Budgeting for a Website Redesign

The big question: what’s it going to cost to redesign our web site? Everyone comes to this sooner or later (usually sooner!) when they are determining how to improve their web presence. I’d like to share a page from my book, Online and On MIssion: Practical Web Strategy for Breakthrough Results, that addresses this very issue.

Show Me the Money!

Budgeting for your website falls into two general types: ongoing and redesign. Ongoing budget support should cover things such as staff, outsourced resources, hosting, maintenance and support agreements for technology, and other items required to keep your site up and running and performing well. Redesign budget is money specifically allocated to update or completely replace your existing web site.

Ongoing budgets vary widely and are often a function of the size of your organization and the relative importance placed upon web operations. It is easy to overlook the ongoing expenses required to keep your current site humming along while you are in the midst of figuring out how to replace it entirely. Always plan this out after devising your strategy but before investing in a redesign. The best site in the world won’t do you much good if you can’t afford to maintain it. You don’t want to be like the game show contestant who wins a new car and then has to sell it for cash because they can’t afford the taxes and insurance on the windfall.

Budgeting for a revamp or redesign of your website always raises the question of how much you can expect to spend. The investment will be determined by the technology you ultimately need and the expertise and assistance you require to create the site, including design and content development. All of these variables have a huge impact on what you will invest in and to what degree. When working with outside providers (rather than doing the work in-house with your own staff) I’ve seen everything from budgets of $25,000 to well into the hundreds of thousands. In general, the budget will track with the size of the organization’s overall budget, since complexity and the total requirements tend to go up proportionally.

Ultimately, a redesign should be driven by a change in strategy. The same goes for budget; it should be an output of your chosen strategic direction online rather than your starting point. Once you have your strategy, look at the available budget and consider if you can achieve it given the resources you are likely to have available. Sometimes you can get pretty creative and do a lot without huge budget but you won’t know until you do the strategy legwork first.

The reality is that web strategy projects often do start with a pot of money that was allocated for the site. If that is what you have to work with, look at that number briefly and then try to forget about it while you devise your strategy. Do not limit any ideas or concepts because you think you might not be able to afford them. You won’t know until later in the process, so eliminating them early may simply limit how much value you can create online with the budget you have.

When interacting with outside vendors you are considering to help you with your site, I am always in favor of disclosing to them the budget you have available. Firms that are out of your league will withdraw and those for whom your budget falls into their sweet spot will actively pursue your business. This is a good outcome! Hiding your budget simply delays things and wastes a lot of time both for you and the providers that will not be a good fit.

Finally, this strategy process will give you very good ammunition for increasing your budget to fund site development and maintenance. When done well, you will have clearly identified outcomes the site will create to serve the core of your organization’s mission and purpose. Outcomes draw money. When someone tells you they don’t have money available to fund the site it means that they don’t see the value in doing so. There is always money available if you demonstrate enough value.

Ultimately, there is no magic answer and benchmarking against other organizations is not going to be tremendously valuable if all you look at is raw budget. Above I mention $25k as a low end but you could certainly do it for considerably less if you are simply putting a new look on an existing site, not adding functionality, and already have a good content management system in place that can push the design out. That is rarely the case in a redesign, however.

If you’d like to get a copy of the book, please visit this page.

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