The Economics of Website Projects

Understand the money-side of a new website. How costs are determined and how budget gets out of control.

How Much Should I Pay for My Website?

Unfortunately, there is no standard answer. Cybervise works mainly with businesses that have live websites. We hear the horror stories and disappointment post website investment. The amount you spend on a website does not determine success. I have clients that spent $60,000 on their website and ended up very unhappy. But I also have clients that spent $1000 on their website and feel like they wasted their money.

If you have a specific developer or designer you want to work with, whatever they quote you is what you will spend. I would be suspicious of websites that cost less than $1000 in 2020. I know how much time and attention we put into our projects. It would be difficult to produce a quality website for that price . If you are only paying $1000, expect a lot of your new site to be templates or non-custom.

Review the proposals you receive from potential developers. Pay close attention to the deliverables or what you get at the end of the project. Make sure you are comparing the same amount of work. Get several proposals and get them in writing.

Items to Include in your next Website Project.

These items are now basics in a new website design. They are now best practices and should be part of your project.

  • Mobile Compatibility – All websites need this. Google requires it. This is a best practice and an automatic feature of every website project.
  • Content Management System – Or the ability to maintain your own website. There are so many low cost options to go with. For example WordPress or Drupal. I can’t imagine building a site without a CMS at this point.
  • Forms or Calls-To-Action – Online forms now easy to build. Your project should include at least one.
  • Maintain SEO – All developers should have a plan to maintain current search rankings. Transition to a new site can cause search disruption. Confirm a plan is in place.

What makes a website cost more?

Here are a list of items that need more time to add to a website. More development time usually equals more cost.

  • Short Time-Frame – The faster you need it, the more people will need to work on your site to make the deadline. More people equals more money.
  • Heavy on the Graphics– Custom graphics or a custom design is great. Your business may need it if your brand is well defined. Be aware that the more items built from scratch, the more the cost.
  • E-commerce- It is not costly to add online shopping to a site. The number of products, the number of options on each product and the number of images increase costs.
  • Integration to 3rd Party Tools – Typical tools would be bookkeeping or a CRM. The tools you use have options to integrate with your website. It still may add time to your project, but not a lot. But if the tools you need are not standard, this will add cost to your project.
  • Mobile Apps – Mobile compatibility should be standard. Creating a phone app is not. This will cost extra. Usually a separate project.
  • Interactivity– Usually doing a quick capture of contact information is not a big deal. But what if you need things like a membership portal or a price estimator? These items can add more development time also.

Website Owners and Scope Creep

Wikipedia defines Scope Creep as:

Uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.

My first opportunity to manage a project was right out of college. Back then we were building software, not websites. Scope Creep was something I learned about right away. As the manager of a project, my main job was to get it done, within the deadline and within budget. To make sure this happened we had to fight scope creep everyday. But where does Scope Creep usually come from? The folks paying for the website.

How does Scope Creep occur?

Scope Creep occurs because the objectives of your project are not clear. Define what the goals for your project and still to them. If other goals emerge, keep track of them and add them to the followup project. Websites change. This will not be the last time you do a website project.

Before you send another to-do list to your developer, review the changes. Do you need this change? Can the website go live without it? Can you do business without it? Is it mission-critical or nice to have? Focus on what is critical for your project, but keep you list of “nice-to-have” items. If you organize your resources, you may have time to get everything done before the end of the project. Your primary goal is to get this project done first and then you can continue to improve what you have.

How can you prevent Scope Creep?

  • Don’t be in such a hurry to get started. The scope of a project includes the schedule and the work promised. These items are defined during the proposal process or an early discovery stage. If you are in a hurry to get started or wait to long to get started, you tend to shorten this part of the process. The more needs you define in the beginning, the more accurate your schedule and budget will be. Not to mention you will end up with exactly what you want.
  • Organize your Team. Pick one person on your team to communicate to your web developers. You will waste a lot of time and money if you have many people sending changes. Especially if you have team members that don’t agree on the changes. You could end up paying your developer to make a change and then restoring it back to the way it was. You paid twice and you are no further along on your project.
  • Regular Check-in Meetings. Take advantage of opportunities to communicate with your web developer. Schedule a regular check-in meeting. This gives the developer a hard deadline to get things done and gives you a scheduled review point. Calling your developer everyday to check on things or with new ideas is a waste of time. What happens is the business owner will call in the spur of the moment with an idea and then change their mind later on. Again, you paid twice and your project has not moved further.
  • Make time to Test Yourself. Before your site is live to the public is the best time to find problems and fix them. Recently, we were launching a new website for a client. We pushed our team to finish way ahead of schedule so the client would have ample time to test and review the site. We did this on purpose. The client complained that during their last website rebuild, the previous developer didn’t allow testing time. We informed the client then new site was ready for testing. We were told that the client’s staff was too busy. They felt it’s probably fine. They were not going to worry about it. 90 days after the site went live, the client is now finding things they would like to change. Enough time has gone by that we needed to start a new project. They didn’t need to pay for a separate project. They needed to stop and take the time to test/review their own website.

Will I Get My Website Money Back?

A common concern or fear by business owners when starting a website project:

“If we do spend the money to get a new website, will I get my website money back, guaranteed?”

Recently I met with a prospective client to discuss re-designing their website. The current website was not working. We discussed whether it was time to do something new or stick with what they had? They asked about a return on their website investment.

There was no way I could give my prospect a firm guarantee, but here was my answer to her question.

Common issues that Prevent Website ROI

Issues with our prospect’s website are common issues we see during website reviews. If any of these sound familiar, it would justify a website project.

  • Users were complaining about the website. Our prospect had received many comments that the site was hard to use. Even the phone number was hard to find. Keep track of the specific complaints. Users give up fast on a website that is hard to use. There is no telling how much business has been lost or could be gained because of this issue.
  • They were non-existent in search engine results. Their current site framework was not good for SEO. Part of our discussion involved converting the site to a search-friendly platform. They would go from no search traffic to attracting searchers. This would be an easy way to get ROI from a website project.
  • The site was not getting updated. The current site could only be updated by the developers. The prospect was told the queue for updates was usually six weeks. The current design left few spaces to post updates. They were having trouble figuring out where to put things. They have plenty of content, but no where to go with it. Instead of posting to the website, they were relying on email blasts to get new information out. Websites updated regularly attract users and search engines. When the website is hard to update, it doesn’t happen. Fixing this helps your business use the website better and get that ROI.

Next time someone approaches you, wanting to re-do your website, ask them our question, “Will I Get My Website Money Back?”. See if the developer is able to give you a rational answer and don’t let them get by with a bunch of marketing-speak. Make sure you understand their answer. If it sounds like a great business strategy, then it’s time for a new website.

Summary: There is no one answer to how much a website costs. Build the site you can afford. Build a better site when you can afford a better site. Don’t spend website budget you don’t have to fix a struggling business. There is no guarantee you can make your website budget. But a good website pays for itself.

To learn more about the economics of website ownership, check out our webinar archive: “Planning a Better Website