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Posts Tagged ‘Web Development’

August 18th, 2009

How Much Does a Website Cost?

4 out of 5 inquiries from new customers begin with some form of the question, “How much does a website cost?”

I think they would be most happy if we could open up the magic website price book and provide them with a useful answer. Instead, we usually say … “Well, that depends upon the type of website you would like to build.”  (How’s that for helpful?)

Actually, it is helpful because such a question begins a discussion that allows both parties to thumbnail out the actual scope of the project at hand.

Here is my firm’s approach to collecting the information necessary to provide initial pricing estimates.  It is a four quadrant model that includes: scale, features & functionality, content development, and interactivity.

Scale – How many sections and pages are we thinking about here?  Is it a redesign of your current site whereby the size of the site might grow by a foreseeable percentage?  Is there a competing site that does a good job capturing the information we’re hoping to capture?  Have you jotted out a preliminary sitemap?  The more thoughts the client can provide on the scale of the site, the quicker we can provide helpful budgetary information.

Features & Functionality – Basically this means “what do you want visitors to be able to do on your site?” – and – “what type of management control and integration are you looking for on the back end?”.   Front end features are usually more obvious.  Are you looking for basic forms, links, and a search feature?  Do you want to post jobs, manage news & events, and host a forum?  Is ecommerce involved? (If so, get ready for a good many more questions.)  Back end features are typically not as thought through.  What degree of content management are you looking for?  Does the site need to integrate with any other software, servers, databases?  One atypical feature request can easily add 50% to the cost of a web project.

Content Development – Content covers both the copy (words on the page) and the images (photos, illustrations, video).  Will the client be providing final website copy?  Or, will you be in need of copywriting and/or copyediting services?  To what degree?  Is there any video production needed for the website?  Will we be using stock photography, client-provided photography, or custom photography?

Interactivity – How much interactivity are we wanting to incorporate into the website?  Hold all other parts equal (scale, features, content), a website with a high degree of interactivity (transitions, multimedia presentations, flash integration) can easily cost 2-3 times more than a basic static website.

To make the “how much?” question even more interesting, the “how much” often depends upon “who” you’re asking.

As you move across the scale from part timers/freelancers/students/friends to very-large-agencies, the cost of a similarly scoped project will increase exponentially.  Experience, team size, and overhead all get factored in and influence the pricing.  On the plus side, you do usually get what you pay for.  Not always.  Usually.  Also, it’s sometimes comforting to know that your web resource will be reliable and won’t be moving/leaving the industry/graduating/you-name-it any time soon.

Technologies used to create your website certainly influence price.  Microsoft licensing costs can add up.  Open source web technology provides a major value, though is not welcome in all organizations.

Lastly, certainly not least, is the degree of search engine optimization effort that is provided with your website.   If a web partner is going to invest the time and effort to identify how people find your business and then incorporate that knowledge into the architecture of the website, be prepared to see at least a few thousand dollars added to the cost of the project.

Some sites cost $1,200.  Others $300,000.  Still others $2MM.   There’s no one price for a website, only a series of trade-offs.

So there we have it, right?

April 1st, 2009

10 Great Contact & Comment Form Designs

Comment forms are one of the few ways readers and visitors to a site or blog can interact with those ‘in charge’, so its a little surprising that so many bloggers/designers throw together these forms and leave it at that. Once a user is at the point of commenting/contacting they probably won’t stick around much longer – that form is one of the last things they’ll see on your site. Why not leave them something to remember you by…just don’t get too carried away. Most often you’ll want to strike a balance between creativity and simplicity, forms that are confusing can lead to a drop in your conversion rates.

It’s always nice to see designers who put some thought into their comment or contact forms. Here are 10 of the AgencyTool staff’s favorites:

The comment form on NatalieJost.com is in a different layout than most, and the graphic down the side gives it a nice look.

From Natalie Jost

Sometimes it is best to keep it simple – it may not be the most exciting design element on the page, but it serves a purpose, and this well-designed comment form won’t deter any users from interacted with the site.

From Ordered List

The call to action of this comment form from RobGoodlatte.com changes; “Enlighten Me”, “Shout It Into The Forest”, “Sound Off!” and “Out With It!” are examples we took the time to find. It’s ok to have a little fun with your forms…

From Rob Goodlatte

We love how this one looks. An interesting font choice or experiment with texture can pay off big time…

From Toucouleur

The post-it look. It can be hard to be creative while still keeping a form super simple, this option pulls it off nicely.

From Point of Entry

This one isn’t live on his site anymore, but Edward Pistachio’s contact form is one of the most creative we’ve seen (thanks to swiss-miss.com for keeping it up!) While this obviously wouldn’t work for a corporate-type site, it fits in great with his site’s tone.

Edward Pistachio

Simple, to the point and just enough texture in the background to keep it interesting…well done.

From Jonnotie.nl

The comment form from Tentangrifai.com is bright, colorful and fits in with the rest of their site. It’s becoming more common for designers to throw in little extras commonly seen on forums, like the little smileys…its a trend we like.

From Tentangrifai

This one is from BlogDesignBlog, a pretty standard layout but we like the step-by-step instructions…and it’s always nice to let your visitors know you follow!

From Blogdesignblog

Last but not least, JankoAtWarpSpeed has a great tutorial for creating a comment form from images of old postcards…

From Janko At Warp Speed

March 19th, 2009

Should Your Web Developer Be Your SEO Consultant As Well?

SEO/Design/Development JuggleMost people not in the industry think about SEO as something that is done outside the actual website, if they’ve done their research then it will be all about link building, blog posting, PPC, etc.  The truth is there are an awful lot of things that can be done within the coding of a site that can make or break any SEO effort – we call this ‘On-page SEO’.  For more specifics take a look at our Simple Guide to SEO post, but it suffices to say that ignoring this type of SEO can kill a campaign before any ‘off-page’ effort has even started.

Ideally your web developer will know about these practices, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has the time to stay up-to-date on the constantly changing SEO world AND continue to move forward with the latest design techniques.  ViceVersa, don’t expect your average SEO consultant to be able to design and code your entire website.

There are people out there who are experts in both areas and can effectively build your site and manage your SEO, but they are few and far between.  Nine times out of ten attempting to cut costs by having one person do both will backfire.  Another option is to hire different people/agencies for each component.  It is a valid strategy, but there are inherent potential problems with this type of set up.  Any SEO consultant worth his salt will want to take a look at your website’s code, and will probably want to make at least a few changes.  Suddenly  issues of file access and permissions pop up that can really complicate, not to mention drastically slow down, the process.

The best possible solution is to have your site designed by an agency who employs both designers/developers and online marketing specialists.  You’ll end up with a coherent and more successful website because of the smooth communication between the two camps.

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