If you really wanted to, you could actually put a website online without paying a cent. Of course, the site would be littered with Wix ads and you’d have to do all the work yourself, but you really could do it without spending any money.
Businesses and nonprofits with defined goals and objectives need a website that helps them achieve those goals and a DIY project is not likely to cut it. But while professional bids range from around $1,500 for a simple one-page website to upwards of $100,000 or more for a complex overhaul of a complex site, how do you know that you aren’t overpaying and how can you save without the performance of your new site suffering?
The answers will rely somewhat on your skill and time availability, but if you know all that goes into building a performance website, you can choose which parts you can take on yourself while leaving the truly technical parts to the experts.
Do your due diligence on website vendors!
Website designers are a dime a dozen, and each one is a little different. Some designers are less expensive, but they may not offer everything you truly need. Others may charge more but do all of the heavy lifting. Finding the right partner for your project will make a big difference in meeting deadlines and quality standards, it will be a deciding factor in how much you pay, and it will determine whether your website performs or not.
Do: Check vendor references before making a decision. Look at their portfolios to ensure you’re happy with their design work. (Be sure to check the desktop and mobile versions of those sites.) Read online reviews. Talk to their clients to ensure the work was on-time and the experience was pleasant.
Don’t: Choose the lowest price offer. You get what you pay for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies ditch a website project in the middle only to hire a more expensive vendor who will perform as expected. Most fail to get their initial investment back.
Write your own website content.
Strategic website content can cost upwards of a dollar per word. Great copy that wins over visitors can absolutely be worth the price, but if you have time and can write well, it will save you big bucks. Each page on your website should have at minimum 300 words of content, but ideally upwards of 700 (some SEOs say more). Copy should be broken into small consumable chunks as visitors generally skip over large blocks of copy.
Do: Pay your digital strategist to conduct keyword research and advise you on writing for SEO best practices. Break up copy with a mix of headlines, subheadings, short paragraphs, bullets, and columns.
Don’t: Copy text from another website. Since Google only gives one website SEO credit for original content, copying content from another won’t contribute to your rankings in Google.
Plan your website project well ahead of time.
Depending on the complexity, a website project can take anywhere from two to four months or longer to complete. While simple websites can be assembled in a day, performance-designed websites include strategic planning, content planning, design, development, search engine optimization, and connectivity to other productivity software platforms. Projects don’t usually begin until those details are defined, so starting to discuss those things with your website design partner before you sign on the dotted line will ensure an on-time delivery. It will also give you time to choose the best partner for your project.
Do: Begin planning your website project several weeks ahead of when you’re prepared to make a purchase decision. Websites take between two and four months to build.
Don’t: Wait until the last minute to hire your website vendor. Digital marketing is an in-demand industry and website design and development costs around 25% more when deadlines are tight.
Define your website goals.
A great website designer will ask you what goals you aim to achieve with your new website project. There are tactics that can be deployed to achieve higher rates of engagement and more conversions from the visitors who come to your website. Knowing what you aim to accomplish will help your website design partner point you in the right direction when it comes to these tactics. A new website should result in higher conversion rates, a higher placement in search results, more traffic from organic search, and more new business opportunities. A website partner who wants to take your money without knowing your goals should be avoided.
Do: Identify tangible key performance indicators (KPIs) that you want to measure and improve as a part of your investment. Be specific about how much you want to grow so that marketing strategies can be considered that affect how your website is designed. Ask questions about how the plan will produce results.
Don’t: Assume that your investment will be wasted. A great website that is goal-oriented can and should deliver a return on your investment.
Negotiate the payment terms of your website project.
Depending on workload and the timing of other projects, cash flow for website design firms can be like a rollercoaster ride. You may find that a company is willing to discount your project in order to accelerate onboarding or a company might provide a discount for paying for the full project up-front. A truly great web designer likely has a tight operation and knows their work is valuable and won’t provide discounts for these reasons, but it never hurts to ask.
Do: Ask your website vendor if there are any available discounts. The answer may be no, but every company has different needs and you may find flexibility if you can pay up-front, wait a little longer for the project completion, or begin the project sooner than you planned. Be cautious about paying upfront as the final payment is often an incentive for an on-time delivery.
Don’t: Ask for a payment plan if you’re trying to save money. If a company extends a payment plan, they are lending you money and they will expect a premium for that. It’s likely cheaper to go this route than to finance a website on a credit card, but both funding vehicles are one in the same as you’ll pay more than the sticker price to complete the project.
A truly great website is worth every penny. In fact, most companies spend $72 attracting traffic to their website for every dollar they invest in making their website generate better results. Shifting just a portion of your marketing budget from advertising to an improved website will likely result in better returns on a lower advertising spend because you’re turning more of your visitors into customers.
Putting the cart before the horse can be expensive, but I see companies doing it all the time. Your website is the center of your marketing world, no matter what type of business you run. So don’t skimp on the strategy or the details. Both matter for the health of your business.