My Marketing Thing

A spooky story about choosing a web builder


Spooky web builder ghost cartoon

I’m going to tell you a dark tale. Come closer to the fire, hold you cocoa firmly to your chest, and be prepared to be afraid. Very afraid.

It is a tale of woe. It is a tale with a warning… It is a tale of a client who had chosen a website builder before hiring me to write her web copy. This happens a lot. But that’s not the warning.

The first thing I learned after being hired was that the web builder had organised a photo shoot where the images showed only women and the business was now strongly targeting men. Ahhhhh!!!!


But that’s not the scary thing I want to warn you about.


Back to the story… The web builder’s boardroom was very contemporary. White walls, white carpet, white chairs, white table. This was no place for spillage. On the walls hung an example of close-range nature photography, possibly of a prying mantis that was larger than me. Hard to tell.

An elegant white dish filled with multi-coloured M&Ms sat at the centre of the table. A clever distraction? Maybe. I couldn’t look at anything else.

The two web builders, dressed in fine designer garb, swished into the room and sat were they felt most comfortable. My client and I hadn’t worked out where we would be most comfortable. It was unlikely we ever would.

Turns out one of the people wasn’t a web builder. She was a ‘digital consultant’. I wondered if her role was to act as a translator for the web builder who had spoken only tech jargon since he was in nappies.

Very white nappies.

I actually had trouble understanding either of them. And I couldn’t help but notice my client’s eyes glaze over after the first couple of minutes. Somewhere early in the meeting I uttered the phrase ‘main menu’. The digital consultant corrected me with ‘navigation bar’. How blood wasn’t spilled by the end of that meeting, I can’t tell you. Maybe it was the M&Ms.


But that’s not the thing I want to warn you about either.


Despite various communication challenges (and, at times, white noise from the web company) we managed to get the content in and site up.

Then my client called me. It was hard to make out what she was saying at first. Her tone was was shifting from wailing with despair to screaming in fury. Apparently the web company was billing her ginormous sums for ‘extra work’ that she thought was part of the process – just a part of getting the site looking how they had all agreed. And she had seven days to pay.


This kind of thing happens, but that’s not what I want to warn you about.


My client would find a way to pay…somehow. She asked me if McDonald’s hires 45 year olds for night shift. I told her I didn’t know (not having the heart to tell her the truth).

It soon became clear that this company billed like lawyers on heat. Every question, every small request, required an appendage in return. So, unsurprisingly, my client decided that she wanted to change web builders.

Problem was, the client was locked into a contract as thick as the Bible with print the size of amoeba. Once we worked our way through the document, then got another web builder to translate it for us, we realised that she might as well have been married to the web company. Turned out, extracting herself from them was going to take an expensive and heart-breaking divorce.

A lot of the problem had to do with the fact that the web company have their own customised platform – i.e. their own web software.


What I want to warn you about

There are many wonderful web builders with customised (home-spun) web packages. The problem with this scenario is when you decide to move on from that particular builder to another….it can get sticky.

It may even mean building your website again with someone else. That’s a big hassle.


The alternative?

I talked a bit about open source platforms in my previous post – namely Drupal and WordPress. ‘Open source’ means anyone can use the platform for free. That means there’s quite a number of folks out there who work with Drupal and WordPress.

Drupal is known for websites and WordPress is known for blog sites.

So I often source for my clients builders who work with these because – on a technical level – once your site is up, you have the option to change from one builder to another without too much fuss.

Note: It’s still important to check the details of your client agreement.


The customised path

However, if you choose to go down the customised web package path, talk openly at the very beginning with your builder about what happens if the web company decides to close up shop (this is a nice way to find out what would be required if you want to move onto another web company for some unforeseeable reason). Press them on a real answer before you sign anything.


No matter who you hire, be very sure – from the very start – how they charge. And that includes requested changes down the track.

One more scary story… 

This one involved a client who’s web builder took their online business off-line because of a dispute over an invoice. Don’t let this happen to you.

And watch out for M&Ms in meetings. They can be dangerous.


Know how to brief a web builder?

Web builders often don’t know how to be briefed, so don’t rely on them to tell you. I’ll be taking you through some steps that will make the process sooooo much easier for everyone concerned. Stay tuned!


This post was written by Megan Hills.  Megan is a writer, cartoonist, marketing consultant and website builder sympathiser…sometimes.  Find out more about Megan.

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  1. Mary

    Sounds like any service that employs the word 'builder' should be approached with care. Unless of course their name is Bob…….

  2. Just found you via dumbo feather. Have read a little and think you're wonderful! Will be making time to read the rest!

    • Megan

      Thanks, Anna. I love your blog too! Was particularly inspired by the idea of cushions made from canteen bandannas. Brilliant! Also love your funky tea towels in the shop. The world can never have enough inspiring tea towels :)

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