Large website projects might include a big or complex site, or a simple site reflecting a complex business. Either way, Silicon Dales has the expertise to help you get a great site built on budget and on time. In this guide, you will find points to consider and advice on choosing an approach from industry experts.
What is a large website project?
There are a number of ways in which a website project could become large, but as a rule of thumb, this would generally mean website projects costing over $75K.
Lots of content
Thousands of posts, facets, options, lots of images or video handling – at scale there comes a point where it’s worth thinking about the way data is created, handled and stored. There are many ways to cut the cake and a variety of approaches may be considered.
Lots of traffic
High traffic sites are all about hardware, caching and efficient code. This will also require ongoing maintenance to ensure you’re ahead of any issues with new content, software updates or fluctuations in visits.
A complex website might have eCommerce with memberships, subscriptions, password protected areas, custom post types and other extras which have a lot of moving parts.
A simple website with a complex integration might include pulling content in from a data feed, such as price updates, or sending information to a third party software.
If you have a franchise or multiple branches, it is possible to build websites in a way which shares features across the group, whilst retaining an independent domain name or installation in a subdomain. There are different ways to approach this and some SEO considerations if you’re operating across countries.
Planning is essential to ensure you hit your business targets and get the site you need on time and on budget. There are a number of ways of approaching the planning phase.
Finance expert Jeffrey Fidelman suggests starting with the business model:
“I’ve worked with dozens of companies that are either considering building a ‘Large Website” or already have one established and are exploring a pivot. One of the most important, if not the most important aspects that many forget to think about is the business model. It is imperative to sit in front of a whiteboard or even just a paper and pen to draw out the business model – where does the company’s cash flow come from and what are the operating expenses of the business. In most cases when digging into the detail of these seemingly simple questions, I’ve seen entire businesses change their course due to their cashflows not covering expenses or having unrealistic expectations of how that cash flow will come in.
“There are business’ built on selling bottled air from Switzerland and sending potatoes from Idaho via mail with a message written on it — the point is that starting a business is easy, executing that business successfully is what takes the most planning.”
Jeffrey is principal at AI Capital Advisors and a freelance finance expert at Toptal.
At the most basic, try to outline your BANT – Budget, Authority, Needs and Timeline. Put someone in charge, give them a short term budget (this may include money, team members and an office) a full project budget (you may need to communicate this to accounts) and then outline any hard and soft deadlines and the needs of the project (here’s where the detail will go).
At this point, you may have project managers within your organisation who can help with experience of likely requirements, processes for working through each design feature or testing regime, as well as timelines for all these things and how they might overlap.
Outsourcing project management
Get someone else to do it – it’s easier than you think. Toptal has a team of project planners and product managers well versed in methodologies such as Agile and Scrum.
Discovery & Consultancy
Discovery and consultancy will allow you to scope the project and get some indicators of the time and budget cost of various features as well as different approaches based on the business logic behind the project. Think about purchasing a discovery session from consultants with expertise in the areas you think the project will need. Get a report for your company and a Technical Sepcification, which you can shop around to different developers and agencies for a quotation.
RFP’s & Procurement Processes
Once you have a technical specification for what your team wants to build, it’s time to get prices from a number of providers. One of the ways to do this is to created an RFP document or “Request for Proposal” – sometimes also called a “Request for Quotation” or RFQ.
Your company or department may already have a procurement portal or procurement processes. You can still invite outside providers to sign up for this portal to provide a proposal or tender a bid.
Sometimes, team members or department heads have some leeway to spend at their own discretion up to a certain threshold. If it would be more agile to break up the project to fall within a team member’s spending discretion or company credit card limit, consider creating separate sub-projects or milestones to get your project on the road.
Weighing up the value
Depending on your business case, different proposals may have different value to your business. Experienced procurement officers will have a scoring system for potential suppliers, but your team might have a freer hand to weigh expertise, availability and price alongside other factors that are important to your business or project.
Finance expert Paul Ainsworth recommends analysing payment terms:
A financial evaluation of a supplier proposal should always include an analysis of the payment terms as well as price. The lowest cost deal may not turn out to be so if the business is required to borrow money and pay interest to finance the payment.
Typically, a large website project will involve several milestones and progress payments to the supplier should be aligned to completion of these milestones in order to smooth the cash outflow.
A different way of approaching the supplier payment may involve a lower fixed element to the proposal along with a variable success fee payable depending on how much traffic the new website receives over, say, a 6, 12 or 24 month timeline. While this may result in a higher price paid, the cash outflow happens over a much longer timeframe and is partially linked to the success of the website.
Paul is Principal at My Interim CFO Kft and a freelance finance expert at Toptal.
Once you’ve picked a supplier based on their proposal, you will know the price and timeline you are looking at. You may already have a budget from your business, or a credit card limit within your team to get started. However, if it’s time to raise some finance, there are a number of options:
Bank loans and invoice financing
Your usual bank might be able to arrange a loan for the website project or there are some new players in that space including Funding Circle and OnDeck. Invoice financing is also an option if your business has plenty of upcoming revenue.
Business credit card
If you’ve broken up your project into milestones or mini-projects, it may be feasible to pay on a company credit card. Many agencies and developers will take credit card payments online, as do the major web development platforms including Codeable and Toptal.
Crowdfunding & Equity Finance
Here are some crowdfunding platforms which can help businesses to raise the money for a large website project or online business startup:
Silicon Dales does not recommend or take a view on these platforms or their offering except a generally positive view of the opportunity afforded by new and diverse funding models.