The world of website design continues to dumbfound many small business operators and it’s easy to see why.
On the one hand, there are providers spruiking world-class websites for as little as a few dollars a month while on the other, there are digital agencies charging well into five figures and beyond for a website they say will truly entice, engage and convert. And then there everything else in between.
All this when most business operators simply want to know that they won’t be taken for a ride on the information superhighway.
But there is a golden rule when it comes to websites that will mean the difference between a few thousand dollars and many times more.
And that rule is around technical or functional ‘uniqueness’.
Newness equals expense
Essentially, the more unique your technology requirement is, the more your website will cost – both upfront and ongoing.
Conversely if the requirements of your website are quite ‘standard’, its cost will be relatively low.
A good example is an online calculator. If it’s the standard kind of calculations that a shopping cart makes, you will be up for next to no money at all. But once you want it to do calculations that aren’t so common, like an unusual discounting capability, or an unusual freight requirement, you can expect to budget for a much higher development cost.
Duplication equals savings
The reason for this is a fundamental of software development. Once software (essentially what websites are) has been created, it is simple and inexpensive or even free to duplicate it. The developer simply hits the ‘copy’ mechanism for all of those weeks, months or years of computer programming to replicate itself, as many times over as you like.
It’s why companies like Microsoft are so profitable. Whilst there may be thousands of hours of labour in creating a piece of software, once its created, duplicating it to be sold to the masses becomes easy and cheap.
Websites are no different. For many years now, all of the expensive parts of a website have been created and copied into software or ‘Software as a Service’ solutions that are simply replicated. You only need to add your design and content and, voila! Your website is ready for publication to the internet.
This means that what was once the most expensive part of your website, the labour involved in creating the technical functionality, now costs very little indeed.
Continuous software improvement and savings
It wasn’t that long ago that a website that included an integrated eCommerce functionality, a content management system, a customer relationship management system and email marketing system would have cost well into six figures to create.
Nowadays you can get a hosted system with all of this functionality for under $40 per month.
Sure, you will never own the intellectual property in such a system, but at that price, who needs to?
In reality, the vast majority of smaller businesses will never need any more than what is currently available ‘off the shelf’ in this way, not unlike business software, where maybe 20% of its capabilities are ever utilised.
The longer time goes on, and the more new features and functionality are added to your website system, the less that ‘custom’ website development is required
‘Build or buy’
In larger business, this notion of ‘buying’ a technology solution rather that ‘build’ it has been around for decades.
But this ‘build or buy’ decision is still relatively new to smaller businesses, so much so that few operators would know what it actually meant.
So next time you are considering a new, replacement or renovated website – even if it’s the first time you are doing so, just remember that if you have seen a website function in a certain way before, then replicating that functionality will cost a lot less than if you are considering a brand new way of doing things.
It is certain to save you a packet.
In addition to being a leading ebusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.