As an accountant by profession, I didn’t know any coding and obviously could not physically build my own website. I thus had to outsource this function to someone trustworthy and reliable.
Possession being nine-tenths of the law is an expression meaning ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, or difficult to enforce if one is not in possession of the subject. This was ultimately the deciding factor in my choice for choosing a developer.
A natural starting point for any first time entrepreneur is to seek referrals from family and friends. I got in touch with a family friend who is a successful developer and he gave me a quote. I thought it was high, and way out of my personal budget but I had no sense of whether this was reasonable or not. I thus got a second quote- which was a fraction of the first! Is this too good to be true? Turns out the first guy was building everything from scratch and the second guy opted to buy off the shelf open source solutions, plug them all together and customise accordingly. The deciding factor was, however, the transfer of the source code. The first guy wanted to retain the rights even after full payment. For me, I wouldn’t pay a cent for something I can’t own especially if it was for the only asset of the business! I thus opted for the second guy. He was also kind enough to allow me to pay off my bill over the four months it was expected to be built.
My mind was spinning with all the ideas I had for my website. My developer often had to rein me in and suggested I focus on getting the basics and just get some traffic to the site. We had a quite few consults (that I had to squeeze into my lunch breaks). My developer took these “designs” (and I use this term very loosely) and implemented it as requested. Everything was going well…until my developer lost interest as he had larger, more important clients to attend to. Despite my relentless efforts, my snag list of issues were never resolved.
Below is a write up on how I was feeling at the time. I thought I’ll insert it here as is and not reword it in the past sense. You may sense a wee bit of frustration in my tone…
I consider myself smart, resourceful and an ethical women. So I’m not sure how to deal with being screwed over… Like, how do people think its ok to do people in? My developer is so unprofessional. Firstly, he did not deliver on everything he said he would AND that I paid for. He decided a while ago he was just done with me. He was not going to complete what he needed to, nor fix what was broken and he certainly was not going to partially refund me. I came to terms with reality eventually. It was a painful realisation as I could see my hard earned savings being flushed away. And to add insult to injury, I was going to have to find someone else to do the work and pay again ,if not more this time. But the absolute cherry on top was ownership of the domain name. Guess who legally owns the name domain? No, not me, the founder and financier of the business… no it is in my developers name! And do you think I can get him to transfer it to me? No! It literally is a simple email he needs to send to the hosting company. I mean what the hell? My entire business is the website—and I don’t own the website??? WTH!!!!!!!!
I suppose being screwed over is a sort of rite of passage for any entrepreneur… and I have a feeling this is not going to be the last…
Ok, my developer transferred the domain to my name- eventually. Once I calmed down, I had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan B. See post here.
The MV in MVP
So it’s June 2018 and I’m getting tired of fine tuning my website to get it perfect. A meme I saw once, comes to mind “if you not embarrassed by your first product, you waited too long”. I actually just want to have my soft launch for my MVP (Minimum Viable Product) so that I can start getting user feedback. I started making a list as to what is the bare minimum I needed. I found this a particularly difficult task. How much is enough? Is 100 listings enough to capture the users attention or is 50? Or 200? How do I come up with this number?
In terms of functionalities, I have a string of ideas I want to incorporate. Some have already been built into my website but I’ve decided to hide those and “release it” at a later stage. Keeps things interesting you know? But also, those functionalities only really make sense with frequent and stable traffic.
For starters, the Minimum Viable functionalities I need are working user profiles as well as a few listings, events and tutorial to be uploaded. It sounds really basic, but there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it.
The P in MVP
I soon realised that I had been focusing mostly on the content and not so much on the user friendliness and the branding element of my website. I could just launch the website as it currently stands and improve at a later stage… but then I decided against it. For some businesses, their website simply serves as a marketing tool for their customers to find out more about the products or services being offered. But for me, the website is my actual PRODUCT. So no, I can’t have it looking all bleh. My customers won’t bother coming back. So my MVP is a fully functioning, user friendly, kick ass website! So I got in touch with a UX specialist. Oh, by the way, did you know that UI and UX are two different things? UI is the User Interface (the look and feel of the website) and the UX is the User Experience (how quickly and easily a user can navigate your website). For someone whose main and only product is a website, it’s actually quite embarrassing that I didn’t know that *hides face is shame*
But WHY didn’t I know this? Why wasn’t this a focal point when I started developing my website? My theory is that my developers acted on instruction- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They developed on what I asked for but they didn’t necessarily advise on the UX element. I mean, this is my first time doing this thing, what do I know? I literally ‘designed” (I use design very loosely here) the layout for my website on excel. MICRSOFT EXCEL BRUH! Hey, I am an accountant, my whole life is managed off excel. What do you expect? What do I know about User Goals and User Journeys and what not? It would have been great to have been advised on UX and UI considerations from the beginning. But oh well, no use on dwelling on the past- time to move on and fix it.
Truth be told, product development, whether it be a website or not, is a never ending activity. You would look continuously on how you can improve your product or service. I best get comfortable in this space.