making websites



How much should my website cost?

By Vicki Ball

If you’ve ever contemplated getting a website for yourself or your business, I’m sure the first question that’s popped into your head is “How much will it cost me?”. Maybe you’ve received a quote or an estimate from someone and been surprised at the figure being much higher or lower than you expected and wondered if you’re getting the right advice.

This article is about helping you figure out what the answers to some of these questions might be and why.

The most honest answer is, of course, it depends. It depends on what you want your website to do, it depends on how many people will visit it, it depends on what your business is and it depends on how much you’re willing to spend.

Who are you?

How much your website will cost you does depend to some extent on the size of your business and the industry you are in. If you have a large product line or a well-known brand, if you have a global customer base, or if you are a high profile business, then your website may need to be larger, shinier and have more functionality than, for example, a website for a locally-owned maternity clothing store.

The same can be said about the image you want to project- if you want to compete with “the big boys” then your website needs to be on par with theirs… and so will your website budget.

What will your website need to do?

This is probably the most important determinant in how much your website will cost… what exactly does it need to do? Ask yourself what your business goals are, and be honest about how your website can help you achieve these goals.

In our (very humble) opinion every business needs a website for the simple reason of it being another way for people to find out about your business- of its existence, location and what it does.

If you don’t have a website now, then your first step is to establish one asap. The basics you’ll need are:

  • A good domain name (make it easy for people to find you)
  • A professional and suitable design (don’t settle for something off the shelf)
  • Two or three pages that include information about your business, how to contact you, and descriptions of your products or services
  • A blog (blogging about your business, products or services keeps your site fresh and interesting)
  • A form for people to make contact or give you feedback via your website
  • Installation of a visitor tracking tool (like Google Analytics) and some search engine optimisation and marketing

A website that includes all of the above should cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Of course, you could get it for less, but there can be pitfalls (see my article “But I can get it for less!” coming soon). Keep in mind that if you need anything in addition to that, like a special design or extra modules like a product catalogue, online store or content management system, then the price will go up.

The most important advice I can give you about what your website should do is to a) make sure you’re addressing a real and immediate business need, and b) don’t be afraid to start with the basics and build from there.

Who is your developer?

Who you choose to develop your website for you can also affect the price- and it’s not just all about markup and overheads.

At the bottom end of your price scale (probably less than $1,000) you’ve got the freelancers and hobbyists. They’ll be able to make a website for you fairly cheaply, but since they’re probably working on it in their “spare time” you may have to wait a while to get it. Depending on their level and type of experience, it may also lack polish and be a little clunky. And while they may help you organise hosting you’ll have to manage your website and monitor its health.

At the top end of the scale you’ll have large website and application development companies. Their prices will start at about $20,000, for which they will build and entirely manage your website, hosting and monitoring it for you. While their size and price tag is no guarantee for quality, where things can get sticky for you is in updating your site. Even small changes are likely to be expensive and, if you’re not one of their largest customers (who spends in excess of $250,000 per year on web development), you might not get the kind of attention you need.

Between those two ends of the scale is a range of different kinds of web development companies. Depending on their specialisation and capabilities, your immediate benefits are an established business, inexpensive hosting and monitoring services and less overheads. Then it’s simply a matter of finding the right fit- see my article “Finding the right developer for you”, coming soon.

After the honeymoon is over

A meme that pops up often in tv shows and movies is that, when a new website goes live, the business will start receiving calls straight away. The site never needs to be maintained, changed or updated… somehow it just keeps magically bringing in customers and money!

Sadly, in real life, such things as road trip dalliances with Brad Pitt and miraculous websites like these, just don’t happen.

Once your new website is live it needs further commitment from you, in terms of time and money. You need to spend time keeping your website up-to-date and fresh, fine-tuning the content and performing search engine optimisation and marketing.

You should also expect to spend as much on your website every year as you did getting it created- and this is a good thing. If your website is successful, then it is attracting more visitors, encouraging return visits and generating revenue for you. It needs to grow, and you need to fund this growth. Time to crack open the champagne!

The real question you should be asking

Don’t ask “How much will it cost me?”, instead ask “What am I willing to spend?”. Changing the question changes the whole dynamic of the situation.

Firstly, you can choose the developer you want and go to them with your budget. Knowing what you’re willing to spend, and understanding what your business needs are, the developer will be able to design a website that meets those expectations. Secondly, having a budget for web development helps you think about your website as a continuous project, allowing you to start small and build it in response to your business needs. Having a budget also lets you plan your spending and more easily measure your return on investment.

Most importantly, it takes all of the guesswork out of the equation and lets you be in more control of your spending and your website.

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