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Justifying the cost of overhauling a website

In an ideal world, none of us would ever need to invest the time or effort required for a full website redesign (or rebuild to be more accurate). That’s because we’d use the philosophy of continuous improvement to make small changes as we go along, rather than one big one every few years. However, in the real world, most of us end up going for the budget-busting, stress-inducing nuclear option, because we never seem to have the resources to make those ongoing changes. And the cost of a redesign means we have to justify what we’re doing.

So, what financial justifications can we bring into our new website proposal?

The first is the cost of maintaining the website. A modern content management system should offer a lot more user control, without needing to get external website designers involved very often. For those people whose reaction to the problem “The Google Analytics code on the website needs to be changed” is to call up and pay a website developer, there’s money to be saved here quite frequently.

The second is the technical performance of the website. Many website owners are willing to pay consultants for search engine optimisation and other improvements such as speeding up response, many of which would be provided out-of-the-box by a new website. Again, the costs of doing this in recent years can be added up and set against the cost of the rebuild.

More difficult to quantify is the commercial improvements that a better website might produce. However, it’s not difficult to suggest that a good new site would both attract more visitors (through better SEO) and convert more of them to enquiries (by ensuring the visitors see what we want them to see). If both of those can improve things by 10–20% each (totalling maybe a 30% improvement), and we know what an enquiry is worth, that’s another figure that can be added to the justification.

On the other side of the ledger, it’s important to be realistic about the cost of a website rebuild. It’s not just the charge levied by the web designers; it’s the cost of all the effort required in-house (what else could we be doing with that time?). And like almost any infrastructure project, there’s every chance that the work required may be considerably more than estimated, leading to significant cost overruns.