In this article I’d like to share a few basic tips and information from my over 20 years of website development experience, that will help you to work with a developer, such as Reggie’s PC Resources, to develop a functional, aesthetic, and responsive website for your organization.

Know What You Want First–Building a website is much like building a house. A design is selected, cabinets, colors, carpet, etc.  A blueprint is created and list of materials.  The home builder begins constructing the home per the customer’s selections.  In a website, the client makes their selections and a statement of work is created describing the work that will be done and to create the website.

Spending less for a website project can be as simple as sticking to the original plan.  This means that the original plan should be contemplated very well and that you decide beforehand the ultimate purpose of the website (gain more customers, build a list, etc.), what style the website should have with regards to its design and layout, colors, and functionality.  The more these are well defined beforehand, the quicker and smoother the project will go without incurring additional fees due to changes to the original agreed upon design.

I’ve seen a non-profit waste over $500,000 for a website because they developed the website during development and constantly changed things during the development process. This resulted in the project being ten times over-budget and taking six times longer to complete. What made matters worse was that the resulting website was full of errors. I was called in to fix it, which incurred more fees for the defunct project.

Know what you want from your website before the house is built, so to speak.  Determine the colors, content, general layout, etc.  The website should be created conceptually before it is put together by developers.  This alone will help keep the website development cost from creeping upwards.

MEDIA—Having images and video created and/or manipulated for your website increases the cost significantly depending on the number of media items.  For example, creating a background video for a page requires video editing.  The video can’t be created as if it was going to be played like a normal YouTube video.  There are best practices for the size of the video, resolution, overlay, etc.  These factors are part of creating a simple video just for one page and there is a cost for doing that.  If the client changes his mind several times resulting in the video having to be redone, and redone, and redone again, then the cost of the entire web project will be increased.

Limit the number of multimedia items in accordance with your budget.  Perhaps you’ll use a background image instead of a background video.  The more work the website requires, the more it will cost to develop it.

RESPOND QUICKLY—Another issue that I’ve encountered when developing a website is that sometimes the client takes a long time to respond to requests or questions and expects the same timeline.  If the developer queries you about something then be sure to respond with an answer quickly.  A prolonged time to response can result in delays in the development process.  For example, if the developer sends you a question via email and it takes you 2 weeks to answer the question and this happens frequently during development, then it would be unreasonable to expect the completion date to remain the same.  Therefore, respond quickly to help keep things on track.

BE CLEAR—Be sensitive to the words you use when communicating with the website developer especially via email.  For example, to tell a developer that you want him or her to make a page look prettier may mean very little.  What does “prettier” mean?  The developer may want to know what you mean by “prettier.”  After all, what I might think is pretty may not be what you think is pretty. Therefore, be specific and descriptive when communicating your desires for a webpage or the website to the developer.

BE CONSISTENT—Decide what you want and stick with it.  When you start changing your mind and modifying your requirements during the design, then you will spend more money because the developer has to undo the work that was done so that they can redo it to your new specifications.  Since components of a website are connected, it could be that this change may affect other parts of the website, which will require even more work from the developer resulting in an increase in the overall cost of the project.

So, don’t start changing your mind about your requirements and desires during development.  I do understand that sometimes things change, and those changes may occur in the middle of a website development project, which will necessitate a change in the design.  However, the point here is to not change your mind about preferences, the way things work, the flow of pages, design, etc. just because you have changed your mind about something.  Do all that work before the development begins and your developers will be able to go straight through the design costing you no more than the original quoted price.

USE INTERNAL RESOURCES—Use the skillset of the people in your organization to help defray some of the cost. This could be done by those individuals perhaps doing some of the work or by being intimately involved with the planning of the project.  A website developer will not necessarily present the most cost-effective solution.  Therefore, the more you know about various technologies beforehand, the better.

There may be power users in your organization that can help determine the best technology or approach to use.  They may also be able to counsel the stakeholders on the financial or operations impact a certain design approach could have.  Use these individuals to the best of their abilities. This alone could help defray development and post-development maintenance costs.

BE PREPARED—One thing that causes a web development cost to escalate is not being prepared.  I have seen companies that go to a web developer with the mindset that the web development company is going to help the company create their requirements and lead them in the right direction.  A web development company is in business to make money.  Though the company may have integrity, they are still in business to make money and the client is how they will make that money.  Therefore, it would not be to their advantage to start with the cheapest solution.  Instead, they may offer the deluxe package giving you bells and whistles that you may not need.

Discuss the website project internally before contacting a developer.  Decide what you want and what functions are required.  Determine how the site should look such as colors, layouts, types of images, etc.  You might even consider creating a style document to establish styling parameters for the site such as specific color code, layout, etc.

I like to use the analogy of building a house.  You would typically decide before going to a home developer how many rooms you want, the type of kitchen, type of backyard, the elevation style you prefer, etc.  You wouldn’t make those decisions while your home is being built.  The same holds true for a web project. Yes things may change during development, but it is far more cost effective to keep those to an absolute minimum by only making changes if true changes in the industry or policies have changed.