Websites can be expensive. For most people, coding and design is a foreign subject. They simply haven’t had to deal with the inner workings of building websites. However, there are several areas where you can trim some fat to cut down on website costs. We’ll go over five of those in this post and the ups and downs to doing each.
Also, before we begin, the pricing model we’re targeting here is hourly projects. A lot of agencies will bundle everything into project quotes or have fixed retainers. If you’re in that position, have the agency do everything to get the most bang out of your buck (as long as the agency is competent). But for the purpose of this article, when we say website costs we mean hourly rated projects.
I. Know What You Need
Before we get into where you can save on website costs, we’d like to make a quick point that can actually save you a lot of money before you even begin. A great way to think about building websites is buying cars. People need different things from their cars. Some people need a car that can fit six people. Some people need a car that can simply fit in their garage. And some people need their car to win a race. If you have the budget to not save on website costs, and your website is critical to your company’s success, then you shouldn’t do them. If you try racing a Ferrari with a Civic, you’re likely not going to win.
The point is that a mom and pop company doesn’t need the same thing as a technology startup. The goals, and costs, are massively different. So, managing your expectations will go a long way.
When we sit down with a client we ask a lot of questions and let them do most of the talking. That’s because we’re trying to figure out what the client actually needs and not what they necessarily want. While the client is talking we list out the things they want and try to prioritize them. Then we actually try to get the client to cut some things to see what is actually necessary. We call this the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. The MVP is the absolute minimum the client needs to launch. It’s extremely valuable because it lets us understand what actually matters to the client.
So before you meet with your design or development company, list out the things you need and rank them in order of necessity. Then put stars next to the things you absolutely cannot live without.
II. Have Wireframes Ready
A wireframe is simply a blueprint of your site. By having what you’d like available you can more easily communicate to your design or development firm which will help you save on your overall website costs. This will save time in quoting and in the design phase of the site by showing details as in the number of pages required, and certain functionality that is hard to describe in words alone.
Something to remember is that while this can save you time, don’t expect the design or development firm to stick to your wireframes. A good agency will have a lot more experience on what works best, but they will appreciate having a strong starting point. Also, by having your wireframe ready, you can think through the site and know what each page needs to have. This will cut down on revisions and how long it takes for the agency to scope your project.
III. DIY / Outsource The Design Or Development
Perhaps the biggest thing you can do is actually do some of the work yourself. This is about the time that any other developer or designer will close their computer and flip their table over. But if your budget is the most important thing, you can outsource the design or development in a few different ways to save yourself some money.
If you have someone internally that does design, then you can design the site yourself and hire a development firm to build it, or vice versa. This will cost significantly less than it would otherwise.
There are arguments that you shouldn’t do this because of continuity of the development and design process. But at the end of the day, it’s your site and you decide what is most important.
IV. Write Your Own Copy
Copy is simply the words on the site. Having copy ready will save a good amount of time. Most designers and developers will have no domain knowledge in your industry. So this requires outsourcing the copy to someone who does or can learn it more quickly, or researching it themselves and doing the best they can. Both of these equate to increased cost because of the amount of time required to acquire the knowledge necessary to say the right thing. However, if the words are ready for them then they can easily copy things over.
A couple of ways to do this would be to include them in your wireframe or designs if you choose to do those yourself. Or, if the agency hasn’t requested one, send an “About Me” packet with your company’s story, a little bit about key people, what it is that you do, and anything that makes you unique. This will help cut down website costs by simply saving time.
V. Find The Right Agency
Let’s go back to our car analogy from earlier. Sometimes the brand of the car you buy is important. Some people only buy certain brands of cars, while others choose cars only made in their own country. Some brands charge more because they are luxury brands. These are the cars that, when you get inside of one, you know that it’s a nice car but your wallet is a lot lighter for it.
There are also a range of development and design firms to choose from. Some are very very expensive. They may be very good, but they will make you pay 5 to 10 times what most firms would. This can make sense for multi-million dollar companies that demand success on a high level, but for a small to medium sized company it certainly isn’t worth it and most of the time the larger agencies won’t give small to medium sized projects the time of day.
Also, if you can find a good agency you can develop a relationship with them that will enable you to cut your website costs and do what’s right for your business at the same time. Like they say… a good mechanic is worth his weight in gold.
Conclusion: Website Costs Are Flexible
The cost of building a website is typically very flexible depending on what you want done. If your agency doesn’t want to work with you to cut costs, go look elsewhere. Many times designers and developers think of their work as if they were an artisan. That may actually be the case and it’s fine for them to do that. But at the end of the day, you’re the customer.