Who is this article for?
- Business owners
- Marketing managers
- Companies redesigning or building a website
Key Takeaways(click to jump to a section)
- You need to have the time and the experience/skills to do it properly yourself
- Know and understand your business objectives first
- Consider your budget and have open conversations about cost
- Work out the functionality you require and be honest about challenges
- The cheapest quote is not always the best
5 things to consider when building an effective website in 2020
Fact: You can build a website yourself for free (unless you value your own time)
I was recently in a meeting with a potential client who didn’t think a website could make money! ‘It’s just a shop window to say “hi, we’re here”’.
What do you think? Can a website make money? How do you measure whether a website is good or not? The majority of us will answer a firm ‘YEA – duh…haven’t you heard of Amazon and eBay’ to the first part of the question. But what about the second part? Not all websites are e-commerce and I put to you that a lot of people will struggle to answer the second part of the question.
Web developers, agencies and freelancers are a ‘dime a dozen’ now. You can even build a website yourself using Wix and Square Space - great if you haven’t got the money to spend yet. Many agencies and freelancers use spammy methods, scare tactics and exploit people’s lack of website knowledge promising completely unrealistic outcomes such as ‘we’ll get you to position 1 on Google’ and then explain it’s not possible due to ‘tech jargon’ after they have their money (something we actually refer to in our contract and I quote, ‘The only company that could guarantee such a position is Google themselves, and this is not a service they offer’). If you don't know what SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) really is, watch this video:
So with the waters muddied, here are my top 5 considerations for the benefit of business owners and marketing managers who are either planning their first website build, or an overhaul / redesign of their current site:
1. Do you have the skills and/or time to build it yourself, or should you instruct a website design agency?
I often hear people say ‘How much?!! - and for some pretty negligible amounts. I could design and build a new website myself for nothing’. Great, I agree you could (although functionality might be limited)! You may have said it yourself. Consider this: I want a new car and I could buy a kit to build it myself and save on dealer margins & profits. Problem is, I can’t even put a shelf on the wall straight, if I’m honest with myself, there is no way I’d have the time (which is also money), let alone the skills required to put a car together – I’d botch it up and end up with a worthless cupholder on wheels (if that). I’d have wasted my valuable time, ended up with something worthless and the money I’d saved, would ultimately be worth less than the time I’d spent.
Bottom line is you (the person building the website) will be responsible for both the digital presence of the business and its success. You must have the time to do a good job and it must not be worth more (in wages or lost potential new business etc) than the cost of outsourcing. You must also have the skills & experience to ensure your website offers a smooth user journey, making it easy for them to complete the actions you need them to. You will need to know what makes a good website, such things as:
- How to engage a website user within 7 seconds
- How to communicate your message instantly
- How to brand and what good website design criteria looks like such as colour combinations and how contrast ratios can affect your Google rankings
- How to present call-to-actions strategically and entice users to complete actions that can be monetised.
Tom, our MD, has a few quick tips in the following video:
Sorry if some of that was a bit ‘jargonny’ but be honest, do you have the time and skills to do it yourself? If you answer yes, that’s great and I’m pleased for you – and I mean that; an agency should only want to work with businesses where they can add value, and if you can do it yourself and get the same outcome then that’s fantastic and I really hope the following considerations help you with your project. If you answered no, then consider outsourcing the project a web agency / development company. Remember, you’re not just paying a person to do it, you’re paying for the combined experience and talent of a team(s) who have worked on countless previous projects.
Imagine you have a new business idea and you’re excited and confident it will work and be the next Apple! You wouldn’t employ staff, rent an office space, kit it out and put an advert on the TV before putting together a business plan which sets out the costs, forecasts and steps required to make it a success…would you? Can you imagine presenting an idea to Claude, Karen and Lord Sugar without a business plan – even those with business plans get torn to shreds! And yes…The Apprentice is a guilty pleasure of mine!
Earlier on, I asked if a website could make money and how do you measure whether a website is good or not. The answer is of course, YES! It can make money – even if you’re not selling products / services on it. How? Well this is why understanding what your business is trying to achieve is important. Just because money does not pass hands on a website does not mean it cannot be monetised - a website can guide potential customers along predefined journeys all the way through to making a phone call, visiting your premises or submitting an enquiry form – all of which become leads which ANY business should be able to assign a potential value to using simple measurements.
You must view your website as more than just a shop window or ‘hi there’ tool. It’s a compliment to your business and it must work to help achieve your goals be it through sales, enquiries or even automation and software integration – reducing the time your team spend on duplicate tasks.
In Britain, we can be afraid to talk money. I’ve often come accross people who don't want to share their budget or who haven’t even thought about it. If I’m completely honest, I remember when I started proposing jobs for mere hundreds and I’d get all nervous about it. Now I unapologetically present proposals for thousands, sometimes tens of thousands without hesitation.
So, let’s just address the elephant in the room, WEBSITES CAN COST £1000's EVEN £10,000's. Why am I not afraid of saying it? Simple, you wouldn’t think twice about paying for a printing press if your business printed greetings cards, would you? It’s essential because it produces a product that makes you money. So my view is simple: A website is there to make you money and/or save you time. Therefore, the cost of having a high quality website made for you is simply an investment.
So now you know why I am able to talk money without hesitation. Whoever you instruct should not be looking for what they can get out of you, because then money is a problem, instead they should be thinking what they can do for you, then money is simply the means to get what you need.
Obviously, I am not advocating blank cheques to web developers and of course I totally understand that there is never an unlimited supply of money so going back to the question, ‘What is my budget?’, you must know what you can spend on the project before you look for agencies/developers. Why? Simply put, it helps save time at the beginning of the process. How? It allows for a fast failure – which is in the interest of both parties. If you know the cost is going to be too high from the outset, you save time speaking about specifications and briefs while the agency saves time by not writing detailed proposals and internal project estimation time.
Instead of being too stiff-upper-lipped to mention price and spending hours beating around the bush, if a client's budget is too low, a competent and reputable agency has a choice, propose something within budget by reducing functionality or simply walk away if it's clearly unachievable – they may be able to put you in contact with another more suibtable agency.
Do you think of a website as a brochure or a catalogue? Something that has 'sort of' interactive pages if you like? You wouldn’t be the only one. Think of a website you’ve recently bought from. What were you able to do with it? – think hard. You might have chosen from multiple variations of the same product on one page while seeing the image of the product update as you made selections. What about the delivery options, were you presented with dates and time slots? Were you able to find your address using just a postcode? Some websites are integrated with countless systems and can perform complex tasks, not just present information.
The point is, a website can do pretty much anything and is so much more than just a brochure. The sky is the limit and I said earlier that your website should be a compliment to your business. You need to consider the following:
- The business processes the website needs to duplicate.
- Any systems & software you use that the website could 'talk' to. Common systems are Xero, Sage, Khaos, PayPal, Mailchimp, finance providers (Omni Capital) and payment gateways.
- The information your customers need to see. Think about what customers do or ask in your shop.
When instructing a web developer / agency for your project, you need to have an idea of what you need. But do let them listen to your business process as they need to understand what your business does. Don’t be afraid to tell them about any challenges you face with your process(es). The really competent ones will likely be able to help you and could even design a system that solves the problem.
Some developers will only use off-the-shelf solutions such as WordPress or Magento and while these have their place in the market, they can be very expensive to modify to suit your actual needs, and are often packed with generic functions that are not needed (but use valuable server resources). By considering the functionality you require first, you’ll be able to identify if off-the-shelf is suitable for you or whether you need a bespoke website / system built to compliment your business perfectly.
Of course, the more functionality you add, the higher the cost. So, to ensure the money aspect is always worth it, make sure you don’t go over the top. Think about it objectively and try to think if it is a want (nice to have) or an actual need. It is possible to put users off with over-done functionality.
The final consideration is whether or not it is wise to face agencies off against each other in an epic race to the bottom price war. A web developer / agency doesn’t have a physical object to sell. They can only sell their time and they, like your business, will know what they must charge to make money and operate. They are a business out to make money just like you and the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies. As I said earlier, a reputable agency will be looking for what they can do for you which means the best interests of both parties are being considered. When they present a proposal to you, they’re presenting a cost that is considered fair for both parties, covering the agency costs and allowing them to make a profit and grow, while at the same time benefiting you by delivering a product designed with return on investment at its core, helping you grow too. This ‘benefits both’ approach allows lasting business relationships to be formed with an atmosphere of trust - a rarity in the business world.
By playing agencies off against each other, you’re asking them to cut into their margins. You open yourself up to the lowest cost agency rushing the job and/or taking shortcuts to make up for their loss. Also ask yourself, why are they so willing or desperate to reduce the price, were they extortionate to begin with perhaps hoping you wouldn’t notice? Or are they struggling and will take anything – leaving you at risk of them going under halfway through a project?
You really should consider the agency’s experience; do they have a large inhouse team with varying talents allowing for collaboration of decades worth of experience? What other clients have they worked with? Ask for references from current clients. Perform a credit check on the agency. Just because an agency is the cheapest, doesn’t mean they are the best option. On the flipside, the most expensive may not be either. Do your due diligence and consider what is best for your business.
With this information, I hope you have a better idea of what you need to consider when building a website this year. If it has helped you to see you can do it yourself, then I really do wish the very best with it and would be delighted if you sent me your finished website when live. If you have a project you’d like to speak to me about then please drop me a line.