Years ago I hired a roofing company to replace my leaky roof.
I budgeted $7,500 for everything, and their proposal fit my budget nicely. Near completion of the work, the owner surprised me with an additional $1,000 in expenses to replace some rotting wood. Ouch. Really? I had a fixed budget, and now I’m going to exceed it? How could this happen?
Exceeding a budget can be surprising, frustrating, and at times crippling.
Building a website — that comes laced with unknowns – presents bountiful opportunities to blow your budget of not only dollars and cents, but of precious time and energy.
Here are 9 ways that your website could blow your budget, broken down into three categories:
What did we agree upon that one day, about that one feature?
It only takes planning a single website with inadequate documentation to scare you for life. Having enough documentation allows you to reference details quickly and improve recall on your strategy, specifications, and all those micro decisions along the way.
Nothing slows down the process faster than playing the old “we talked about this” game.
2. Not Enough “Done is Better than Perfect” Decisions
Perfection is a dangerous approach when it comes to approving sitemaps, wireframes/prototype, design mockups, and content. If you wanted to, you could tweak a single page of copy for months and hold up releasing your entire website (I’ve seen it happen).
More often than not, a “done is better than perfect” approach will keep your website’s budget in check.
3. Not Enough Testing
“Why is the checkout process breaking in Firefox?”
“The navigation bar doesn’t drop down in Internet Explorer.”
“The Services page isn’t styled properly on my Mac!”
When sufficient time is given to browser testing, it can ensure your website rolls out on time and functions properly. Continual discovery and fixing of browser issues could be a time suck for your company and inflate your website budget if your original plan didn’t support today’s commonly supported browsers.
4. Unplanned Features & Specifications
Would you start construction on a home without planning the number of bedrooms it’ll have first? Of course not. Unfortunately, many websites start development before a solid prototype is completed (more about prototype vs wireframe) and face re-work expenses.
A thorough prototype should serve as your scope of work because it fleshes out all features and specifications and ultimately eliminates the unknowns.
5. Unplanned Third-party Integrations
Do you know what systems your website will integrate with? Maybe a CRM (e.g. Salesforce) or email marketing service (e.g. MailChimp)?
Third-party solutions can be viewed as “plug and play”, but it’s never that easy. APIs (application programming interface) make integration, but without proper planning and devoted development hours, the additional work could be a surprise.
6. Unplanned Communication Overhead
Building a smart and results-driven website takes a hearty amount of communication, especially during the early phases of analysis/diagnosis — this is not a one-way conversation (e.g. “I’ll tell the designer what I want and check back in a few months”).
The amount of communication needed to start, push forward, and finish a website can be startling in retrospect. Ensure it’s part of your company’s website budget to collaborate with your website company and share/discuss deliverables with major stakeholders internally.
7. Too Many Content Revisions
The importance of content can be transformative.
I’ve witnessed companies treat content as an afterthought in the beginning, and then as “mission critical” towards the end. Once it fully registers that words matters, there’s an immediate urgency to refine existing content and/or add new content.
The key to preventing content revisions from blowing your website budget is to understand its significance early (content strategy, audit & assessment) so it doesn’t add unplanned hours towards the end.
8. Too Many Design Tweaks
This is a common website budget-busting issue. If the design phase is not properly navigated (which falls squarely on the shoulders of the website company to lead), it can elongate a project timeline and create undesirable anxiety and confusion. Website mood boards can help this process run smooth, but too many tweaks can still happen.
At some point, tweak after tweak will turn into seeking perfection (see #2 above) and 99.9% of those pixel perfect design details have no tangible impact on the success of the website.
When tweaking, be aware that budget is leaking.
Yep, I just made that up.
9. Too Many People Involved
A fairly new client of ProtoFuse impressed me a few weeks ago.
As we discussed the prototyping phase with their team, they pulled out the old adage of “not having too many cooks in the kitchen” to ensure the process went smooth.
Wow. What wisdom! I didn’t even have to explain why that’s a good idea. They got it. Unfortunately, many companies don’t get it. More is not better when making critical decisions with your website. Too many opinions, too few decisions. Shoot for a small (and qualified) committee of 3-5 people to review major deliverables. Involving more puts your website budget at risk.
Strive to know your unknowns
In hindsight, I blame myself for that extra $1,000 spent on fixing my roof. I came to understand that rotting wood is pretty common with older roofs. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I also didn’t ask enough questions or put in enough due diligence and, therefore, I exceeded my budget.
Before embarking on a new website, strive to know your unknowns. Ask questions. Understand the process. This vigor will help protect your website budget of money, time and energy.
Have you experienced an over budget website? What was the crux?
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There is gobs of information available today, so I'm honored you found this article interesting enough to make it here. My hope is it helps you to a better-performing website!
About the Author
Eric Sharp is the founder of ProtoFuse and has been in the website trenches since 1999 — right before the dot-com boom redefined websites forever. Since then, he's accumulated two decades of digital marketing experience and prides himself on creating websites "Loved by people and Google". Outside of websites, it's all about fam with his wife and two kids, CrossFit, steak, and never forgets his midwestern roots — Daaa Bears.