by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, WebTagged as: Digital Strategy, Purchasing
There is an old “joke” in the web development world that is both funny and sad: What is the difference between a $20,000 website, a $200,000 website, and a $2 million one? Answer: The gullibility of the client.
In 27 years of building websites, I have NEVER met a gullible client, which is why this joke is so offensive. And if we did, we expect that they would “smell a fish” if they were presented with a nonsense proposal.
Yet surely there are differences between the cheapest websites, and the most expensive? And is there a connection to the amount you pay for the site (and therefore the degree of functionality) and it’s connection to your strategy? Or in other words, should you look at your website as a commodity, or as your most important strategic asset?
The cheapest sites are templated sites from consumer or small-business web hosting providers. These are offered “free” to serve as a barrier to cancelling the hosting contract; no one but the smallest solopreneurs use this option.
Next up are sites built on proprietary content management systems: rarely is there custom design here either. Special functionality (email lists, blogs, calendars, e-commerce) are usually sold as upgrade modules. The downsides of this approach include little design flexibility, the inability to add special functionality beyond the modules that are available, and vendor lock-in. Security is also a risk point. While this approach was popular 15+ years ago, most organizations don’t see it as a viable approach today.
At the “bottom” of the business-class website barrel are basic brochure sites: This usually means 5-10 pages, a blog, custom design work, basic site analytics and a site that is built on an open-source social platform such as WordPress or Drupal. Beyond this, it is simply a question of adding options – here is a partial list:
Beyond the specific features of the site, another driver of cost is the content: who writes it, who edits it, and who approves it. Connected with this is the total page count of the site: more pages mean more templates, more content loading time, more site testing and more graphics that need to be created, optimized, and loaded. Finally, the largest sites may be part of an organization’s digital transformation strategy. In these cases, the website is really the vector to drive process change, both internally and externally. All of this takes time and incurs cost.
Generally speaking, as more is expected of the website, the “optimal” platform changes to an industrial-strength – and significantly more costly – platform such as Adobe Experience Manager or Sitecore Experience Manager.
Yes, the simplest websites are fast becoming commodities; but user expectations, competitive pressures, and legislative requirements are also forcing many organizations to re-look at whether their current site is pulling its weight.
Except for the largest organizations, a $2 million website rarely makes sense. But a $20,000 website will also omit many key capabilities, dead-end others, and likely expose the organization to undue risk. This week, compare your website with your competitors: have they made a different investment decision than you did? And what has been the result?
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