There is much more to consider as part of your total cost of ownership (TCO) than just the purchase cost of your website. Your TCO considers all elements of your website so you can understand how much your website really costs.
If you focus too heavily on the initial cost outlay for a website rather than the TCO, you may make decisions that could negatively impact your business in the long run. Before undertaking a web project, your agency should present you with the information needed to fully understand your TCO. In this blog, we outline what you should consider when trying to reduce your TCO.
The evolution of websites
Over the last 25 years, there has been a significant evolution in the way businesses use their websites. Originally, building a website was similar to creating a company brochure which included designing, printing and distributing an updated brochure every few years. Websites were created to purely have an online presence rather than add value to visitors.
Since then, websites have evolved from being an online brochure to a core business asset used to attract visitors, generate leads and drive conversions. Every business comprises of multiple, changing elements and your website needs to be flexible enough to adapt in line with these changes which means regular investment.
Considering digital transformation
Digital transformation has been a popular topic for some time. More and more businesses want their digital presence to become an extension of their business rather than a separate entity. However, the more elements that your website hooks into to achieve this, the more costly it becomes to replace it when required. As you progress with digital transformation, you don’t want to be forced into making a sizeable investment every three or four years. Instead, you want your website to last longer.
Cost vs. quality trade-off
After such a significant investment in a website build, many businesses tend to maintain their website as cheaply as possible. Quotes for smaller pieces of additional work that you need over time get squeezed to save costs and while you may save yourself £1,000 off a £5,000 quote, it could bring that rebuild a few months closer than it needed to be. As such, there is a trade-off between doing things cheaply and properly. If you want something fast and cheap, you’re likely going to have to pay again, and probably pay more, than if you’d ensured it was right the first time.
However, there is sometimes a requirement to get a website up and running as fast as possible. The risk with this is that many businesses often don’t recognise when they’ve completed their project fast and cheap. While you may end up with a website that works, what would the difference have been if you’d invested properly and not cut corners? What is the cost to your business of the action a user doesn’t take? How would the result be different if you’d made the onsite experience that bit slicker and better than your competitions?
Style over substance
When a user visits a site, one of the first things they notice is how it looks. While the design is most definitely a key part of your website, it’s important you don’t fall into the trap of style over substance.
If your main aim is to create a cutting-edge design that’s simply nice to look at, your website will date quickly and incur future costs faster. A website needs to be designed and built to genuinely reflect your business, your content, your culture, your ideology and your values. Taking this into account early on in any project will ensure your website is designed to support a longer lifespan.
Hosting today is, on the whole, reliable and adequate. But it can still cost you significantly if you get it wrong. Think of it like insuring your car. On a day to day basis, you will drive about without incident. But, at some point, you could well be involved in an accident and if you’re not insured properly, it will cost you. This isn’t dissimilar to the need to invest in high quality hosting for your website. When you choose a less than adequate hosting provider, external factors can play havoc with your website performance.
Choosing your technology
Traditional CMS’s have been the industry standard for a long time. However, as online experiences continually evolve, new methods have been developed that can sometimes lend themselves better to today’s web projects. More recently, headless CMS solutions were launched bringing increased flexibility with faster development speed. But which is better for your business – traditional or headless?
While a headless CMS can provide increased flexibility between developers and content editors, they can incur greater development costs. These CMS solutions are just one piece of the puzzle and do require additional technology to serve as the ‘head’.
On the other hand, using a headless CMS can save you money elsewhere. For example, unlike traditional CMS’, SaaS based headless solutions don’t come with the same upgrade headaches and the cost of the infrastructure can be smaller than with a traditional approach. On a like for like basis, some of the headless platforms are more expensive. However, it’s important to remember that with a traditional CMS, you will have a big upfront cost and then a smaller annual cost to cover. You will likely find that over three to five years, the cost of both CMS types works out about the same.
If you go for a traditional CMS, you’ll need to budget for an annual CMS upgrade. If your platform does require regular upgrades, it’s important you do so. We often see businesses fail to upgrade when due, letting their website become out of date and making it more costly when they do finally upgrade. Keeping on top of your upgrades as and when they’re required is a more manageable cost and can be taken care of as part of a retainer plan with your web agency.
Choosing your technology is a major part of your web project and one that could significantly impact your TCO. Lean on the expertise of an experienced agency to help you make the choice or take a read of a first-hand account using a headless solution.
Most important of all, you need to align your technology choice with your business vision. What features are you anticipating and budgeting for over the next five years? Right now, you might not be thinking about investing in your website, but you don’t know what could change in your market or business, particularly with the external factors facing businesses at present. Having a website with the flexibility to adapt and evolve fast is imperative to success and can save you the cost of a complete rebuild.
It’s important to understand your budgeting requirements to get sign off from the necessary stakeholders. As an agency, we pride ourselves on providing a transparent and full breakdown of costs for the projects we undertake which allows our clients to budget better. When considering your budget, you need to think of the future, not just the immediate cost of your web project. If you budget to spend every month on maintenance and iterative improvements, you could significantly extend your website’s lifetime to five, eight or even 10 years. We’ve seen a number of our clients take this approach such as Ryobi and Milwaukee.
When making an investment in your website, it’s important to consider the ROI on that spend and how you will measure success. While it’s good to have ambitions such as an increase in lead generation or more member sign-ups, there are many additional factors that contribute to that performance, not just the website itself.
Many of our clients consider whether the stakeholders are pleased with the new site. Did you have a positive experience of building the website and are you proud of the end result? These answers are effective measures of whether the project has been a success.
Once your new website has been launched, the work doesn’t stop there. All too often, we see a launch and leave approach which can quickly make an impressive website outdated, slow and more costly. We recommend taking an iterative approach to your site. Whether your website is a few months or a few years old, an annual website audit helps to ensure optimum performance from a functional and user standpoint.
Through our website MOTs, we look at the user experience and consider whether the site is starting to look dated or if user interaction could be improved. By regularly reviewing your website, it’s easier to spot issues and new opportunities for maximum performance.
Technical debt is what happens as you continue making changes to your website, evolving and adapting it. In the world of development, newer practices tend to surpass older ones which means you can end up with a multitude of inconsistencies in your underlying code and it can get to the point where doing anything on your website becomes complicated and costly. Making a change that seems small on the surface will cost you more than it should because there have been previous multiple workarounds.
So, how do you continually improve your website while avoiding technical debt? As internal teams such as the marketing team are put under pressure to deliver content, features and functionality fast, your development will likely follow the cheaper, faster option that cuts corners. Where possible, businesses could even consider giving their marketing teams the opportunity to complete an annual project that addresses technical debt and website maintenance.
Building for the long-term
Due to the timescales of a large website project, your internal contact could change between the start and the end. In fact, you can end up with a scenario where all the digital knowledge for your organisation is no longer within your organisation but locked up in your agency.
While it’s great for your agency to have such an in-depth knowledge of your business and digital offering, it’s also important to consider the future. What do you want to get out of this project? How long do you want your website to last? How and who will continue looking after it to ensure it performs at its best?
Get to grips with your CMS
When your site was first built, you probably trained multiple people how to use the CMS. As time goes by and with a lack of regular use, this knowledge can soon become rusty.
When you encounter an issue on-site, the first action is often to go to your agency for support. While your agency will always provide a helping hand when needed, there are many times when helpdesk tickets are logged for tasks that the client could have completed themselves. If you can encourage internal teams to spend time getting to know your website and regularly refreshing their knowledge, you will be able to get more from your CMS internally without additional cost.
It’s important to have detailed conversations with your agency to discuss your TCO and the points covered before embarking on a web project so you can accurately budget, manage stakeholder expectations and ensure the longevity of your web solution.
We want you to ensure you get the most out of your website investment. If you need further guidance or want to discuss your web plans in more detail, contact our team today.