The Web is Undervalued and Here's Why...
Websites are odd things.
They’ve been in our lives for over 30 years and yet we still don’t really get what they are. Back in the 1990s websites were a bit of a mystery and definitely a novelty. Some of us began to have a go at making them ourselves - but for the most part they were still an exotic curiosity.
That changed very quickly as we entered the 2000s, and now most of us experience at least some of our life online every day. Many of us can’t imagine life any other way.
The speed of these changes, and the pervasiveness of the online world into our daily lives has cultivated an unusual set of expectations.
As a consumer we expect things to be fast, convenient and free
A system update for our phone appears as if by magic as a notification. We just need to click to download and then wait for it to install and finally restart our device.
A security update for our favourite web browser happens without us even doing anything. We get a friendly message when we open up the browser telling us we have some new or improved features.
Our favourite apps sometimes need an update and then new features, content or an updated look greet us when we open it next. Our regular websites however don’t tell us when they’ve updated. Instead we expect new content to just be published ready for us to consume.
As consumers we play no part in these updates other than to perform an install on occasion. They appear like magic and should seamlessly improve our experience, causing as little inconvenience as possible.
The regularity of updates means that we’ve come to expect them, and consider them part of the overall experience of the digital world.
We also expect them to be free, forever
As consumers we don’t really get to see behind the scenes of a website. We may use an admin area to add products or content but this gives a false impression that it is the admin itself that is what makes the site work.
Underneath all of it is code that has been written by individuals and teams. Those admin areas are the product of design and development to create areas where you can control how your site appears to others.
Each new feature is not simply the result of someone pushing a button. They take time.
In the ‘real world’, we usually have indicators for change that inform us of that undertaking. A building may be demolished or have scaffolding up whilst it is renovated. Areas may be boarded off with ‘pardon our dust’ signs and we see and hear the construction work, and smell the fresh paint.
With the web these indicators are not present. A site changes overnight, or between one login and the next. We are rarely aware that any changes are coming until they arrive.
Our experiences with the digital world have created a bias when it comes to development work on our own online products and services. We pay no consideration for the time and effort that goes into those updates, and spare no thought for the value of them.
This mindset appears to be unique to digital.
In the ‘real world’ as consumers, we may not like to pay for things, but we recognise that payment is a part of the process of getting something.
When our boiler breaks we know there is a minimum call out charge for the engineer. A visit to the salon incurs a charge for cut and colour, and deep down, we know the coffee we had has been factored into those costs. A trip to the vets out of hours comes with a £100 (at least) emergency call out fee before the consultation has been added to the bill, let alone treatments and medications.
We recognise and accept that we are being charged for someone’s time and expertise, and that the businesses need to have costs in place to ensure they can run effectively and hire great people.
With digital, that level of recognition and acceptance isn't the same.
There’s often an expectation that changes to a website should be free. That new feature which will improve the customer experience shouldn’t cost to build, especially when they are perceived as being “quick and simple”.
Cutting corners means cutting quality
Our Senior Developer, Andy, recently debunked the ‘5 minute fix’ myth because when it comes to working with code the reality is far different and far from simple. Just because something seems simple, doesn’t mean that it is of little value.
If an update is worth adding to your site, then it clearly has value to you. To expect someone else to make that update for free is an attitude that needs to be addressed. It is a source of friction between agency and client because it suggests a lack of value for the work. The digital world itself is very much to blame for this mindset.
The inner workings of the web are not easy to see, and interfaces are in place to make the complex workings user friendly. It’s so easy to forget that people spent time making those interfaces for that very purpose.
As consumers of the web we’ve grown accustomed to software updates being free. The very idea of paying for an update is in opposition to how we experience digital ourselves But these notions are fueling an unhealthy attitude which is driving a push towards developing faster at lower costs.
Faster plus cheaper does not equal good when it comes to digital.
Your website is your business and putting it at risk by rushing out untested updates is a dangerous approach to take when customer loyalty is so vital.
Next time you receive a quote or an invoice for an update to your site and you are surprised, it's important to discuss it with your project manager to understand what’s actually involved and why it looks easy from an outside perspective.
Working closer with your digital agency will broaden your understanding of what goes on behind the scenes whilst you can share the insights into your own business and goals for your customers.
A collaborative relationship like this that deepens knowledge, trust and respect on both sides will lead to better opportunities for improving your online business that is truly tailored to your needs.