When searching for a web design/development partner it is easy to focus on price. People who are new to the industry often have an idea in their head of what a website “should” cost. Usually this idea is based on seeing a mixture of low price Google ads and “create your own website” solutions claiming it is easy and cheap to have a website, like this, or these.
The thinking goes: if it’s so easy to build a website that anyone can do it, it should be cheap. Oddly enough, when deciding to have a website built, price should not be your primary concern.
The reality is, many things are easy once they have been learned. It’s like folding origami. It is not “difficult” to make any given fold, but learning, memorizing, and understanding the folds takes time and effort. You could fold the classic origami crane, or the complex Kawasaki Rose. The difficulty is in the education, not the execution. What I am saying is, you aren’t paying to have a website made. You are paying for the knowledge and expertise of a web developer.
I could tell you, from personal experience, I like to have 30-60 hours to build a respectable website. I could build a minimal, bare-bones, website in 12-16 hours. I have been the single developer on a $2,600 brochure website, and I have been one of many developers on a $20,000 full-featured website. Another development firm might have totally different prices for the same work. A freelancer might charge $37/hour or he might charge $150/hour, the rates may even be different depending on what he or she thinks you are willing to pay!
As you can see, prices vary, which is why you need to focus on deliverables first. You need to know what you are getting. If web design and web development isn’t in your wheelhouse it might be easy to get caught up in getting “a website” for the least money. But consider these concepts first, and decide which you are willing to sacrifice.
SEO Best Practices
Usually this will be a separate conversation if you are considering a full SEO campaign for your website. SEO is an expansive industry that can involve keyword research, link building, blogging strategies, outreach, content optimization, and whatever else your firm thinks is a good idea. Before you open that can of worms however, building your site with SEO best practices in mind should be a priority. All of the following may or may not be addressed by your developer:
- SEF URLs – usability/optimization
- robots.txt – optimization
- sitemap – optimization
- page titles – usability/optimization
- meta descriptions – usability/social
- schema – optimization
- analytics – usability/optimization
- image alts – usability/optimization
- image sizes – speed
- gzip compression – speed
- CDN – speed
- favicon – usability/professionalism
Amazon, for example, is obsessed with optimization. Amazon has reported that for every 100 millisecond improvement in site speed revenue increases by 1%. That time savings could very well come from image size optimizations, which Amazon undoubtedly cares very much about.
Mobile Friendliness or Responsive Layout
- The text size stays large no matter how narrow the windows gets
- Images will shrink to fit the window
- The sidebar and other elements get rearranged when out of room
- The menu changes into a dropdown
All of these changes make the mobile experience smooth. When developing a responsive site some extra attention must be paid on each page. They need to be inspected in various display sizes to makes sure the different layouts aren’t doing anything wonky. You could simply pay no attention to mobile and let the site just render smaller on a smaller screen. But be warned, each year a greater percentage of online traffic moves to mobile.
URL Redirections and Broken Links
If you already have a website and you are looking for a rebuild, what is going to happen to all of your old pages and links? If the architecture of your new site changes the location of your pages, it will break all of the old links. Bookmarks, backlinks, even internal links may no longer work. It is important to know how the developer of your new site is going to handle those potentially broken links. They may pay special attention to maintain the link structure so no links actually get broken. They may use software to find all broken links and redirect all of them to the correct pages. As the client however, you must be aware of what is going to happen to all of your precious links.
At MentorMate we schedule weekly sprint reviews to ensure our client is seeing the project unfold in steps. We include the cost of these meetings in our estimates. Meeting time may not be estimated or included by another developer; you may just be charged an hourly rate for meetings and consultation. I suppose the question is how much input would you, as the client, like to have in the development process. If you want to be more hands on, then it is probably worth knowing how meeting time will be handled.
Do you know what has never happened in the history of web development (probably any development)? A project, in which the client never changed his or her mind. When my parents were originally building their restaurant they had an industrial kitchen manufacturer building and installing the kitchen. Every now and then they would decide that the store needed one extra shelf on the wall, or the table needed to be one inch lower. The foreman would always say “Sure no problem!” and then shout “Change order!” In the end they got exactly what they wanted, but what they didn’t realize was every time he said “Change order” it cost them an extra thousand dollars. The project ended up coming in over-budget because of the unexpected changes.
Sometimes it’s a little thing like the name of a page. Sometimes it’s a big deal like including a new user class with specific permissions. As the project evolves new ideas develop. We, at MentorMate, like to allow time for this phenomenon in our estimates. Even if clients don’t know they are going to change their minds, we know they will. We anticipate these changes and estimate for them, if we come in under-budget that is wonderful! But it gives our clients the flexibility to make a few changes and get what they want without seeing the price explode.
If your website has a blog, or other content that needs regular updates, who will make these updates? Will it be the developer? Perhaps being trained to make some minor updates would be more cost effective? I believe a “teach a man to fish” approach is better when a site needs regular updating. When estimating a website build I take special care to discuss this issue with the client. Do they care to learn how to make blog posts or are they willing to pay our hourly rate to put them up for them? If you plan on making a single blog post a month, maybe paying a developer is worth it, but if it’s multiple blogs a week, up front training time would be more efficient.
Although this is becoming less of an issue as old versions of Internet Explorer phase out, depending on your industry, it still might require consideration. Is your website going to be fully functional in older versions of IE? Does your web developer know how important that is to you? Will they perform any testing in browsers other than the one they use?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of considerations in regard to your website. Each project and industry is different and comes with a unique set of goals and obstacles but this is a good starting point. Think about what is important to you before diving in. Of course after you have all of your needs pinned down, you will still run into a wide variety of prices. That will be the correct time to shop around and find a vendor you can trust who offers a price you are comfortable with.
There is a lot more to web development than just what you see when you type in www.mywebsite.com. Clients often ask us how companies can afford to sell websites for only $300. Hopefully this post helps answer that question.
If you are currently considering having a website built or redesigned, let us do it for you! Please fill out our contact form and we can help you achieve your goals.