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Website Features: Add It Now or Later?

Stepping Stones

A really common question we get from clients buying websites is if they should add a feature while building the website, or save it for a future upgrade. There’s lots to consider here, and the answer really depends—sometimes it makes sense to add it now, other times to save it for later. This blog post provides some key points to consider, and will hopefully help guide your decision in an objective way.

Things to Consider

Up-Front Cost

Obviously, the first consideration is cost. Doing everything now will cost more up front. But you have to weigh the other factors to determine if this move will actually save you money later or not. Let’s jump straight into that.

How Ready Are You?

The first consideration is how ready are you use the new feature you want to add? For example, a blog is easy to set up, but using one effectively and keeping it up to date is a another story altogether. Some features require a lot of additional time, resources and strategy to get the value out of them, so you should only add the things you know you will use and make worthwhile. Common areas that sometimes make sense to keep as a “Phase 2” project include:

  1. Blogs
  2. Social Media
  3. E-Commerce
  4. Newsletters

All of these are powerful tools, and we promote their merits all day long… but if you honestly don’t have a strategy or the resources to make them successful, you’re better off without them.

Project Complexity

The bigger the project, the more complex it is, the more time it takes, and the more chance something can go wrong. Sometimes it’s better to bite off smaller chunks, doing small steps at a time and rapidly improving with each upgrade. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew—even a seemingly “basic” brochure website takes a lot of work to finish.

Immediate vs. Future Needs

If you have immediate and pressing needs, it may make sense just to start with the bare minimum to get your needs met, and then improve the rest later. For example, you may need to launch a new website for a major tradeshow you’ll be attending, but the website doesn’t necessarily have to have a fully functional blog at this time. Skip the blog and get the site online, and then focus on getting the blog running when the pressure is off.

Cost of Doing it Now vs. Later

Generally speaking, it’s cheaper to add the feature along with the original project. The reason is you don’t double up on the start-up and shut-down costs of doing the project a second time.

Take the example of building a house. It makes much more sense to add an extra bedroom during the original build because the cost difference will be relatively minimal. Doing it after, you not only have to add the bedroom, but possibly modify the foundation, rip down all of the finishing work, redo all of the electrical, plumbing, etc., and then finish everything again.

A perfect example of this in websites is replacing the back-end of the website. In some projects, we have upgraded just the back-end of the website with a new content management system, but the client decided to keep the original design. However, when you tear apart a site like this, it makes sense to invest in a redesign at this time, because doing it later will mean double-doing much of the work that could of been done at the same time. So if you’re changing Content Management Systems, and you think you may want a redesign in the near future, it’s best to do it at the same time.

Conclusion

You’ll have to weigh all of these considerations when deciding what to build now vs. later. A good provider will be objective about these considerations, and should tell you when you may be buying something that isn’t needed or feasible at the moment. Be sure to ask and compare the cost of doing it now vs. later as well, as this can play a major role in the decision as well. Sometimes it makes sense investing now to realize the cost savings later.