This is a guest post of sorts. My brother RT is a software engineer. In a recent discussion about careers and jobs this came up - I had to admit I wasn't entirely sure what he actually does. Something to do with computers ...?
His reply was thorough, I'd expect nothing less from the guy who knows everything (he's my older brother so there's definitely an element of hero worship). I think his notes are valuable so I thought I would pass them on. His notes are verbatim in quote marks, my comments are prefaced with ed. (editor) and are in bold.
Hire the right person for the job
"When people want a website they usually have no idea what they want other than a "website". What they don't realise is that the major components of a website are its design, the artwork/branding and the copy. They never have any of these prepared or even thought about it, and they go and hire a "web developer" (i.e a programmer) for $100 an hour to do it."
"What they really need is:
1. a graphic designer (artwork, layout, css), a web designer
2. a copy writer,
3A. an html dude (html is not programming) OR ,
3B. IFF (if and only if) there is dynamic content or some other special feature - a programmer."
ed. IFF we learned a new acronym, and what the heck is dynamic content?
"People need to understand this: programmers are generally crap at design and programmers are generally crap at writing copy".
Web developers (programmers) make things work behind the scenes. It's the person who knows if you click a button, you want this thing to happen. It's a technical job.
Web designers make websites look good. It's more creative and visual. He or she decides what colour to make that button and where to locate it on the page.
The copywriter is a whole different person. It's someone who makes people feel things with words. He or she decides what to write on that button to make you feel compelled to press it.
When programmers have been allowed to write the language you'll see pages that say - "Your payment was a success! " or "SUCCESS - changed your flight from Monday to Tuesday". or "Sorry - a server transaction failed". This will be presented in an ugly font, on a plain blank page. There will be no other place to click for more information and you might be left scratching your head wondering if your credit card has been double-charged or if that flight really is booked.
ed. Yep, that's not very user friendly.
"So when you decide you need a website the main thing is to avoid the long runs of expensive programmer time - don't have the highest-paid person doing all the lower price work, and probably not doing a great job either."
ed. Thanks RT this is really valuable advice!
Be honest about your skills
This is really valuable advice from my bro RT, don't you agree? I've heard a lot of sad stories from friends who have been 'ripped off' by their developer or wound up very disappointed with the results. It turns out that's not a fair assessment - and both parties may be to blame. The person who hired the developer probably didn't know they were hiring the wrong person for the job. AND the person who took the job may have genuinely believed they were the right person for the job.
If you're a service provider be honest about your skills and what you can legitimately do for your client. Everyone wins. You won't get landed with jobs that are out of your depth or a waste of your time & talent. You won't suffer the frustration of trying to communicate with your client about things that are hard to explain since they're outside of your field.
Take me for instance. I'm in marketing. This is a very broad area of study with a great number of applications. There are more things that I don't do than there are that I do. It's not that I cannot undertake market research for you or deliver a social media plan to you, it's that these are not my area of true expertise. I plan broad marketing strategies which are closely tied to the business vision, mission and plan. Maximising your return on investment through Facebook marketing would be an example of a specific tactic that you could employ to reach the goals as laid out by my plan. I deal in broad strokes, not so much the actual tools to get the job done. I can advise you and point you in the right direction but I'd be lying if I said I was an expert in any of these frontline tactics.
Coming back to hiring the right person for the job. If you were to contract someone to create a Facebook marketing plan for you they may ask "Where does this fit into your overall Marketing strategy?" If you haven't previously worked with someone like me, then you'll suddenly look a bit clueless. You don't have a strategy. It's kind of like taking your scrap heap vintage car straight to the painter for a new paint job before you've spoken to a restoration expert to examine the structural or engine problems. (Oh a car analogy!)
So before you hire a web developer to build your website or a marketing whizz to plan your ad campaign take a step back to make sure you have a plan and that the person is being honest (with themselves) about what they can do for you. Before you accept your next job go through the same process to make sure you're the woman for the job and if you have to pass it along to the right person, as hard as that might be when you need clients. :(
Do you need help deciding which experts to hire? Get in touch and I will be happy to offer my insights. I'm well-connected with RT on the team AND did you know my sister is a bean counter (an accountant)? I may be able to get some advice from her one day for you too!
PS. I'm still not sure what a software engineer is, RT's job, but he assures me it is NOT web developing. Roger that.