Creating a website, app or platform – pitfalls and promises

By Caroline Watson, CEO/Founder of Voucherline, TheGiftCardCentre and MyToolboxCard

It should be such a simple task. You want to create a solution, so you just need to find the right partner, right?

I have trodden this road with my companies since 1995, even creating sites for customers when we pulled our hair out trying to find a good partner that we or our customers could afford.

Time after time, and even very recently, I hear horror stories from colleagues, especially start-ups about the mess they have ended up in with developers, web designers and template solutions, ourselves included! So, from our experience and from our client’s experiences I thought I would share our tips and tricks with you. Most hopefully you will know, but you might just take away something you didn’t know! Or, you can add your comments and ideas too.

Actual examples:

  • Being held to ransom once your site/app gets popular or gains serious traction with the developer asking for more cash for every action the app gets
  • Trying to change providers and the developer refusing to let the code go over to them
  • The developer does not feel like building it so production stalls for months
  • The developer decides its all more expensive so asks for more monies
  • The developer or platform wants a slice of your turnover
  • The developer retiring and not bothered about what you should do moving forward
  • A template solution suddenly changing their pricing from a monthly fee, to a higher monthly fee based on turnover (happened to us some years ago – how dare they guess what margins we are on!).


  1. Research: Ask around to find your developers.  Get recommendations and ensure that those who recommend actually have worked with them and research their work.  All too often they are recommending a friend or family and have no idea if that person can actually assist properly.  Sometimes they are on commission so is in their interest to get that sale.
  2. Sign NDA’s first: It should go without thinking, but you would be surprised how many tell all about their scheme or idea without one.
  3. Ownership: One of the first things you should ask, is “who owns the code when you finish”?  You want the answer to be that you do once signed off and that you can also ask for it to be transferred to another provider at any time after the contract end.This is then an asset to your company.  We learnt this the hard way when we started.If you need to transfer to a new provider after build, you also want an SLA placed into the contract for the time that works is to take, and a cost given for this at the time of development, with a % increase year on year to be no more than X% etc.,
  4. Charges:  If using a template site for a marketplace or e-commerce option, look into how much they charge and whether they take a slice of your turnover.  Especially in our gift card marketplace % margins are so low, so do not be fooled as you also will lose more % to a payment/merchant provider as well (They are also tough with a % on turnover model and an additional transaction fee in some instances and charges for refunds and cardholder not present!).
  5. Earnings: Beware of developers saying they will be in partnership with you, so you get the cost of the app/site much cheaper.  These are the danger ones in my book.  They see that you are going to be successful and want a slice of the pie.  My answer is always a firm no.  Keep it clean.You do your job and I will do mine.  No earn out on any of our sales.If you cannot afford it, then maybe delay until you can as it is safer.
  6. Budget:  When you have agreed on your cost for your project (always add another 20% behind the scenes in your budget), make sure you have everything written down in a planning document of what you want in the platform/website/app beforehand.  Be aware of scope creep!  We all think of something we had not put in the brief.  Make sure you save quotes as a dated PDF so it is not changeable from any side and is clear.  This protects you both.Ask for an amendment to the quote before asking for your new idea or addition to take place.  All too often the project finishes and you get a bill for double what you set out to have and a big shock for all.  Sign every change off beforehand and also ask your team to do the same.  If it is not on the original brief your supplier has the right to charge extra!
  7. Timescale:  If you have a deadline in your head, make sure it is achievable for all.  It is no good telling your developer you want it done by X date if you and your team are not going to put the work in to support the developer.  If your developer asks questions, then answer as quickly as possible and ask if this affects the timeline.  They are not sitting twiddling their thumbs waiting for your response.  Often they will have to switch to another project, and you then get caught in the queue again whilst client B takes over their time.
  8. Copy copy copy.  Write it!  Your developer is not an expert in your field you are!  This also applies to graphic design – I am always getting nagged that I have not given enough copy for adverts etc.
  9. Go live.  Soft live is always best, and be prepared for at least 1/2 weeks of work tidying up loose ends, checking with your developer if they have budgeted for this time in snagging the project or if there is a cost.

I hope you have taken away at least 1 tip here.  Create and enjoy!

#voucherline #voucherlinecorporate #thegiftcardcentre #mytoolboxcard


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