How to develop and maintain a website - ESRC


Using web specialists

At some point during the design and build of your website you may need help from web specialists.

First, find out what resources are available in your own organisation. Some organisations have a central web team, while in others departments will make their own arrangements. Even if there are no internal resources available, your colleagues may be able to point you in the right direction.

You may need help with:

  • designing the site
  • building the site
  • developing content
  • registering and marketing the site
  • hosting and technical support
  • ongoing maintenance.

Scoping your requirements

Begin by being very clear what your requirements are. When preparing your requirements, you should think about your users and what they need to achieve using your website.

The best approach is to start simple and only buy what you actually need. This will vary from project to project, but as a minimum you are likely to need:

  • an easy to use content management system
  • an engaging design
  • clear information architecture and structure
  • a good search engine
  • good security measures
  • website hosting, with 24 hour support and 99% guaranteed uptime.

You may also want to think about features like:

  • integrating social media with your website
  • user registration for email updates
  • online forms, for example, to book an event or buy a publication
  • analysis tools for evaluation and feedback.

Once you have scoped out your requirements you can develop a clear and thorough brief.

Setting a budget

Costs for building a website can vary widely. You can expect to spend anything from £2,000 to over £50,000 depending on the size and complexity of the site and the amount of help you need.

For smaller projects, these costs may seem prohibitive. Some ways to reduce costs include:

  • using free packages like WordPress
  • selecting web specialists who can give you value for money based on your available budget. Most organisations contract on the basis of the lowest price for a fixed specification – a good candidate will give you options and help prioritise what you can achieve within your budget
  • developing in-house skills where possible. Some aspects of web design and build are so specialist that you will need outside help. For other aspects, you can either train existing staff or recruit new people
  • speaking to colleagues in similar projects to find out how much they spent on their website and if they are willing to share expertise, resources and systems
  • negotiating a rate to have your site built and hosted by another project or department in your organisation.

Finding good web specialists

Finding good web professionals works by the same rules as any successful procurement exercise, where you should:

  • specify outputs or outcomes upfront. For example, if you want a content management system that allows easy update of the site, they should be able to advise on the best solution
  • be clear on your costs, and look out for optional extras
  • give the web specialist the space to suggest innovative responses to your challenges
  • give as much information as possible for them to to understand your project’s culture, ambition, vision and outputs, and pitch accordingly
  • sell the project – you want the best individuals and organisations – convince them that you’re serious and well organised.

What to consider in your selection criteria

There are a number of things to look for including:

  • if they can meet your basic requirements for the price they’ve quoted in their bid
  • what extras they think you need to launch a successful site
  • their track record – ask for references and examples of previous work
  • if they can demonstrate how their approach to web design works through previous case studies
  • if their project management arrangements are strong
  • if their proposed project manager is experienced and convincing
  • if they understand you and your organisation – or if their bid is cut and paste based on previous pitches
  • can you work with them? If you do not like what you see from the beginning, it will be hard to develop a good working relationship.

Most web specialists want a long-term relationship with their clients and will seek to give you a good deal and service. You should look for evidence of repeat business – one of the clearest indicators that you are dealing with a decent organisation.

A good design takes time and understanding. No professional, however experienced, will be able to understand enough about you or your target audiences from a bid document alone to produce exactly what you need in a procurement exercise. It’s more important to be convinced of their overall approach to web design based on previous work.

Last updated: 31 August 2021

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