How much does a website cost? Wrong question, try again!
One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked at burning red is ...
how much does a website cost ?
It happens at least weekly. In fact, it last happened yesterday with a car salesman who was showing me around his fleet ... we got chatting and before you knew it, they dropped the old chestnut. I bit my tongue, offered the polite, almost formulaic premeditated reply of 'well, it really depends what you are after'.
So, here we go with an approach to help explain what you really need to think about before you embark on a new website and the questions you should ask a developer/designer/agency which will help you better understand how much a website costs in reality (it's not just money, it's also alot of time). It doesn't matter if its a redesign or a 'fresh out of the box' website, trust me when i say, its all in the planning! A little bit of understanding will give you a better idea of what to expect when assembling your budget and actually working out what you need to go on your website. Any digital agency / designer worth their salt will help guide you through the murky waters of website design and launch (well, we certainly do).
Please note, I have deliberately not spoken about the 'design of' and 'marketing of your website', these are related but slightly different topics that we will look at in due course.
Technical functionality + Website Content + Overriding Brand Application & Considerations = Website Sweetspot
The diagram above represents a website and the ultimate goal, your website sweetspot. It's what we strive for as designers / developers / content makers. It's all about reaching that mythical land where brand, content and technical prowess party together like its 1999!
A website, well, a goodwebsite design & build cannot exist without all three elements. The exact proportion of which is up for debate and usually governed by budget.
(A) Websites in this category are characterised by being highly stylistic, lots of visually cool stuff, some awesome content but fail when confronted with a mobile or ipad ... some are even guilty of still using flash.
(B) Websites here you will recognise by their reams and reams of content continuously added to since 1999. Ok, they still work and function perfectly, but are about as much fun to walk around and read as a hoover manual.
(C) Websites where style reigns over substance. Some agencies, photographers, designers naturally gravitate with a barebones work portfolio with no updates since 2011.
Interestingly, we work with alot of people who already have a website and start of a brand, usually in area B.
Content (& Design)
Yep, content is king. But where is it going to come from? You might be excellent at writing letters to your auntie, but does that mean your best suited for writing for the web? The biggest problem we face producing websites is waiting on content from clients. On average we are waiting approximately 6 weeks after launch date for the text which in turn holds up your website. So, here are the questions you should think about asking yourself and/or digital agency before you embark on your content generation journey.
Key questions / considerations
- Where will the website text come from?
- Is the existing text good enough or will it need an editor?
- Is the text on the existing site good enough? is it dated?
- Do you have good photos or video at your disposal that you are free to use?
- Seriously, do the photos look any good?
- Do I need someone to take fresh photos, maybe even commission a photo/ video shoot?
- How much will editing / copywriting cost? Or is it included?
- Do I need to buy stock photography or will you buy? or do you recommend hiring a photographer?
- If you create something for the website, can I use it in my other promotional items?
- Who owns what in regards the website?
- Do i need to think about regular content for the website?
- What standards will my website meet (W3C / Bobby )
- How will the site comply with DDA compliancy (A / AA / AAA)
- Will it work on a mobile / tablet / tv / computer?
- Where is it hosted?
- User experience - I hear its important? How do you test it?
- User interface - how does the design work?
- Is the hosting safe secure?
- What is the uptime of the server (and email)?
- Will you host my email? If not will you help set up?
- What support can I expect? (example: 1 hr per month / 5 hours per month / none??)
- What steps will be taken for google to rank my website effectively?
- Is SEO included as part of the website build?
- How often will my website need updating (from a core CMS / admin point of view)
- If something goes wrong, what will happen? What service can I expect?
- Is training included? If so, for what?
Lets not forget the brand.
In all honesty it will affect so many things within the content, but it will also guide imagery and photography, voice, text, typography even down to SEO!
FYI - 80% of clients who come through our door looking for a website in fact really need branding, or at least some kind of brand clarification exercise before we start any website project. What do you mean I hear you ask? Well, what i mean is that alot of SMEs within 4-6 years of business with a good number of employees (say 10 - 100) will have adopted their own habits and ideas for how they see the current brand working for them. Usual tell tale signs include: different internal documents, different email footers, mishmash of fonts in logo, inconsistent use of logo and fonts on vans / shops / marketing collateral ... the list can go on.
At the end of the day, a website is your shop window to the world. It can make or break your business. You should approach websites with the assumption that you are creating your forward facing brand - no matter the platform (web, print, app). Its the sum experience of the interaction by potential clients with your website: visuals, voice, imagery, text, content, technical environment, and how it is served to a phone / mobile / tv / computer. It is alot more than 'just a website'.
At this point, there are no real questions to ask, as your brand 'vision' would have already shaped the choices for content, voice, imagery, approach. Without taking a sidestep and clarifying what your brand is, or what it stands for, you risk creating a platform for you to make mistakes, all over again in some cases.
A website really is a sweetspot of brand, content and technical solutions. It's an investment that goes far beyond it's individual elements.