What’s the bottom line?
If you run a business, you need a website and developer. You already have one? Is it still relevant? Or have you moved on? Is it mobile-friendly? Website styles change every few months with added functionality and security. Technology moves in dog years.
5 years ago, back in the Online Dark Ages ;)
Ah, the heady days of 2010. While you were still driving that beat up 99 Corolla, the iPad was invented. Phones stopped flipping and now everyone at the petrol station has a digital FitBit. That’s Web Years. By the time you find out about a new technology, a better one is released just a few minutes later. I reckon 2009 was the last year you could get away with having no website at all. Spend your money on Yellow Pages advertising or letter-drop flyers and wait next to your land line. You didn’t notice those changes, did you? Perhaps your website has been hacked because the last time you updated it was 2012. Yesterday, right?
It’s 2018. Happy New Year!
The Yellow Pages is now great as a monitor lift for your makeshift standing desk, but nobody uses it anymore. Sorry. The print’s too small and the ads are far too expensive. You can buy a spanking new website and run a targeted Google Adwords Campaign for a fraction of the price of a one-tenth page ad in the Yellow Tome. Enough melancholy, Ed. Bottom line it, pulllease!
Price is proportional to the number of employees
But you already knew that, right?
Read on, my impatient friend . . .
Technological naivety will blow your budget. The more homework you do (reading this article is a good start) the less cash you will end up parting with. The difference between what you know about web design and web development and what a developer, designer, web firm or creative studio charges you is proportional. The more you know, the less you will pay. It’s a crafty salesman’s job to find out what you know and then charge accordingly. We’re all faking it ’til we make it, right?
The low end of professional web design
A professionally built website, say one designed to generate leads for a small consultancy, would cost four thousand two hundred and fifty dollars (if you got us to build it). Less for a student or bedroom designer. Functionality beyond a few forms is what takes time for developers. Do you need to promote regular events? Do you need a shopping cart? Is your site a membership site where each member has their own statistics page? A stock standard website, with a form and 7 or 8 pages can cost as little as $500. But you get what you pay for. Let me repeat that to make it clear. This industry is so competitive, I can assure you that you will get exactly what you pay for. Unless the agency has a poor reputation (ask a prospective web agency or developer here on Iinet’s Whirlpool Forums if you want to save a lot of heartaches. While I love building smaller sites, a bigger company will balk at $4,000 and pass you on (usually to someone like myself) – in fact, about 30% of my work comes to me through “competing” companies (it’s good to keep enemies close). I pass larger, cumbersome (less exciting) jobs onto them in return. Although I’ll only pass it on if I believe the company is trustworthy.
The high end of professional web design
If you’re shipping beer around the world, running regular social media campaigns with streaming web video services, a customized real-time e-commerce experience, an online game and a TV ad campaign, expect to pay more. You need a branding agency, not a web developer.
The problem with the question
Asking how much your website will cost is like asking a surgeon to quote on an operation without knowing what the problem is. Figures I put on my pricing page are approximate because I have no exact idea what people want. I’d rather people fill in this form and send it through. Failing filling in exhaustive, 20 question questionnaires, a bullet-point list of must-haves and would-like-to-haves is a good thing to send a potential web development team for a quote. Getting requirements down on paper speeds web development process up a lot. Put as much as you can on paper. No web developer likes scope creep (when additional work gets thrown on top of a fixed quote) and may relegate such an albatross to the bottom of their pile. Clarity of purpose will also save you money – as developers are likely to over-estimate on a job with unknown factors.
Rephrase the question as . . .
Who will build my website?
How much you pay will largely be determined by who you choose to build your site. Each choice has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. The choices are, roughly;
- DIY website (free)
- Relative, friend or student
- Graphic or Print Company
- Freelance Web Developer
- Web Firm, Collective or Company
- Communications Company or Advertising Agency
But let’s start at the beginning – with a budget of $zero.
I’ll do it my way, thanks
I have several clients who built websites themselves but got me into oversee, maintain and tweak things as needed. If you are on a tight (or zero) budget, great! You’re probably starting in the right place. Running your own website for a year or more will give you an idea of what’s to be done. You may even see your company change direction as you serve or sell to one particular customer more than another. In a couple of years you might give someone like me a call, but for now. Just do it. You can use a free service such as Weebly or Wix and build your own website. If you like the idea of getting your hands dirty with HTML and CSS and fancy yourself as a bit of a tinkerer, this is a great solution. Things get fiddly when you try to point your domain name to the server or set up a new form, or create custom graphics, but even I’ve updated Weebly sites for clients. It’s not hard, but it might be better with a Web Ghost looking over you. Knowing HTML with a smattering of CSS does help with layout and stylistic specifics, but if you’re not too fussy, you can build a website without having to learn even one HTML tag. You won’t be on a fast server and you will probably have to put up with a few ads, but at least you’ll have an address to put on your business card. Tweaking and fiddling by a web developer will set you back hundreds of dollars (independents charge over $100/hr. and companies in 2015 charge up to about $300/hr.) – so if you have time, a free website solution is a great idea and nothing to be sneezed at. Get an independent developer to tweak it later but save yourself quite a bit by going the hard yards alone.
NB: If you’re the sort of person who likes to delegate and hates fiddling with computers, DO NOT get a free website. It will do more damage to your online reputation having a poorly maintained website than it will to not have one at all.
Successful FREE Sites
About 10 years ago, I found an awful-looking website run by a lady selling (what looked to me like) pieces of paper. It was an online scrapbooking company and it was a horrible looking website. She approached me to redesign the site, but when I looked into it, it turned out she was making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. I decided not to go ahead. I didn’t want the responsibility of chasing away loyal customers (who perceived that they were getting great value for money) with a flashy website. Who knows what part – the design, sluggish server speed or clunky navigation – played when it came to her customer loyalties and preferences? If it works, leave it alone. In my experience, anyone who has gone through the trouble of setting up their own website understands what it is I actually do for them. My favorite clients are always the ones who have run a website and (usually) know a bit of code. They understand my complex world. If a company (or even a not-for-profit) already has a website, I’m happy to redesign it. It’s pretty clear to me when I see a website what the issues are.
FREE website creation online
Below is a list places where you can set up websites for free. I’d try the Google Business option first because I know it will instantly help with SEO and Google Search. You will need a Google account (a Gmail address means you have one) to get started.
As long as you keep content up to date on a regular basis, there’s no reason why a Google, Weebly or Wix website can’t successfully compete with a more expensive, custom-built site in terms of search engine ranking and trust.
Google rewards websites which are a going concern, and that means content. Content is King now more than ever. It’s a simple matter of putting in the effort. Updating your site with a blog post, new product or even a (relevant) funny video you found on YouTube. The idea of writing a blog post stops people in their tracks. Remember what your English teacher used to say about your writing? Well, he was wrong. most people are great writers. they just don’t have the confidence. And that’s where I come in. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! :)
2 articles I wrote for a Solar Power Company in Queensland. Part of my Social Media Plan.
People buy from people. People trust people. Your website has to look and feel as if there are busy, friendly people behind it – ready to attend your every whim.
With a DIY site, you are limited to the skills you possess and the time you have at your disposal. Going with a professional web developer is a better option in terms of getting a site up that looks the part, is built on a future-proof framework, built in a timely manner (I typically take between 6 and 10 weeks depending on complexity and other work commitments) and has something of an online strategy behind it. Naturally, I’m biased. Having said that, I still believe that some experience running a DIY website will set you apart from the pack when you eventually go pro(and you will further down the line).
Your website designing nephew or friend
$1,000 – $2,500
Your nephew is studying web design at school or university. He has offered to build you a website (and broaden his portfolio, or start one). Maybe for $1,000. Perhaps you could give him money or a solid Birthday present. I’ve rebuilt several nephew sites. The nephew moves on, loses interest, changes career or just bails. My clients fall into one of two groups.
- Those who were paying too much and then defect to Geoffrey Multimedia or
- Those who built their own sites, understood the effort and sweat involved, gave up and thought, “I’ll get Ed at Geoffrey to worry about all this.”
The only drawback with a nephew (or friend) is reliability.
- Will that person finish the job?
- Are they trustworthy?
Some people are naturally very reliable. Some. Maybe 5%. I used to be part of the great 95% until I started working on this particular aspect of my personality. As is so often the case, a nephew, friend or student will probably move on to bigger and better things once real jobs come in. If your site was built for free, watch for these sticking points;
- Your designer gets paying clients and your site is demoted to backburner status (or worse – “albatross” status).
- Your website may not be maintained properly (opening the door to hackers and crashes)
- Your web site lacks security (again, leading to hacks and crashes)
- Your website may be forgotten
- Your nephew changes career (web design was too boring, he now wants to be a pilot)
Having said all this – if you factor in the usual Murphy-like catastrophes, it may not be a bad experiment. See how it goes and expects to pick up some of the pieces down the track. If that’s your bag – go for it. Email me when it goes belly-up. I might be able to help. :) Some people still think that getting a website (or building an app) is a key to passive income. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those opportunities are long gone. It never was the case if you read about how quadrillion dollar websites get started in the first place. On this note, you might find these links interesting:
If you have experienced your own DIY website, you can graduate to a professional website built further down the track. Your experience will mean we speak the same language and I love working with people who know what I’m doing for them. They appreciate it more and I don’t get to feel like the shifty Asperger guy. I re-build mates-rates websites all the time. If your site has garnered some attention and traffic, a makeover of your existing site will be a welcome find for your loyal clients. Having any old website up there isn’t a bad idea in the short-term as long as you keep it up to date and maintain the software behind it.
Freelance Web Developer
That’s me and people like me
$1,250 – $10,000 (max)
Geoffrey Multimedia falls into this category. Okay, because this is me, and because you have read this far, I’ll let you in on some of my secrets. All sites are not only updated but maintained regularly to ensure that my client sites and the software running them are up to date. I offer three professional website plans at varying prices with the ability to upgrade further down the track.
- No Frills ($1,250+)
- Small Business Site ($4,250+)
- Company Site ($6,850+)
- E-commerce Site ($8,949+)
Clients can pay outright or monthly. The plus is for the unseen or additional functionality you may require beyond the basic design / what is listed.
Websites (with a CMS) need to be maintained or they will either crash, go offline, get hacked or eventually cripple a server with unchecked security issues. I’m not fear-mongering or exaggerating here. Security is big these days. As part of what I do, I add, maintain and tweak security behind all my client websites on a monthly basis. Sometimes more often. For this, clients pay a yearly fee from between $249 and $549 (including hosting). Site security and SEO issues are 20%+ of my workload.
I also allow people to pay on a monthly basis until the full amount is paid. Prices start from $12 per month for small sites which usually take a couple of weeks to build. Naturally, you might go with another freelancer or web development company, but check the fine print first, or read the reviews and get in touch with someone on their testimonials list. I know you’ll find Geoffrey Multimedia best value for money. All websites these days need to be maintained, so make sure your host includes this somewhere. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve rescued from oblivion because they weren’t maintained or secured correctly. Hosting is not maintenance. Hosting is 95% profit and is how most web companies stay afloat. There’s, literally, nothing to do except upsell server space for a profit. Sites I run are managed sites. They are no more than 1 month out of date at anytime because I keep them that way. Okay – that’s my spiel out of the way. :) Onward … .
Graphic or Print Company
These guys probably did your signage and logos
$2,500 – $7,000
Graphic and print design firms have moved into web design. But be wary. There’s a LOT more to a website than pretty pictures. Yes, you can build a website using Photoshop. I wouldn’t. I consider actual design between 10 and 20% of what I actually do when I build a site. More so on more expensive sites. Security was 10% but is now closer to 20% and (ethical) SEO can take up nearly half the time on a search-engine-focussed eCommerce site. What’s under the bonnet counts for a lot. Just getting found is a big deal these days as there are now over 1 billion websites. Search Engine Optimization is huge. Optimizing your site so that search engines can find it (well, actually, Google) has its own set of skills. Get that wrong and nobody sees your site unless you tell them the URL. Your graphic design agency should be familiar with these terms;
- Search Engine Optimization (beyond basic tags)
- Content Management Systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento etc.)
- PHP, MySQL, CSS, HTML
- “The Google Dance.”*
*The Google Dance refers to Google’s Ever-changing search engine algorithms. If they don’t know what these things are (or at least some of them) you could be spending a lot of money on an invisible website. Make sure someone is coding up the design properly and not just outputting images from Photoshop using “Save as HTML” (on this note I just did a site for a guy who’d hit “Save As HTML” on a series of Word documents). Photoshop skills cover between 2% and 5% of what web design and development really are in 2017. Nice pictures and nice code are very different beasts.
You will need a Content Management System (CMS)
Gone are the days of getting your web developer to update your website. You should be able to do that yourself with WordPress.
No. Just . . . no. For the most part, Flash websites are 100% invisible to search engines. I avoid Flash entirely because of it. It simply doesn’t work at all on Apple devices – a huge part of the web viewing platform. I once made a cartoon for ABC TV here in Australia using Flash but I’d never build a website in Flash. Flash was born on the web but has found its home in cartoons for television and some games. That’s all it’s good for!
Why isn’t my site showing?
Beware the cloak of Google invisibility
In short, clients who have come to me with websites built by graphic or print-oriented companies are often disappointed with how their sites have fared in search results. This is because the focus was on the layout, not the underlying code or market value of a page. I am biased, naturally. If you understand that print and web graphics are very different things with totally different requirements you’ll be okay. If your print company has a professional web developer, these differences may not be an issue. A background in advertising and graphics could even be an advantage with a real developer at the helm.
Website Company or Firm
These guys probably did your signage and logos
This option might be a good one for large companies with 20 or more employees (although I’ve done plenty of those myself). If you are into Risk Management, you have the security of dealing with a Pty. Ltd. Company. If you want a lot of very specific (custom) functionality, you will pay more than $15,000 for your website. If you want to present a unique experience you have never ever seen on another website, you will pay more again. I need not tell you that companies are in the business of making a profit (and retaining good staff). This will interfere with their charter as it often means taking on work they’d rather not. As a freelancer, my personal aim is to make a comfortable living doing what I love and serve my clients loyally. It’s my way of making the world a better place and a very different volition. Nearly half of all my clients have come to me after having bad or below-par experiences with larger web companies.
The Biggest Problem
Big clients get the most attention. Big clients pay staff wages. Small sites might mean the difference between profit and loss in a thin month, but weathering long periods of inactivity is difficult for web firms. And often that means doing horrible things like cold-calling or taking on jobs which might have been better left to little guys like me. Just on that. My site may not look so, ;) but I’m a cottage industry web developer who prides himself on solid, personal service. If I get into trouble I may call a specialist friend, but that’s becoming increasingly rare (as I learn more about this wonderful craft).
Communication Company or Ad Agency
The big end of town
$12,500+ to $250,000+
What do we get for the big money? Sometimes a lot less. Communications companies don’t build websites, they outsource to people like myself. I’ve had heaps of work from large companies in the past, but choose not to deal with them as much these days because everyone gets hurt by the final bill. And I like to be transparent about costs. Bit of gossip for you… A friend of a friend (let’s call her Maria) runs a big (local) Perth web design company. One communications company approached Maria and asked her for something quite specific. Something that her Web Company never does. So Maria put out the feelers and found a programmer (let’s call him John) who wrote the kind of functional specific code that the communications company client wanted. Maria ball-parked the job at around $30,000 – but when the programmer did it for under $10,000, Maria couldn’t go back on her word. She did very well out of the deal but felt really guilty as she’d simply outsourced the work and hadn’t added any kind of value herself. And Maria loves to do her bit. John happily did the job and was very happy with his $10K. Maria later discovered that the Communications Company had charged the client $150,000. Had the client known John in the first place, the company could have saved $140,000. Maria and the Communications Company added nothing to the project and then needed John to make all the modifications without letting the client know he even existed. I’m not John by the way – although I have certainly had this very experience working on websites for various Government Departments. These days I prefer to deal with the client directly. It’s way more interesting and I get to get out of the office more. This story isn’t unique to web design as I’m sure you know, loyal reader. :) In short, Communications Companies are more expensive, outsource all their work and use the model of buying cheap and on-selling for the profit. If you are visited by a well-dressed man or leggy blonde with a bullet list questionnaire of requirements for your website – move your wallet carefully to your front pocket. Chances are that this person will know nothing at all about web design and the sheet of notes will, most likely, be passed on. :) To be fair, Communications Companies do also look after the marketing and brand awareness of your business including; logo, colors, TV advertising, company, style-guide and other marketing aspects of your transmitted image. This holistic approach may be what your company needs. They sometimes work closely with external contractors (like myself) to create a uniform look and feel of the brand or product throughout all associated marketing materials including the website. “Brand Message” is what they are all about. I, on the other hand, have done my job when your T-shirts fly out the door. While I reject Communication Company work (because I can’t help but feel that everyone is getting ripped-off) this is actually how the web world often is. Suffice it to say, if all you need is a stock-standard website with a bit of added functionality and creative pizazz avoid Communications Companies. Their aim is to find out how much you have and then take it while giving a small percentage to the actual coder.
In my humble opinion, communications companies are a leftover idea from the heady 80s and 90s, where clients were charged $100 to hot-link text to another web page (A hot-link is an expensive way to say “link” but they are exactly the same thing. A straight “hot-link” takes about 5 seconds to code). If you want “hot links” go to a Communication Company. They use that lingo.
Online Web Development
The risky alternative
Ah, cheap, off-shore web development. You can approach an overseas company or an online website template service to have your site built if you want. Or why not just trawl through your spam folder and answer one of the thousand emails criticizing your existing website? Sure. You’d be doing the 3rd world a big favor and it will be like you have a whole company dedicated to just your one website. But, the code is awful and the distance is great. A few clients have come to me after experiencing Philippines-based or Indian web design company services. While their prices may initially look attractive, there are many hidden charges and additional extras not clearly outlined in the pitch. They get away with advertising for things that are not covered by law here in Australia and you are often left holding the baby when it comes to website support and maintenance. I know of one person who fully paid for an off-shore website which, when it was delivered, was just the first page. All the links to other pages didn’t work. “I’m afraid that will cost extra, kind Sir.” In short – don’t do it.
The Last Word
I advise anyone who has a website to make sure it comes with some kind of maintenance plan because if it doesn’t, your site will get hacked or used as a spam farm and then you will need expensive support. I use open-source software which allows anybody to expand or update their website over time without having to pay me a dollar. I do charge $249pa – $549pa maintenance to clients (free hosting on a very fast server) which allows me to keep all software up-to-the-minute up to date, functioning correctly, healthy and secure from attack. If a site is attacked, I resurrect or rebuild from a recent backup. Read more about my maintenance and support plans here.
You get what you pay for
You can pay what you like for a website. Or rather, some companies will take what they can get from you. I once worked for a company that was charging $250K for websites I routinely built independently for less than $10,000. Lots of free beer and coke in that fridge I can tell you. There are too many middlemen in this industry and it pays to be aware of that. No many people actually know what they are talking about so you should ask them directly. This industry is still very new and there are almost no rules. The internet is borderless, which means that every man and his dog can set themselves up as a web designer for very little cost outlay. From where I sit, I see the web as a kind of Wild West. Everybody has a gun and there is no Sheriff yet. The websites I build are usually for small businesses with some staff. I find building really massive websites painfully boring and tend to shy away from bigger jobs which take me away from smaller, challenging, fun projects. The boss on those bigger jobs is invariably a confused board of people clinging to old ideas, each board member with a different favorite color and naturally, because we’re “living the democratic dream” everyone gets a say. Which means your website will look as if it were designed by committee. While the money is great and more regular, working on big projects feels like I’ve sold my soul and invariably I return to happily servicing smaller clients and small businesses. Take your online web presence, production, and design seriously. If you are investing other people’ money, don’t spend $2,000 on your website. Wear a suit that will give the groom a run for his money. Most potential clients will see your website once. Three seconds is a typical page browse time. You need people to stay longer than that and then come back again later. And you need to have something there for them to come back to.
Another thing worth noting is that the success of your website solely depends on YOU, not the person building your site. How much time you are able to allocate to the upkeep of your site (adding articles, news, new images and timely content)? Who will write this stuff?
I’m going out on a limb here, but it’s a good idea to treat your website as if it’s even more important than your actual business. More people could visit your site in one month than you will meet during the entire year. It essentially IS your business as far as thousands of mobile device users are concerned. You need to get your head around that. Most businesses have it the other way around. Entrepreneurs put the business first and think of the website as an after-thought. Your website can do a lot more than your physical business, but it must generate trust and you need to do that quickly
Imagine. You have less than one minute to make an impression.
Your time starts now…
NB: This article was originally written in March 2012, Rewritten in May 2013, December 2013, April 2014, October 2014 and now August 2017. All content © Copyright Geoffrey Multimedia 2012-2015. All rights reserved. – See more at http://geoffreymultimedia.com/how-much-is-a-website/#sthash.iAMlTAqx.dpuf