In the digital age, websites are about as commonplace as they are necessary — at least that’s how it would appear. When a company is birthed, creating a website is typically the first step. Whether your company aims to sell products, perform services, or whether you’re just a blogger or vlogger, websites can help accelerate you on your road to success, by providing a platform to increase sales, broaden online presence, and expand brand awareness.
There are, however, many misconceptions & pitfalls related to creating a stellar website, and hopefully by the end of this article you’ll be better able to determine how necessary a website really is for your business and, more importantly, how much financial return your business can expect.
Initial cost & Maintenance
As with most good things in life, there are initial costs & maintenance costs. Think of the initial cost like a sunk cost — that is, the necessary price of doing business. For example, in order to have a functioning website, your business will need to register a domain name, pay for server hosting, and oftentimes, a website engineer to create the visual layout. Those costs are unavoidable.
After the initial work has been done, then you enter the territory of domain renewals, backups, hiring software experts to perform updates & edits, and even content publishers. Although there are plenty of “free” trial solutions on the internet, if you take any pride in your business, you will hire professionals to maintain and continually build up your company’s website, and that can add up to a lot more than you were told at the beginning.
Static vs Dynamic
If you don’t know the difference between static and dynamic websites, don’t worry. We’re here for you. You can read all about it here.
There are significant & costly distinctions between these two types of websites. If you are building a website for a company that wants to advertise products or services (think: law firms, accounting firms, etc) it is strongly recommended that you consider a website builder solution. The cost will be limited to a UI designer and you can expect to pay ~ $20-45/hr and most timeframes are capped at 30 hours. This can have you running a functional, engaging website for less that $500 plus maintenance.
Note that most engineers who specialize in building websites will insist on semi-static solutions, like WordPress – because they are familiar with it, and because it allows “expansion” if your business grows. What they won’t tell you is that the cost of their work to build a website that allows expansion far exceeds the cost of developing a static website and switching to WordPress if you choose to do so later. What you’ll hear even less is that hiring another engineer to do the expansion can cost even more because the new engineer will have to figure out what the old engineer did, and in most cases will suggest re-doing everything from scratch, so the cost will double.
If you think you really need a website with dynamic content or membership options, and don’t have technical staff on your team, you’re more than likely in deep waters.
“WordPress is simple”
Right — it’s simple — at first! When it comes to coding — and WordPress uses a database, and allows coding in PHP to generate dynamic content — you lose all leverage over the content and from that point onward will have to rely on engineers to fix, debug, modify and upgrade and will become a hostage of their skills (or lack thereof). In addition to engineering time, it will be on your time to find the engineers, keep them productive, and explain what you need done.
Cost For Dynamic Websites
To put it simply, if you don’t have $10K upfront, and $1K/year for maintenance, you can’t afford a dynamic website — you will lose money, and spend more time looking for engineers to make a simple fix, finish the website, do an upgrade, move to another hosting company, or rewrite code & content.
Website Building Tools
As engineers, we love any and all tools that make our lives more simple and time more efficient. Engineers love to build websites with WordPress, React, Ruby on Rails, Python/Django or worse yet, JSP or Microsoft solutions. These are all great solutions in some cases, and may or may not work for your business, depending on the scope.
The first step is to analyze if you have any dynamic content or any existing database connections, or need to develop membership options. It is possible to separate static content from dynamic pages and provide different hosting solutions that can save a lot of engineering and business time on custom websites.
All in All…
This article is by no means an expansive thesis on how to build a website, how to financially plan implementing tech solutions to your business, or how to gauge what is needed for your company. It is meant as a starting point, to get you thinking realistically and critically about how to build your company’s online and offline presence in the most effective and efficient way possible.