How to keep your budget on track when engaging a website designer.
Website design can cause anxiety for start-ups who are not confident with their marketing or technical skills. And rightly so. The key to getting the best website for you is knowing your needs and communicating them to your website designer.
The first website I was involved with building, back in the late 90’s, cost $50,000 to build. A basic 5-page website, no ecommerce, no videos or even a blog. The price did not include my time as the project manager, the photographer or me writing all the content. The company I was working for needed three websites at the time, each costing $50,000. This was before ecommerce, blogs or WordPress. It was during the dot-com boom. While I was working on the project the boom crashed and it was the last of the golden age for web programmers. Websites went from costing $50,000 to $5,000 overnight.
When I was working on these websites, staying on budget and on time would be an indicator of my performance, not the programmers. For me at the time it was a crash course in accountability and how to keep a website budget on track.
The rules to staying on track from a $50,000 website to a $500 website have not changed. Here is my list of your “must haves” if you’re a start-up looking to build your first website, or if you have been burnt before by a web designer.
You must have a website brief
This must-have is a non-negotiable if you want to be firm from the get-go. Being firm and explaining your needs up front, ensures you start the project on the right trajectory. Very few clients come to me with a firm budget, and if they do, it’s often not realist. When you put a brief together, you will start to see what will be involved in your website build. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s at this stage you may start to consider what is a priority for now and what can be put off until later.
It’s important that your web designer knows exactly what you need, your budget and your audience. Presenting a budget does not mean it will be agreed to by the designer if they feel more time will be needed. It’s a starting point for discussions. You can decide if you want to pay more, leave things out or add them later yourself when the site is up and running.
A website brief also lets you see if you the designer is the right fit for you. Are they connecting with your vision? Do you both communicate well together? Do you feel confident in their abilities based on their answers?
You must have content ready
This is where things go wrong quickly. Often websites go over budget because no content has been provided. This leaves the content writing up to the developer or designer, and usually this time has not been accounted for in the budget.
Having too much content can also present a problem as this turns your web designer into an editor.
As a start-up on a budget, it’s up to you to be content savvy. Talk with your web designer about their layout ideas and ask them to provide you with a template so you can see how much content you will need.
If you’re not confident with writing content for your website, you can hire me to work on that with you. Or I can include that in the price of your website design.
When compiling your website brief, you can never have too much information, which provides the web designer with a clear picture of you and your business vision.
Must have photos ready
Web designers will charge you for the time they take to source your photos. You can save money here, or keep on budget, by sourcing your own photos.
If you are looking at having a photoshoot, it’s important to talk with your web designer first. Websites require different size photos for different design feels. There are long stretchy banners, landscape pics, close-ups, and portraits. My experience with photographers is that they will snap only one or two of these. Very rarely will they snap a beautiful banner shot. When they do, they would like to know the pixel size they are working with. Meaning what is the banner size on the website. This determines what lens they use and how they set a scene. All important stuff to give your website that polished glow.
Photos make a website. I’ll just add that here. They are incredibly important.