Once you’ve made the decision to engage a web design agency to design and develop a site for you, it’s important to understand how to maximize your budget so that your team can spend as much time as possible on high-value activities like design and development.
In an ideal web project, I believe that 15-20% of the time should be spend on client communication and project management, while the remaining 80-85% should be spent on strategy, design, copywriting, coding, search engine optimization (SEO), and quality assurance (QA).
All web companies estimate project budgets based on their own formulas and processes, but everyone should be focused on sticking to the original budget so nobody has to renegotiate contracts, reallocate resources, or adjust timelines. Unfortunately, many web project budgets go off the rails when client communication and project management creeps into the 30-40% range, squeezing the other activities into a smaller and smaller slice of the pie.
Everyone has heard stories of website projects that never end, or whose price tag has ended up 10 times the size of the original estimate. While a lot of responsibility for the success of the project lies in the hands of your web company, there are a few things you can do as a client to make sure your project is a success.
1) "Absent-Minded-Professor" Syndrome
Missing meeting times, not responding to emails, or leaving your action items incomplete causes your web design agency to spend more time acting as a personal reminder service instead of getting your website right. Busy entrepreneurs and marketing directors have a lot of demands on their time, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and become unresponsive to your agency.
Solution: Before you commit to a website redesign project, make sure you're clear on what your web company needs from you to complete the project, how much time you will need to dedicate, and how responsive you need to be to avoid becoming a bottleneck. Block out time in your schedule and plan to spend 2x more time than they tell you to!
2) Being Wishy-Washy
The more times you change direction, the more time your web company will spend redoing work or re-communicating plans to the development team. If you’re in startup mode, or your company is growing quickly, your marketing needs may be evolving on a daily basis -- which can make it hard to commit to a design, message, or site architecture.
Solution: It’s best to be as decisive as possible to avoid costly redesign and redevelopment work.
3) Lack of Direction or Team Alignment
Asking your web company to mediate disputes between business partners or marketing team members about the direction of a website (or company!) eats into production and design time. It’s best to work on these issues outside of your project meeting time and come to the table with a clear direction.
Solution: Consider engaging your agency in a strategy phase first to make sure everyone is clear on the direction and goals before your project begins. Clarify your business goals, ideal customer, buyer personas, messaging, content, and site architecture before design and development begins.
4) Inviting Too Many Cooks Into the Kitchen
Asking husbands, mothers-in-law, hairdressers, and yoga instructors what they think at every step of a website process can overwhelm you with conflicting opinions. It’s understandable to want validation, but you’ll get it soon enough when your site launches and you start looking at the data.
Solution: Keep your website project team lean to stay focused and use your project budget efficiently. Appoint a single person to act as a point person to avoid sending conflicting messages to your web design team.
5) Getting Stuck on Content
Entrepreneurs and business owners are notorious for thinking they can do everything themselves. It’s wise to be realistic about how much time you and your team can commit to developing website content without professional assistance.
Solution: Start working on the content as soon as possible -- block time out on your calendar to focus on writing. If you have writer’s block, ask your web company to find you a professional writer and keep things moving.
Many people think that their website has to be perfect before it can be useful. In reality, if you’ve made the smart choice to have your site put into a user-friendly content management system, it’s easy to update content on your own, on the fly.
It’s far better to launch something you can keep improving instead of sitting for months with an almost-finished website you won’t stop tweaking.
Solution: Consider a phased approach to your project. Launch the “minimum viable website” you need to serve your prospects and customers, start collecting data about how they're engaging with your site, and then launch additional features and content over time.
7) Paying Invoices Late, or Not at All
Don’t believe the rumors. Web design companies don’t secretly want to be bounty hunters who have to chase clients down or withhold the release of websites until they get paid. Web projects can be expensive, and cash flow can be a challenge in small or rapidly growing businesses.
Solution: Pay on time according to the terms of your contract, or work out a payment plan so your web design company can be around to help you in the future.
The key to website project success is understanding how both parties (client and web design company) impact the success of the project. Just like in a marriage, everyone in the relationship needs to be working toward the same vision of success and following the same communication rules.
Your web design company should be just as committed to being a good service partner as you are to being a good client. If everyone works together toward a shared vision of success, you really can live happily ever after!