Nothing makes a blog post sound sexy quite like the word “budget.” We know, we know—budgets are boring. But they’re a necessary evil for reaching those divine goals that will take you and your company to the next level.
Since we’re a website design and development team, we have an invested interest (pun intended) in healthy website budgets. But we understand budgeting can be a dry topic, so we’ve stuffed this post with adorable cat gifs. You’re very welcome.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Website Budgets
There are loads of resources that talk about things to consider in your budget when you’re planning a new website project. (Here’s a good one).
What they do well is give you a heads up and helpful checklists about what you’ll need to consider for a new or refreshed website from start to launch, including costs for design, development, plugin purchases, e-commerce and more. The total cost may or may not come as a surprise, but it’s oh-so worth it because when it’s finished, you’ll have the website of your dreams.
But then what?
Web-based software is always a work in progress, so your website project is never really finished. Just as it is with most things, there will always be a need for conducting wellness checks, addressing growing pains, and making sure what you’ve created remains safe and secure.
The long-term health of a website isn’t given as much consideration as it should when a website is being built. One of the main reasons, we’ve found, is a general unawareness of what it takes to keep a website performing at its best for the long haul. Fortunately, we have insider knowledge that will help you plan for that.
Top 6 Things to Keep Your Website Happy & Healthy
It’s important to have a strong budget each year to cover a variety of health-check items, all of which are normal and 100% expected. To help you plan a healthy annual website budget, we’ve put together a handy-dandy checklist of things to keep in mind as you’re crunching those numbers.
✔ Hosting and Paid Plugin Renewals
How often: Some monthly, some annually
Your website lives on a server, and you don’t want it to get evicted because you didn’t pay its rent. Server space rental, known as hosting, is usually paid on a monthly or annual basis depending on your host.
In addition to hosting, it’s possible you need functionality on your site that isn’t available with a free plugin. “No worries,” you may say to yourself. “We’ll just install the paid version that has all those bells and whistles we need!”
Don’t forget that those extra noise makers may come with a plugin subscription that includes an annual price tag. For any paid plugins on your site that you want to keep year to year, you can anticipate an annual renewal fee for the plugin license. (By the by, these license renewals are paid directly to the plugin developer, not the web developers who maintain your site).
✔ Website Improvements
How often: Depends on your business goals and budget
As your business grows, so will your website to showcase new services, products and content. You may not know at launch time what some of those improvements will be, but we guarantee that by using your website (and having your audience use it, too), you’ll get some great ideas.
Some examples of these types of website improvements include:
- Improvements for managers and admins – These could be new features or functionality that you desire based on changing business goals, new services and your personal experience as a website manager and administrator.
- Improvements for users – These are desired improvements specifically for your users to make their experience on your site even better.
- New tools and techniques – You may want to incorporate new tools and techniques that become available as things evolve and improve throughout the global Internet ecosystem.
- New third-party services and business tools – You may also want to integrate with new services and tools that will help you take your business to the next level.
✔ Security Updates & Fixes
How often: Multiple times per year, perhaps monthly
We’ve all become familiar with software security updates for apps on our phones, laptops, and the applications we use, such as web browsers, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office and so on. The same is true of all websites—and even more so when websites are complex.
Security updates vary depending on what your site has been built on and with, but as a starting point, anticipate regular security updates during the year for your platform’s core and all plugins (even the free ones).
However, the updates themselves aren’t usually where the bulk of the costs come in. When a platform’s core or plugin is updated, it’s possible it won’t play nice with something else on your site. That’s when a developer needs to dig into the code to find out who started the fight. And the more complex the website, the more these types of issues should be expected.
You might ask yourself, “If it costs money, then why update my core and plugins at all?” Because any software that isn’t maintained or updated can become a security threat very quickly. Keeping your site up to date will cost less in the long run, and it’s something you can be proactive about instead of reactive.
✔ Changing Privacy Regulations
How often: Depends on state and federal decisions
2018 was a record year for consumer data privacy regulations, most notably with the EU’s GDPR rule going into effect in May. Stateside, we’ve also seen many new laws either go into effect or be introduced to the powers that be.
- For those of us who are lucky to call Colorado home, a new statewide consumer privacy rule went into effect in September.
- California passed a new consumer privacy law that goes into effect in 2020.
- On the horizon, there is an ever-growing list of states considering their own privacy and data protection laws.
No doubt this is going to be a continuing trend, and one we want to stay ahead of instead of behind.
✔ Usability Testing
How often: Once or twice per year
The goal of usability testing is to better understand how real users interact with your website, and then make improvements based on the results. During a usability test, real users are asked to accomplish typical goals or tasks while using your website under controlled conditions.
We all bring bias into everything we do, including how we use websites. You may think you understand what your users need, but usability testing results often deliver surprises and incredible opportunities to get real data from your target audience.
Performing usability testing once or twice per year is ideal to identify areas that can improve the user experience for everyone using your website.
✔ Buffer For Things Unseen
How often: Our Magic 8 Ball says: “Cannot predict now.”
It’s possible to have the most accurate and thorough website budget ever, but the internet will still throw you curveballs. The web is dynamic, imperfect, and full of protagonists and antagonists, and it’s impossible to account for every future scenario. Knowing that, it’s a good idea to add a healthy buffer to your long-term website budget to prepare for the unseeable.
The amount of that buffer can vary greatly depending on the size of your business, the scope of your website project and your risk tolerance. Even the Magic 8 Ball refuses to answer this with any authority, but a good starting point for this discussion is 10% of your anticipated project costs.
Ready Your Calculators
We know you may need to get budgets approved by someone else and lobby for what you feel your company and users need. If these budget items seem new or overwhelming to you, rest assured that each and every category in our recommended long-term budget is completely normal and expected.
We hope we’ve helped identify some concrete areas to budget for so you can maintain and achieve the goals you have for your website. If you have any questions or would like to have the Geeks perform a Website Health Check-up on your site to see where things stand, give us a holler.