When it comes to website building – more expensive isn’t always better

When it comes to website building, I’ve handled builds for clients, for myself and had significant input on others. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s high priced firms which are high priced for no reason other than that they’re doing pointless work. I’m a big believer in understanding what you want your website to do.

I am not always perfect at getting a site to do that thing, but I understand that starting any project without a clear set of deliverables in mind is akin to building a house from memory – you may end up with a nice building (or not), but it’s unlikely to resemble exactly what you wanted when you’re finished.

With websites, the principles are exactly the same; start with a plan, and you’ll get a product which meets your requirements. Dive in head first with no planning, and you’re likely to regret it in short order.

I recently connected with a gentleman who has started his own business. Like a lot of young entrepreneurs, he’s got a thirst to run his own business, but isn’t quite sure what to tackle first. His business plan is a good one, but when it came to his website, I was horrified to see him quoting 4 figure sums for a coded website and payments of several hundred pounds a month for ‘SEO and digital advertising’.

As someone who also made the decision to run my own business early on, I quickly learnt that there are no shortage of vendors willing to take a pot of money off you for what they guarantee are ‘value adding’ results. What I also quickly learnt is that I was struggling to assess these vendors, and that very few of them seemed interested in anything other than getting their hands on my cash.

Online work, whether web design, building, or advertising is one of those areas we all know can add terrific value to our businesses, but it’s also an area which can cause costs to spiral out of control. In the interests of those entrepreneurs looking for a helping hand, here are my tips for getting your first website up and running.

1. Make sure you have a well written brief. If you’re a design buff, feel free to include sketches, but otherwise, leave the design to a pro. What you need to concentrate on is what you want your visitors to do; buy a product, give contact details, submit an RFP, educate themselves, click on adverts etc.

2. Put out a proposal. One of my favourite platforms for this is Upwork (previously Elance). It’s free to create an account, and you can specify everything from price, to country, to experience level. I would advise mandating the following;

 

  • The site be built on WordPress. It’s easy to use, and has hundreds of themes. You’ll maintain control over your ability to edit it, and can handle any SEO or changes in-house, meaning no need for expensive developer costs.

 

3. Upload your brief.

 

4. Review submissions. Now comes the tricky part. You’ll have been inundated with proposals from the moment you uploaded your brief. My advice here is as follows;

 

  • Remove anyone that can’t write clearly in your language. Whilst being able to write in English is not necessarily a sign of competence when it comes to IT, I feel it demonstrates a level of professionalism you should expect from a contractor.
  • Remove anyone that can’t explain your brief back to you, or tries to change it. Don’t forget that most vendors in the market are looking after their own bank account – not yours!
  • Pick a developer and let them get cracking!

When it comes to getting the site set up, WordPress have got a great knowledge base for installing the site, and for SEO I’d recommend Yoast. Both of these resources are free to use, and incredibly intuitive for someone with a little bit of IT experience.

Despite how straight forward this can be, I’m still amazed at how many over-priced IT firms seem to be thriving on selling vastly overcomplicated projects to unsuspecting start-ups and SMEs. To put the savings into perspective for you – I recently had two sites built for a client and was capable of managing all SEO work internally for just £500, including the cost of the domains and hosting plans. Amongst the hundreds of other proposals my client had received, was one quote for £2400 (including SEO work, but without CMS) from Hong Kong, and another for £500 with an on-going cost of £150 for SEO work and a ‘bargain’ support contract at just £50 per month (required due to the lack of CMS).

Another client who engaged me to review their digital presence shocked me by telling me that they’d spend ‘thousands of pounds’ on a website which could not do what they needed and which half their team was unhappy with.

I always offer to help clients out for free with advising on issues like this, because I only charge where I can add real value that they could not get elsewhere. If they don’t feel confident in their ability to run the project, I charge a flat fee of £100 for handling the project from start to finish, but no matter whether you buy in a project manager to handle your web build, or keep it in-house – make sure that you’re getting value for money and that you understand how to evaluate your vendors and their products.