Website Costs Are about Vision and Story — Not Budget

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Way back when, American astronauts needed to be able to write in space. The zero-gravity environment, however, made writing with standard ink pens a rather messy proposition. Researchers spent millions of dollars, and many years in research and development, to come up with a fancy zero-gravity ink pen. Up on the International Space Station, the astronauts proudly showed off their newfangled pens to the Russian cosmonauts, bragging about how much money it took to develop the new writing technology. The cosmonauts laughed and handed the Americans a graphite pencil, as if to say, “here’s our technology — it cost 25 cents.”

While this widely shared story isn’t exactly true, as Scientific American explains, there’s a valuable lesson business owners can learn from it: a big budget and unlimited resources can sometimes be a liability, not an asset. Why? It can lead you to overestimate the resources you need to accomplish a task in a time- and cost-effective manner.

This is also a lesson that applies to websites. If you’re a small-business owner looking to establish a web presence, the vision and story you bring to your site will likely count for a lot more than the budget you put into it.

Not your typical MVP

Let’s say you’re a business owner and you want to build a website. What approach would you take if you had a gajillion dollars in your website budget? On the opposite end of the spectrum, what would you do if you only had 25 cents? (Okay, maybe a little more than that — you get the point.)

With a big budget, you might go to a fancy marketing agency, slap a blank check on the table, and say, “build it!” With a more realistic budget, however, you’d need to put on your DIY thinking cap and ask, “What’s the minimum required for a website that’s good enough for what I actually need?” In business parlance, Chris Lema explains, this is called your “minimum viable product” (MVP). And yes, even without being a techie or knowing how to code, you can get a solid MVP website launched in a way that will leave you smiling like the mythical Russian cosmonaut holding his pencil.

Define your MVP

What should you focus on when launching an MVP website? Well, your site should do what it needs to do without breaking your budget, or adding unnecessary features that can cause delays. There’s no exact formula — your answers will vary depending on your skills, knowledge, and business, among other things. However, there are three things to consider that will help keep your new website’s costs down and get it launched in a timely manner.

  1. What sets you apart? There may be other people, businesses, or bloggers doing something similar to you, but there’s nobody exactly like you. Put that difference into words and put those words on your website, front and center. (If it’s not too difficult, use visual aids like photos or videos to tell your story.) If you need help explaining who you are and what you do, consider posing this as a question to your followers on Facebook or Twitter. Let them tell you in their own words why they love, value, and trust you.

  2. What do your supporters need to do/know instantly? Are you putting up a website about your restaurant? Then they need to know what food you serve, what your hours are, where you’re located, and your prices — right now. Don’t make fans click through 20 pages on your website to find that information. Hone in on the action you want people to take when they get to your site and provide exactly what they need to know as simply and effectively as possible.

  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel (or the space pencil)! You don’t have to spend weeks, months, or years learning how to code or master web design before you can launch your website. There are many excellent — and customizable — website themes available for a low cost or free. If you use a popular platform like WordPress.com, the themes are even categorized and searchable by business type. So, for example, if you’re launching a photography website, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by choosing a photography theme. Otherwise, you already have the technical skills you need to get your site launched. Here’s a step-by-step guide if you’re interested in what’s next.

Avoid overthinking your website costs and focus on your MVP. Consider using a customizable website theme or template built for your specific type of business. Focus on what sets you or your business apart and how your website can provide your supporters exactly the information they need. Then you can get your MVP website up quickly and effectively, providing a meaningful experience for customers without turning your budget into a liability. In fact, you might even make a cosmonaut envious.