Want to build that dream website? Here are some critical considerations.
By the CaribFind Team
Most small business owners at some point would want to build a website for their business. Some see it as a a daunting task because they know that they do not have the skills to do it themselves, while others who have seen ads for a 'free' website, think that it is not a big deal.
However, building a great web presence, or building and offering digital services online, can be quite involved, and may be likened to a jigsaw puzzle. Many pieces have to come together in order to get a full, clear, product.
If you want your web project to be successful both in the initial build phase, and on a long term basis, you need to have the following:
- A good understanding of what you want to achieve; how simple, or involved, it is to create; and a good appreciation of the various 'pieces' that would need to come together.
- A good developer, or agency, who has the requisite skills.
- A good and long-lasting relationship with your digital agency or your developer.
Do you have a clear idea of what you want? Do you have an understanding of the various pieces that need to be stitched together?
Your developer, or agency, might ask you to graphically define what you are looking for, page by page, function by function. This forces you to think, and it helps the developer in the design phase. You might be asked to reference a couple of existing sites that most closely resemble what you are looking for. The more you define, the better it is for all, and this reduces the likelihood of errors, and it avoids cost increases.
Imagine a contractor building a home, and after the construction gets underway, the client decides that they want a basement in the home, or they desire a third floor; or, after the windows are installed, they start thinking that they would prefer arched windows. What do you think will happen?
Who is building your site? Do they have both the design and the development skills required?
“What do you mean?”
There are different kinds of sites, some more complex than others. The kind of person you need to build your site depends on the kind of site you want.
Here’s an example:
You have a restaurant and you want a website so that customers can find out about you online. You want them to see pictures of your restaurant. You want them to see a map as well as opening hours. You want to post your menu, advertise specials etc. This is like a digital brochure. For this kind of site a good designer with no particular strength in development would suffice.
Now, suppose you want to take your restaurant website to the next level. You want customers to be able to order food and pay for it directly from your website. You also want the website to organize the orders as they come in, in a particular way, so that you can plan your production and deliveries. You might want to allow customers to order for some future time based on a calendar. You might want to be able to control your 'inventory'; what items are available, and which ones need to be brought in.
These website features might seem to be simple to some because we are so used to seeing and using sites that have them. In reality, sites that can do these things are quite complex, and therefore require a lot of complex development work. They require a person with deep knowledge of application programming. The person who builds this kind of website can be called a developer.
A Web Designer is a professional who has the skills to design for the display of information or data, in a ‘pretty’ and efficient way. The designer is focused on look and feel, navigation, user-friendliness and overall attractiveness. A designer can be likened to an architect, who can design a building, but who may not be a good building contractor.
A ‘Developer’ has the ability to dive into code to bring the design to life, to go beyond basic display, to manipulate the screen, to add functionality. Usually when the need of the site gets into the storage of data, filtering of data, deep searches, fetching values and using these values in determining display results, using formulas and calculations etc., then the building of that site enters into web-development territory.
Many professionals have both skills, as there is considerable overlap, but some have strengths in one area, and others are strong in another area.
Application Development usually refers to the building of mobile apps, but can also refer to the building of a complete digital solution for a specific vertical need, e.g. an application to process insurance claims, or an application to manage student records in a school. In today’s world most applications are online but an app does not necessarily have to be on the web.
As we are speaking about development, let’s have a quick word on ‘templates’.
Most websites today are built using 'templates'.
Developing even a simple site from ‘scratch’, i.e. coding from scratch, can take months of work and cost many thousands of dollars. Developers can be very expensive and may charge between $75 and $150 an hour. This is why most sites are template-based.
A template is a framework or style developed by a third party who may take many months to develop it. That third party sells the template at a small fraction of the real cost, to hundreds of users.
Templates however, have limitations; a designer would have to massage the template and play with the functions it allows, to get the result the client wants. A developer can dive deep into the code and effect changes and add new functionality to the template.
Here are some more considerations.
Who provides the content for the site? Who writes the script? Who provides the graphic elements? Where does the video come from?
The client is usually responsible for providing content. The client should know exactly what they want, and understand that the computer-girl might be a good designer and developer but she does not understand the client’s business, and, even if she did, she may not be able to write a single paragraph of good script; she is a web-designer, not a script writer.
Can the developer design logos? Maybe, maybe not. What about photographs? Is the quality of the client’s images good enough, or are they grainy images from ten years ago? Even if you have good images, do they have to altered or cropped etc.? Do you need to purchase stock photos?
What about a video? Video creation is a specialized skill and the digital agency might have those skills in-house, or maybe not.
This content may be developed by the agency in conjunction with the client, but notice the wide array of skill sets required. Third party input might be required.
Costs, and ‘scope-creep’.
How much does a website cost?
Ahh... how much does an airline ticket cost? Or a vehicle?
Someone can build a ‘free’ website from a service like WIX. A website can also be built for a couple of hundred dollars, or a couple of thousand, or tens of thousands.
For someone who is not tech savvy, the Google site appears to be just one page, plus search results in secondary pages; all that this 'Google thing' does, is ‘search’. Yet Google is one of the largest companies in the world, and estimates put the costs of building this ‘site’, to date, at billions (yes with a capital B) of dollars; and there is no end to those costs. There are literally thousands of engineers working on this ‘site’ as we read this page.
When providing a quote for a website or application, an agency will study the requirements, and determine its costs, based on the specifications provided by the client. The client will accept the quote, or shop around for the best combination of price and performance-expectation.
Once the project is underway, the client must be aware of, and the agency will be on the look-out for, ‘scope-creep’ or ‘design-creep’. Projects and relationships can disintegrate when scope-creep starts.
Scope-creep occurs when the client’s requirements, or wants, keep evolving. This is very common.
There is no harm in this if the client understands that a quotation is based on estimated hours, and that design-changes which may seem to be simple, can possibly take many hours or days or weeks of additional work.
If an agency anticipates that a client might be inclined to ‘evolve’ the site as it is being built, they might opt to charge by the hour rather than by the project.
Many agencies build into their contract a provision for design-creep or scope-creep.
Other costs and considerations that go into site building:
Graphic and Video costs:
Logo, Image Costs, Image Manipulation, Charts etc. Graphic elements can be expensive, for example Logo costs can go into the hundreds of dollars. Some companies pay thousands for Logo design only. Stock images are costly. Charts are time-consuming to build.
Data Entry Costs
For example: A company which allows their customers to configure electronic parts using other parts or kits. These parts can number 1000, or 5000 or 500,000. All the parts have to be entered into the back-end after the site is built. Who does that?
A store which has an inventory of say 10,000 items in different categories, locations etc. This inventory has to be entered into the system. It can take weeks to enter the data. Does the agency do it, or does the client employ another person for that job?
Web agencies usually decline to do this kind of work and would suggest to the client that they retain cheaper labour for this task.
Post site-building costs.
After the site build is completed there are some additional functions that have to be considered.
Do you already own your domain name? Domain names are usually not expensive to purchase, around twelve dollars a year, except, of course, if you wish to purchase a premium name. Premium names can cost a few thousand dollars, (or hundreds of thousands of dollars if it is a super premium name).
A website is built on a local computer, but to make it available to anyone in the world who has a computer or smart-phone, it must reside somewhere; in a place which is always connected to the internet. This place is called a Host, and there are hosting fees attendant to hosting. Fees can range from as little as a few dollars (US) per month, to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on your site, the service you want to provide, and the level of hosting that you agency arranges for you. This will be the topic of another blog post.
Addresses can be basic and free, if it is part of a hosting package. It may be a premium service like Google Professional Mail, which attracts monthly fees. Setting up emails can take a fair bit of time. In a case like this the agency might bill this separately.
Cost of optimizing the site for search engines, and setting up on platforms like Google My Business etc.
This is actually separate from site building, and today it is a separate discipline. A site can be built initially with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind, and the basics of SEO incorporated when populating the site. However SEO is a function that requires a high level of expertise, and it is very time-consuming, and on-going. It is not part of the site-build. This function is usually quoted separately. There are companies which specialize in SEO exclusively, and they usually charge a monthly fee, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Sites are built with links to your social media properties, that is if you have social media accounts. If you don’t have media accounts with the likes of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, your agency or computer guy might offer to set them up for you it, but it is usually at a cost.
They may also offer to do Digital Advertising for you. Again this is at a cost, usually on a monthly basis. This can range from hundreds, to thousands of dollars per month depending on the scope of your business, and your needs.
Understanding these notes can help you get a good start on building your web presence, and help you to have a good relationship with your digital agency. A key concept to always bear in mind, is that your web-presence is a process not a product.
Please invest the time to explore these ideas or functions to ensure the success of your web projects.
The CaribFind Team wishes you all the best on your journey.
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If you require advice on your web project you can contact Kiskadee Media Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org