How much is a website?
“How much is going to cost me?” I am asked this question a lot and even if it’s not asked at the beginning of a consultation meeting it’s still there submerged like a hippopotamus lurking below the surface of a watering hole with its eyes sticking out ready to launch itself into a huge watery explosion at any moment. But, the question, How much is a website? is one I would ask myself if I were a client but it’s not one I can answer easily.
One of the main factors in coming up with a quote is that, clients are actually paying for a service but often see a website as a product: a tangible ‘thing’ at the end of a project. Many web companies will advertise ‘5-page websites’ for a fixed price. If you were to ask me, this is at best bizarre and at worst, insane. What’s on these five pages? Is it just text that’s been copied and pasted from a MS Word document or do they contain specific and complicated functionality or programming that may take days to code?
So, this illustrates that there are websites, there are websites and there are websites. Not all are created equal but ‘what’s the damage?’ is still a reasonable question for anyone to ask. To illustrate further, we’ll metaphorically walk into an estate agent together and ask “How much is a house?”
The estate agent will begin to ask questions to narrow down the parameters of properties available in order to guide you to something that is suitable: How many bedrooms? Off-street parking? Utility room? Garden? Location? Garage? And, really importantly, what’s your budget? Like houses, prices for websites can range hugely depending on requirements and mitigating factors.
But why the range in costs? Firstly, it depends on the company you’ve received your quote from and their pedigree, level of expertise, speciality and overheads. But like houses, you can buy a tidy two-up-two down terrace in Wavertree or a detached six-bedroom, double-fronted, double-garaged house in Cressington. Both provide the same fundamental things: shelter, warmth, somewhere to lay your head, but there’s a huge difference when it comes to location, size, features, potential and land.
Where does the cost come from?
Most people will have seen ads on TV from GoDaddy, 1&1 and Wix telling you that you can easily build your own website for not very much money a month. But, a website should not be confused with a web presence. These offerings from the giants of online DIY sites are web presences which are fine for starting out and having something to put on your business cards but they will do little to attract new business. A website, on the other hand, is a lead generation tool that informs, educates, looks professional, is consistently branded, reflects your business ethos, performs well in search engines, markets your company, funnels visitors, generates interest, is built to measurable outcomes, is target driven and ultimately makes you money and provides a return on your outlay. A website should not be a cost to your business, it should be an investment. Just like a house.
So, this is where some of the cost comes in: how does a web developer design and build something that satisfies all of the above? Well, at first they (should) ask a lot of questions to find out as much about your company as possible and, thus, arrive at the best solution for you.
Apart from everything mentioned above, what else is involved?
This is the part where a good web designer should begin the project by collating all the information gained at the initial meeting into a coherent analysis/solution plan. Clear objectives need to be defined as do measurable success criteria. Proposals can take anywhere between several hours to several days to devise and write. Proposals become project plans and briefs.
The design is driven by the end objectives. It has to be more than something that just looks nice. The pre-defined objectives need to be considered at every stage, i.e. how is the design going to achieve the objectives and outcomes?
Calls to action
Where and what are specific ‘sticky’ elements going to be to maximise the chances of visitors becoming paying customers? What is going to appeal most effectively to the target market to draw them in?
Navigation, page structure, dropdowns, grouping content, the ‘journey’ through the website and how users will move from arriving at a landing page to contacting the company need to be planned and mapped out carefully in order for conversions to occur.
Clean, lean and good-quality code needs to be created that works well, written in a way that search engines will love crawling and indexing and isn’t glitch or error prone. Messy code or ‘code bloat’ can have damaging effects on your search engine positions and potentially cause websites to load slowly and lose potential customers as quickly as they arrived.
There are many different browsers with many different versions on many different devices on many different operating systems. Testing, fixing and retesting for all internet browsers is crucial to ensure all users receive a good experience. Anyone who has a bad browsing experience on a website could be a lost customer.
The majority of people visiting a website will do so via mobile before too long. Websites need to be built for internet TVs, desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Effectively, that’s six responsive website designs in one.
If you’ve written the copy yourself or had it professionally written by a copywriter, it still needs to be gathered, collated, uploaded, spell-checked, proof read and made ‘web ready’ before a site can be launched. It also needs to be assessed to make sure the core message is clear and is contributing to achieving the objectives.
Irrespective of where images come from (stock images, professional photography, clients’ own images, etc.) they all need to be downloaded, sorted, evaluated for quality, resized, edited, cropped, Photoshopped, optimised for the web, grouped and uploaded. Careful evaluation of the efficacy of an image needs to happen too – don’t forget that even images should be selected to contribute to achieving the initial project objectives.
On-site Search Engine Optimisation
Keywords need to be researched and implemented into the meta tags of the website, the content itself, every image on the site and into the page description to make the site loveable by Google and enable visitors to find the site in the first place.
Someone needs to decide on and sort out a domain name and hosting. Emails need to be set up, DNS and other domain settings need to be configured. The site needs to be moved from its testing server to the live web space, reconfigured and retested. The site then needs to be submitted to major search engines for indexing.
Is your quote fair?
Outlined above is a potted overview of the main duties a decent web designer will consider when pricing a website. There are a many other things involved, as well as development meetings during the process and lots of correspondence and project management, but the list should give you a more in-depth understanding of how a website quote has been arrived at.
So, is it a fair quote? What’s important is to look at what you’re actually going to get for your money. Is the proposal clear enough in its objectives? Does the web designer understand your business enough to do a decent job? Is how you’re going to see a return on your investment explicitly explained? So, rather than look at cost, look at value. The cheapest quote isn’t always the best value and the most expensive isn’t necessarily the best solution. Go with your gut instinct.
And finally, one more thing that affects cost…
This is a pretty well-known tale, and may be apocryphal, but it’s a good illustration of why companies seek out professional web designers.
In his twilight years Picasso retired to Mougins in southern France. One day, he was sitting in a park and was recognised by a passing woman.
“It’s you!” she said, “You’re Picasso. I adore your work. You simply must draw my portrait.” Picasso obliged and captured the woman’s likeness in a few, deft, inspired, genius strokes of a pencil. “That’s incredible. So beautiful. You really must sell it to me,” the woman exclaimed. “How much should I give you?”
Picasso replied, without any hint of irony, “That will cost you five thousand Francs, Madame.”
“Five thousand Francs?!” said the woman, aghast. “But it took you less than ten seconds!”
“No, Madame,” replied Picasso, “it took me an entire lifetime.”
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