I have been developing websites for over 20 years, and I’ve helped companies after having their website built by another web development company. There were many projects where the cost could have been lower if certain things were done before and during the development process. There is one company, in particular, that is like the “poster child” of spending more on a web development project than you should. This company spent over $500,000 on a website that did not work after it was delivered. I was tasked with making it work, which I did, which cost the company additional money. The horrible thing about that project was that the original budget for their website was $60,000 with a six-month timeline. It took 4 years and over $500,000 to create the dysfunctional website.
In any case, there are certain things that you should be aware of that may increase the cost and timeline for a website project. I am going to present some of the things that could cause your website project to cost more than it should.
Establish what you want from the website. What do you want it to do and generally look like? 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.
Choose The “Best” Platform
Here is something that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it could be devastating. I’ve seen this happen with a small company that allowed an inexperienced staff member to make decisions about the website project. In doing so, the cost of the website project was enormous and the maintenance costs were much higher than they needed to be. As a matter of fact, the development cost was significantly increased because of the decision made from lack of knowledge mixed with inexperience.
The problem was that a website platform (e.g., PHP or Microsoft using Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, .NET, custom, etc.) was arbitrarily chosen without any analysis, consultation, or discussion. This was exacerbated by the fact that the platform chosen was different than the one that was already being used by their multiple websites. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. Instead of arbitrarily choosing a platform to send the request for proposals to multiple development companies using different platforms. Don’t send all of your RFPs to companies that develop with a certain platform. For example, the company that I referred to earlier send all of their RFPs to Drupal shops because the project leader decided to use Drupal for no reason at all. The project leader also was unfamiliar with website development and IT in general. I couldn’t believe it.
The platform chosen may be a viable solution, but it may not be the most appropriate. The cost of the development project and the cost of maintenance will be directly affected by the platform chosen. Therefore, it is best to do all that you can to ensure that the selected platform is the best solution for the website. Don’t think for one moment that the nephew, cousin, son, daughter, or friend that you hire who has taken a course or the like in technology, is qualified to make a decision as to the platform to be used for the website. If the person is proficient at a platform and related technologies than great. However, that should have been factored into the decision anyway.
The takeaway here is that you allow the desired website to reveal the most appropriate and cost-effective platform to use for your website. Consider in-house skills, cost of ownership after development, and trends in websites to guide you to the best choice.
Don’t Overdo 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 and the corresponding cost and time. 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. At the very least, realize that extensive media tasks will increase the cost of the website project if the web developer has to do the work.
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 Specific and Clear
Be clear and specific as you relay information to your web developer. For example, to tell a developer that you want him or her to make a page look prettier may be ambiguous. What does “prettier” mean? It may mean two separate things to you and the developer respectively. So instead of using a potentially ambiguous term like, “prettier,” be specific as to what you’d like. Provide URLs to other websites that illustrate what you mean by “prettier” (or whatever word you use) and explain why it is so. This will help the developer understand your taste and preferences.
Being unclear may cause a back and forth correspondence until the developer finally understands what you want. The developer will incorporate what he or she thinks you mean, and then you’ll comment, he or she will rework it, and so forth. All of that can be minimized if you are very specific at the beginning. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Therefore, provide URLs to websites that illustrate your preferences in layout, color, design, etc. That goes a long way for a developer in understanding what you want.
Minimize Revisions During Development
Decide what you want and stick with it and realize that changing your mind will affect the cost and timeline of the project. When you start changing your mind and modifying your requirements during the development of the site, then you will spend more money because the developer has to undo the work that was previously done so that they can redo it to your new specifications. You may think that a change is minor, but that may be far from the truth depending on dependencies within the site’s structure. Therefore, changing one component may affect others as well.
We do realize that once you start seeing the website come into fruition, that you may get ideas and want those new ideas incorporated in the website. Think what would happen if you approached a remodeling contractor that way. You would incur change order fees because of the additional work that has to be done. The same is true for building a website. Changes, beyond what is accounted for in the quote, will affect the cost and timeline of the site. The more consistent you remain throughout the design project, the more on track the project will be.
Use Only Qualified Staff To Make Decisions
One practice that may surely increase the cost of a website project is to allow someone who is inexperienced in website development and related technologies run the project. An inexperienced person may make decisions and operate in a manner that may cause the project to take longer and cost more than it could if someone experienced managed the project. I’ve seen situations where someone who was inexperienced ran multiple website projects in oblivion so to speak. They cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of development time because they simply didn’t know what they were doing.
Therefore, if there are people in your organization that has built websites or at least is very familiar with the web development process and related technologies, then allow them to provide input before and during the project. They can help explain how things work, what the resulting cost may be for decisions made during the project, and more. Do not use an unqualified person to manage your website project.
If you have no one in your organization that is qualified, then either use a third-party consulting firm or the project management services available from the website development company that you hire to build your site. You must have a qualified person manage the project, or you will pay for it.
You will spend more money on a website project if it is being managed by someone who isn’t familiar with the web development process, websites and the corresponding technologies. They will make decisions that may increase the cost of the project because of their lack of knowledge. I’ve seen this ruin website projects in the past.
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.
Consider Ongoing Maintenance
The cost of the web development project is not the total cost of owning a website, just like purchasing a home is not the total cost for owning that home. . A website, like a home, requires hosting and maintenance. The maintenance cost includes the cost of hosting the website and webmaster services. The site has to have a place to live on the internet, something like rent. That is the hosting cost. The website will require updates to the components used and to the content. Someone has to provide this service regularly. If there is someone in your organization that can do it, then great. If not, then you will need to hire a webmaster to provide maintenance services for the website in addition to the hosting costs. These costs are typically monthly costs and may range anywhere from $50 and up, depending on the requirements of the website.
How can you keep these costs down? The more complex your requirements, then the more complex the solution may be. This may require custom code or extra components used by the site. If you don’t have to have that particular feature, then opt for a solution that gives you ultimately what you need so that the maintenance is simplified and less expensive.
I am amazed at how much money some companies spend on website projects. Of course, the larger the project, the larger the cost. However, sometimes, perhaps many times, the website project could cost less if certain guidelines were followed as described above. A simple website can become an expensive one if the web developer has to do a lot of work due to the client changing their minds about things, adding things to the project, taking a long time to respond, having an inexperienced person in website development run the project, and more. So keep your website development costs down by not increasing the cost of the project during the development. You may be surprised at how often a website costs more than necessary because of not following these guidelines.
Reggie’s PC Resources takes the approach of educating our clients about the web development process. We don’t want you to pay more than necessary to get a high quality and functional website created for you or your organization. Contact us if you would like a website created for your organization.