When we’re working with small businesses and non-profit organizations, we are often asked about ways to manage the overall website budget and keep costs low. While we don’t recommend any shortcuts that can compromise the quality or professionalism of the website, there are some things you can do to keep your web development costs low.
1. Identify Your Goals and Strategy Beforehand
As with any project, having a clear strategy helps manage the product through its different steps. For new websites, projects can often go out of scope as a result of new expectations added half way through the project. – something that can often be avoided by early planning and discussion.
Your website holds a key cornerstone in your entire digital strategy – and as such it is beneficial to identify your goals and strategy before talking to prospective web developers. A good web designer and developer will always want to talk to you about the overall goals for your new website; having some clarity on this beforehand enables you to have a more productive discussion and use their experience to further build upon or refine your plan. Having some level of internal agreement and vision helps speed up this process and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Some of the main questions you want to be able to answer as part of your strategy are:
- Who are the different target audiences for your website?
- What are the goals of the website (e.g. convey credibility/professionalism, increase business leads/sales, enhance visitor engagement and community)?
- What are some of the key features/capabilities you would like your new website to have?
After that you can collaboratively identify different tactics to achieve these goals, which directly translate into website design guidelines, features, and capabilities.
2. Identify Some Websites You Want to Consider as Inspiration Fodder
While you should always give your designers creative freedom, it’s often good to start the process by sharing some of your likes and dislikes with them. We recommend identifying at least 5 websites (or parts of other websites) you like – and 2-3 websites that have things you don’t like. For each website, list out your thoughts, and share that with your designer. Some of the things you should comment on are:
- Designs (or design styles), including color choices
3. Organize Website Features into Development Phases
As you identify all the different things you want to include in your website, you may find the project budget blowing up. A good technique here is to break out the list in different development phases. Start with phase 1 which includes everything that you consider a ‘Must Have’ for your website. Phase 2 includes the next set of features and expansion, and so on. Make sure to share this list with your developer so that they can plan accordingly when building the website and discuss the tradeoffs with you. For example, larger features that require across-the-site integration may need the developer to take certain additional steps in Phase 1.
4. Ask About Using Existing Coding Resources
A sure – and often essential – way to reduce the coding required for modern websites is by utilizing existing tools, plugins, templates, and other code shared or licensed by the larger programming community. You website should ultimately uniquely capture and highlight your brand for visitors – but developers can savea lot of time by not starting from scratch for every part of your website. Talk to your developer about their views on this subject.
5. Ensure You’re Getting a Good Content Management System
Most modern websites are designed with a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS enables you to have access to a secure administration section through which you can easily update the content of your website without having to code. Many Content Management Systems are free, and can bring in a lot of expandability features to your website. Talk to your developer about the CMS they are recommending for your website and why. Personally, we’re big fans of WordPress.
Some of these tips are also a great way to ensure alignment on different components from all parties, which further enhances the success of the project. Talk to your website designer/developer about other ways you can work efficiently with them to help keep costs low.