The $7,000 A/E/C Corporate Website: Bring on the Consultants

I’ve gone over the design, goals, and major concepts of our website redesign. But I haven’t touched much on the how. Remember when I said that the SMPS National Build Business conference played a major role in the redesign? That’s what this post is about.

I had the design concept complete. I knew how every piece of the website would operate. But I still didn’t actually have a website. This is where I got a little help from my friends.

Most Important First

Arguably, having the right text on the homepage is critical. After seeing a presentation put on by Bill Long and Micheal Reilly, I was convinced that the homepage of our website had to have a clear and compelling message. I spoke to several people about how one might go about creating a compelling message for us. I had quite lengthy conversations with Micheal Reilly and others on this topic.

After talking with several people, I learned the standard approach is to interview clients and use that data to craft your message. In my mind, there are two problems with this approach. First, it’s an expensive exercise. I don’t believe it is something you can do “in house.” Therefore, based on the estimates I got, it would be at least $10,000. Here’s the second problem. I knew, based on my research into the human mind, that the things which influence people’s buying decisions aren’t typically known to them. In some sense its quite silly to ask a client why they chose to hire you. Even if they really know the true reason, it would be unlikely that they will be honest enough to articulate it. Let me give you an example. We once lost a procurement because the client hired his cousin’s firm. What client would tell you that in a debrief? I admit you will get some good data from your clients. And I do agree that the best way is to get a third party to get that data. Unfortunately, most of the data will be really bad and misleading. I’m not sure how you can differentiate between the two. I didn’t want to base our message on misleading data.

Hiring a Writer

So I went another route. I decided to hire a really good writer. The criteria for this writer was quite simple. They had to be a better writer than me. Call it ego, but I don’t believe there are many people in our industry who fit that bill. Luckily, at Build Business I had met Brian Reilly, who during this time was with Smithgroup. I liked the writing on SmithGroup’s website. Through Brian, I arranged to meet Tina Lassen, the writer who wrote the copy on their website. It became quite clear, very quickly, that she met the criteria.

She interviewed me and several of our key staff and came up with a great concept, Building Confidence. And although the principals of my firm and I requested a great deal of edits for good reasons, it’s my true belief that we ultimately reduced the quality of the writing. But I guess you have to compromise to get everybody on board.

Tina also came up with the perfect picture to reinforce our message.

Hiring a Developer

Then I needed someone to “code” the website. I could have outsourced the coding as well. This would have been even cheaper. However, it was specifically requested that I not outsource this. The fear was that, if we outsourced, we would not be able to contact the overseas developer later. I understand that fear. It is a legitimate fear.

Luckily, at Build Business, I spoke a great deal with Frankie Bailey (who at this time was working for a direct competitor). She was the perfect candidate to code our website, except there was a significant conflict of interest in the way. By the time I had all the pieces together, she left that firm to start her own web design business. I was in luck. Frankie agreed to take on the assignment.

Frankie gave me an estimate, which I immediately asked her to raise. This might sound like insanity. Once I explain, it should make more sense. When working with consultants, it is important to know how your firm will operate with that consultant. I knew that we would ask for more tweaks and changes than she could reasonably expect. So, I asked her to put a contingency in her budget to allow for that.    As it turned out, my assumption was right. We did ask for more tweaks than was probably reasonable. Frankie addressed every one of them. She designed pages that were not present in the original design concept. She added advanced technologies, both by my request and on her own, to improve the usability of the website. We also received a training session and a manual on our new website.

What I learned working with Frankie was that anything can be done in WordPress. In my next post, I will explain more about that.

Out of respect for the consultants involved, I’m not going to divulge the individual pricing. I will say that the writing, coding, training, manual and photo accounted for $6,100 of the overall cost.

In the next post, I’ll go over which technologies give our site the upper hand and I’ll try to summarize (and finally end this series).

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