In Web budget

Pulling a budget out of thin air, or committing your business to a new site without a budget at all, are risky and unnecessary approaches that can drain your bank account, waste your and your designer’s time, and set back your Internet marketing for several years.

The expression “You get what you pay for” was never truer than when it comes to building a website. When companies fail to budget properly, one of these nightmare scenarios is very likely to follow:

The site ends up costing two or three times more than expected, causing all-important post-launch marketing activities to be cut back or eliminated.

The site ends up having half or a quarter of the desired functionality, rendering it nearly useless.

The site ends up as a series of compromises in design, content and functionality, making a mediocre impression on customers and prospects.

The underlying problem, as these three scenarios suggest, is under-budgeting or not budgeting at all.

Budget planning takes serious upfront strategic thinking and is hard work, but the payoff is big.

What’s the best way to set a budget and lay the groundwork for a site that meets your expectations?

Step 1: Create specifications

Setting a realistic budget starts with having an idea of what you want the site to do. The basics being:

Design – How much customisation do you want? Will a standard WordPress theme suit your needs? Do you need a custom design from the ground up? Or perhaps something in between? Do you alreaady have imagery for your new site, or will photos/videos/illustrations need to be produced? If so, how many (or other imagery such as charts and diagrams) will be needed?

Content – How much unique content will your site need? 10 pages? 100 pages? Will it be easy or hard to write? Do you have the ability and capacity to write it in-house, or will you need to outsource copywriting? If outsourced, will the writer need to do extensive research to write the copy properly?

Functionality  Do you need more than a basic contact form? Do you want to offer downloadable PDFs or other information? Do you want leads from various forms to be tracked? Will you need e-commerce, and if so, how do you need this to work and what type of payment options will you need? Are there any other functional requirements, such as integration with internal systems or third-party e-commerce sites? Do you want to optimise your site for search engines (SEO)?

Step 2: Seek proposals

Once you’ve drawn up a rough list of desired site specifications, you’re in a position to solicit proposals.

A web development agency (or freelancer) will need this input from you to base an estimate. The proposal might match your specs precisely, but more likely, it will have modifications based on practical considerations or the agency’s capabilities. This is OK; often, a developer has ideas that reduce cost and yet still meet your needs.

Asking for two or three proposals initially is best, because you’re likely to see a fairly wide range of prices and approaches.

Step 3: align expectations and costs

A likely outcome from steps 1 & 2 will be the realization that your desired site costs much more than you expected, but this is OK too, because you’re now in a position to have a meaningful review of development options, their real value, and their real cost. The biggest surprises that are revealed by following this three-step approach include:

Design surprises – Creating images is expensive and time-consuming. Often, firms don’t care about images in the early stages of a project, but later on, when they see boring, text-heavy pages on the test site, they desperately want a lot of customized imagery. Settling for tired stock imagery (the usual Plan B) results in a generic-looking, unimpressive site.

Content surprises – Content is far more expensive and time-consuming to create that most people realize. Firms often assume they can have an employee whip up content at the last minute, and learn too late that it’s an impossible task.

Functionality surprises – Clients typically have no idea what pieces of site functionality actually cost. Then they become frustrated in mid-project when they ask the developer to “throw in” a little e-commerce and discover it costs €5,000 to do so.

By using initial proposals to set a budget for your site project, you prevent unpleasant surprises down the line. In addition, you’re more likely to find the right developer for your project and create a site that is truly right for your business in terms of overall performance and cost.

See part 2 of this article : ‘How much does a website cost ?’

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