A winning website may be your most high-impact marketing tool.
And getting more than you paid for is the best outcome!
As a client, you don't often realize how much you can do to help make this happen. The place to start is with an understanding about how web vendors estimate their costs and manage the project. Your web vendor typically allocates a set number of hours to create your new website. Usually, they will include some time in their estimate to allow for good ideas to emerge in the creative process that can't be anticipated. That's good.
But let's say your web team has set a budget of 100 hours. While some of it can be wasted due to a variety of unavoidable reasons (a new leader joins the company, for example, and has different ideas about the web strategy, so you have to take a few steps back in the process and redo some of the work), the goal is to use as much time as possible on solid, creative contribution instead of avoidable waste. Efficient processes are vital to achieving this—and both the agency and client can play a role.
As the client, here are some steps you can take to get more than you’re paying for and eliminate avoidable waste:
1. Understand your web development agency’s process up front.
A major culprit in tackling wasted hours is an inefficient process that eats away productive creative time and contributes to cost-overruns, under performance, and delivery delays. That’s where mature and well-managed processes come in. Because they are the key to getting more for your investment. have an early conversation with your vendor about how they manage their processes, how to eliminate avoidable waste, and what they do to increase efficiency and productivity.
2. Know the critical decision points and understand what is expected from you at each point.
Website development is layered work, much like building a house. Each layer builds on the previous one. So it’s cheaper to move the wall on the floor plan than after the framing is done or when the owner has already moved in. In the same way, moving back in the process usually adds cost without adding value, so making sure you have signed off fully at each stage allows the project to keep moving without having to undo previous work.
3. Provide samples of websites you like before you start.
There are many creative solutions for each web project, and narrowing the playing field for your creative team provides important direction that helps them hit the mark.
4. Be clear about the call to action and goals for your website.
A website is designed to take the viewer on a very intentional journey. Knowing the destination is vital to design and content decisions, and your agency will bring their best skills to meeting this goal if they understand it.
5. Manage revisions with care. This is a hard one, as revisions are inevitable in the creative process.
Sometimes you can’t anticipate how a solution will look until you see it, and some of this exploratory work should be built into your agency’s budget. However, revisions are the single biggest cause of shifting hours from “creative production” to “waste.” Your agency will either need to absorb these into their budgeted hours, which means something else will have to come out in terms of features, or you will have cost overruns. Often, these arise from an internal process that doesn’t take the sign-off seriously, doesn’t involve the right people, or doesn’t allow the time for a careful review at each step. Many of those are avoidable and I can tell you from experience that the cost of revisions can be substantial. I have seen some double the cost of their projects with avoidable revisions—and no client or agency wants that to be their story!
6. Ask your agency to tell you when you are adding things that aren't in the budget.
A simple question like "Can you try this?" could inadvertently lead to added costs. Sometimes an agency can interpret a request for an added feature as an approval. Sometimes a client may not know if what they are asking could be done within the budget, or whether it will require more resources. It’s always OK to ask your agency questions like this, but making sure you’re both clear on the cost implications will help you avoid negative surprises.
7. Give clear feedback. Your agency wants to create a win for you.
Sometimes feedback can be vague or missing valuable information. If you have a concern, it’s ideal to share the problem and let your agency team help brainstorm on solutions. In other words, it’s better to say “the type is unreadable” than to say “we want to use Ariel 14 point type here,” because the agency doesn’t understand the why. If they know that readability is a concern, they’ll keep their eyes on the lookout for other places where that might be occurring—and do a better job of delivering exactly what you need.
8. Unleash the agency’s energy with positive feedback and trust.
Many clients underestimate how fueled a creative team is by true collaborative work and shared successes. Knowing that they have hit the mark for a client is one of the great rewards of agency work, and often releases fresh energy into the project. Who knows, it might even result in some project add-ons they won’t charge you for because they are so excited about creating a win for you (and yes, this happens).
Getting more than you paid for is within your reach, and as a client, you can contribute to making that happen. Making sure there is good communication and you are working together to have efficient processes will help you reap big rewards!