“We’re web developers – we’re not business coaches or business development coaches. But at the end of the day, we sometimes are involved at that level because your website is so key to your business.”
Indeed, website architecture can be a costly and time-consuming endeavour. Tim joins the My Business team to discuss the importance of having a business strategy and how having a plan in place helps web developers produce an end result that is satisfying to all.
In this episode of the My Business Podcast, Tim also explains how he establishes a cost base for building websites, how he aids clientele through the construction process, as well as the story of his very own business and how it evolved from a single-channel to a multi-dimensional company.
Enjoy the show!
Adam Zuchetti: Welcome to the My Business Podcast everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I’ve got my regular co-host here. Andy, how you doing?
Andy Scott: I’m doing well, thanks. Thanks for having me on again. I say having me on. I’m coming whether you stop me or not, but it’s good to be here. Excited about today’s guest.
Adam Zuchetti: Wild horses couldn’t keep you away, hey?
Andy Scott: Something like that, yeah. Enough of my yakking as always. Who’s today’s guest? I’m excited to speak to this one.
Adam Zuchetti: Yeah, we’ve got an interesting guy in the studio today. We’re picking his brains about something that virtually every business owner wants to know about these days, and that’s websites and the online space. We’re all using it, but frankly I think that too many people are using it unwisely or not to its full potential. Would you agree with that, Tim?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, exactly Adam. I guess there’s no real qualifications or certifications around websites. It’s all changing constantly so trying to keep on top of that and trying to make sure you’re going to a reputable someone who knows what they’re doing is a challenge for anyone.
Adam Zuchetti: Just to give some context, Tim Barnett is from 2BInteractive, and you’re a web development agency?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, we’re what you’d call a full-service digital agency, so it starts off with a website. You’ve got to build and design the website, but then it’s okay, so build it and they will come is not true. We do your whole raft of digital marketing activities in terms of trying to get people to that website, nudge them through your sales funnel and obviously what everyone wants to do is make sales or drive leads.
Andy Scott: That’s quite critical nowadays, isn’t it? That joined up thinking between the digital platforms and not just the shut window but the content behind it and how that’s distributed.
Tim Barnett: Yeah, it’s certainly evolved over the last probably decade. We went from five years ago from what you’d call a single channel approach, where the clients would be asking for an SEO service or a SEM or Google AdWords kind of service. Then it moved into a multi-channel approach, where people were combining some of those services in together to get a holistic package. These days it’s moved to another, what you’d call an omni-channel approach where it includes another dimension, which is looking at your customer experience journey and how all those channels fit into that, as well as looking at multiple platforms. We’ve got to consider what devices people are on, whether on your desktop or your laptop, or on a handheld device which is obviously very prevalent these days.
Adam Zuchetti: This brings us in. You actually wrote a couple of articles for us on MyBusiness.com.au, on the website, and one of them was under the headline How Much Should a New Website Cost? This is obviously a really big problem because no one can really pin down, “How much should I be budgeting for a new website?” Because it seems like if you Google it, you can be told thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then you’re also simultaneously being told you can build one for $99 or something yourself. So it’s really hard to put a value on a new website. When potential clients to come to you, how do you actually take them through the process of really trying to identify the right price point for their actual needs?
Tim Barnett: It is a challenging question and it’s a question that every business has because they all go out there. They’ll ask multiple suppliers and they’ll get a range. It can go to an oDesk or a Freelancer.com and someone will say, “Yeah, we’ll do your website for $100.” Then they’ll go to another agency and says, “$50,000 or we won’t get out of bed for you.” There’s such a wide range of prices out there; it is hard to differentiate.
Like you said, I wrote an article last year to try to cover off some of those points, and there are definitely some elements that can create a website which is going to be a low-cost or a high-cost thing. But in terms of developing your own website, I think you need to go into it with an understanding of what you want to get out of it. That’s knowing what your own strategy is. You need to know who your target audience is, where your people are coming from. Are people actually searching for your business, or do you actually need to go and find them? If they’re searching for your business, then you can use a tactic like SEO to get them to the website. Otherwise you might need to go out and find those guys.
Knowing your strategy is a key thing. The main thing I think is about the website development methodology. The process that a company would go through to develop your website, and that generally makes up the bulk of what would factor into the cost of a website.
Andy Scott: Is that something that me, if I’m a business owner, I can have quite a good impact on that? Knowing what my strategy is and what my web strategy would be, is that the key component you see that everything else starts running off in terms of a cost basis?
Tim Barnett: Not so much in terms of the cost, but I guess if you don’t know what you’re trying to get out of your website, then it makes our job harder. And it will cost more for you, for us, to come in there and help you understand. It’s almost we’re web developers, we’re not business coaches or business development coaches. But at the end of the day, we sometimes are involved at that level because your website is so key to your business that we need to sometimes go in there to go, who is your target audience? What is your messaging? What are you trying to say to those people out there? If we need to get involved in that, that’s where that website cost can get up because people go, “Oh, actually I didn’t realise that we were doing that. I didn’t realise that that’s the messaging we need to go out with. That’s the kind of functionality or the content we need to have on our website.” Once you open up those kinds of questions, that’s when that cost can build up.
Adam Zuchetti: So effectively you’re a consultant and you’re charging by time, so people are not necessarily wasting your time but using your time to help refine their own strategy on things because they haven’t done it themselves. That’s obviously where the cost comes in.
Tim Barnett: That’s one of the factors, but I guess a lot of companies or businesses out there don’t see the value in that. They go, “John over there’s got a website and it’s got an About Us page and a Services page and a Contact page. That’s all we need.” And then, “I can go out and get one for $500. Why don’t I go do that?” I guess that’s not where our business is focused on. If you want to do that, go and do that but I guess, like you said, as a consultant we do a bit of a consultancy to go in there and say, “Yeah, you can go and get a website for $1,000, but it’s not going to get any value out of it.” So what you need to do is really consider what your business is, what you’re trying to get to, and make sure your website’s going to deliver on that and help grow your business rather than just being a website which is sitting there and something you’re going to have to update every now and then.
Andy Scott: You mentioned the website development methodology earlier, and that’s obviously the process you go through as a professional who does this day in and day out. Those steps are probably applicable to anybody. From a professional’s perspective, what are the steps that you actually go through in that process? How does that methodology work to lead you towards a good end result for your clients?
Tim Barnett: I mentioned before that there’s no qualifications or anything like that around website development, but the proper website development methodology actually just comes about from all software development life cycle methodologies, which I learnt at uni back too many years ago, I would like to mention. It’s basically the same process. I left uni thinking I would never get anything out of that and I would never use anything that I learnt in a bachelor of IT. What I did get out of that was that theory of the process that you need to go through from understanding the requirements through to building a specification before you actually look at making something pretty through to building that and through to that delivery. That’s the same process that’s been developed decades ago by someone smarter than me, and a proper website development company should be adopting some kind of a similar methodology if they’re going to build up a proper website for you which is going to achieve your goals.
Andy Scott: That’s key, isn’t it? You refer to websites having an architecture, and it’s like deciding you’re going to build a house and ...
Tim Barnett: Framework, yeah.
Andy Scott: Yeah, your first step is going to be right, what colour are we going to do the spare bedroom? What colour are we going to do ... Do you find that’s a challenge with clients as well that come in and want to talk about all the bells and whistles and you’re like, “Let’s pull it back a bit first, guys?”
Tim Barnett: It’s not so much the bells and whistles but the pretty pictures. Years ago we used to get pictures for websites and clients wanted to see the creative and they would expect you to invest $10,000 and come up with some pretty pictures and you go, “Yeah, well we can do that but we’re going to have to throw that out the door because that’s actually not the kind of structure of your website that you’re going to end up with.” That process is you start off with that discovery or the business requirements process. Understanding what they need. Then you mentioned before about the framework or the architecture.
We consider the next phase, the specifications phase, is really that architecture phase and it’s like a blueprint for your house. We’re building a wireframe to show how the content’s going to be laid out on the page, how the navigation’s going to fit together, how your page is going to be structured. The different content weighting given to certain elements on the page. What messaging is more important than other messages? That is the key phase, that specifications phase, and that’s what you need to get right before you actually move into any other phase.
Andy Scott: Is a lot of that I suppose ultimately driven by the, as we said at the beginning, your strategy? If you haven’t got a clear sight as a business where you need to be with this, it makes that part harder for you?
Tim Barnett: At the end of the day, every business is different and if a company does have an understanding of that, that does help. But I think we need to go through that process anyway. We would always go through some kind of a discovery phase no matter how much a client does know about that, even if it’s just a reverse brief and briefing back to them what they’ve already told us so we understand their business. And I think that that’s key to what we do, is understanding someone’s business before we actually go and build a website for them. If we don’t understand what they’re trying to say, then we can’t possibly do our job.
Adam Zuchetti: In terms of the total spending on it, are there particular features or add-ons, plugins, that kind of thing which they think, “Oh, this is really good, really useful. We really like this.” But once the thing’s delivered, they’re like, “Actually, we’re not going need that,” or the site goes live and it turns out that that’s just not being used as it should be?
Tim Barnett: Quite often a company will see another company, one of their competitors with some bells and whistles or something, and they go, “That feature’s really cool. We want to have that on our website.” But they don’t know that their competitor has spent $50,000 on building that and it’s a waste of money. Again, that’s part of what we do is clients will come to us, and part of our job is to give some pushback to say, “No, you don’t want to be doing that here. You could do that but we highly recommend that you don’t do that.”
There’s pieces of functionality that might be expensive pieces, so a lot of people, changing the subject slightly, is apps. Mobile apps is the greatest phase being on the tips of everyone’s tongues these days. Getting an app for this, an app for that, and I’ve spoken with people who – they’ll spend $100,000 on an app, and they’ve got no business value out of it. Again, that’s part of our job to go, “Well, actually that might not be the right thing for you. Maybe down the track, but let’s start off with some earlier stuff before we get to that stage.”
Adam Zuchetti: Okay, so you’re involved in apps as well as straight websites?
Tim Barnett: It’s not one of our strong suits. We generally try to outsource that to another partner of ours. We mainly focus on the website builds, and obviously then the digital marketing side after that.
Adam Zuchetti: That was kind of the overcapitalising, but I suppose conversely, the things that people just don’t spend enough on, and that’s a challenge in its own right.
Tim Barnett: Again, that comes back to those first few phases, that discovery and that specifications. Making sure you got those right, which is people go, “No, we can skip all that. I know what I want on my website. Can you just make it look pretty?” Those first few phases which, if they miss out on that, they’re not basically getting the expertise of what we’re adding. Once we look at the business we can then go, “Okay, this is what we need to be adding to your website. It’s not your ‘About Us’ page. It’s not your ‘Services’ page. It’s those other pieces of content which are going to add value to your customers.” Then once we understand that, that then evolves into the whole website structure, and that’s what people miss out on. They just come up with their idea and what kind of content they want on their website and go, “Here you go. Can you build this for us?” That’s what you get if you want a $1,000 website. They have got no business strategy put into the thought of what’s going to be on that website.
Adam Zuchetti: The development time is a major cost. Can you give us an idea of an average business website? What kind of development hours are going into that to actually develop it from initial concept through to taking it live?
Tim Barnett: I only really talked about those first couple of phases at the moment. I’ll quickly give a recap of those other phases.
Adam Zuchetti: Yeah, no worries. Go for it.
Tim Barnett: That’ll help put it into more context. Once we’ve done the specifications, that’s when we get the pretty pictures. We’ve got the layout and everyone knows how the structure is, and then we can make it look pretty. There’s a bit of a cheering over here, so ...
Andy Scott: I love the pretty.
Tim Barnett: Everyone loves the pretty pictures.
Adam Zuchetti: Who doesn’t?
Tim Barnett: We like that as well. The other stuff’s a little bit boring but we got to go through that unfortunately, and obviously the graphic designers. That’s their pièce de résistance. They want to get that out there as well, and that’s the thing that everyone sees at the end of the day. So the visual design phase, making things pretty, and once the client’s happy with how things look, then we go into the build phase and that can really vary depending on what kind of advanced functionality. If it’s a straight brochureware kind of website, it might just be punching out a few pages. Other times it might have calculators. It might have advanced pieces of functionality. It might be hooking with backend systems, and they’re the kind of phases which can extend that life cycle as well. Then once we’ve done that, it’s obviously just some testing and deployment.
In terms of the hours spent on that, I guess the discovery and specifications would probably, let’s say, about a quarter generally of a project costs. A discovery phase would a half-day session. We might sit down with a client. Depending on the size of the client and the complexity of their target audience or their requirements, it might be a couple day session. But for a smaller client, it’d probably be a half-day session. Then we’d go through and do some research of their competitors, look at generally three or four of their competitor websites. At the end of the day, we want to produce a website which is better than your competitors. We want to make sure we’re doing what they’re doing, and we’re doing stuff better than they’re doing. And we’re adding functionality, adding extra value onto what your competitors are doing.
That’s the discovery phase. That might be probably about 15 hours of time, then the specifications. That’s mapping all that out. Again, that’s probably four or five days of someone – there’s a usability guy that goes in there and makes sure it’s usable. There’s an information architect which makes sure content categories are grouped together in the right aspects so a user’s not going to get confused about, “I’m on this page. Why am I reading that? I want to get over there.” You got to make sure that information flow is correct. So that’s probably four to five days of time of someone putting that together.
Then the visual design phase. I guess that’s one of those variable items in any website build. Some development agencies will go, “Here’s a homepage,” and that’s basically what your site’s going to look like, and then you’re paying for one visual of what your site’s going to look like which gives you the overarching look and feel and the colours and those kinds of things. Then basically you’re in the hands of the agency on how the rest of the site’s going to look like, whereas other agencies, and this is where a website can blow out to up to $50-, $100,000, when they’re going to do visual designs for every page of that website, so you know exactly what you’re going to get for every page on that website.
So if you’ve got a 40-page website, that’s 40 different visual designs. Then these days you’ve got to consider not only your desktop design, but what’s it’s going to look like on a mobile device when it’s all collapsed up. So that’s 80 different visual designs that an agency’s going to have to do and a designer’s going to probably spend potentially a day doing a visual design. A few days doing the initial one, but then maybe a half-a-day to eight hours on each of those subsequent designs. So if you look at that and look at the math around that, let’s say we average five hours of design, 80 pages. That’s 400 hours. That’s a lot of time, and that’s how those costs really add up.
I guess from our perspective, we come midway on that. We will generally do homepage design and we’ll look at the kind of content that you got and work out, okay, these are similar kinds of pages so we’ll do a couple templates. An e-commerce might have eight templates whereas a standard kind of content website might have three or four templates. That allows us to keep the costs down, so that works better for small and medium businesses.
Andy Scott: If I’ve gone through those phases with you, I’ve given you. You built it. You tested it. You worked it. You’ve given it back to me. I’m happy with all the colours. It looks great. What’s the ... I mean a website is a living, breathing thing. Me, as a business owner, what do I need to do with it then to ensure this, “Great, I paid all this money to all these agencies to do all this stuff for me, and six months later it’s not doing anything for me. They promised me this and it hasn’t delivered.” How does that happen and what do business owners I support need to do to be on top of stopping that happening?
Tim Barnett: I guess at the moment I’ve really just talked about a website build in its main form, but outside of that, part of that discovery phase is not just understanding what you want on the website but how that’s going to interact going into the future and how you’re going to attract people to that website. Part of that specifications phase or part of the discovery phase is asking those questions around, who is your target audience? What are their needs? What are their messaging? Are they out there looking? Those kinds of things, and then move into that specifications.
There’ll be a couple of other specifications besides that wireframe, that blueprint of that website. There might be an SEO specification as well. What kind of keywords are people looking for when they’re searching for your business? We’ve got to make sure when we build our website that it’s what we call SEO-friendly, so we’re going to get a website out there which is going to have the best chance of ranking for those keywords which your target audience is searching for.
Adam Zuchetti: I think this is something that we could actually get you back in the future to discuss, because SEO and the usability of a site, the functionality of it – there’s so much to say around that as well.
Tim Barnett: Absolutely. SEO is constantly evolving. Google’s constantly changing their algorithms to make sure that SEO companies like us don’t try to trick them. It keeps us in business which is great, but it’s a challenge for companies to try to counteract that. But at the end of the day, there always has been the truth which is proper content on your website. So when we build a website, we got to make sure that we factor those aspects into that. But SEO needs to be a factor when we’re building your website, and then the ongoing once you’ve launched that website to make sure yeah, we’ve got our SEO friendly website. But then how do we get people to that? How do we build the authority of that website so Google sees that website and says, “Yeah, I want to send people to that website?”
Adam Zuchetti: You were talking about a site that has 40 odd pages. That seems really excessive. Is there an ideal number of pages that you should have on an average website?
Tim Barnett: Not really. I guess these days your basic website is very thin compared to what it used to be. People on their mobile devices don’t want to be clicking through multiple pages trying to get what they want. It used to be an adage in the design or the website build process that you don’t want anything below the fold. You want to have something so you can see everything on the screen, and everything below the fold no one’s going to look at. But these days designing for mobile devices, people are going to be scrolling up and down so you want to get as much on one page as possible. You almost want to tell that whole story, especially on your homepage. You want to introduce someone to who your business is. You want to talk about some testimonials. You want to talk about your services. Then you want to have that contact down the page, so all on that one homepage you could potentially have everything that you need to on one page and at the end of the day, you come and look at the 2BInteractive website. We just got that one page.
But where you build out the sites these days is content. That’s what Google loves and that’s where you want to be growing all the time, so I guess the MyBusiness.com.au website is exactly that. It’s a site full of content, and that’s what companies need to be thinking about. They can’t just build their website with who they are, what their services are, a bit about them and about what they’ve done. They need to be seen as thought leaders in the industry. They need to be producing content which is relevant to their readership, so that’s attracting people. That’s attracting the search engines to come to their website as well.
In terms of the number of pages on a website, potentially you only want three or four, depending on what kind of services or content you might have. For a bigger organisation, you might have 20. But then that real depth of content and the number of pages is about that ongoing content development, about writing blogs, about putting news out there, thought leadership pieces, all that kind of content. That’s where that site can expand. I can’t think of the statistic off the top of my head but it’s something in the realms of websites with more than 1,000 pages get a exponentially number of SEO traffic compared to sites with less than that, so the more content you have, the better.
Adam Zuchetti: We’re running out of time, Tim, but I wanted to finish off by coming back to something that you said at the very beginning. It was about qualifications, and you were saying that web developers don’t need formal qualifications, so any business owner that’s looking to get a developer, how do they actually find one that’s going to be reputable and good for them?
Tim Barnett: That’s a really good question. There are no qualifications. In terms of content management systems, we haven’t really talked about content management systems at this stage. Maybe that’s a topic for another day.
Adam Zuchetti: Yeah, definitely.
Tim Barnett: Content management systems, you can get something like an open source program like a Joomla or a WordPress, and there are no qualifications around that. We don’t go down that avenue. We go down the avenue of a proprietary one like Kentico, whereas to become a qualified Kentico developer you need to pass exams. So if you’re going to a company which is using a proprietary content management system, then you’re assured that you’re going to be getting people developing that who actually know what they’re doing.
That’s in terms of the actual coding of it. In terms of the rest of it, there are no qualifications but I guess it really comes down to proof in the pudding, seeing what those agencies have done in the past. Not just looking at the testimonials on their website, but ask those agencies for references and speak to some of their customers and find out their experiences.
Adam Zuchetti: Where can people go to find out more information about you, Tim?
Tim Barnett: Well, I’m all over the place. You read my articles on MyBusiness.com.au.
Adam Zuchetti: Of course, yes.
Tim Barnett: Be producing more of those, I’m sure. You can go to my website, 2BInteractive.com.au. Not much about me there, but you can also check me out on LinkedIn. Search me. I’ll come up there.
Adam Zuchetti: Brilliant. Andy, anything to add?
Andy Scott: It’s a great article as well. As you pointed out, Tim, it is on MyBusiness.com.au, How Much Does a Website Cost? There is so much more we could’ve unpacked in this session. We could’ve kept talking for hours but Tim, great to have you in today.
Adam Zuchetti: Tim, are you happy to come back again and talk to us in a couple months?
Tim Barnett: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, anytime.