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“How much does a Website cost?” is very often the first question I hear from a prospective client. I have answered this question in so many ways over the last decade that I get a chuckle remembering some of my answers.
If price was truly the primary concern, every Website would be free. A quick Google for “free website” returns well into the hundreds of millions in results. There is surely a reason that I still have a job. So why do so many people still ask me the question: “How much does a Website cost?”
Whether you are a prospective Website purchaser or a Website developer, an answer for the question of how much a Website does or should cost is just a Google away. If you Google “How much does a Website cost?“, you will find that the query will return tens of millions of results. With this many people either asking the question or offering their answer, the question becomes very confusing. So what is the missing link?
Fortunately for you, I have your answer, and I will tell you how much a Website should cost. My answer may not be exactly what you want, but if you will take just a few minutes to read this article, I believe I can save you a lot of headache and help to clarify this sensitive topic. What I hope you will get from this are the matters that lie beneath this question.
I did not lose you yet, so clearly you either have a reason to know the real cost of a Website, or want to know how to answer this question for your clients.
Website Developer vs. Website Purchaser
We do not have to be enemies. When people ask how much their Website will cost, it is easy to let the whole relationship go sour and take on a feeling of haggling at a used car lot. For just a moment, let’s try to look at this from the two respective points of view.
How Much Does a Website Cost?: The Client’s Viewpoint
I am a Website developer and search engine optimization guy, so I am trying to keep bias to a minimum, but I think I get it. If I am even partially correct, please give your comments below.
As a prospective customer, it is very reasonable to want to know how much something will cost. A very common view of the value of something is how much somebody is charging for it … the price tag is what determines its value. When there is not a set price tag, it is easy to be a bit skeptical about it, and to question the methods or motives of the seller. Certainly, most of the things you shop for will have a price tag. There are not a whole lot of things for sale that do not have a defined cost, so it is not unreasonable to ask how much your project will cost. Skepticism is the easiest defense, so it makes sense to keep pressing for the answer.
I believe that the legitimate question of cost is placed first for many reasons. Some of these are as follows:
- The client wants to know “Are you out of my league?” or “Can I afford your services?”
- The client wants to have a ballpark idea of the cost to expect, which is very reasonable.
- The client has already asked around and has an idea in mind, and wants to compare.
- It is the first thing on their mind, and the best ice breaker.
- They just want a “simple Website” and it should be easy to price.
Addressing these from top to bottom, I would suggest these points to consider.
Are you out of my league?: I find that most people looking for a Website can afford most developers. The question really becomes how much of their time you can afford. Generally, just a little bit of a good developer’s time is worth much more than a lot of a bad developer’s time. There is not much room for error in a competitive market, and avoiding errors is imperative.
Ballpark Website cost: Seeking a “ballpark” idea of cost seems reasonable, but there are many ballparks to consider. Playing fields vary greatly, and Comiskey Park is a lot different from a neighborhood sandlot. Connecting the analogy to you, consider Comiskey to be reaching a global audience and filling the bleachers, and the sandlot a way to tell your friends and family about yourself on your new Website.
Some developers will have a strict minimum project, but other developers are capable and willing to help you play ball on either field. The latter is often your best asset, so you should hear them out.
Shopping around for rates: This is a reasonable reaction to any market. A reasonable skepticism should be held while hiring any professional. The unfortunate challenge here is that all things are not equal. In fact, nothing is equal here at all. The same cost will produce different results with different developers. If any two Websites were created equal, there would be two number one positions in Google. If any two developers were created the same, somebody is cloning more than just sheep these days.
Most people will agree that the dentist advertising a “cheap root canal” or a heart surgeon offering to trade for services is a little bit scary. No two developers are created equally. You will never see the same results from two developers. This notion is as statistically significant as the number of developers.
The Best Icebreaker: Price is a great way to get started, but the question is always deeper than just that. If price was the primary concern, every Website would be free. A quick Google for “free website” returns hundreds of millions of results. There is surely a reason that I still have a job.
How Much Does a Website Cost?: The Web Developer’s Viewpoint
When this question arises, the developer often has a feeling that price is the primary objective, and the purchaser anxiously awaits an answer they can live with. If the question of cost is not answered upfront, the client’s perception can become that of the Website developer holding out their answer while they sum you up to see how much money they can squeeze out of you. A tragic end to this dilemma is often that the Web developer will give the wrong answer. The wrong answer can hurt both parties, and it is wrong however you look at it.
As a developer, I sincerely want to answer the questions of cost, but the right answer usually requires more input than a client wants to offer. I know that if I do not give some answer, my prospective client will not hear anything I say, because all they will hear during my consultation is the sound of a cash register. When I have done my job well, and I explain all of the benefits they will receive from my work, it should sound really costly. After all, there is a lot that goes into doing a job right. If all of my work sounds like a trip to Wal Mart for a garden hose, I have let the client down because I did not give them the information they deserve to know about my work and the Website development industry.
How Much Does a Website Cost?: The Perfect Website
If there was ever a perfect Website, most of us could agree that Google is the one. Google is clearly the biggest and greatest resource on the Internet. Some people would say Amazon is the best, from a retail standpoint, and some would choose eBay. The fact is that if any one of these Websites was the perfect Website, the project would be all done, and they could fire their staff and save millions of dollars in Web development cost.
If you think a Website is ever fully completed, you may be looking at it from an item viewpoint. That is to say that you just want a Website to have a defined stopping point. This is often the kind of site used to show off a “Home”, “About Us”, “Services” (or Products), “Testimonials”, and ”Contact Us” pages. If this is you, I will enjoy talking with you because this is very simple work and I will happily make you an offer anywhere from $29 and up. Even the $29 cost will include a content management system to allow you to very easily update your Website and it will include a really pretty design. This is a fine solution for some companies, but it should be clear that this is a minority. Even plumbing companies and ditch diggers are finding great benefit from the ability to collect payments online, manage project data, simplify requests for proposal, synchronize Quickbooks with their Website, manage their client relationships, and much more.
How Much Does a Website Cost?: A Simple Website
Every viable developer has a Squillion potential clients who ask for a “simple Website”. When you say “simple Website”, the clear and obvious question from a proper and studied developer is “if you want it so simple, why are you asking me?” Although a miserly approach can be beneficial for some companies, the fact is clear that even then, there should be a consideration of tomorrow. Your Website development should never be seen as an open and closed book. You will need the service again in the future, and if you choose well early, you will be better equipped to rise above the wave and achieve happy surfing.
Cost of Missed Opportunity: A Case of Bargain Shopping
One case of bargain shopping that I am still vexed by is a local association of Realtors. This is an organization that has spent many thousands of dollars on Website development over the years, and still has a huge problem. They are very aware that the statistics agree that over 90% of new home purchases begin online, and they are quite convinced that they have a strong need for my service.
The present iteration of their Website was produced after I declined their business a year and a half ago because the budget they had in mind would have actually caused an upfront cost to my company greater than they were willing to spend. The budget discussed at the time was less than the cost of a 1985 Honda accord with 250,000 miles on it, and I am not exaggerating! It would have actually cost me more in the first 30 days to take the account than they were willing to pay in a year. They are now on their fourth version of the site, and they have had regular committee meetings for over a year to determine the best approach to their needs. I have been informed by multiple members of the committee that it is agreed that they want to use my services, but they still have to clear it with the board. This is a prime example of the cost of missed opportunity that can come from delaying the inevitable and simply doing things right the first time.
Another horrible scenario of hiring the wrong developer is the company who is hit with a claim of copyright infringement. This is described in my recent article, “Image Copyright Infringement and Enforcement“.
How Much Does a Website Cost?: Beating the Jones’
The bottom line of Website development cost is that what you spend on your Website will always be outdone by one of your competitors. If you do not think outside the box and make every attempt to use what your developer knows to your advantage, what you spend may be wasted. Having a bright and resourceful Website developer in your corner is an asset that defies the simple questions of upfront cost, and deserves a close look at the relationship opportunities between you and the developer.
The cost of a Website is a burning question that is on the mind of nearly every first-time Website buyer. Many times, the questions are much different after a miserable failure in hiring the right Website developer. I have countless clients return to me after hiring the wrong developer with a clever sales pitch and a bargain basement price.
Set a Website Budget
Avoid the pitfalls and set a budget. You will be much better of to set a budget before you start shopping, and share that budget with your prospective developer. This is not a secret, and it will serve you well to share it with your developer. When you do this, you can use your time shopping with a much better angle. With a budget, you may ask developers how much they are willing to give you for the money you have to spend. Make the budget reasonably flexible and be willing to hear the developer’s ideas without concerns that they are trying to upsell you and scam you. If they know you have a budget, and the amount they have to work with, their brilliant ideas will often be more to your benefit than theirs.
Tell the Web Developer Your Budget!
Hiding your expected budget is like going to a realtor and saying that you want to buy a house and hiding your budget. If they do not know your budget, they can show you homes all day but you will both be spinning your wheels and never get anywhere. You may think Website developers will try to get all the money they can from you. This may be the case, but if you have it in your budget, do you really want the Website developer to short-change you and offer you less than their best offering? It is common that the level of work you will receive grows exponentially with the amount of money you are willing to spend. Also, if the developer feels like they are getting a great deal, they will have much more incentive to give you all of their best work. I, for one, love to show off for my clients, and if I have enough budget to “WOW” them with my work, it serves me to do so, because they will refer others to me because I was so awesome to work with.
Keep your Fingers Crossed!
Until you spend enough time to fully learn any trade, the professional will always have the upper hand. As long as this is the case, you are much better off by appealing to their sense of pride in providing the best work for your money. A budget will always set a parameter to equalize the field. Then, every developer has your guidelines in mind for impressing you with their skills.
Website development is not unlike any other profession in that it pays to hire the best and most reputable and work forward from there. The big disparity in Website development is that it is an unregulated industry where every joker with a computer can build a Website. Cost should be a secondary concern, and become a consideration of not only today, but what you want and expect long into the future.
Please feel free to contact me at my direct line, toll free, 866-A-Web-Guy (866-293-2489) to answer questions, vent your frustrations, or to build you a fantastic Website.
Author Mark Murnahan is the Chairman and CEO of YourNew.com, Inc. and provides SEO consulting services to companies and non-profit organizations. Mark Murnahan may be reached toll free at 866-A-Web-Guy (866-293-2489) for consultation.
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