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The Decision to "Offshore" Your Website Development

The concept behind "offshoring" is simple... you hire a company outside of the United States to build your website, specifically for the purpose of lowering the total development cost. At first glance, "offshoring" would seem to make sense... where you might normally pay a US developer $75 or $100 an hour, their counterpart in some other part of the world charges $10 or $15 an hour. However, deciding whether to "offshore" your website development work is, by far, the single most important decision you will make during this entire process.

The simplest way to explain the significance of this one decision is by comparing it to the choice you make in a marriage partner. Ninety percent of your life’s happiness is said to be grounded in that one decision. Choosing an "offshore" web development company carries with it the same significance... if you make a bad choice, your website, and potentially your business, will suffer, and could even fail.

I personally do not consider "offshoring" to be an acceptable option for our business. In my experience, the language barrier is only the beginning. Different cultures have different norms, with overseas developers following usability models that are entirely foreign to the US visitor. What "makes sense" to the Indian developer generally "feels wrong" to the US visitor. In addition, for some unfathomable reason, I have yet to find a web development project by an offshore company that was not crawling with bugs. The "web development refugees" who come to us months, or even years after trying to resolve this problem on their own are invariably shocked by the true cost of wasting untold months trying to get something fixed. By the time they finally got the needed person on the phone, the web development team had moved on to the next project, and were no longer available.

However, if you decide that "offshoring" is something you want to try, then please read and carefully follow the suggestions offered below:

  1. Do your homework first. Do all of your research in terms of branding, marketing, positioning, etc., beforehand. Be very clear on exactly what words will go on what pages. Then plan out exactly what you want in the website, and exactly how you want for it to function. Create a PDF or PowerPoint mockup, detailing every single part of the entire process, including precise feedback messages, text labels for the feedback buttons, expected follow-up screens, exact verbiage for the system-generated emails, etc. As you create this file, remember that there is no such thing as "too much detail." The more detailed, the better.

  2. Go to a reputable company. Check out their references... both the ones they offer you, and the ones that their previous customers have posted online via comments or complaints. Do a Google search... enclose the company’s name and the representative’s name and/or email address in separate sets of quotation marks and hit the Search button.

  3. Listen to your gut. If anything feels wrong, stop. Do not be seduced by the promise of "the lowest possible price."

  4. Have them sign a Nondisclosure Agreement that protects your ideas, software, and submissions.

  5. Confirm that the person with whom you will be interfacing speaks fluent English, and that they are capable of interpreting and correctly responding to complex requests and questions.

  6. Confirm that all communication can be done by email or by phone; according to your preference at that time.

  7. Read their proposal and contract carefully; every single detail from your PowerPoint or PDF planning document should be included within it.

  8. Make sure that payments are divided up into at least 3 even chunks, with the second and subsequent payments tied directly to successful, on-time software delivery goals. Make sure that final payment is not released until everything has been tested and approved by a US developer.

  9. The US web developer that approves the site should verify that you have received all the needed material including all uncompiled source code and all needed logins, including those for the database, control panel, FTP, etc.; and that no malware, trojans, viruses or other infections have been embedded into any part of your website.

This material is Copyrighted. All rights reserved. Linda C. Uranga-Norton, President and Founder, Urangatang Web Design. To obtain reprint permission or engage the author for speaking engagements, please contact the author at . All reprints must include a link to the author's website at www.urangatang.com.

If you have an idea for an educational or informative article that you believe would be of interest to others as well, please email us at or call us at 1-888-872-6428 ext. 707 to discuss your idea.


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