By Steve Guberman, Vice President of Creative and Digital Services
I’ve been in the website industry for going on 15 years now. The first site I ever built was written in Microsoft Notepad back in 2000 and was epic, for its time. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients, friends and numerous organizations on the planning, design and development of close to a hundred websites. Aside from those sites, I’ve probably pitched or consulted on another few hundred sites over the years. And at most family holidays, you can bet someone asks me about websites, or how to fix their computer – since it’s the same thing after all.
The most common question I’ve been asked over the years is: “How much does a website cost?” To which I usually snarkily respond with “How much does a car cost?” The reason I flip it back to people like that is because you can easily get a reasonably-equipped economy car for your newly driving son for $9,995 but when you hit your 50-year mid-life crisis, you can drop north of $100,000 on that new Porsche 911 you’ve been wanting since you were 10. See the difference?
It’s so common to think of a website as a commodity these days that it seems a perfectly logical question to ask. Sadly though, it’s not so simple to answer. When the web exploded in the 90s, website pricing was like the wild west – nobody knew what they should charge, and consequently, they typically charged whatever they could get away with.
If your company is thinking of a revamped or updated website, I’d suggest restructuring the cost question a bit. If you think of a website as an investment, and one that should return significant dividends, the question should really be flipped. Instead of asking “How much does a website cost?” try looking at it from a business standpoint and ask “To achieve the goal that I have in mind, what should I invest in a new website?”
Thinking of it as an investment as opposed to trying to get the best “deal” from someone who says he “knows WordPress” might help you understand what it takes to build a website that delivers on your business objectives, and why it’s worth spending the time to find the right solution, as opposed to the cheapest option.
Websites definitely fit into the “you get what you pay for” bucket. Sadly, it’s usually in hindsight that people realize they might’ve gone the wrong route in hiring their neighbor’s cousin’s nephew to build it, or that they chose the wrong agency.
Here are a few things to consider as variables when evaluating what to invest in a new website. Maybe you’re comparing agency proposals or freelancer bids, but in any case, these should be considered important evaluation points.
- Is the site being built from scratch, or is someone using an existing template or theme?
You may not care if your site resembles other websites, or you may want something that’s never been seen before. Either way, it’s considerably less expensive to build a new website from an existing theme, than to start from scratch. The former solution may present other challenges in functionality (what the site needs to actually do), but the latter solution may be able to be executed more rapidly.
- Who’s writing and gathering the content? Sometimes, the biggest bottleneck in building a website is the page content, team photos, product shots, sell sheets, etc. So determining up front who’s developing the content and gathering it all together is important in comparing scopes of work and timelines. Even if the agency isn’t doing the writing, it’s important that content creation is included in the project timeline and planned for in the search engine optimization strategy.
- How quickly does the site need to be done?
Oh, you have a product launch next week and need a new site for it? Sure, we can do that. It’s important to note that in most cases, the quicker something is needed, the more it costs. Or some other aspect could get compromised.
- What do you need your site to do for you… other than make you money?
There is really so much that can happen on a website these days, some of which is unnecessary but some of it is essential in helping a business or organization do what it needs to do online. Knowing what you need people to be able to do on your site will help your web developer know what they are building. And since each “thing” they need to build takes time, and time is money, it’s important to identify a functionality list.
A website needs to have a purpose. I often refer to a potential website as a 24-hour employee. When the offices are closed, when the phones aren’t being answered, this thing on the internet needs to be able to be found (by the right people) and needs to be able to serve its purpose for your company. Whatever that “thing” is that you need it to do is, it needs to absolutely do, without a doubt. Investing in the right solution, with the right partner is the best way to make that happen.
So maybe that didn’t tell you the top secret answer of what a website costs, but I can tell that you being thrifty and hasty in choosing the wrong website partner will ultimately cost you a lot more than doing it the right way, with the right partner up front. If you want to know more about what we charge to build websites, I’d love to talk about your needs and see what your investment might look like. Feel free to drop me a line and we can chat.