What you get for your money when it comes to web design and development?
How you can match your organisational needs and readiness to your choice of agency and web platform?
How you build a business case for a new website?
Find out the answers to these questions, and why cheapest isn't always cheapest in the long-run, in this enlightening, animated talk.
Watch the video
Many years ago, somewhere between the origins of life with single celled organisms and Tick Tock, I had my first job. And my boss sat me down and said "we need a website".
"Can you make one?" So I said "OK". And I didn't know what to do, so I went to a popular search engine and said, "Make a website". The website turned out quite well, but being honest we probably overspent in some places and maybe with some hindsight we made some decisions that we wouldn't do now
My name is Shaun Miller, and many years later I now work with organisations large, ambitious and fast growing to work out how to get the most from their web presence.
I work in an agency called Codehouse based in the UK, Sri Lanka and Australia. A question we're asked a lot is "how much is a website"?
And it's a great question, because in true politician style we will say "it depends".
How much is a piece of string? Well, of course it depends on how long it is and what material it is and what colour it is, and I think it is. But it reminds us of this famous quote from Andy Warhol's 1975 book and you'll excuse the impression. "You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola and you know that the president drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke and just think you can drink Coke too, a Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke."
So it's easy to ask the price of a can of Coke but not so easy to ask the price of website because we will find out a website can vary so differently from being a single page or just some text on it through to a sophisticated platform such as Facebook or Slack.
So let's imagine it a beautiful sunny day. And you're about to start your new job at a restaurant that's just about to open for the first time. And your boss says "we need a website. Can you make one?" And the question you'd ask then would be, "do we have a budget to make this new websites?" And as you may have experienced, often the answer is "we're not sure".
"Can you find out how much it's going to cost to make the website?" And so as the person responsible for now creating the site, has to find out how long that piece of string is. In other words, what are the real needs of our stakeholder and the business?
Based on we know so far all the restaurant might need is a simple website. They include some information about their address and opening hours, so it may be possible to produce the website yourself using a DIY tools such as Square Space or Wix. And that probably would come to only about £40 to have a live functioning website.
Oh look, we seem to be going through some sort of wormhole and it's a beautiful day again. And now the bosses said we need to edit the menu daily. Let's pause right there. Because this is the perfect time to introduce our first website cost leader. The Content Management System, or CMS as we all know, is the tool that will allow anyone with access of course to edit content on the website without requiring a developer. But when thinking about the cost of a CMS, there's a couple of things to consider. First, this open source CMS is like WordPress or Umbraco and there are proprietary ones developed and managed by companies like Sitecore or Contentful.
Open Source has its advantages because they are typically free to start using and have had lots of people contributing to them over time, so you can find all kinds of plugins. But the downside is that the too many chefs approach can mean your website can become a dog's dinner made up of plugins with varying compatibility. And in some cases open source CMS is are seen as being more vulnerable to malicious cyberattacks.
Primary CMSs, on the other hand, often have a license fee for using the platform. Often the tooling provided is seen to be more robust and the companies managing the CMSs seem to be more responsive to fixing any bugs that occur as they have full time developers working to constantly improve their platforms. Another thing to be aware of is that the more popular CMSs attract more developers to work on it, and offer their services to companies wanting to build on that CMS. And sometimes that means where there are fewer developers, they are able to command slightly higher prices for their services.
Of course, this alone shouldn't be the reason for making a decision about CMSs. If you're a large organisation you may not want to be using a popular mass market platform. So coming back to the boss's requirement to be able to edit the menu daily at the very cheapest end of the market, you might be able to create this site for about £400. The site will still be quite basic and the amount of customisation might only be able to take an existing template and change the colour palette of the website.
There's that wormhole again. "We need to accept bookings online", said the boss. Wait! Before we answer that, let's introduce this second website cost lever. Creating a website is like buying suit or a dress. You can buy something off the shelf with a generic size that should roughly match your body, but there's no real guarantee of fit. This is the cheapest option. The second option you have is to get a made to measure suit. That's when you'll see a dress is pretty much an off the shelf item that can be adjusted to your tastes and body shape. It costs quite a bit more than an off the shelf item. But the outcome you get is a much better fit for your needs.
The third option is bespoke. You can walk down Savile Row to find a tailor who will create the perfect suit or dress from the ground up that will fit like a glove. And the cost will be reflective of this level of bespokeness. The only downside of this approach is that unlike off the shelf items built in a factory which have undergone rigorous quality control and have had any flaws ironed out before it reaches you. With a bespoke item, you were the first person to experience it, and inevitably you may have to iron out some of those issues that are unique to your one of a kind item
That's enough on suits. So to solve the boss's requirement rather than creating something from scratch, we can easily find off the shelf solutions that will allow us to take bookings. And we just have to decide how we integrate that solution into our website. From having a simple link on our website Home page to go to the booking tools separate website. Oh, integrating the functionality using a simple iframe or with quite a bit more work using their API. So when thinking about the cost of your website, we will take into account the costs associated with the CMS and think about what out of the box OTB functionality exists and what hosting might look like. And for functionality requirements we need to be aware of its level of complexity and how bespoke our solution needs to be versus something that can just be modified. And then all of this is multiplied by the rates charged by the developers that actually create this solution. With a very lean approach to this, it could cost around £4000.
Wormhole. It seems like the restaurant is growing a lot now. They're a regional chain and they need their branches. We have to manage some content on the website, but they must have access beyond what they actually need. As an organisation grows, stakeholder management is key. What was a simple website now needs to serve multiple people across different locations and without some care this could become chaotic.
So that's our third website cost leader, governance. We sometimes say to organisations at this stage in their journey that building a website was just building a website. It would be easy. But a key aspect of delivering a successful website is making sure everyone is aligned and empowered. So it could be helpful to have an agency partner that is experienced in managing this type of transformation. To deliver the boss's requirements, the branch managers will be given access to the CMS, but only to the pages that are relevant to them. And their content may go through a publishing workflow so that it can be approved by you or the boss before it goes live. So this might cost £40,000, but of course it depends on the other decisions that will need to be made to deliver the website.
I see we're going back through the wormhole again. Who's doing this stuff? The once regional restaurant chain has expanded internationally by franchising. Very smart. And they need to maintain consistency across their global presence in all languages. This sounds similar to the previous requirement the boss gave us. But this time it's more complicated, as each of those international franchisees may have their own website to manage and on their own domains.
Pause. This brings up the important fourth website cost lever, extensibility. Just like building a house, there's two ways to do things. You could start by building a small house ,and when you get married and you need a bigger one, you just knock it down and start again from scratch. And when you need an even bigger house because your family is grown, you knock down your house again and you build it again from scratch.
Oh right at the start, you dig deep foundations and create a scaffold so that as your house needs to grow. You can just keep adding on to what you've already built. This approach is costly upfront, but in the long run pays dividends. The approach you take depends on what you can reasonably afford to do today with respect to the needs you can foresee having in the future, and there's no need to overdo it.
Here we go again. Hopefully the last time. The boss wants customers to order food through the website. And for those orders to go automatically right to the chefs in the kitchen to prepare their food. And this is where the website gets interesting. Well it was interesting all along. But now it's really interesting. The boss has identified a key theme of what transforms a website from a cost center performing marketing tasks, to a value generating machine. The most promising and exciting companies have realised their website doesn't only belong to the marketing team, but it can be a place to deliver value from all parts of the business, from operations to finance to all stages of the customer journey from discovery to delivery. So if we go back to where we started, when the boss required a simple website, we delivered something that was of value to the stage of the business then. But as the company has grown, and needs to innovate and develop a value creating machine, the scale of the required investment has grown too.
But then so have the potential rewards. So when we think back to our website cost levers, CMS, bespokeness, governance and extensibility. Well, really they're not cost leaders. They're value levers. And once we think of them in that way, we can think more strategically how we can invest in these different elements to provide measurable value to our customers and our business.
I'm sure you are on just as an exciting journey with your website, and I truly believe with this approach you can realise the full potential of your website. And as I'm sure you can tell, I'm hugely passionate about this topic and I would love to help in any way I can.
That just leaves me to say, I wish you the most rewarding path on your website journey.