II: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!
this 2-part article, Dr.
Tong promotes ideas that you just
won't read anywhere else about the intimate
connection between web design and web marketing,
based on his 20 years of experience with
you missed Part 1: Some Powerful Trade
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Two of the most common questions we get asked
shouldn't I just do it myself? There are wonderful tools
(FrontPage, Dreamweaver, etc.) that allow anyone to create
web pages. And Harry on my staff knows a little about
someone down the street who is offering to build me a website
for $500 or even better FREE. Why should I pay you a higher
price or anything - for that matter.
read everything up to this point (Part
1 of this article), you've probably already anticipated
the punch line of this section. It's pretty obvious! Let's put
it all together.
want just a website. You
want a profit center. And
for a website to be a profit center, everything
has to work well together – like a well-greased machine, a Marketing
Machine. Just doing some of it sort of well is not it – in this
business, a miss is as good as a mile. Such as:
keywords someone types into Google (or some other search
engine) have to bring up your
description of your site on Google has to be enticing enough
to get readers to click through to your site.
page they arrive at has to draw them into the site.
rest of the site has to be designed like a sales argument,
so they reach the place to which you want to bring them
most website visitors need 5 visits to a site before they
make a purchase, the site needs to be constructed so as
to help draw them back again (including opportunities such
as opt-in subscriptions to your email newsletter, etc.).
means for making a purchase has to mesh with the way they
prefer to make purchases. (For example, did you know that,
on the average, 60% of the sales of sites with e-commerce
capability come through electronic card orders? Imagine
how many sales you'd be losing if you didn't provide that
means must be provided for contacting and attracting them
to return again. The biggest source of income for most online
businesses is repeat customers. Means such as member registration,
website personalization, "frequent buyer" discounts,
email reminding them of your site, etc. are among the means
for helping to cultivate repeat customers.
don't get all that right
with your favorite web design tool. In fact, you don't get all
that, period. It's like someone purchasing a canvass, brushes,
and paints, and, on that basis, thinking they are a painter!
There is an incredible amount of expertise involved in making
all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. And – guaranteed
(we know this from the actual experience of designing many,
many sites) – you are not
going to get it all right yourself the first time. And that
is going to cost you – because when you realize you do need
to get it all right, you'll have to start from scratch again.
Also – no
one who charges $500 (let alone $0) is going to possibly be
able to provide you with the necessary expertise to do everything
right. Or to do everything,
period. Either they are shortcutting in terms of the time and
creative energy they are investing in your site; or they (or
the college students they hire to keep costs down) plain old
don't know or don't
care about what is really involved in creating an
Internet profit center. You can even give them a short quiz,
based on this article, including such questions as:
get a website from them,
no doubt! But you won't get an Internet
profit center. Or anything that could easily or cheaply
be converted into one.
So – the
upshot is: you get what you pay for!
FOR KEEPING COSTS LOW AND QUALITY HIGH
having been said – let's spin the coin.
does doing all this right
cost? Here's the report of one reputable and current survey:
Web Price Index estimates costs for Web development
projects based on three levels of complexity.
In our first major look at site design costs since
May 2000, prices for a "small" site plummeted
to a median of $65,000, from $113,500 at the same
time last year--based on hypothetical projects
we sent out to an assortment of developers for
bids. "Midsize" site prices stayed almost even.
Likewise, our "large" site prices showed a significant
(monthly survey of Web
developers in six markets
the bad news. But here are two statistics drawn from our own
web design experience that you may find interesting:
primary source of design time (and therefore of design
cost) is re-design
of all re-design effort is unnecessary,
and is the result of client ignorance, poor communication,
or poor management.
part of the reason our costs are nowhere nearly this high (more
typically in the $3000 to $15000 range) is because:
there are a couple of other factors:
make use only of the technology necessary to achieve our
client's purposes. (The web database technologies used
by the largest companies' websites – by themselves – comprise
tens of thousands of dollars of the overall total; most
small to medium size companies don't need anything so
sophisticated for their web database needs).
use affordable means for shifting the responsibility for
updating the website onto your own staff over time (the
goal of many companies), rather than requiring you to
pay for expensive, high-end interfaces.
education. There are
an overwhelming number of things one could learn about the Web
and the Internet. However, in our experience, there is often
no better starting point for educating our clients about what's
involved in doing high-quality web design than to provide them
with our list, sources
of added design cost. Check it out and see if you don't
learn something too!
communication. Website design involves people working
together in creative and effective ways, as a team. This means
that, not only do the participants in the process have to be
good "technicians" at their respective roles (see
effective division of labor), they
must also know how to cooperate with each other, communicate
clearly, and put effort into pre-solving problems together.
An integral aspect of our design process is getting every participant
to understand that the earlier on they communicate what their
role requires them to communicate, the easier and the briefer
(and the less costly) the overall design process will be. So
the company should communicate as clearly and fully and early
as possible what they are
looking for in their website; the designers should communicate
as clearly and fully and early
as possible how they are
going to render what the company is looking for. A lot of painful
re-design cycles can be avoided by such early-on cooperative
communication. Yes, it's obvious! But not by any means always
division of labor. The
process of designing a website is complex, as we have seen.
Here are some possibilities to consider:
you already have an in-house graphic designer, add him
or her to the team, and let the design experts manage
the activities of this valuable team player. This will
help keep the cost down, without splintering the design
you have an in-house computer technician, or even simply
someone who is not computer-shy and willing to learn a couple
of new tools, such a person can be trained in a couple of
hours to make straightforward changes to the company website.
The combination of an in-house computer technician with
an in-house graphic designer can cut back on a lot of the
expenses that would otherwise by incurred by many re-design
rounds at a distance, between the client company and the
your business is large, and more than one person has a say
in the decision-making associated with website design, than
we strongly recommend appointing one person website design
project manager for your company. This is the person who
will be responsible for arriving at a concensus when a decision
must be made. And this is the person who will act as the
primary contact point on your end in communications between
your company and the design company.
important of all: let the design company direct the process;
they are the ones with the experience, who know the pitfalls,
who know the goal and the best way to get there.
adding that – with the right design process, the right division
of labor, and effective use of all the means of communications
channels available in 2000 – design at a distance has become
perfectly possible (and in our experience commonplace):
wanted to thank you for both your time and your efforts
in developing a wonderful, fully interactive website
complete with e-commerce. I came to you with a goal
and you fulfilled it both in time and with minimal disruption.
I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to work with
someone, without ever having met them face to face,
and have them do a great job.
(USP: "The Seasonal Approach to Health")
design process. If everybody is playing
their right role (see Effective division
of labor), and everybody has understood ahead of time
the importance of cooperative communication,
then we can add the third key element to success at meeting
goals while keeping costs down: a well-organized design process.
We're not going to give away all our secrets to our competitors
here, but we will mention two key elements of the process we
rarely write a book by starting at page 1 and just writing
until they are done. This is particularly so if the book
is non-fiction, with a commercial purpose. Instead, they:
do research for the book; collect lots of potential elements
for inclusion; let these elements (as well as their commercial
goal) inspire an outline for the book; refine that outline;
then incorporate their source materials into this carefully
reasoned high-level plan, to flesh out the details of
the book. Just so, we practice top-down refinement of
our websites, doing research and high-level planning before
diving into low-level detailing.To start off by creating
detailed web pages is a sure way to guarantee many re-designs
(because of the mismatch between what's on a particular
page and what you later discover you want the overall
website to achieve).
sign-offs. When I was a young graduate student
writing my Ph.D. dissertation in Computer Science at Stanford,
I fell into a pattern that traps many people engaged in
large, creative endeavors: every month or so, I would
get a "better" idea for what the thesis could
be about, and I would start the whole process again. My
Ph.D. advisor was a wise man, and, understanding that
I was very new at this, let me play this out for a few
months, and then, in the midst of my latest brainstorm
for a thesis topic, he gently made the following point:
"Your Ph.D. thesis is supposed to be your first
major work; not your last!"
He waited for the point to sink in. It was such a great
line that I got the point immediately.
Just so, the first version of your website is important,
but keep in mind that it is your first
appearance as an Internet presence; it is far better to
get out there in a reasonable time with a great website,
than to "perfect" a website that is invisible
to everyone else. There are a few things that do have
to be done well (read Part 1
of this article for details); but that doesn't require
a "perfect" site – so don't fall into the "perfectionist"
We incorporate this idea into the phases of the design
process. Once the phase of researching other websites
has been completed, everyone signs off on it, and no one
is allowed to casually start the process all over again
by saying, "Hey, I just saw another great site out
there that gives me a completely different idea for how
we should do our website!" This simple device ensures
that progress continues to happen, launch dates and budgets
can actually be met.