rather pay a local programmer $180/hr to get something right. Getting it wrong is easy and if you use people from another country – you usually have no recourse.
Not all websites are the same
Choose Geoffrey ;)
Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jump Jet) text adventure computer program in 1982 during the Falklands War. He now builds websites utilising best practice, future-proof web development, marketing & SEO. He lectured for 15yrs+ at Curtin Uni where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best out of 2,500+ university lecturers in Australia. Now he wants to share what he knows.