Choosing the right web developer/designer [Formerly: I need help!!!]
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Thread: Choosing the right web developer/designer [Formerly: I need help!!!]

  1. #1
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    Choosing the right web developer/designer [Formerly: I need help!!!]

    I'm not sure if I'm on the right track,but being that the people of this site are very well versed in PHP... I had to ask.... This is my story....

    I had dreamed up a website in which I wanted to use the PHPBB forum. I also wanted to have an animal pedigree
    template plugged in, so that my users could create, and store their pedigrees as well as offspring, siblings etc...
    The reason I wanted it tied into PHP site, is so my users could type in a URL code and it would post on a thread.

    I pretty much got robbed by this guy named Capital Sites. I was in the market for a website and he sent me a
    business card on FB. I checked out his website and clients, so I went with him. We had a contract with all the
    forum topics that I wanted posted etc... I gave him a deposit... he got my domain set up with a landing page, but
    then he tells me he's worked x amount of hours and needs more money. I complied... Then he fed me a bunch of crap... I need more money and your site will be up in a week.. I paid. Needless to say that he never even plugged in my topics and basically just downloaded PHP. That's it! He said that once he got into it the pedigree part stumped him. I said "well at least post my topics of the forum". I'm a heating and air apprentice and I went in the hole to get a
    site going that never came about.

    What type of designer/developer should I get to do my work?

    Thanks for your help

  2. #2
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    I need help!!!

    I purchased a domain and I'm wanting to start a website using PHPBB.

    My website is based on "animals" and I want my site to have a forum(PHPBB), as well as a pedigree database in which my users can create/post/save pedigrees of their animals
    As well as progeny, siblings etc...
    I want each pedigree to have its own code, so that users can post their pedigrees on the
    forum by typing in a URL and the link to the pedigree will be highlighted to click on....

    Can anyone get me going in the right direction? I'm a heating and air guy, so sorry for
    The rookie question....

    Thanks

  3. #3
    NMaOtBG bpat1434's Avatar
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    I work for a web development company and we do this type of thing all the time for our customers (difficult projects, not the "take the money and run" part).

    Personally, if I were choosing someone to do business with I would want it local. This way I can have face-to-face meetings with them and be able to point out while looking at the same thing that which I have issues with. It also helps the local economy and you never know what relationships may flourish there (they may kick some work back your way, etc.).

    I'd also like to see their development shop. I'd be more inclined to trust a company that is actually in a business suite or office than something that's run from the basement of someone's house. The office lends credence that the company is financially stable enough that they can afford an office (although it can be a flag that their prices may be higher than some competitors). I would also want to meet not only the guy that sold the job to me, but the people who will be working on my project. This way I can put a face to a name and if we have to meet up later without the original sales guy around, it's not awkward.

    I would also look for a company that is going to provide me feedback about the development of my site and also is going to set up meetings to (a) ensure they understand what I want and (b) can do it within my budget. If those meetings don't happen and the person says "I can do that for you no problem" I'd be weary that (a) they actually know what I want, (b) will actually be able to achieve what I want in my budget and (c) actually want my money more than the project.

    The company I work for is starting to shift to Agile development which allows for a more frequent feedback process. This way the customer can provide almost immediate feedback on parts of the project and I, the developer, can make those minimal changes to the current code and adjust it going forward so we don't make the same mistake twice. It also allows flexibility so that you have a pool of money and a list of features. We keep going until the money dries up or the features run out, which ever is first. The up-side is that you're almost guaranteed to see something before the end (some small projects are an exception where we just get everything done very quickly so the only review is after the project is completed).

    I would also like to see current examples of what the company has done. If they can't show currently hosted live sites, I'd wonder what they've been doing recently. If the last live site the company worked on was 2 - 3 years ago and the company is touting it like a great example of their work, I'd wonder why that client didn't stay with them. Was it a relationship problem? Was the company under-delivering? Was the client just ready to move on?

    I would reach out to their old clientèle to see how their experience was. Ask for references (yes, businesses should have references available as well). Do your homework on them. See what you can find out about them before you make a decision.

    You have to look at this like you're buying a house or something else that is a large purchase. If you don't do research to find out why people don't like it or didn't purchase it, then you are walking into darkness without a light. At least if you have talked to people it won't be pitch black; although, it may be some shade of gray.

    The last thing on my mind, and the last thing I'd inquire about, is the ability to barter. If you're an A/C person, perhaps you can do some amount of maintenance for free for them if they give you some value off the work (or do the site for free). And if you're doing a site in which you're selling something (or collecting money), maybe a portion of all income could go towards the site (e.g. 5% of all Google AdSense or Google AdWords revenue until the cost is recouped).

    Hope that helps.

    Shameless Plug: I work for a company in Frederick, Maryland called Orases ( http://www.orases.com/ ). We use a custom-built CMS to manage our clients sites as well as the Magento E-Commerce platform to power our E-Commerce clients. I'm not sure what your budget would be now, but you can at least talk to us.

  4. #4
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    Thank you very much for the advice! I 'll be a little more selective next time.... My wife still wants to kick his butt!lol...

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    Like bpat, I work for a web development company and we do similar work as well (also not the "taking the money and running" ).

    He covered all the important points but let me describe how we approach projects:

    When a client approaches us with a website, we generally have a face-to-face meeting with the person(s) to learn about their website/business and to essentially gather requirements. If they're still interested then my manager will talk with us developers (it's a small company) and we'll figure out what the project will cost. He will then prepare a proposal to send to the client, usually with some additional "bells and whistles"/options and their cost should the client choose to include them.

    The client chooses what he wants and lets us know, which at that point my manager drafts up a contract which includes all the legal stuff plus a complete rundown of the site's functionality and design. We send that to the client and he signs it.

    In terms of charging for work, it depends on the size of the project, but generally we do 50% nonrefundable deposit upfront and 50% upon completion. I can understand how this might make some people uncomfortable, but you'd be surprised how many clients just go away, or we never hear from them for months, sometimes even longer; it's hard to pay your staff and other expenditures if you have no money. If the project is particularly large or the client is really uncomfortable dropping that much at once, we'll break the project into three milestones and do 30%, 30%, and remainder upon completion.

    The design process begins, and we offer the "unlimited design revision stage", which is legally capped at 25 hours, but that's enough time to redesign the site about 4 times, so they can essentially get 5 different designs for one price. We have a great creative director and she really knows her stuff. We have only ever hit the 25 hour cap twice in the company's history and both times we gave the clients more time at no cost; we really stand by our designs. We don't begin coding until the client approves and signs off on the design. Generally we do the home page and a general content page, but larger projects will have many pages designed.

    Generally, we force the client to send us their content before showing them the "release candidate" of the website. This is really just a tactic to turn the site over sooner, as our biggest delays are waiting for the client to send us content, or just hearing back from then in general (you'd be surprised how many clients say they're in a hurry, but when it comes time to get something from them, they drag their feet). We then have a big revision stage where the client can look over the site, make all the notes/changes/etc. required, and then send them to us. We then show them the site again, and only really do any changes that we missed or are bugs. Once they essentially approve, we get the final payment and upload their site to their host. We offer a 90 day warranty on the site upon completion, so any bugs that are found will be fixed free of charge, but generally even if it's after the 90 day period, if it's a legitimate bug we'll fix it no problem, as we really stand by our work.

    My company maintains a 100% transparent pricing policy. The price that's on the contract is what the client will pay, no questions. There are no hidden fees of any kind and we don't hold the website hostage (the final payment notwithstanding). If the client wants to add some additional functionality that is not within the scope of the project, we have no problem giving them a quote. We only do the work and subsequently charge the client when they have given us approval in writing (we get paid first, though). None of our projects are worked on on a "hour-by-hour" basis. They all have contracts with a fixed price. The only hour by hour stuff we do are maintenance contracts and other random things clients want us to do.

    It's very important that you can at least sit down with someone from the company and discuss their process with you. We sometimes just do phone meetings, but we try to encourage clients to come to our office so we can meet them and gather requirements easier.

    Good luck!
    Declare variables, not war.

  6. #6
    Un Re Member cretaceous's Avatar
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    I don't understand why the original guy is keeping all your money.
    He didn't deliver - ask for 50% (or more) back.
    Sure, he probably spent lot of time on it but that's his problem.
    If he refuses can't you sue him? (here in the UK the small claims court would be the place for that)

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    Quote Originally Posted by cretaceous View Post
    If he refuses can't you sue him? (here in the UK the small claims court would be the place for that)
    Court, especially small claims court, often costs a lot more than what you'll get, and even if you win, that's no guarantee that you will ever see the money, plus think of all the personal time you waste as well (if you run a business there's lost hours).

    When it comes to court, even if you win, you still lose.
    Declare variables, not war.

  8. #8
    Senior Member traq's Avatar
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    On the other hand (assuming the contract was well-written), a letter from your lawyer can do wonders.

  9. #9
    Un Re Member cretaceous's Avatar
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    UK small claims court can be done at no cost - many people represent themselves - cases usually dealt with in half an hour to an hour. But OP must be US citizen I think, we all know what that might cost - as Traq said a letter is a good start.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cretaceous View Post
    UK small claims court can be done at no cost - many people represent themselves - cases usually dealt with in half an hour to an hour. But OP must be US citizen I think, we all know what that might cost - as Traq said a letter is a good start.
    Things must be very different in the UK then. Here (Canada) court is very costly, even if you represent yourself. My company has been involved in a couple cases over the years, the most recent one in late 2012, and it cost just over $3,000 and it didn't even go to trial. We didn't represent ourselves, but we had a paralegal and not a lawyer. We were the defendants and the plaintiff eventually dropped the case. But yeah, three grand and they didn't even enter the courtroom. The legal process is very expensive. Even just sending a letter from a lawyer can cost hundreds of dollars. The first letter the plaintiff sent to us cost her $565 (which she included as part of her claim).

    Also if you're electing to represent yourself, you have to question if what you're trying to get (or defend) is really worth it.
    Declare variables, not war.

  11. #11
    Pedantic Curmudgeon Weedpacket's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonesnap
    Here (Canada) court is very costly, even if you represent yourself.
    Does that depend on which province you're talking about? Looking at Ontario's Small Claims Court the costs look like they'd be in the low hundreds at most, if you include things like allowances for expert witnesses and so on.

    New Zealand's system has a simpler fee schedule than Canada's - partly because lawyers are kept out of proceedings.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weedpacket View Post
    Does that depend on which province you're talking about? Looking at Ontario's Small Claims Court the costs look like they'd be in the low hundreds at most, if you include things like allowances for expert witnesses and so on.
    I imagine it varies by province, but part of the issue too is the other side dragging things out and trying to do things that are just plain ridiculous, like filing in the wrong jurisdiction (perhaps on purpose) and you having to file a motion to have it heard in another (correct) jurisdiction. I'm not a lawyer and I haven't been in a courtroom other than to be a witness (car accident), but my boss really, really hates court and thinks it's just a monetary blackhole. Even if the fees themselves are a few hundred dollars, you're losing hours of your own time (if you run your own business, that can hurt) and possibly hours of labour if one or more of your employees are required as well. They try to mitigate things by sending everyone to a settlement conference, but there's no guarantee of course that it will end there. Our recent lawsuit didn't.

    And money and time aside, it can also be a burden on your mental health and cause lots of stress. Court sucks, even if you win (and just because you win doesn't mean you'll get paid).
    Declare variables, not war.

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