One of the first questions that is asked when starting a website development project is “What is your budget?” Usually there is one of two replies; one) We don’t really have one? or two) some number without a foundation to support where it came from. Often the client is thinking “What does it really cost to build a website?”
We do not envy someone tasked to find a website developer as prices can range from a couple of thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, for what appears to be the exact same scope of work. Why is there such a difference? It usually is a combination of the developer’s hourly rate, their coding experience and use of pre-built widgets of code, and their marketing experience.
- Off-Shore Website Development
A lot of the cost difference may come from where the work is being done. Off-shore (typically Southeast Asia, India or Pakistan) work can be done at a fraction of the hourly cost of a US operation. If using an off-shore operation, there will need to be more oversight of the project. You will also get exactly what you ask for, so the scope of work has to be extremely detailed. Often off-shore developers move on to other companies or projects, sometimes right in the middle of your project, so the website needs to follow known-good-standards for programming so others can jump in to work it without too much of a learning curve. Of course, there are language barriers, time differences, and no accountability, but for a well managed and verified project off-shoring is a viable cost savings.
- Website Planning and strategy
Every website needs to have a purpose, and someone needs to decide what the goal is, and how to determine it is reached, for the website. Every page needs to be considered in terms of who the audience is, where they came from and what action or influence you want them to take after visiting the page. It’s not enough to simply list your products and services; if the website is going to generate leads, simplify sales, or promote your message, you need to address the needs of each of your audiences and the unique value you can provide. This can take months as each page is analyzed to see what stays and what goes on the new site, wireframes are developed, flowcharts are created, and design concepts are reviewed. It’s a lot of work, and a point of distinction between a simple template website and an integrated website marketing strategy. This is normally the difference between a $1,500 website and a $15,000 website. If you are willing to develop a plan and manage the strategy, there is considerable cost savings here.
A recent trend is towards a constantly evolving website. In the past, once a website was launched, it remained relatively static for three years or more. There may have been a blog or latest news articles added occasionally, but for the most part, the website would remain unchanged until it got so bad that a complete redesign was required. Now, a website needs to constantly evolve due to technology updates, software patches, market trends, and to reflect new business opportunities. One benefit of a constantly evolving website is the message and layout of a page can be adjusted if the intended audience does not respond as anticipated to the initial page. Additionally you can launch a website much faster and then adapt it as you receive feedback from the audience. With time and modifications, the $1,500 website can address the same audiences as directly as a $15,000 website.
- Website Design
For many, this is the start of the website process. A good website design will capture the visitor’s attention, and get them to explore further. Website design and branding should go hand in hand. It is more than just how it looks, but the impression it leaves when you close your eyes and think about the business. While there are many great looking templates to use, and often an example of a website is given to a developer to emulate, once your logo and images are incorporated into the design, it does not look nearly as polished. Incorporating a graphic designer to integrate a template, or to develop a design from scratch is highly recommended. As with any professional the hourly cost can range from $5 to over $300, and the total costs depends on the number of revisions and design concepts.
- Upgrades and Updates
All website will need updating from time to time. Some websites will require the developer to make all updates, and some websites are built on open-source software using known good practices so anyone will be able to update it. The more custom the programming, the more expensive the website. Some websites are developed so content updates can be handled by the client without programming experience, while major updates require a knowledgeable programmer. The more bullet-proof a website is, meaning the more a website has been designed for people to update without fear of breaking it, the higher the costs of development, but the lower the ongoing costs for updates.
With any project, including website development, the better prepared, the more knowledgeable and the better the plan, then the lower the cost to complete the project. Especially with web design, you want to make sure you know the purpose of the website, who will be doing the development and how will the website be updated once it is live.