Don’t ask a friend to build you a shed!

I’m going to share a little bit about my life outside of work to demonstrate the potential folly of allowing friends to ‘help’ you with building a shed or developing a website. Both share common steps for completion of the project.

Project Planning

1. Assess what you have already and decide how it might be improved.

When we bought our house it came with this strange building at the top of the garden. As we look out from our kitchen window we often wonder what reasoning influenced the design in the first place? Was it a project undertaken after a rather boozy Sunday lunch, for example?

15 years of weather, birds and general natural deterioration has resulted in the roof material needing refurbishment. We toyed with the idea of replacing the whole structure with something more ‘normal’, but in the end decided on a re-design, building small sheds on either side for ‘balance’.

So where do websites come into all this? All will become clear, but for now just enter into my mindset and ‘think’ shed = website.

snow falling onto garden

The garden ‘folly’ with winter frosting

2. Come up with plan

Our shed one went something like this.

  • Objectives & outline requirements. (Fit for purpose)
  • Budget required (What’s value for money for a shed/website these days?)
  • Find the right person to do the job (What skills should be identified as necessary?)

Several people came forward wanting to do the job and we went for the ‘package’ of someone we know, with help from someone he knew. The friend, of many years, was entrusted to do the build and there was no doubting his sincerity in wanting to do a good job.

We feel fairly foolish, with hindsight, not to have applied what I say to clients all the time about not ’employing’ friends or relatives!

The importance of establishing effective communication with your supplier

There’s talking and good communication, but the two are often unrelated.

Re. the shed, to cut a long story short, the work was done and the roof was put on. We did question a few aspects, well tried to question…

“Are you sure the roof height is within the planning limits, looks a bit close to me?”

“Don’t you worry luv, we’ve measured it and it’s fine.” “Any chance of another cup of tea?”

Fast forward when the workers have gone home and, despite assurances, we were out there with the tape measure, discovering the building, with ridge, wasn’t under the height limit required for planning. We could already see the frame stressing under the weight of the tiles and there were several other issues to highlight the fact that we had a problem on our hands.

We’re talking sheds here and a sub-standard job is not going to affect our capacity to make a living. On the other hand, a company  website is an important business tool that is supposed to make you money, not just be a way to spend it.

Ask informed questions before choosing a supplier

Knowing the right questions to ask about someone setting up a shed or a website is not skill anyone is born with, but both can seem a more simple task to achieve than is actually the case.

In our case we didn’t ask/check enough because we made a leap of trust based on a friendship. I can understand the  same trap in a ‘website scenario’.  When it goes wrong, there’s then reticence to respond as you might with an ‘outside the family’ supplier! Actually, at the end of the day, is it their ‘fault’ or yours re. expectations?

I set aside time as part  of  Website Wings services for “distressed website owners” who have been known to be in tears over lots of money spent on a website bringing in little business benefit beyond a ‘pretty picture’ on the web.

Having carried out a website audit I explain, in a supportive manner, the shortcoming of the website along with recommendations on how to address the issues.

Knowledge is power and is the key to being able to assess the merits of whoever you’re going to have doing the work for you (sheds and websites) and it’s very difficult to question the expertise of friends/family in the same way you would an independent supplier.

Do your research and ask informed questions

Having the knowledge to ask informed questions before starting a website development is the key to a more likely successful outcome (same with sheds).

There are now so many options out there for website DIY that a good option might seem to be to let a relative or friend take on the job. This will undoubtedly cut costs, help them, help you and everyone ends up a winner! (NB we made that mistake with the shed)

The result can be a situation that’s at best awkward, at worst a falling out with a friend or family member. (NB We have managed to avoid that by not telling the friend how bad the job was and paying someone else to come in and do the job all over again! – OUCH)

I’ve come across more than a few instances where the owner of a business website is too worried at upsetting a relative (often their son, nephew etc) to be able to address the fact that their business site is actually “not fit for purpose”.

sheds with tiled roofs

Lack of SEO limits website success

The issues I  usually can identify through a website audit often indicate a lack of on-site SEO, search engine optimisation. The website performs as little more than a barrage balloon, floating around in cyberspace, smiling prettily but communicating little to Search engine robots.

These days on-site SEO is not the ‘be all and end all’ it once was, but it’s still a very important element for optimising a website’s potential for success in Search.

NB Sheds don’t need SEO but they do need to be built properly if they’re to be ‘fit for purpose’.

Pearls of wisdom on sheds and websites

Q: When is a shed not a shed?

A: When its collapsed on the lawn due to an unsuitable structure supporting a heavy tile roof.

Q: When is a website worth having and not worth having?

A: When it’s ‘fit for purpose’ in terms of on-site SEO and when it’s just a collection of words and images without thought about how the information will answer a user enquiry in, for example, a Google Search box.

Moral of story

  • A combinations of sheds, friends, websites and hindsight results in greater wisdom.
  • Mistakes are how we learn not to make the same mistakes again.

What I’ve learned about sheds and friends, with hindsight

  • Sheds, friends, websites and hindsight is now a word-group I recognise as valid.
  • The secret to maintaining long-lasting friends is to decline offers of working for you on projects in your house or garden. (NB be very cautious about letting friends near your website too).
  • The value of having a sense of  humour, for mental health, is vital.

What next?

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You’ll also be privy to being ‘in the know’ when the sheds are finally finished and ‘fit for purpose’. Yes, I can feel another blog post beginning to form about the relationship between successful shed building and social media marketing.


small wooden shed being constructed

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