Five cents will not buy you a mouthful of bullfeathers in Bablion…
Everyone would like a great website, but what it is, how it can be realized, and how much should be spent seems to be a mystery for most. A great website is many things. In the broadest sense, it should be a culmination of business, communication, marketing and technology strategy. A great website should support your business plan by helping you achieve short- and long term business objectives.
Doh! In the clip below, the narrator points out an obvious mistake on the website of the world famous usability expert Jakob Nielsen…
I spend a lot of time in Amsterdams’ Schiphol International Airport connecting between the US and Europe.
See. Buy. Fly.
You might find me having my cafe latte and pack of cigarettes at the Cone Bar. I meet a lot of people there and, after some pleasantries, they will eventually ask me what I do. “Software, online strategy and great websites” is my short answer.
Maybe, I should drop the adjective, ‘great’. On the other hand, the obvious next question is always, “so what is a great website?” and my answer helps keep me on top of my game.
This is my answer:
A great website is a culmination of business, communication, marketing and technology strategy. Great websites do not just happen; they are made by professional partners with teams of programmers, designers, writers, etc.
Do you know what your website should do?
A great website should support your business plan by helping you achieve business objectives.
It should get people excited about your brand and get into it. First impressions count a lot but you must also encourage return visits. Customers want personality (your commitment to your brand) as well as service.
A great website is so interesting and useful to your customer that they come back to it again and again. It will answer questions and provoke interest. It will assist in issue resolution, customer satisfaction, and general customer consulting. It should deliver on your brand promise.
Why do you need a great website?
You need a great website because great websites are key to your success and advancement.
Investment or Brochureware?
Should the development or redesign of your web site be dictated by the opportunities and value that it can bring to your organization- or are you just following the herd?
You recognize that a website is important for your image and reputation, but you are uncertain about all the elements that will make your website great. You website development partner should be able to work with you to develop a business and communications strategy that accomplishes the goals that you set.
How can your website help your organization perform at lower costs? Get higher margins? To grow? To win?
Are you ready to invest in a great web site?
Your business instincts may dictate tentative, incremental steps. However, the last thing you want is tentative, incremental results that only realize across many years. Online results realize slowly. However, online results realize exponentially with ongoing investment and growing audience.
In other words, your online investments increase as you increase and continue the investment.
What you pay for a website is an online investment… as much as it is an essential component of an intelligent marketing strategy. Like any serious investment, you must put serious money into it – if you have any expectation on a return.
Choosing the right partner
A website development partner should work with you to define the things your website must do: business activities, communications, brand building, customer services. A great website development teams will ask you a lot of questions about your business model and your customers.They are asking you because you know best about what you do and about your customers.
Your answers and thoughts are important. Don’t keep them waiting!
The right partner brings the following:
- knowledge, wisdom and insight about how to make it easy for visitors to use your website
- what information technology is needed to support your business objectives
- which web technologies are best suited to accomplish the defined online strategy
- search engine optimization knowledge, strategy and a white bag of tricks
- creative and design talent that can digitize your offline brand or create an online brand
- communications writing skills with an emphasis on pithy, forceful online writing
- voice in the online community – if they don’t share it, most likely, they don’t get it
- experience, experience, experience; 12 database-driven websites under the belt is a minimum
The right partner will have the talent, skills and professionalism to deliver a great website- on time and within budget.
Whether your business plan and budget allows for a phased approach or full build at launch, your partner should be willing to work for your best interest. Don’t be surprised if your partner wants to be paid to think and develop a web site design plan. In fact, you should be very worried if a candidate doesn’t even think that planning is critical to the success of the project. Planning is important.
Make a Plan
When thinking about a website, your first priority is getting your website plan right before the build. Having a great plan is key to making a great website. Broken websites (websites that don’t work) are most often the websites that were planned wrong from the beginning. Many are never planned. Hopefully, this is the case for your competitors!
Unfortunately, a broken website may communicate to your customers and competitors that you didn’t think enough about your online strategy. That you don’t stand behind your brand or business. That’s the last thing you want inside your customer’s head. Or your competitor’s head- why give “him” the push “he” needs to get his online strategy on?
How much should you pay for a website, launch, hosting and maintenance cost. This has been on your mind since I began my talk. I know.
The fast answer is… not more than the total of all that you spend on all your telephone book directory ads, client meals and gifts in a year, business attire and accessories, cosmetics and personal fragrance, and a customer-service-minded receptionist that acts like a friendly, sympathetic and professional consultant to each and every caller that calls into your business.
Money and Licensing
The cost of a great website and launch should not exceed the forecasted value and benefits that will be a consequence of the website over a two year period. Expect annual maintenance of your website to generally cost 60 percent or more of the cost of the website. Other costs will include hosting, online advertising, social networking, and new print collateral which includes your website or website address.
Online advertising and social networking are not cheap. Expect each to cost as much as your website development.
Any great web development team understands that the costs represent an amount that almost no one can cough up, up front. You may need to get a loan or your website development partner may be able to accept monthly payments. Personally, I prefer to offer licensed websites with a monthly payment plan- few client s have actual need to own the technology and intellectual property involved in the site infrastructure.
Getting a $50,000 website (where you own the code) becomes possible when the same can be licensed for $16,000 up front or $1,448/month for twelve months OR $400/month for 36 months. It’s a much more practical “buy” for most clients. You’ll need a good credit rating to get a 36 month licensing plan – or you’ll pay a higher interest rate. But even a small mom and pop shop can afford to license a great, little website.
December 27, 2002
Note: Edited slightly on March 06, 2008.
About Stan Faryna
Stan Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.
Stan Faryna is editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Copyright 1996 to 2008 by Stan Faryna.
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