|Marketing value of Standards Compliance|
Hello all -
I'm a one-person-band web developer who is (in my opinion) just starting out. I've done 7 sites so far and have started thinking about putting up my own site in order to try and get more work.
I'm very interested in Standard Complance and accessability issues, etc. If all my code validates, I feel that I'm learning the correct way to do my job and feel a certain amount of personal gratification.
But, does this personal gratification I get from creating "standards compliant" websites translate in to greater (potential) marketability - for myself?
On other developer sites I mostly see something like "we do great web sites and here's our client list to prove it." Nothing about standards.
Fair enough. But is that ENOUGH?
Does anyone think the market place even cares about wether or not a site is Standards Compliant as long as it doesn't "break" under any of the main browsers and complies with the client's feature requirements?
Am I barking up the wrong marketing tree with this idea, or has standards compliance, accessability to the visually impared, etc., become desirable enough to try and use as a marketing angle when I pitch a client?
My own impression is that it is a niche concern. If you are 98 out of 100 potential customers probably won't care. 2 in a 100 might consider it a selling point and of those, only a fraction of them will consider it a must-have.
So, if you are competing generally for business, focusing heavily on this point is not going to be a winning proposition. If you can target your marketing effort only to those who are likely to be interested, you might be able to be get some good business from this niche market.
Here is my favorite reference in regards to your concerns...
Buy standards compliant Web sites [w3.org]
The fact that we can produce standards compliant websites has been a big selling point. We target that niche where compliance is a concern.
What you're describing is commonly called a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or UVP (Unique Value Proposition). It's something that sets you apart.
The mistake most companies makes is, they look inward for their UVP instead of outward. They say something like, "We have the capability to create standards compliant websites, so let's use that." The problem is, do your clients care? A UVP should be whatever your clients value. If, as pageoneresults stated, you have a client base that is concerned about standards, then yes, you have a UVP. If not, then you don't.
The key is to look outward. The real people to ask is your current client base (and anyone else that you'd like to have as a client). And don't limit your probing to finding out if standards are important to your clients. The real question you want answered is, what is important? Find out why they choose you, what was the best thing about working with you, what results did you produce for them? That's the way to come up with a truly effective UVP.
Standards compliance can be a powerful selling point as long as you present it in terms the client can understand:
"We worry about that stuff so you don't have to."
Boy, do I appreciate this site and all who post here!
Thank you all for weighing-in: your answers have given me a greater understanding of the marketing value (and niche limitations) of promoting a craft who's technical foundation (in my regard) is built on web standards.
I'll go forward from here in a marketing effort targeted to those individuals and companies (and govenments I suppose) who already understand the value of standards compliant sites and seek this level of code-quality.
|I'll go forward from here in a marketing effort targeted to those individuals and companies (and govenments I suppose) who already understand the value of standards compliant sites and seek this level of code-quality. |
Do it for yourself first. Working with standards compliant websites is so much more rewarding than working with a not so compliant website. Now, when I refer to being compliant, I am also referring to valid html/xhtml/css. I've found that learning to write valid code is the first major step in producing a standards compliant website.
Don't focus too much on the niche because it is still very young. I started producing valid sites almost three years ago in anticipation of the big rush for compliant websites. Problem is, the rush has not occurred as of yet. ;)
|We target that niche where compliance is a concern. |
Let me rephrase that.
|We've created a niche and educate our clients on the importance of standards compliance. Once we've explained to them in laymen's terms the benefits of compliance, they fully understand the value. |
From a marketing perspective, I think that both buckworks and pageoneresults have touched on the important fact that we as web developers often look at things in terms of features as opposed to benefits.
We're always talking about aspects of code, programming languages or the technology that we use without thinking about the benefit that it provides to a client.
The point is, that most clients won't have a clue about what standards based design means, nor will they care, it's a feature, it doesn't mean anything to them. What we have to do is explain what benefits this will bring to their business, what problem it solves, what need it meets.
So if we have a client for who accessibility is a key issue tell them that because your web sites are standards compliant, they meet all the latest accessibility requirements.
For the client whose existing tables based website has many page views, explain that by using a standards compliant design you can reduce the file size by x which will save them x euros per month and also make their site download quicker which gives better customer satisfaction. Redesign one page of their existing site to prove your point.
I am sure if you sit there with a blank sheet of paper, you can think of many more benefits of standards based design on which to build your marketing message.
Speaking from my position as a web publisher who has outsourced several thousand dollars of design work this year, I can assure you that standards compliance DOES matter. It matters to the extent that I try to avoid doing business with any designer who cannot deliver a HTML 4.01 Strict/Transitional template, regardless of how good the graphics look on canvas.
The problem i come across is that many people are either a) Designers, or b) Programmers.
Finding someone who is both a very capable graphic designer, and can also produce good quality, standards compliant HTML/CSS at the end of it is very difficult, so IMO those people are worth a lot more money.
To summarise, Standards compliance is definatly a selling point. If you've got it, flaunt it :)
Btw, if you can do a) good graphical designs; b) standards complaint HTML/CSS; c) have an understanding of marketing & usability issues, then feel free to message me with a link to your portfolio/website, im sure I will have more work coming up in the future. :)
Almost all clients care about Web standards, though most of them don't realize it. The idea is to sell theri benifits. You should probably mention that you're using standards for the clients who know what they are, but just don't get hung up on them as a selling point.
Thinking that commercial clients care about standards is based on the false assumption that the client actually wants a website. They don't. What they want is the results that a website produces.
Even translating features into benefits doesn't take it far enough. Clients do not want benefits, they want results. That usually means increasing a positive or decreasing a negative. How will the "benefit" of better customer satisfaction produce the results the client wants produced? Will it increase sales? Will it decrease shopping cart abandonment? First, answer that question to the client's satisfaction.
Next, can you demonstrate that the cost will produce a positive return on their investment? In other words, will the amount of increased sales justify the cost of redeveloping the site to be more standards compliant?
Finally, can you measure it? If you can't objectively measure the results, then proclaiming the "benefits" of standards compliance is just hot air.
I can't emphasize enough that, if you're talking about technical things like coding and standards, then you are not speaking the language most clients understand. The fact that you must "present it in terms the client can understand" should make this painfully apparent. Why not talk about things that the client already does understand? If you put two web development firms side by side, one touting "standards compliant websites," and the other "websites that deliver paying customers," which company do you think will get more clients?
The problem is, we get caught up in the technology of "how" instead of the concept of "what." What the client wants is more paying customers. How you make that happen (at least one of the ways) is you improve customer satisfaction by developing standards compliant websites. IMO, emphasizing standards compliance (the "how") as a selling point is misguided. The bottom line is, the client can entrust you to produce what he wants, without knowing or caring how you do it.