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The real cost of offshoring your website

So, you need a website.

You may not have a lot of cash, or maybe there’s just a lot you want to spend it on. You need a website, but you can’t afford to spend too much on it.

Then it occurs to you: why not offshore it? Find a company – based in India, Vietnam, maybe even farther afield – who will promise you the world and charge you a pittance. What could go wrong, right?

Invariably, of course, something does. You would not believe how many people come to us hurting after sinking a fortune into outsourcing internationally. Their project never came together like it should, though, so they gave up, cut their losses, and found their way to us.

In the end, nearly everybody that tries offshoring goes back to the locals.

“What’s wrong with overseas outsourcing, huh?”

Nothing, necessarily. There are a host of brilliant programs and services offered by companies from all over the world. Personally, I’ve worked very happily with programmers and developers from Ukraine to the Philippines. The problem arises when your entire website or online strategy is managed offshore. It just doesn’t work.

Why? Two issues: communication and quality.

(Mis-)communication barrier #1: timezones

Whether you’re building a website or finely-tuning a Google Adwords strategy, communication is the MOST important thing in the world. Online projects are complicated; they require time, care, communication and feedback. Consider something very minor – a line of text that needs tweaking, or an image that needs to be moved a couple of pixels.

  • If you’re dealing with a local, that may be a 5-minute phone conversation or a rapid-fire email.
  • If you’re dealing with someone on the other side of the world, that could well be a 24-hour turnaround. Got a follow-up question? That’s another 24 hours.

Yep – it’s the 21st century, but timezones are still a thing. If your project manager is at home in bed during your entire workday, your project is going to suffer for it.

(Mis-)communication barrier #2: the language barrier

As anyone married to a computer nerd will tell you, “tech-speak” is almost a language of its own. Now, imagine trying to have a technical conversation with someone whose English isn’t too great. I’m pretty tech-savvy myself, but that’s almost enough to get me breaking out in hives!

Obviously, misunderstandings are extremely regular in an environment like that, and each one will drain your time, money and patience (especially when you’re only getting one email a day!)

Lastly, most offshore companies will tell you their employees are all fluent in English. Sadly, a good deal of the time that’s less “true” than it is “aspirational”.


Local offshoring

Some overseas web development companies have figured out a clever way to work around timezone and communication issues – employing a native English speaker to deal with clients. Sometimes they’re even based here in Australia, or working the graveyard shift so that they’re awake during Australian business hours. Similarly, a lot of smaller operators here in Australia have decided to outsource all their actual development work overseas.

Now, that’s a pretty good idea…except now there’s a middleman. More rungs in the ladder mean more potential for delays, confusion (especially if the client-facing manager isn’t even tech-savvy) and misunderstandings. It’s much better – for everyone involved – if a client can deal directly with the person building their website.

Even worse – many of these companies don’t even tell their clients that they’re outsourcing their work. If a local company is quoting you a lot less than everyone else, you might want to wonder why.


A question of quality

Everybody knows the old truism “you get what you pay for”, but it’s an oldie because it’s a goodie. The companies that try to get your offshore work operate from a very simple paradigm – quote small, churn out projects quick and dirty, and move on as soon as they can. You might think you’re playing the numbers game by paying them so little, but they’re playing it right back on you: the final product you receive is not going to be very good.

(Incidentally, that couldn’t be further from Technology Matters’ business model. Our priorities are customer satisfaction, long-term business relationships and word-of-mouth.)

And speaking from purely personal experience, every time that I have worked with an offshore outsourcer I have come away disappointed. That’s the best word to describe it. The work was buggy, and I have had to fight tooth-and-nail to get it fixed to my satisfaction (maybe I’m pedantic, but that’s a quality you want in a web developer, right?) By the time it was finally good enough, I was damn sure I wasn’t going to be using their services again.


It’s not a question of quality, per se, but there’s another issue you may run into if you are looking for design work overseas – cultural clashes. Colours favoured by Indian designers, for example, often look a little out of place in an Australian website. Similarly, the latest craze in Australian web designs (right this second: white space, full-width designs and large images) may not be trending at all in Russia.

It may seem small, but it can be very obvious. And if you want to impress your users, you want to show them that you’re at the forefront of (Australian) design.


As you can see, there is a real cost to offshoring your web development work – not just in the extra time, work and stress of dealing with people far away, but in the quality of the final product. And remember: your website is your face to the online world. If your site is buggy, or very obviously designed and built overseas, your customers are going to know it.

Go local, get it done right

Sure, it generally costs more, but you get more:

  • You get value for money, because what you get in the end will be exactly what you wanted, not something you settle for because you’re tired of arguing;
  • You get timely, personalised service from people you can look in the eye;
  • You get Australian law on your side, if something should go wrong (not that it will, mind you!)

Better yet: Technology Matters!

(You knew we had to!)

Go with Technology Matters if you want more than just a website. You’ll get:


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