Thursday, 15 September 2011
The key things to consider are – price, their ability to deliver what you require, ease of use, expansion capabilities, ongoing support and the level of future proofing included. Proposals will differ in format - where detail on the above is missing, make sure you fill the gaps. If not you can’t be sure of making the best decision for your business.
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:
Cheaper pricing normally means something else is given up – typically quality, functionality, durability etc.
If the website is important to your business, don’t compromise on those areas. If it is not, I’d suggest having no website rather than a cheap one. You‘ll be judged harsher for a poor website than for none at all.
Assuming it is important, treat it as you would a physical business asset – for example a new machine, computer, vehicle etc. Look at the positive value it will bring to the business, and look at its costs, not just initial costs, but over its entire lifetime.
Try and calculate a return on investment (ROI) over its life span and be realistic – generally if you skimp on quality, functionality and durability etc, the site won’t perform as well or last as long. Here the long term cost of ownership may actually be higher than for an initially more expensive solution and the corresponding ROI much lower.
Obviously all salesmen will say they can deliver what you want, so how do you try and judge this for yourself?
Firstly, take a step back and examine what questions they asked at the scoping meeting(s) before the proposal was drawn up. Did they delve into your business model, the relevance of the site to your business, how you’d manage the site post delivery, how you’d measure performance, future expansion plans etc. Beware of a company that doesn’t ask these questions - without them they haven’t understood your business, and won’t supply what your business needs.
Secondly – the company itself – does it have a proven track record? Who have they worked with, how happy are they with what was delivered, and importantly, are they are still clients? (you’ll normally see the website supplier’s name at the bottom of the web page). Many suppliers showcase sites that have long since moved away to another provider!
In addition, look at the team within the company. No-one can be a specialist in all things – even the All Blacks have specialist positions on the field. So, does the supplier have a team with members expert in design, wire framing, marketing strategy, content management, user training, search engine marketing, web development and technical support – all key areas to a successful website. A one man band might well be much cheaper than a larger company, but they will undoubtedly fall short in one or more of those areas, meaning your site will too.
The delivery of a new website is just the start of the online marketing process. To be effective, you need to ensure that your site is kept up to date with fresh and relevant content to engage existing clients and new visitors alike. Does the supplier offer an easy to use website content management system – have you taken a look at it, or just taken their word for it? What level of control do you have on the site – what types of changes will you need to involve either them or your IT department to make? A site difficult to manage tends to get neglected and as mentioned before, a poor site is worse than no site at all.
Is the proposed solution going to allow you to expand as your business grows? Again, this often comes down to price, but a budget solution now that has to be replaced before its time because you’ve outgrown will likely be a much more expensive option. How well did the potential supplier examine your growth plans to ensure the right solution was proposed?
Have they detailed what type of ongoing support they provide? Do they offer technical support directly, or are they outsourcing it? If so, will this affect quality? Do they offer practical website help – for example can they step in if requested and help you manage the site (adding and changing content etc)? Also, what level of strategic assistance do they offer – marketing advice, strategic meetings etc? Online marketing is such a dynamic area that what is common practice now, may well not be in a year or two’s time. Regular strategic advice can add immense value to your own efforts.
What level of future proofing does each solution provide? Is the website platform fixed, or under constant development? What is the upgrade path – is it free and automatic or chargeable – and if so is upgrading mandatory? Will your website remain compatible with all new internet browsers, different search engine algorithms etc? If you decide to overhaul your brand look and feel, does this mean that your whole site needs to be rebuilt or can styling changes be easily added?
All in all, comparing apples with apples is no mean task for something as important as your website investment. But remember – think of it as just that – an investment and like all investments take the time to consider the detail. Good luck!