Before you approach website designers for estimates, you should already have an idea of what you want. Most designers will not be able to give you an estimate until they understand all the functionality you need. Once they know all the features you would like to include, they will be better able to provide you with a price.
It will likely cost you extra to make changes in the middle of the project, so it's best to have everything written down up front. Below are some key things you should know before you reach out to your design contacts.
1. The structure of your website.
Will you need to be able to create and edit pages? Will you upload your own photos? Will you need to change the navigation regularly? If you don't plan to do these things, you will need to pay a designer to make each edit, so budget accordingly.
Is there any special functionality you will need to build into the site? For example, will you need a slideshow on the home page, a contact us form, or a secure client login? Will you need to be able to sell merchandise? Will you need to process credit cards?
2. The look and feel of your website.
What are some websites you like, and what do you like about them? What are your competitors doing that you like or dislike? This can include colors, images, features, etc. Put together a list of at least five websites, along with your reason for listing each one.
Keep in mind you don't have to follow all the latest design trends. Some of them are expensive and will quickly fade, making them a waste of money. Stick to features that make your site easier or more engaging for your visitors without making things load more slowly or more complicated to use.
Is this site part of a larger brand redesign? If so, you should have all the new brand guidelines nailed down before your designer starts working on initial mockups. Otherwise they will have to make additional edits to the designs, and this will eat up project hours.
3. Your website design budget.
There is a saying among designers: "Great, fast, or cheap. Pick two." If you want a complicated website done quickly, be prepared to shell out some money. If you have a relatively simple design, it will be much quicker to implement and should cost you less in the long run.
If you're unsure how much to budget, talk to a colleague. Depending on the functionality you need, a website can cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000.
Don't take this time to skimp on quality. If a highly-recommended designer with a nice portfolio is coming in higher than your estimate, consider scaling back the project or doing it in phases so you can afford working together. Remember, this website is often the first impression for a potential customer.
4. Your timeline.
You should have a date you would like the site up and running. This will help keep everyone on track. If you need it live before a big event, be sure to give yourself two to four weeks extra time. You never know when someone will get sick or a major storm will wipe out power for a few days.
5. Your website maintenance plan.
Your website isn't finished once the new version is live. As we've discussed in other blog posts, your search engine ranking depends on how often your site gets updated. In addition to obvious edits like updating employee bios and adding product information, you should consider blogging at least once a week. Knowing how many people will need to edit, or whether you will need a web designer to make edits, will allow them to estimate more accurately.
Hopefully you have all this information ready when you start to ask designers for estimates. If you have any questions, or you're worried an estimate is unreasonable, don't hesitate to call or email us. We're happy to help.