One of the questions I’m often asked when talking with a prospect for the first time is how much a website will cost. It's an excellent question and when you're a business looking to get online, a very important one. After all, you need to know how much to budget.
While business owners know their business, they don't necessarily know how to effectively market it online or how much they should be spending to do so. While some marketing activities are easy to budget for - radio and newspaper ads have specific rates, print material is priced on quantity, etc. - a website is more of an unknown.
From the very cheap to the very expensive, a website can be difficult to budget for without any prior experience. You could do it yourself or use your friend's computer-whiz daughter and spend very little, or you could hire an expert.
Let's first assume you are serious about your business. Don't skimp on a website or leave it to the last minute because you are not sure how it will help your business. In the majority of cases it will. Whether you're a local or national business, have a niche market or a broad customer base, sell to businesses or to consumers, have a store front or a home office - your customers are looking for you online. It's the easiest way to get to know you before they make a decision to buy from you.
Consider that. Your website is often the first impression a person gets of you and your business. So it's important to put your best foot forward. Your website is like a store front and needs to effectively convey what your business is about in a professional manner. And it's not just about aesthetics.
Being visually appealing is important, but can people find the information they are looking for, is it easy to navigate, is it well written, does it honestly represent your business, and does it make it easy to contact you or find your nearest location?
All of these questions and more are important variables that go into the design and development of a website. What are they worth to you and your business?
There are several factors that go into costing a website:
- Do you have a logo and existing branding? If not, you'll need to factor this into your budget as it's critical to the design of your site.
- Do you know what you want? The more you understand your requirements the less time will need to be spent upfront in the discovery phase, saving you money (and getting you a more accurate quote).
- Do you require any special or custom features like e-commerce, secure member zones, file uploading, social media integration, etc?
- Do you have your content ready or does it need to be written? If you're not a writer, it's worth spending extra for well-written copy as this is critical to effectively engaging and converting site visitors as well as for search engine optimization (SEO).
- Do you need a content management system (CMS) to manage the site? If you want to easily update and maintain the site yourself, this is important.
- Does your site need to be mobile-friendly? Hint: the answer is yes.
Before you engage a web designer or digital agency, it is important to understand what your objectives are for your website. The more specific you can define your goals and objectives, including who your target audience is, the more accurate a quote you will get upfront. Otherwise you may end up with further costs and project delays for variations and out-of-scope changes.
Make sure you get more than one quote. It's not unheard of to get quotes that range from $3,000 - $30,000 from the same set of requirements. That's because website development is a service and there is more than one way to build a site. One company may have more overhead than another or need to do more custom development than one with more experience.
Don't just go with the cheapest option. Make sure you are comfortable with the people or person you are dealing with. Effective communication and good project management will mean less stress for you and ensure that the final product meets or exceeds your expectations.
Finally, consider what a customer is worth to you. Say, on average, a new customer is worth $1000 to your business. If your website brought you even one new customer per month, how soon before it has paid for itself? Be sure to factor this into your cost evaluation.
Ultimately however, a website will cost as much as your willing to invest in it. So consider the return...because you get what you pay for.