If you're like most businesses, you will have received quotes to update your website that are wildly different. How can you tell what is a fair price and what is extortion?
Your current website is years old, your business has changed quite a bit over that time and the site no longer promotes your brand and services the way you want it to. It is focused on you and not your customers, it isn’t responsive, and it is visually behind the times. Does this sound like you?
You have no doubt come to the realisation that it is time for a website refresh.
If you are one of the businesses out there that doesn't have an agency partner, your first port of call will be to ask Google. So you start your search, you click through to a few agency websites, create a shortlist and submit a few requests via their online contact forms.
One firm asks whether you have $100,000 budget – you tell them politely that you will get back to them. Three others take a brief from you and, after a week, you have three vastly different quotes – $5,000, $25,000 and $40,000. You sent all the agencies the same brief, so why the big difference?
There are many contributing factors to the cost of creating a website that stands out and achieves your business goals. These include your digital strategy, the website development methodology used, the level of design and specification detail, the content management system, the agency's resource charge-out rate, and obviously the agency's margin.
Outside of the agency's charge-out rate and margin, having an understanding of the other factors will help you know what you are getting for your investment and enable you to make an 'apples to apples' comparison – and ultimately decide on a solution that best suits your business and its goals.
Know your strategy
In this day and age, your website should be more than just a brochure spruiking your company and its services. Instead, it should be tightly integrated with your business strategy.
If you have the tools and know-how to articulate this strategy, you are well on your way to achieving success. If you need a little help, here are some questions you should answer before your website development project even gets started:
• Do I really know who my target audience is?
• Have I considered my wider inbound/outbound marketing channels?
• How do my website and digital marketing map to my audience and sales funnel?
• Is my website unique to my industry (e.g. functionality, layout, creativity)?
• How will my website be managed?
• What is the long-term role of my website?
• What is my content development strategy?
You may think some of these questions are too big for you right now, but many of your competitors are asking these exact questions, so you should ask them too.
What’s more, a good agency can help you answer these questions. The extent of the expertise you require will be a major contributing factor to your website cost.
Website development methodology
A website development methodology is the process of organising and delivering the project.
All development agencies use (or should use) some form of methodology, but the approach and how rigidly they stick to it will be another contributing factor to the project cost.
Common phases within a project cycle are:
• Visual design
• Quality assurance and testing
Ensure you know the methodology the agency plans to use and the deliverables from each of these phases.
Level of specification detail
There are a lot of specifications that document the delivery of your project, including functional, technical, SEO, testing and hosting.
The functional specification explains the layout, features and interactions that are to be included on every page. It should not only include the 'what', but the 'how' and 'why' as well.
While most agencies develop functional specifications, they can come in many forms – a simple list of business requirements, a sketched wireframe or even a fully functional HTML prototype.
Knowing what specifications you will receive as part of the development process will help you understand how this can contribute to your cost.
Level of design detail
Your creative look and feel can be delivered in many ways. Some agencies may produce simple homepage and content page templates and leave you to add the content during the development phase, while others will produce a visual design for every content page of your website.
You should also seek to understand how many options and creative variations are included. Some agencies may supply two options with multiple revisions allowed, others may only give you one choice.
Again, your inclusions will give you a better understanding of your end project cost.
Content management system
There are a number of content management systems (CMS) available. You have your open-source platforms such as Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress, licensed platforms such as Kentico, Sitefinity and Sitecore, and e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Magento.
Open-source platforms are generally free, while licensed CMS platforms can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars each month. While the licence fee is one contributing factor, the speed to implement within the different systems may also affect your project cost.
One last tip is to look at content population. While some agencies will include content population in your quote, others will simply give you the CMS with templates loaded and hand it over to you to add your own content.
Overall, be sure to ask questions of your agency partner to ensure you get a solution that is right for both your business and your budget. Good luck!
Tim Barnett is the co-founder of digital agency 2BInteractive.