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I want a website

By The Drum | Administrator

November 8, 2002 | 7 min read

Everybody wants a website these days. But, following the dot.com boom and subsequent crash, it would seem that clients are looking for far more than that – they also want to be in control of the project.

But what do clients get when they commission the design and creation of a website? How much will it cost to get a functional website made? And, with so many types of sites in existence, what will make their site stand out from the crowd?

The one thing that clients do want is consistency and tools that will help them to manage the system. Clients also want to know what the agency is doing and what the overall design and build process involves.

But, in this time of new media sophistication, can there be too much reliance on accessories? It might make the site look very grand, but at the same time it can overcomplicate the job at hand.

Speaking to new media companies, it would appear that all is quite rosy in the world of web. The dot.com bust that happened a couple of years back has prepared many for the worst, and also taught companies what the clients actually want.

So what are clients looking for at this current time and are the new media companies actually offering the best possible service?

Many clients are looking for a content management system when setting up their business. Most have a brochure site that was set up a few years ago when the boom in the new media industry was at a peak. Now, however, it would appear that clients are coming back and asking for more.

Alan Hepburn of Lewis Multimedia believes that is the case these days: “More and more, recently we have noticed that people are looking for a contact management system that allows the client to be able to access and change certain areas of the site. They might not be able to change large parts, such as the design and images, but we can provide within the site an opportunity to change the front page and their news pages, for example.”

Paul Beveridge of Ministry of Webs agrees with this, though adds that clients are looking for even more than that. “I think that the two main things that clients are looking for now are the aspects of content management, along with the Disability Discrimination Act.

“Since that Act was passed, people have been scrambling to make sure that the site is accessible to all that use it. That means that if a visibly impaired person is looking at the site then the designer would either have to use a voice recognition system, so that the text is put into a different format, or the fonts are enlarged, depending on the extent of the person’s sight.”

Clients are also using the web as part of their marketing campaign, says navyblue’s Toby Southgate. “In terms of trends, clients are increasingly coming round to the idea that a website is really a business tool – another channel to reach potential customers, clients, partners, staff, whoever the audience might be. Invariably, a website has to work much harder than a printed brochure and must be all things to all people.

“We try and help clients look at their range of marketing communications, so a website can fulfil almost any level of communication, from leading the redevelopment of an offline brand, to launching a new product, to supporting the sales process.”

The realisation that a website can be used as a tool to market the company means that clients also want to have a say in the creative process: “When clients ask us to do a website, we go through a specification period and find out who their users are and what the target market is,” says Tom Fletcher of Fifth Reality.

“Then we have a good idea of what they want from the site. We also try to find out what systems they want to implement in the future and try to tell them what would be the best price for them.”

Gerry McCusker of Limone Media likens the relationship between the client and the new media company to a bookshelf: “If you think of the website as a bookcase, we build it and wait for the clients to fill it up with books. That is to say that we design the structure for the client and then they bring the information and content to the partnership, which fills the site up.”

But how much is a client willing to pay for such a service? This, according to all who were interviewed, varies according to the size and the technology that will be put into the site. Most companies, however, would not touch a site that was less than a couple of thousand pounds. On the other end of the scale, the cost of producing and manufacturing a website can run into six figures.

Fletcher says, “Generally, the prices we charge can range from between £40,000 to £60,000. Being a smaller company, we will take jobs that are smaller than that. But really, if a client is only wanting to spend around £2–3,000 then we need to look at the type of applications they are wanting to do and try to decide whether it is worth our while doing it.”

Malcolm Dobson, Chief Technical Operator at Scotland Online, thinks that the issue of how much to charge a company or organisation varies greatly from client to client: “It is not a simple answer of one cost fitting all. Normally our sites range from £1,000 for the most basic of sites, ranging up to a six-figure sum. It all really depends on the databases and hardware that a client wants to have provided.”

Content management is one area that many clients are looking for in their website content – but another is flash. But is it truly the way forward for designers, or is it a bugbear for those who cannot load it up?

Opinion appears to be divided on this issue.

Hepburn believes that it is a new innovation that will ultimately benefit all who use it: “Three or four years ago I would have advised against our clients using it. But these days, I think between 95 and 96 per cent of all users of the internet can actually see and use flash, and with the advent of broadband technology obviously this figure will increase.

“Although I do offer our clients a word of warning against it, as it can sometimes come between the customers and the company and if that happens then our client will ultimately lose business.”

The majority of those who were asked about the advent of flash and its technologies believe that it is something that should be thought about more before it is put into practice. “Flash is essentially a brilliant tool,” says McCusker, “and I would say what we do here at Limone makes us the best team in the country dealing with flash.

“Flash keeps a site lively and dynamic, but you have to be aware of why you are using it, and treat it properly so that the site will benefit from it.”

All in all, clients today are looking for something more than they have done in the past and the new media service in Scotland is giving it to them.

As Alan Hepburn says: “The most important thing to us is the project, then the client and finally the product, and we aim to explain everything that we are doing for the client in broken-down, easy-to-understand language so that both parties know where they stand.”

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