The $7,000 A/E/C Corporate Website: Setting the Challenge

About a year ago, I embarked on a journey to redesign our firm’s website. At first, it proved to be a major challenge. But ultimately, I used a unique approach which provided our firm a great corporate website for about $7,000. And guess what…you can use the exact same approach.

Since many of you may find yourself with the same challenge, I decided share my experience over several detailed posts. This first post talks about the challenges you might encounter when redesigning an A/E/C website and why the typical approach doesn’t always work.

The Challenges

I was faced with several challenges:

  1. Multiple corporate stake holders with diverse opinions and limited knowledge of website design
  2. Multiple marketing stakeholders with their own preferences and ideas
  3. No defined budget. The question I would get was, “well, what does a website cost?” And when you think about it, that’s a reasonable question for a Principal to ask their marketer.
  4. Restrictions related to what we could say on the site, due to the nature of our work.

The Requirements

I also had specific things I wanted from our new website:

  1. Stability
  2. Ease of use
  3. Standards compliant
  4. Content management system
  5. Content driven
  6. Focused on the people

Failed Attempts

Prior to my direct involvement, the Principal responsible for marketing at the time had asked a temporary employee to develop a new site for us. Unfortunately, this site wouldn’t meet my requirements. Notably, it wouldn’t have a content management system. At this point, only one of the Principals knew what a content management system was. And that’s OK, because architects and engineers are not expected to know these things. So, I had to spend time educating the powers that be and the rest of the marketing staff on why my requirements were essential.

After explaining my requirements, that site was scrapped. But it came with a compromise: “don’t do your wacky Matt Handal thing and hire some third world developer. This needs to be done by someone we can locate, if need be.”

Now the task was in my hands, which were already a pair of busy hands.

The Typical Approach Didn’t Work

Initially, I tried to use the typical approach, hire a consultant to lead us through the process. I drafted a very detailed RFP and sent it to several designers that worked with firms in our industry.

The prices I received ranged from $9,000 to $70,000. I thought the range in pricing was ridiculous because I had very specific requirements in my rfp. In fact, one of the designers noted that it was the most specific and detailed RFP they had ever seen. Despite the drastic range of prices and some truly awful proposals, we came up with a shortlist.

After a series of bad interviews and bad client references, I found myself back at square one. I had no designer, no concept, and no prospects of a website anytime soon.

About a month later, at the SMPS national conference, I commiserated with people in our industry. Why was I finding it so difficult to connect with the right website consultant?

One person I talked to had the skills and was more than willing to help. But she worked for a direct competitor, so it would be a serious conflict of interest.

However, this was one of a series of conversations that would lead me to realize I needed to apply a unique approach. But more on that next time.

What website redesign challenges have you faced? Share with us by posting a comment.

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