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I’ve often felt I should warn clients that design projects can end up like bathroom remodels, costing twice as much and taking twice as long. But like your bathroom, you can control costs if you make the right decisions at the right times.

Let’s take the example of a website. Startup companies often put off getting a website built because they are scared of the costs, yet virtually everyone they try to recruit or pitch for investment will attempt to check out a company’s website. If they don’t have a site, they are missing out on a chance to reinforce their value proposition. But creating a web site doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Thinking of a website like your bathroom, here’s six ways to manage costs:

  1. Hire the right designer for your scope. You wouldn’t hire the builder of the Salesforce Tower to remodel your bathroom, and you shouldn’t hire a full-service agency to build your first website. A full-service agency brings a lot to the table, and it is in their economic interest to employ all of their talents, so you will get a much more complex site than you need. That’s not to say, someday, you will need a patient portal behind a firewall or a platform for e-commerce, but you don’t need it now. 
  2. Resist the urge to DIY it. There are lots of small business platforms out there that provide website building tools for little or no money. However, their real business is upselling – you will be nickeled and dimed to death before you get what you need. In the long run, it’s expensive to migrate your site off of these platforms when you outgrow them. I’ve built a site or two this way for some of my extra-curricular activities, and they come out alright, but not perfect – not unlike the outcome when I try to lay tile. I might not mind the PTA seeing my DYI bathroom, but I’d cringe at the thought of showing it to someone I need to impress. 
  3. Don’t change the floorplan. Once you do find a designer, they will eventually present you with a proposed layout. Publishing platforms like WordPress have website “themes” that designers use to build your site. Think of them like the floorplan. Once you agree on the floorplan, it’s going to be very expensive to go back and move a section to another part of the page. Just like it is expensive to move your toilet across the room after the rough plumbing is done.
  4. Minimize changes after all the fixtures are in place. The price your designer gives you anticipates small changes after the text and images are laid out. If one piece of tile is broken, obviously it needs to be replaced. Same with a typo. But if you decide you don’t like the band of accent tiles in your shower now you see them in place, that’s going to cost you just like replacing an entire sentence will. 
  5. Big changes come with big costs. If you decide that you don’t like the bathtub after all and need it replaced, that will really cost you – just like changing a whole block of text on your site will.
  6. Really big changes will really cost you. If you decide that your bathroom really needs a stand-up shower (all you need to do is break through the wall and sacrifice the adjoining closet after all) you can do that, but at a cost. Likewise, if upon seeing your site done you decide you want to add, rather than replace, a block of copy or an image, that definitely risks breaking your budget.

I will not deny that it’s hard to see how the design elements will come together when they are in bits and pieces as Word files, JPEGs and mock-ups. I will even confess that I’ve never managed to make it through a project without being compelled to make changes akin to swapping out the accent tiles after the layout is “final”. Our minds just see things differently when they are in situ. But remember this behavior is going to impact your budget.  

With a little discipline and planning, you can get a professionally designed site that will put your business in its best light and that will not break the bank.