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Interview with Tiffany, Part 3: The Road to Hell and the lowdown on RFP’s

By: Mary Barbour

Today we shift focus a little bit and ask Tiffany about pitfalls she’s seen clients run into when seeking out a web developer. She talks about how to avoid “The Road to Hell” and then disses on RFP’s! Read on…

Mary: What are the biggest mistakes that clients can run into when seeking out a web developer?

Tiffany: In no particular order,


In my opinion, this is the most dangerous kind of mistake, and one that most people wouldn’t think of making with other professionals. For example, you wouldn’t walk into your doctor’s office and ask how much it will cost to have your leg amputated because you’ve sprained your ankle. Yet, I see this kind of self-prescription in the web-development profession on a fairly regular basis.  My advice to the client is to remember that the best way to treat your design/development problem is to articulate it, fully and, as I like to say, as if no one were watching. Think about how the solution might look in a perfect world.  Forget about budget; forget about what Google said when you searched “good ecommerce websites”; think instead about the problem you’re trying to solve.  Pretend your budget is unlimited. And then tell your developer everything. Every. Last. Thing. Trust her to find synergies that reduce effort and cost. Trust her to envision a solution. That’s what you’re paying her for, after all.


Once you’ve articulated the problem, it’s time for the developer to build you a proposal. If she knows your budget, she can avoid wasting your time with the perfect-world solution and instead put together a real-world solution that not only solves your problem BUT also meets your budget.  Have no fear! A good developer will use every resource at her disposal to cram as much design and functionality goodness into that budget amount as possible.


…Is paved with good intentions, right? Be realistic about your capabilities. You cannot manage a 10,000-product ecommerce store with one staff member. Doing some things by hand or in house may seem like a cost savings, but think hard about how much your time (or your staff’s time, which I’m sure has a real dollar figure attached to it) is worth. Because blogs, ecommerce stores, creative vignettes, those all take time and sometimes expertise. Do you have it? If not, consider automating as much as possible. Consider altering your plan to better accommodate both your vision and your real-life abilities and time commitments. And please, please SHARE your thoughts and concerns surrounding this item with your developer. She can help!


If you must submit one, read this. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Back? There isn’t much else to say, except to note the following. If you haven’t pre-selected a firm that you love and want to work with and require an RFP, the RFP process has one huge flaw. It limits the pool of developers you have to pick from to those who happen to respond. Chances are that if the firm you really love didn’t respond, you’ve written them off. Maybe you didn’t even contact them to ask why.   Find firms/developers/designers whose work you love; heck, whose personality you love.  Court them. Reach out and make personal contact; you’ll be amazed at how accessible we are, and how much further that will get you than a cold and lonely email that’s been bcc’d to oblivion.


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