4 Ways to Cut Development Costs (Plus 3 Ways Not to)

Price matters.

Sure, we’d like to think that every development project is focused on building the absolute best, most creative, seamless final product…but that’s not entirely true. Ultimately, budgets are finite, which means projects have limitations.

So how do you make sure that your development project still ends up being amazing, when you don’t have bottomless pockets?

After launching hundreds of successful websites and applications, we’ve identified some key ways to maximize your project’s budget and make sure hours are spent on features and content that produces results.

The Right Way

Identify stakeholders and the project lead

Assemble the team, get the band back together, rally the troops…however you do it, knowing who on your team should make final decisions assures that the right questions are asked. Your project team should cover these key areas:

  • Marketing – defines key performance indicators
  • Content – decides and approves messaging and copy
  • Analytics – establishes measurement requirements
  • Technical – makes decisions about hosting and security

Making the right decisions with the right people prevents recreating work, or worse, missing key information about your objectives.

Define your goals

The fastest route to a successful project involves having a clear vision of desired traffic, conversion goals, and publishing requirements. Now that we know who’s in charge of these decisions, stating them clearly will keep the process on track from the beginning:

  • What constitutes a successful visit? Ex: a sale, download or form contact.
  • Who should be able to update what parts of the site? Ex: Resource uploads, job listings.
  • Who is your target audience? Ex: CTO looking for info, developer looking for documentation

By starting out with the end in mind, you can avoid costly mid-project pivots.

Prioritize features

You’re now equipped with the team of deciders and a vision of success. The ideas are flowing and the list of wants is growing constantly. The important task of prioritization is at hand:

  • What features are most important for your audience?
  • What content will drive conversions?

With all of the great ideas developed during the discovery process, it’s important to map out development phases to focus on the most effective choices to launch with. A lean launch will help focus all your efforts on great execution.

Utilize open source tools

With all of this groundwork, your story is bursting at the seams, ready to be told. A good development partner will suggest unique ways to present your story and deliver conversion-focused results. However, there are several facets of a website or application that don’t need to be custom built.

Open source frameworks like WordPress provide a secure, stable base to build on. By relying on code that has been tested and reviewed by thousands of developers, you can avoid spending your development budget on common features like content publishing and user management.

The Wrong Way (aka How to Wreck Projects and Waste Money)

So, now that we know some ways that save time, focus effort and reduce the complexity of development, lets look at some common pitfalls during projects.

Purchasing pre-built templates

With the popularity and ease of use of open source content platforms like WordPress, many commercial template providers have sprung up. These pre-built resources serve to quickly allow novice and inexperienced developers to build a site and they seem to fit alongside the “Utilize open source tools” recommendation. Low-cost, open source…what could go wrong?

Unfortunately, that ease of use ends up costing more in the long run for lower quality results.

For a template to be commercially successful, they attempt to fit the needs of many potential scenarios at once. The features provided by these themes rely on an extremely large assortment of plugins and libraries that can grind site performance to a halt.

Not only that, but when you’re ready to upgrade, expand, or build out custom features, your development partner will spend even more time wrangling the framework or rewriting code to fit your needs.

Cramming content into fewer pages

While planning out your messaging, it’s tempting to drive for fewer pages with more content. Long home pages can be a great way to tell an engaging story, but there’s a limit to how much information should be on a single page.

Single-page content should take into consideration:

  • The attention span of your visitors – How much information is relevant to a visitor before they’ll take the next action?
  • Actual and perceived load time – A large number of photos, illustrations and videos can reduce the page load speed, driving a higher bounce rate and lowering search engine ranking.
  • Reference and linkability – Is important information buried halfway down a page? It may be hard for someone to remember its location or save a link to it.

Failing to launch

Once the design and development process is in motion, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. You start seeing new possibilities for engagement, new features and content areas, and pretty soon, we’ve blown the deadline and budget.

Be patient.

Remember that web design never stops. By staying focused on your priority features, you can focus on a successful, well-executed launch. Once you see the impact of your new design and start to measure the results, then you can expand your vision.

Some Final Thoughts

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Whether you’re building a full website, a microsite or a custom application, a little preparation goes a very long way towards maximizing your budget and ensuring the initial launch is on its way toward achieving its goals.