A website is one of the most popular tools that a business can use to introduce themselves to the market. Creating that all-important first impression with a great website will help in attracting your potential customer. With such a big price range to build a website, the question you need to ask is exactly what are you getting for that price and which option fits your business needs.
A cheap and cheerful $500 website might be all you need to get started on your micro business’ online presence. Alternatively, a $50,000 website might be full of the bells and whistles that is overkill. Just like a meal, sometimes a $5 meat pie would hit the spot that a $200 lobster would not. The important thing is finding that right balance, and the easiest way is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask: What kind of website do they expect to see? What does your competitor’s website look like? What can you do to stay ahead of them?
This is a good option for micro and fresh startup businesses because expense is kept at a minimum while some kind of online presence is created. Websites of this budget are able to be created by fresh graduates and individual freelancers with 1+ year professional experience, which means your options should be plentiful. The website should only take around 10 to 14 man-hours which means a week turnaround is not out of the question. The website would most likely be a WordPress CMS which is a great choice due to its ease of use and abundance of resource online. The alternative would be in-house proprietary CMS, which might be restrictive for your business in the form of contract or scalability down the track.
To ensure smoothness with these types of websites, please ensure you already have the business idea and content ready before engaging the web developer (eg, business logo, website content, images etc). The web developer responsibility is really just putting all that together for you into a brochure-ware styled website. Do not have the false expectation of them conducting brainstorming sessions, photography, custom design, information architecture, wireframes, user testing, SEO, detailed documentation or giving personalised training.
Due to the budget, your website will have restricted number of pages. It is therefore important to direct your developer’s attention to your Homepage, About Us and Contact Us pages. These are usually the most visited sections so it is important to get it right. Make sure your contact details are easy to find so your potential customers can contact your business when they are ready. When the potential customers does contact you, it means the website has done its job thus the responsibility of making the sale is passed onto your team members.
When your business has been running smoothly for couple of years and you feel the online presence is no longer on par with business offering, then your business has probably outgrown the existing website.
Websites in this price range is usually created by a small team of experienced web developers and designers with at least 8 years of combine professional experience, working between 60 to 85 man-hours over a period of a month or two. The website will most likely be done in WordPress due to the benefits mentioned before. You should not be restricted to the number of pages like with the smaller project and the site might have small amount of customisation (whether functional or visual) to fit with your requirements.
During the planning stage, you should expect your web developer to be proactive in giving professional advice and guide you throughout the whole process. This includes but not limited to creating information architecture, designing, producing the right marketing message/content, all the way to personalised user training and launching. From function point of view expect at a minimum your website to be responsive to cater for mobile/tablet users, search engine optimised (SEO) to help bring in traffic and built in web analytics to allow you to monitor user behaviour.
It is still your responsibility to provide the content, however the web developer should have enough industry connections to help you with these if you are unable to do so yourself (eg, introduce professional photographers or copy writers). Also do not expect to be provided with detail documentations such as GANTT chart, functional specification or test cases.
When your business has reached a level where the website is no longer used purely for marketing purposes, it might need to be built from ground up to cater for additional functionalities. An example of this might be a custom-built eCommerce site that has integration with your legacy inventory management system, or a web portal that that has sophisticated document management workflow with user permission and approval process.
You can expect a project of this size to have a project team size of around 4 resources. With a combined professional experience of at least 16 years, comprised of a project manager, business analyst, developer, designer and a tester (some might wear multiple hats). The project will be around 420 to 580 man-hours over a span of roughly 4 months.
Depending on the requirements, the core system can either be build from ground up with a well-known framework such as Symfony, CakePHP and CodeIgniter. Alternatively it might piggy backed off a more customisable CMS such as Drupal or Joomla (as WordPress might just not cut it).
Due to the size of the project, a formal project management methodology will be followed (SDLC or Agile) with proper development and deployment practices (version control, development/staging/production environments). In order to keep things organised the project will be centralised on an online project workspace such as Trello, Basecamp or Google App etc. Common project artefacts such as the GANTT, functional specs, technical spec, wireframes, information architecture, UAT, system test cases and training manuals.
So which option suits your business?
It is important to figure out the purpose of your website. Will you be using it as a marketing tool, lead generation, customer retention or online sales and booking? Once you have it figured out, think about the importance of this purpose and what value you put on it. It goes without saying, do not over invest on your first website, especially if you are not 100% sure about your new business venture. However it is just as important not to under invest, because after all, if your website does not achieve its purpose (let’s say attracting new customers) then what is the point of even having a website?
Some alternative solutions might be to build the website yourself through free tools such as WIX and Weebly. This is definitely a viable solution if you believe the time/effort you spend to learn the tool and create the website is less than the money you would have made if you spend it on marketing and servicing your paying customers. If you do not learn to build a car just so you can get from point A to B, then why would you do so with a website? It is important to figure out the value of your own time (a finite resource) before heading down this path.
There are also cheaper offshore/outsource solutions such as Odesk, Freelancer or even Fiverr. These options are great for those who are comfortable/experienced with remote project management and able to communicate clearly on the expectations. The hardest part is finding the right person (not just skill wise, but also cultural and availability factors) for the job among seemly overwhelming number of choices. The good news is however because it is not overly expensive, even if the project fails, you would not have lost that much money. So if you have the time, why not give this solution a try and find out whether it works for your business or not.
The process of selecting vendors is beyond the scope of this article, but will be discussed in future articles. In the mean time (if you have not already), sign up to our eBooklet for more practical ideas, real examples and useful tips on achieving more with less for your business. If you like what you have read, feel free to contact us and see whether we are able to be of service to your business.