What does a website cost? (Is that even the right question?)

January 30, 2013
What does a website cost? (Is that even the right question?)

The level of experience, the quality of work, and the general busyness of a designer or team are significant factors determining the cost of your project.

Having a great web presence is a critical part of any marketing mix, and the core of your online presence rests with your website. So, how much does it cost to design and build a website? Just how does a web shop come up with the price for a website.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to what your website will cost. There are a few important questions that you can think about. The answer to these questions will ultimately impact the cost of your project.

1) Who do you want designing your online presence?

There are many designers out there that would be happy to build your website. A freelancer working out of their home will likely have rates that are much lower than a web design agency that has an office and multiple staff members. The experience that you as a client will have during the process of designing and developing your website will be impacted by your choice.

The level of experience, the quality of work, and the general busyness of a designer or team are also significant factors determining the cost of your project. You will find that there are companies or individuals eager for work who may be willing to design you a site for under $1,000. On the flip side, there are successful agencies with incredible reputations who will not take on projects below $100,000.

Thinking about who you want to work with, what your expectations are of a designer, and ultimately what level of quality you’re hoping for, will help you narrow the field. You should be able to get a meeting with most companies or individuals where you can get a sense of what they’re like and if you feel you would work well with them.

2) How much work have you done already to prepare?

This question is important for two reasons. First, how much thought you’ve put into your project will help you to transfer your ideas to a potential designer and ensure a more accurate cost estimate from them. If you have uncertainties, are missing information, or simply haven’t thought about different scenarios, most designers will do their best to give you a ballpark figure, with the understanding that the price could change substantially if the requirements change.

The second reason that it is important for you to be prepared is that it will help you to ensure that what you get is what you need. This isn’t to say that new ideas and inspiration shouldn’t come up during the process of building your site, they certainly should. Being prepared in this context is to ensure that your chosen designer doesn’t just go off and build you a site that in the end doesn’t meet your objectives. If you come into a project without a good sense of what you want, you won’t be able to assist during the process to ensure that it’s moving in the right direction. Often what results is that you and your chosen designer end up frustrated and making too many changes and shifts along the way, causing the cost to go up because of the additional time required to get a result that you didn’t know you wanted.

Even when you do feel that you are very well prepared you should still want to work with a designer who has a discovery process built into their methodology. For us, discovery is a critical part of the project process, in some cases it serves as a recap and crystallization of the ideas the client already had, in other cases it can significantly shift the direction of the project. Better to do this at the beginning of the project than half way through. A good discovery process will include a recap before any development or design begins and serves to confirm your goals and objectives.

3) How complex are your requirements?

This is a no brainer when it comes to the potential to impact your project cost. A website with complex requirements is going to cost more to build than one that is exceedingly simple. What’s not always quite as clear is just which requirements are complex and which are not.

Almost every website today is built on top of a Content Management System (CMS), a framework that allows for site content to be edited and updated without having to directly edit the code that makes up the various web pages. There are various CMS options with varying complexities and customization options that can increase the complexity of a project.

Another area where complexity can rapidly increase is when there is a need or desire to allow users to login to a site and provide content based on the individual user. There is now a requirement to have rules and validation built into the system. By contrast, a website that merely contains static content that is the same for everyone is much simpler.

Pricing a Website

If you come across a website package for $500 you can surmise that the resulting end product will be different than if you pay $5,000 or $50,000. What’s not as clear is where all of the difference in value will be.

It could be in the amount of time that your chosen designer spends doing research to ensure that you stand apart in your market space. Perhaps it is in the attention to detail in helping you craft a content strategy that will work within your site to help you increase organic search traffic over the long-term. The selection of CMS and hosting details might be in play, how easy will it be to maintain and manage your website over the long-term.

At the end of the day, the decision you make regarding the cost of your website is not just about what you pay for the creation, but what you will pay over the course of years by choosing the wrong partner initially.

Additional Reading:

Looking for more great reads? The following related articles might be helpful.

How long does it take to design and build a website?

Success is greater than scope

The Lift Way: Project Management for Websites and Web Projects

If you’d like to get in touch, please email Thorren and let him know how we can help with your project or question.

Thorren Koopmans
Thorren has over a decade of experience managing web and marketing projects. His background in retail, finance and technology—and a long history with computers, web and social media—provide a well-rounded and innovative perspective on strategy development and implementation.
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