Over the past few years, I’ve been repeatedly asked the above question. As you might expect, there is no simple answer. Numerous factors and multiple steps in planning and building a website prohibit one-off pricing. In order to ensure money is being spent efficiently, marketers and business managers need to know a few key things when scoping their next website (re)design.
Part 1 of this two-part article is focused on developing a website strategy and options for getting it executed. Read Part 2 here.
Decide who will build your new website
The upfront and long-term costs of your website will largely be tied to who you choose to build it. I’ve outlined three options each with pros and cons. Determine which option best matches your business needs and compare offers if outsourcing.
Option 1: Hire a Freelancer
- Lower cost: The upfront cost and hourly rate of freelancers can be expected to be lower than those of an agency. Hourly rates vary across Europe from CHF 20/hr to CHF 100/hr or more.
- Choice: There is no shortage of technical specialists (including designers, developers, and multi-skill hybrids), which can be found through resources such as Elance or Guru.
- Limited skills: As a successful website project usually requires multiple resources with different skill sets, it’s likely you’ll need a team of freelancers, which can be a daunting task to find and manage.
- No project manager: Don’t forget the importance of good project management. Hiring a freelancer often means that you become the project manager. Do you have the necessary time and experience?
- Reliability/Capacity: Freelancers are often very project focused moving from one project to the next. When a more interesting project arrives, you risk moving down in priorities. You’ll end up risking the delivery deadline, which could end up costing your business a lot of money in opportunity costs.
The bottom line for your budget: You pay less upfront, but what are the hidden costs in the long run? Be wary of risking a delay in the delivery date, poor execution, and lack of coordination that can cost you time and money. In short, we do not recommend this route – been there, done that.
Option 2: Partner with an Agency
- Long-term business approach: While not all agencies have a business perspective, there are a few who take a business perspective and are capable of making your business and marketing needs central to your site. As an agency ourselves, we look at the relationships with our clients as an ongoing partnership rather than a one-time project. We need our clients to be successful in order to be successful ourselves.
- Skills: Agencies are more likely to have all the skills needed to create an effective website, such as user-experience design (UX), user-interface design (UI), coding, copywriting, photography, etc. Agencies also are more likely to stay up-to-date with the latest web design trends and technologies, which are ever-evolving.
- Support: A website is never done, but is a constant process of building, measuring, changing and improving. A good agency will be able to provide your company with support to maintain, update, and market your website.
- Project management: An agency will typically assign an account manager who will act as your single point of contact. Their job is to ensure your business needs are communicated to the different team members including design and programming. They’ll make sure project requirements, deadlines and budget requirements are met, and keep you informed during the process
- Bigger upfront investment: An agency will cost more than a group of freelancers. Ultimately, the question is, what is the value the website brings to your business? Is it simple an electronic brochure and not that important, or does it need to do much more than that and perform?
- Technology bias: This also applies to freelancers, but make sure you clearly understand what technologies the agency uses (i.e. content management system). Some agencies will use a proprietary system, even though it might seem to be “free” (such as the CMS Typo3, widely used in Switzerland). Make sure you assess the risk of being fixed to one technology in case you want to change service providers in the future.
The bottom line for your budget: You pay more upfront, but if you choose the right agency partner, they can help align your business objectives with your website and deliver a service that will bring your business a solid ROI.
Option 3. Build it Internally
- No outsourced cost: While this may seem like an obvious benefit, it should be taken with a grain of salt considering there is a usually a considerable cost for your internal staff.
- Not your core strength: You know your company, its core principles, offerings and skills, but unless building websites is one of those, it is probably better to leave the work to an agency. Leave the work to the specialists so you can focus on delivering on your business and marketing goals.
The bottom line for your budget: You have no outsourced costs, but run the risk of losing focus on your main service offering and skills. If you have team members who have specific skills, why not involve them with an agency to help work on areas to improve the website (such as content)?
Align website with business goals
The real success of your website should be determined by whether it meets your business goals. Before budgeting for your new website or a redesign, review your business and marketing goals and make sure they are aligned and well reflected in the website. If you don’t have those, it is better to go back to square one! Taking this approach before the website budgeting phase will help you make the best decisions for your business. When developing a list of features, functionality and requirements constantly ask “how does this help meet the needs of my business”, instead of focusing on the latest trendy features or the most popular technology platform.
A few questions to think about:
- What are the primary goals of your website, e.g. sell more products or services, increase the visibility of your brand, build more qualified leads?
- What actions do you want your users to take on your website, e.g. search for information, download an ebook, purchase a product/service, keep coming back to get deeper and deeper information until they are ready to buy?
- What are the core values and messages you want to convey?
Plan for a customer-centric website
After you’ve asked yourself all the tough business questions, it’s time to focus on your buyer personas (also referred to as ‘customer personas’, ‘marketing personas’ or target groups – though the latter is not the same).
In short, buyer personas are distinct groups of individuals with various goals, needs, challenges, and demographics. When creating your website budget, always think about how the features, content and design fit with the needs and wants of your customer personas, their ‘pain points’. Doing so will help you make smart decisions about your budget.
For instance, if you are the marketing manager for an international school and are looking for new prospective students, you might target a few different buyer personas and influencers: future parents, future students, alumni, relocation agencies, and multinational companies.
Each of these groups has different interests and needs. By addressing the needs of each distinct persona, you will contribute to creating a clearer and more personalised experience and contribute to a much more successful website. You’ll also ensure that you’re spending your precious marketing budget on the most important aspects of your website that your personas need and want.
Read more: “A Closer Look at Customer Personas”
For a look at design choices, features and technologies, read the second half of this extended blog article to follow on Thursday, December 12.
Clinton Hailey – with 10 years of international experience in online marketing and strategy development, Clinton’s main role at Versio2 is to help transnational companies better connect with their customers and grow their markets. After graduating from University of Colorado, Clinton went on to co-found the first Versio2 in Tallinn, Estonia. Clinton sees Versio2 as a catalyst for change in the way businesses market their products and services worldwide.