1. How long do you expect to use your existing site?
While a custom website may be one of the most expensive marketing investments your organization will make, it also requires a major emotional investment and time commitment. If you are considering purchasing a custom website, be prepared to stay in it for three to four years or longer in order to recoup the cost of investment. If you feel your organization truly requires the quality and customized functionality of a custom site but can’t justify the long-term commitment, you’re probably a good candidate for a SnapSites membership.
2. What are the costs of buying vs. possible lost revenue as a result of not buying?
A big factor in the decision to purchase a bespoke website solution is dependent on your business requirements, functional requirements, what your competitors are doing and what your stakeholders are expecting. For example, if you run a non-profit community and require your program to be managed entirely online, you'll probably need a custom solution designed and built to support your specific requirements. Additionally, if your competitors have all invested in fully custom websites of their own to address certain unique industry requirements, it's probably a sign that you need to follow suit with a similar solution in order to remain relevant and competitive in your space. Not making the needed investment to keep up with your competition or customers' needs could cost you much more in lost revenue in the long run.
3. How do I calculate my costs?
A SnapSite theme license typically ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the theme and framework and ongoing membership typically ranges from $299 to $599/month. Purchasing a comparable custom solution costs considerably more money upfront (custom design and development engagements typically start at $15k and average around $25k), which is why you need to stay in the site for a few years to recoup the cost of your investment.
To start a custom design and development engagement, you need cash for a down payment on the project at inception, usually anywhere from 25% to 50% of the project price. You also need to pay upfront for any assets, plugins, licenses or hosting fees that may be included as part of your project.
In addition to your project deposit, you'll need to pay for any project overages or changes in scope at your request – sometimes between 5% to 15% of the total estimated project price depending on your modified requirements. Other costs of website ownership include hosting, maintenance, support, updates, graphic design, SEO and online marketing, as well as any ongoing training or support required for your team at hourly rates ranging from $150 to $180/hour. It’s essential that you consider all these costs within the context of the cash you have available to you. The last thing you want, for example, is to be stuck with a beautiful website that no one can find because you spent everything you had funding the buildout and nothing on marketing, SEO or SEM after launch.
4. What Are Your Future Goals, Challenges and Opportunities?
While no one really knows exactly where their organization will be in four years, you should think carefully about your goals and possible opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead. If you hope to remain nimble and agile in an ever-changing industry, then a SnapSites membership or a "digital lease" model may be the best option, unless you are certain you want to own your site.
If you are thinking of expanding or absorbing another organization, you need to think about your website in terms of how well it may accommodate this growth, or the likelihood that you may even be absorbed by another organization yourself in the coming years. If you anticipate a lean market, downturn or layoffs, make sure your web budget can accommodate a reduction in income. Lastly, if you are serious about driving traffic to your site and nurturing a great SEO foundation, make sure you keep that in mind when you create your website budget.