The cost of a website is a bit like the cost of a car. You can spend $5,000 for a ‘get around town’ car, $50,000 for a luxury vehicle or millions for a transportation fleet! With today’s open source platforms like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress (among others) and with a vast array of design templates, a small business can deploy a professional responsive website for under $10,000. But take advantage of professional help to incorporate design and technology customizations, and a site can cost a lot more.
The answer is to understand key factors and deploy your website in phases.
A phased approach reduces risk and helps align your business needs and budget along the way.
Start with a planning phase to make sure the business goals are clear and the people involved agree on the vision and plan. For a small business, this phase can be days. But for an enterprise, the strategy phase can be months. Right-size this phase and use it to develop a clear budget and plan for the subsequent design and build phases.
Factors in Website Scope and Website Cost
The following are some factors that you can consider in each phase to scope and implement a solution that meets your needs. How important are these in your plan? What resources are needed? How much time will it take?
Issues in the Planning Phase:
- Business Requirements: What is the degree of clarity about your overall business requirements? This includes but is not limited to: business vision, strategy and goals, and the role of the website in delivering on this strategy?
- Branding: Is your core branding and naming is in place and agreed? Do you have the graphical treatments for the logo and other related design elements? Is the brand being refreshed across off and online assets?
- Target Audience: How well do you understand your audience segments and product positioning? Who are the users? How do these users fit with your business target markets? What are the important attributes of these segments?
- Competitive Analysis: Do you need a competitive analysis and assessment? How will your new site fit against the competition? Are their peers you want to emulate?
- Business Case: Do you need a business case or rationale for investment in this website? To what degree does a business case need to be developed? What are the drivers for the business case?
- Planning: Do you have an overall roadmap and timeline? Are your priorities clear and agreed? What are the dependencies? Have these factors been built into an overall time-frame for deployment? Are you deploying in releases or as one integrated solution?
- Alignment: To what degree do you need to bring people along with you? Is an extended team alignment needed for this website launch?
Issues in the Design Phase:
- UX Design: What do your visitors intend to do when they visit the site? What do you expect them or want them to do? In what context will they be visiting your site? How important is the user interaction design? Is there a page inventory and sitemap plus page flow diagrams for the site? Do you need written and visual user interface specs?
- Functionality: What are the levels of functionality and database systems required to deliver on the experience? Are functional use cases needed to define user interactions? What are the priorities of the feature sets needed within the site? Are there integration points with external systems / APIs?
- Development Approach: What are the risk and dependencies that need to be managed? Have you defined a clearly articulated scope for design and build? What types of technologies and skill sets are needed? How should development happen – iterative? waterfall?
- Technology Architecture: Do you understand the required technical architecture? (including CMS system, web platform, plugins and hosting environments, security, performance?)
- Content: To what degree is content for the website new, repurposed or required? Is it multi-media? How will this be developed?
- Visual Design: Do you need new brand standards and a style guide for the brand implementation? What is the degree and range of content and creative – including custom or stock images?
- Alignment: How many iterations are required for IA and visual designs? Are the releases of functionality in stages agreed and understood? Aligned with business priority, dependencies and effective design?
Issues in the Build Phase
- Development Environment: What is the development environment and production environment? How will these be managed?
- Testing: What is the level of testing required, e.g. mobile, web, cross-browser and systems testing? How will testing take place? What constitutes a defect or bug? How much should be spent to address these bugs or defects?
- Optimization: To what degree is this project going to configure and optimize for SEO and Analytics?
- Launch: How will the launch logistics be handled? What webmaster services are in place?
- Training: How will website management and admin training requirements be handled?
- Warranty: Is there an expectation that the site will be fixed if something breaks? What is the timeframe for this ‘warranty period’?
This article is highlights some of the issues you may face when building a website plan and determining website cost. It is also important to think about a website as part of an ecosystem of technology and services that make up an online presence. Factors include but are not limited to your social media presence, web services for marketing automation and CRM. Quite often, these related areas need to be a part of the plan.
FirstSiteGuide.com provides a useful resource on building an entirely new website or want to redoing your current website. A good way to start developing your website plan and estimate website costs, is with our ‘DXI’ – Digital Experience Index. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more.