How much should a website cost?

This question is akin to asking, “How much will my home remodeling cost?” The answer is: It depends. It depends on the architectural plan, size of the house, materials used to build it, any custom work, like a jacuzzi, etc.

Website is a marketing tool

Let’s start at the beginning. A website is first and foremost a marketing tool. So the first step naturally is to determine your online marketing strategy. Your web consultant should take time to understand your business, its goals, target market, value proposition, etc. so these can be effectively addressed in the website design. Understanding the business and its goals fully is important to not only ensure that the website is built to the needs of the business, but also that there are no surprises down the road that would incur additional costs.

Content is king

If content is king on the web, then a well organized content is the emperor!

The content on the website should be easily navigable, useful and easy to maintain. Depending on the size of the project, the following phases would follow: user profiles, use cases, information architecture, wire frames, sitemap, etc. The purpose of these is to ensure that the content is clearly organized, easy to find, and relevant to the end user. More content generally means more cost.

Copywriting is the least valued in the development of a website even though it is one of the most important aspects of a website. A well written copy is vital to conveying the benefits of working with the business. Conversely, a website with sloppy text that has grammatical errors or spelling mistakes loses credibility and lacks authority. Use your web redesign agency to edit (or write) your copy even if you consider yourself to be a good writer.

Visual aids

Pictures on the website speak without words. You can either use images of your work and team members or buy appropriate stock photos to help convey your message. These images will need to be processed before they are used on the website. This essentially means: more images, more cost.

Videos are increasing becoming popular way to show off a business. Use of drone footage in businesses such as real estate and big warehouses is becoming popular. These, of course, add to the cost.

Next, list and describe all the features you would like on the website. These are features such as social media integration, ecommerce, SEO, calendar, forms, slideshows, blog, etc. Again, the more the features that you want on the website, the higher the cost of its development.

Design

Finally, let’s talk about the design itself. There are 2 routes you can take: the cookie-cutter (template) route or a custom website design route.

Templated websites are cost effective and perfect for a tight budget. What you gain in dollars though, you lose in flexibility. You will have to massage your content to fit into the template. The template would be personalized with your marketing messages and images that can give your website a custom look without the higher price.

A custom design route is best if you want to integrate with other platforms, need your website in multiple languages, or other features that add complexity to the development of the website. If cost is a concern, let your web consultant know. They can steer the project to stay within your cost parameters.

So, what should a website cost? If this question is foremost in your mind when you are thinking about building a new website, that means cost is an overriding issue for you. Go with a templated website. We have templates that start as low as $45/month with no upfront cost.

If you are serious about building a website that serves your business goals while delivering a great user experience, then we’d be happy to discuss how to bring your vision to life.

Questions? Call us at (650) 539-4212 and we’d be glad to talk to you about your project.

Website maintenance: What is it, and why should my business care?

There is a misconception among many business owners that once they have built their website, it will run smoothly – forever! Unfortunately, that is not so.

Let’s face it: maintenance is not sexy work! Even when we know we have to maintain our websites we put it off because, heck, the website is still running, isn’t it?

As with a car or a house, a website needs regular maintenance to stay functional and relevant. Here are 3 important reasons why you need regular maintenance:

  • The web environment is a complex and constantly changing ecosystem, since new versions of its many browsers, platforms, and mobile devices are constantly being released.
  • Letting your software get out-of-date is a security risk, because a website that has not been maintained can succumb to hacker attacks. its content can get outdated, and user experience will suffer.
  • Outdated content will adversely affect user experience, SEO, and the business’ brand.

Here are a few areas that you should monitor and maintain for your website to function optimally.

Website content

Content is THE most important aspect of a website, since this is what visitors come there for.

Here are a few content areas that should be monitored:

  1. Products: If you have new products, then your website should be hawking those. What’s the point of new products if you can’t sell them?
  2. Features: Monitor old features and add new ones.
  3. Company news: Use your website to announce a new office, a new team member, an upcoming seminar, or any other company related news.
  4. Contact changes: Having old and outdated information on your website degrades user experience and will adversely affect your online presence. If you have moved or your phone number has changed, your website’s content should be edited to reflect these changes.

Software

If the software that your website is running on is outdated, chances are that your website isn’t running at its peak. New versions of software are released to fix security patches, make it faster, and for a variety of other reasons. Keeping your software updated is paramount to running your website smoothly.

WordPress, our preferred Content Management System (CMS), releases a major version about 3 times a year. Many patches and fixes are released many times during the year. Your web design agency should be able to advise you on which releases to implement right away.

Backup

Every site should be backed up regularly in case something happens and the site needs to be rebuilt or reinstated. There are two types of elements that comprise your website:

  • Code (Javascript/PHP code, HTML, CSS, themes, plugins, other files)
  • Code should be backed up anytime you change or update your code, as well as any time your Content Management System (CMS) releases a new update. For example, if you use WordPress (our preferred CMS), whenever they release their new versions would be the perfect time to backup your code.

  • Content (Text, images, videos, audios, etc.)
  • The frequency of content backup depends on how often your content changes and by how much. Determine the kind of loss that you can live with, since that will influence how often your website should be backed up. At the minimum, you should backup everything once a quarter.

Link checks

It is important to ensure that links within the websites and the ones that go out of the website are working well. Bad links are a drain on your SEO karma. The links that go out of the website should be especially tested at least every quarter to make sure that these are still up and running. Your website should have a 404 page to catch any links that aren’t working within the website.

Domain name registration

The best time to verify all your information with the domain name registration company is during renewal. Check out the contact email for your domain name because this is where renewal notices are sent. Update this to reflect the email that you’d like to receive such notices, and confirm that the address is correct. Keeping these up to date is important for you to receive notifications on your domain name.

Anything not maintained will degrade slowly in its effectiveness and websites are no different. With regular maintenance of your website, you can optimize your website’s performance, make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, and extend its life.

Call us at (650) 539-4212 to learn about our monthly maintenance plan(s).

10 tips for a successful web design project

It is exciting to embark on a website redesign project, but jumping into the project without any planning can lead to confusion, frustration and cause the project to go off-track. Such delays would not only be expensive in terms of money, but deadlines could slip.

Planning and preparing for your project will give your project a high chance of successful completion.

The following are 10 important points to keep in mind:

1. Know the 3 Ws for your website: Why, Whom, When

Many businesses begin their website project without knowing why they want it. Knowing the purpose of your website will make the design process easy and increase the chances of you being satisfied with the end result. It will also help you evaluate if the project is successful.

It is important to keep in mind your primary target when building the website. Knowing your primary audience enables the designers to build a website that is appropriate for that audience. If you own a farm, then the website should not look like a corporate website!

Timing is another important aspect to keep in mind while designing a website. If it is a tight deadline, then either the cost of the project should increase or the project should be divided into different phases. Not knowing the timeline can create assumptions on both sides which can adversely affect the successful and satisfactory completion of the project.

2. Decide how you will judge the successful outcome of this project.

When the website is built, you need to be able to tell if it satisfies your goal(s) for the project. Too often people define the success of a website by how ‘pretty’ it looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but success is defined by metrics.

Know what you want out of the project and have the designer show you how they have achieved your goals with their design.

Decide how you will judge the outcome of the project. Don’t leave it to subjective whims.

Here are some specific ways you can judge your website:

  • Does the website include all the information that you want online?
  • If you wanted a search engine optimized website, how does the website achieve that?
  • Is the website responsive?
  • Does the website make it easy for you to edit certain areas of the website in-house?
  • Was the website completed on time and within budget?

Figure out the goals of your website and check the outcome against those attributes.

3. Hire the right person/agency.

Depending on the type of website, many different talents are needed to see it to a successful completion.

All too often, people think that you only need a designer. You will also need a developer who turns designs into a working website, a marketer who turns your business goals into marketing text, a content writer to write or edit your textual content, a QA person to ensure the website is working according to its specifications and finally a great project manager who communicates your needs to his/her team and ensures the successful completion of the project.

Meet with the agency to discuss your project. One way to evaluate an agency is by asking them to describe similar projects that they have completed.

Ask questions. Check out their projects. Find out their availability and if they can deliver by your deadline.

It is sometimes easy to pick an agency based on only the price. Do not hire the cheapest. In the long run, you may ironically end up paying more.

4. Let your hired agency lead the project.

All too often business people think that they have to lead the project. That is tantamount to a tail wagging the dog.

You have hired your agency to get the job done. Let the project manager from the agency lead the project. They know the roadmap to building your website.

5. Allocate time for this project.

You, as the business person, are an integral part of this project. There will be times when your approval is needed or the designer expects content (textual or images or videos) from you. If this delivery is delayed, then the project could slip its deadline.

You can’t expect the project to be on time, if you don’t do your part. You as the business person are responsible for signing off, approving, and delivering content.

Remember that if you don’t deliver either content or approvals on time, your agency can’t move forward.

Do your part and be responsive to your agency’s requests.

6. Appoint a point person in your team.

Pick a person in your team to be responsible for all communications with the agency.

This will ensure a streamlined communication that minimizes miscommunication and confusions. This will also help build consensus within your team before relaying it to the agency.

7. Focus on the guts, not glamor.

It is very easy to be swayed by beautiful images or videos. Though that is important, it is more important that the website functions as desired, loads fast, content is appropriately written, the website is user-friendly, navigation is intuitive and the list goes on.

So instead of focussing on how pretty the website is, turn your attention to its effectiveness. The agency should be able to communicate their choice of design elements and how it helps to further your website goals.

8. Plan for maintenance.

Websites degrade over time. Sad, but true.

At a minimum, the underlying software should be updated every 4 months. Not doing this would mean that you are letting the foundation of your website crumble over time making you vulnerable to hacker attacks.

Businesses evolve over time. The website should reflect your changing priorities. Make a point of evaluating the website every 4 months or so to ensure that it is fully aligned with your business priorities.

9. Use a contract

Contracts are important legal documents that define the work that will be performed.

They can be detailed or be just an outline. The more detailed they are, the better the understanding between the 2 parties.

Verbal commitments can be filled with assumptions on both sides and lead to misunderstandings.

A good contract should clearly describe all the work that will be performed, the timeline, the cost and how the payment will be made.

It is also important to include what is NOT included in the contract. For example, designers routinely buy images on behalf of the client. It is important that the contract specifies who pays for these images.

10. Pay on time.

Last, but certainly not the least, remember to pay on time. Treat your designer the way you would like to be treated by your clients. If you can’t pay on time for some reason, be open with the designer.

With prior planning and preparation, you can put the project on a path to success.

Thinking of redesigning your website? Call us (650) 539-4212 or use our contact form to get a quote.