As web designers, we understand that creating sites for clients is often a balancing act between giving them an attractive, functional site while keeping costs within budget.
There’s nothing more that will make clients unhappy than getting a bill that’s significantly higher than expected — and having to keep paying for more services as they upgrade and make changes.
Keeping design projects within budget doesn’t mean sacrificing quality, though. With the right approach, you can give clients exactly what they want while still keeping the costs down. The key, as with any small-business management strategy, is to have a plan and specific goals in mind before you even begin the creative and technical aspects of the project.
You might be able to stay afloat utilizing business credit cards, but if your projects routinely go over budget due to your grand vision for your clients’ sites, it’s time to rein it in.
Website Planning to Contain Costs
Consider your typical client meeting. Chances are your client comes in and starts the conversation with “We need a website. How much is that going to cost?”
Of course, this question is like walking into a real estate agency and asking “How much is a house?” There is a big difference in cost between a modest cottage in the suburbs and a mansion overlooking the sea, and the location, size, and features of a house all influence the price of house. The same goes for websites. The more features and complex the design, the more it costs.
That’s why a cost-conscious Web designer needs to focus on the company’s plan for the site to determine the budget. Just as you wouldn’t purchase a home that’s bigger or smaller than you need for the foreseeable future, you don’t want to develop a website that has features the client won’t use or lacks basic functionality. With a well-thought-out plan from the start, the job can be done efficiently and effectively.
So what goes in to a website plan? Before you even get into the quoting process, ask these important questions:
- What are you hoping to accomplish with the website? Is it simply informational, or do you need interactive elements like a shopping cart?
- What are your future plans for the site?
- What are your goals for the site, both short and long term?
- How often will you need to update the site?
- How will site updates be handled? Do you have the skills or team talent necessary to handle updates and changes on your own?
- How does the site fit in with your overall marketing plan? Will you need to make changes to align with your marketing; i.e., regularly refreshed landing pages?
- Do you have a branding strategy? How will the site align with that strategy?
- What do your competitor sites look like? What do you want to emulate or do differently?
By asking these important questions, you can work with the client to create a budget-friendly plan that actually addresses their priorities. By approaching the project as a member of their team, rather than just an order taker, the site won’t be bogged down by unnecessary features or have such limited or complex functionality that the business owners cannot manage the site themselves.
Building a Better Mousetrap
Often, website design projects go over budget because designers spend too much time building a better mousetrap. That is, they spend time developing technology for clients that already exists in a form that will be perfectly acceptable for the client. Again, this speaks to the common issue of giving clients “too much site.”
Sure, it’s exciting to develop a ton of cool features and make a whiz-bang website, but if that technology takes forever to develop, and is difficult for your not-quite-tech savvy client to use, you’re wasting time and money.
Therefore, once you have a plan in place, the next best way to save money is to use existing technology to power the site. This might mean using predesigned Web pages for those “quick and dirty” jobs, or incorporating open-source software that can be customized to the client’s needs. It’s possible that a client will come to you expecting that you’ll develop something unique for them, but if the product already exists, use it.
Keeping website design and development costs in check comes down to several factors, but planning and preparation along with using existing tools are the most important. Smart clients understand that a good website is going to cost them money, but by working with them to keep those costs in check, you’ll develop a loyal following and grow your own business as you help others grow theirs.