I often work with business owners who want to put together their first-ever website. Ten years ago a website wasn’t crucial for doing business; now it’s a must-have marketing tool. If you sell, promote or provide services and information, you simply must have a website — the internet is the first place people go when they want to find out more about you, your business, or your talents.
A potential client will call and ask, “I’d like to have a website. How much does it cost? Where do I start?”
Before putting together a comprehensive website estimate, or even meeting with the client, I’ll ask you to answer, or at least consider, the following 7 questions.
1. What are your website goals?
Goals are usually 3-7 items, and they might be something like “to list all our upcoming registration classes” or “to showcase our birthday party packages” or “to look more professional and polished”, etc. When you think about goals, think not only about features of a website, think about functionality. In other words, what do you want viewers to be able to DO on your website beyond reading about your business? View and post Facebook comments…register/pay online for classes….read updated tips and tricks in your professional field, sign up for email marketing messages, etc.?
2. How often will you need to update your website?
Will your website need constant, occasional, or hardly-ever updating of its content? If you want a website that is frequently updated, who will do the updating? Perhaps you want a blog function on your new site, where you’re writing news or article content regularly. Do you or someone in your organization have strong computer skills….and/or are you interested in learning? I’ll guide you through the possibilities and implications of the content management spectrum. I find that clients are consistently over optimistic about their ongoing involvement in updating a new site. It sounds great to be able to update your new site — but in reality you don’t have the time or interest to do so once it’s up.
3. Will you provide all your website content, or do you need help with writing the site?
Generally, I will at least recommend a site structure and outline your new site, even if you provide all the site text. You’ll want creative and compelling home page content and headlines, subheads, etc. throughout the site, and you’ll probably need writing help with this. Some clients come to the table with their complete text ready to go…but more often, they need writing help. Know where you fall in this spectrum and at least have a sense of what content you will include on your new website at our first meeting. Type up a rough page outline or sketch it out on paper.
4. Do you have a logo? Do you have photos and graphics you’ll want on the website?
If so, gather as many materials, or be prepared to discuss what you’ll provide, at the meeting. We’ll talk about your logo and colors, what you might want in terms of photos on your new site, and how we’ll find those images, if you don’t already have them.
5. Have you researched, and can you provide URL addresses, of competitor websites for ideas on your new or updated site?
While I’m not suggesting you would “copy” another company’s layout or text, what I’ll want to know is what you like (and don’t like) in competitors’ websites. Be prepared to talk about what you want in a website…..the colors, layout, look and feel, content, etc. I find the best way to do this is to find websites of other similar organizations, break down what you like in particular about them, and then with your new site improve upon what’s already been done. Especially when clients don’t have a lot of experience creating websites, this is an efficient method of visually discussing possibilities.
6. What is your time frame for this project?
In general, we’ll discuss your schedule expectations and touch on writing, design, hosting, purchasing URLs, and all tasks associated with the job. We’ll then put together a preliminary schedule of tasks with dates so we have a “map” moving forward to guide us.
7. And finally, what is your budget range?
Asking the question “how much will a website cost?” is a lot like asking a contractor “how much does it cost to build a house?” Without discussing specifics, your contractor has no way of knowing if you’ll want 10 windows or 100 windows, 8 rooms or 12 rooms, a huge kitchen or an efficiency kitchen, etc. All these variables greatly affect the pricing of your overall house. But if you were to start a project like building a new house and interviewing contractors, I’m sure you’d have sketched out a range you’re willing to spend before talking to a potential contractor.
It’s the same when pricing a website. The more you can bring to the table in terms of information and discussion, the easier it is for me to put cost range to your project. Getting a website designed and developed by me can start around $1,500 and goes higher, depending on the size, complexity and services needed by you. Once you share the answers to the questions here, I can put together a cost range so you know how to plan your budget. But if you absolutely cannot spend more than, say, $2,500 on your new site, it’s important for you to share that with me because then I can scale your needs with a realistic solution.
Answering these 7 questions is part of the “Discovery” phase of website development.
A website project is a collaborative effort between client and developer. The discovery phase takes a lot of work, but the client’s contribution is essential. Once the process has been done, I’ll be able to provide a cost estimate for the job. It’s typical to request a third of the estimate up front before getting started, a third after the design has been completed, and the final third billed once the working site is finished and before it is launched to the public.
Building a website is a comprehensive project. You’ll want to hire someone based on more than price alone.
You’ll want someone who can guide you through the process (a process which can often feel overwhelming and require significant amounts of your time), be sensitive to the branding needs of your business, develop a creative and compelling web solution, and build a site that functions within a variety of browsers and devices, from Firefox to Chrome, and from computer screens to mobile phones.
You’ll spend a significant amount of time creating a successful website with your web development partner, so make sure they’re a good fit. Because getting the guidance and you need to create an amazing new website is priceless.