Right, so you’re thinking about starting a new web project? Here’s a quick guide that’ll walk you through the most important things you need to consider if you want to avoid wasting 2 – 24 months and thousands of pounds on a failed web project.
(I know, 24 months sounds crazy but it’s a common outcome for other freelancers and agencies, especially with small, uncomplicated brochure websites)
Be Very Clear on the Purpose of the New Website
Successful businesses think about the role their website will play in the bigger picture. They’ll have a good project brief and a clear understanding of what the website needs to achieve in order for it to be deemed successful in the long term.
Not communicating this clearly to your web designer will cause them to prioritise in a way that conflicts with what you want. For example they may spend too long on a task that you don’t really care about, causing delays and higher costs.
What’s the purpose of your new site?
- To serve as a simple online brochure in case anyone searches you online
- To convert leads generated from offline sales activities
- To survive a credibility check from professional B2B leads prior to a sales call
- To generate traffic from content creation and SEO
- To sell a small and slowly evolving line of products
- To sell a large and rapidly evolving line of products
Quality web designers and developers will gravitate towards companies with long term plans, because they’ll be more successful than those without. It can be tempting to leave all the planning for now and just get “any old website” up and running quickly, but this will cost you more in stress and £ in the long run.
We are used to dealing with larger projects that consist of multiple elements, such as SEO, website, brand and marketing, so we freely help our clients with advice on how to approach building long term (guaranteed) growth strategies.
Decide If, How & When You’ll Drive Traffic to The Site
Successful businesses do not believe that if you build it they will come. There’s very little point investing into a website if you aren’t also going to invest into at least one of the following:
- Cold reach out (for B2B)
- Social media (for B2C)
- Paid ads
If you are happy to invest into a website that no-one (except you) is going to see, that’s cool, as long as your expectations are realistic and you make this clear from the beginning.
It’s not uncommon for people to get websites built and then start to question why, 6 months after launch, sales haven’t increased.
We offer free high level strategic business planning and growth advisory to any of our clients wanting to better understand how to get results with their investments into business growth, rather than end up with a bunch of content and assets that sit there looking pretty but don’t increase company revenue or profit.
Be Clear On Your Available Budget
Successful and experienced business people are happy to discuss their budget openly and honestly because they know roughly what’s fair and what their financial situation can justify; they converse confidently.
Successful web designers will happily talk about their website packages, won’t hide their pricing and won’t try to keep you in the dark by saying things like “Well, you know, everything is bespoke so it really depends on what you want…”
For the most part, web designers just want to know whether you’re after more of a Lamborghini or a Ford Focus.
You may not know what you should be paying, and there’s always a fear that you’ll pay whatever price you say, but there’s a simple way to avoid that.
Look at your finances and work out what you can realistically afford, if you can afford £4k just say £2k – £4k is your budget range. Half the max number to get your minimum. Tell the potential web designers you want them to suggest 3 pricing options with a clear distinction of pros and cons between each.
We don’t force our clients through hoops to arrive at clarity on cost vs value, we’ve laid everything out in clear and transparent packages on our website.
Know Your Rates
How much does a website cost? If you ask this question without also submitting a detailed project brief, you will rarely get a helpful answer.
Here’s a rough set of guides that should cover most situations:
- Less than £500 is bottom of the barrel / student rates
- Less than £1k = high risk, low value project (real professionals won’t work with such low budgets)
- £2-3k is reasonable for a basic brochure website (<15 pages, no advanced functionality) built well
- £5k is reasonable for a simple e-commerce website or branded / premium brochure site
- £10k is reasonable for a larger e-commerce website or a larger site (30+ pages) with luxury animations and other user-impressing features
- Less than £500 p/m for SEO will see you work with amateurs and you’ll struggle to get any results
- More than £100 p/m for hosting a website that doesn’t need high end security is worryingly high
- Websites don’t need monthly plug-in updates or maintenance packages on top of hosting – go quarterly to save money (we only offer quarterly maintenance plans)
You will find plenty of exceptions to these rules, but without more detail it’s hard to be any more accurate.
Remember, the less you pay the less time and skill your web designer will either have or be willing to add to your project. There’s no such thing as a discount without consequences when it comes to web design projects.
Set Aside Time Each Week to Invest Into the Project
Even if your only goal is to get a good site up and running quickly, try to set aside at least a few hours each week to engage with your web designer and give them what they need in order to do their best for you and your project.
In web design there are few things worse than a client who’s so busy they take weeks to get back to you, or deliver content you could not possibly come up with yourself e.g. pricing plans or service descriptions.
It’s worse when that content comes back half-arsed to the point you feel embarrassed to be associated with it, and then you start getting the blame for the project being behind schedule.
Don’t expect that you can just pay an invoice, ignore a project until it’s finished and then get an amazing website out of it.
Value the Web Designer’s Relationship Over the End Product
When projects end badly, a it often goes like this:
- Planning – fine
- Design – fine(ish)
- Development – fine(ish)
- Shit loads of problems
- Massive fallout
- Project failure
If the relationship with your web designer breaks, you will probably lose your website or be stuck with something you hate. A wise project manager will focus on long term relationships over low initial pricing.
Many web designers and clients fail to understand or successfully complete the project planning stage in enough detail, which results in neither side being fully aware of the assumptions that exist on the other’s.
This will cause your web designer to do things that conflict with your expectations and will require them to invest extra effort to keep rectifying. if that keeps happening, they’ll exhaust your budget and their energy before you can finish.
If you’ve hired a disposable web designer (the cheapest), they won’t put in the extra effort and if you keep forcing them to, they’ll likely abandon the project because they know you have nothing else to offer them except a finished website that’s probably too ugly to put into their portfolio.
We are first and foremost geared towards long term partnership and believe that if we make a mistake, we are duty and honour bound to make it right for our clients.
Make Sure Your Web Designer Can Code
People generally use the term “web designer”, especially those less experienced with web projects, to refer to anyone who can build websites.
Here’s the thing, if your web designer can’t code in PHP, every time you ask them to add a new feature to the website, they’ll use a plug-in.
When you take this approach it’s easy to end up with 30+ plug-ins. Imagine a wall built with a single type of brick – it’s what you’d expect, right? A pretty decent looking wall. Now, imagine a wall built using 30+ different types of bricks, varying in shape, size and colour.
That wall is going to look pretty fucked. Neighbours will think less of you… Children passing by will point and laugh… It’s not a good look.
It’s okay to use a few plug-ins but each one will introduce new limitations and bottlenecks that won’t become apparent until your web designer says “Sorry, we can’t do this unless you want to rebuild a huge part of the website, which is going to cost £xxxx….”
As our team contains genuine developers, who focus all their time just on development, we create all of our websites using hand-written code and can implement a fantastic array of features and functionality to websites.
Define a Detailed Scope of Work for Your Contract
If you engage a web designer and they do not present you with a contract without being asked, run for the hills.
Put simply, many web projects fail. More fail than succeed, especially at the lower end of web budgets (£500 – £5k). When a project fails, often your only recourse is to take your web designer to small claims court.
In almost every case, the only relevant route is breach of contract i.e. you signed a contract that promised you would pay person/company X to fulfil a scope of work.
Obviously you cannot breach a contract that does not exist. Yes, you could go down the verbal route but it will take 40+ hours of your life to build a case and find evidence that, in many cases, won’t exist. If you’ve only spent £1k – £2k on a site, you’ll probably conclude it’s not worth your time but you’ll still be out of pocket.
If you do have a contract, you can only prove what’s included in it. For example if the contract says “Company X will build a home page”, all they have to do is build a home page. This page could have taken them 20 minutes, it could even be a copy of a previous client’s home page with updated text.
You cannot easily argue subjective points like quality of design in court, so as long as they’ve given you something, then vague statements are considered to be fully delivered.
If you don’t know what you want (this is very common) I suggest you work with a web designer first to figure that out before signing a vague contract.
As we wrap up, here’s a brief overview of the essential points we’ve explored in this post:
- Before speaking to any prospective business owners, make sure you’ve decided exactly what you want your new website to do for your business.
- Ensure your web designer is proficient in PHP coding. Without this skill, they’ll have to rely on plugins, which can pose risks, complicate future updates, and potentially require significant site reconstruction if you ever want to make changes down the line.
- Expecting a web designer to estimate how much your site will cost alongside a very vague description is almost impossible. If you’re trying to get an understanding of what costs to expect, do some research or use the guide in this post.
- Be transparent when discussing your budget and suggest a range instead of an exact amount if you’re unsure. Request three pricing options from potential designers, clearly outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each for informed decision-making.
- Never, ever start a web project without signing a contract.
- Ensure your contract contains detailed descriptions of the project’s key elements. Precise wording is crucial, as the web designer is only obligated to fulfil tasks explicitly mentioned in the contract, making it difficult to hold them accountable for vague terms.
- Allocate sufficient time for active involvement in your project. By providing valuable insights, quality content, and collaborating closely with your designer, you’ll receive a higher-quality website.
- Building and launching a website doesn’t mean you’ll be easily found online. If you want people to see it, you’ll need to decide and plan how and when to drive people to your website.
If you’re looking for an experienced web design company that can guarantee your next web project will be a success then just get in touch and let’s have a chat.