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Is $18 million too much to spend on a website redesign?

Website redesignFour Seasons recently updated its website. As Tony Moreno at notes:

“Overall, it’s hard to believe that $18 million dollars was spent to spruce up the site. “

I often talk about easy ways to get an inexpensive, reliable website. But you may not know that I’ve led million-dollar redesigns of consumer-facing websites for a number of national brands. Most of the time, they’ve done very well, even when they cost “crazy” amounts of money.

Now, I’m not going to defend Four Seasons here (full disclosure, I used to work for a competitor and have clients with hotels in cities where Four Seasons properties are located). However, I suspect they’ve done the business-case modeling here and fully expect to recoup the cost of their redesign.

But, by any standard, $18 million is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a website. It’s unclear to me what lift they expected from an $18 million dollar redesign they couldn’t get from an $8 million redesign. Where did the money go? And I’m struggling to imagine how anyone, in 2012, spends any money on a new website and fails to meet customer needs so spectacularly.

Building a new website, whether you get it for $18/month or $18 million needs to address your customer needs first, last and always. And there’s no question that you can often get more value by spending more. For instance, no simple website builder can deliver the integrated brand and e-commerce experience that a dedicated site can. But before you open up the checkbook, open your eyes and ears, listen to your customers and solve their problems first.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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