How much should a website cost?
For businesses about to undertake it’s first step on to the internet the million dollar question is “How much should a website cost?”
Although more developers are leaning toward price indications recently, previous answers may have been along the lines of “How long is a piece of string?” or “How much does a car cost” (with the follow-up sentence might also include “…it depends on what you want.”
So I thought I’d tackle the question and give some insights to how web developers and design firms arrive at a particular cost for a particular client because often similar looking websites, for comparable businesses, attract vastly different estimates.
What are the factors in estimating a project?
There are many variables to be considered in costing a website project. These range from the size of the company to the complexity of the functionality to the amount of content to be developed.
Here are some of the key factors that are considered in cost development:
- The size of the company the website is to be built for
- The project timeline
- The complexity of functionality
- The amount of pages and/or the volume of content to be developed
- Who is developing the content
- What platform is to be used
Why the size of the company affects the cost of developing it’s website
It would be easy to identify websites for two different companies that are comparable, but the cost of the development for their respective projects is very different. One of the reasons influencing this is that the size of the companies are different. So what’s happening here?
A key component of the build cost for a website is account management time. With larger companies that often have an internal team of people liaising with the web development company and more stakeholders in the project outcome decision making is slower and it may take a number of project or committee meetings to get agreement to move forward on relatively simple matters. Compare this to a smaller team or a client that has one person assigned to a project, things move forward at a much faster pace.
Planning is more important
The larger the company, the more important the details of the project are addressed upfront and with finer attention. This takes more forward planning whereas with a smaller business, if things aren’t perfect on live date, the world isn’t going to end.
A tight timeline can mean more cost
Where there is a specific or tight deadline, there are usually cost increases associated. Tight timelines often mean more resources (bodies) may need to be applied to a project. It also means that contractors may need to be bought in and general contingencies are used to get things done quick-smart!
With WordPress, it might mean that professional plug-ins are purchased at a premium, rather than free plug-ins. Free plug-ins can provide comparable functionality to professional ones, but they often require ironing out and testing.
Custom functionality almost always increases the cost of a web project
(You might ask… “well how can it not increase the cost?”. The answer to that is that a combination of robust plug-in’s may successfully fulfill a custom functionality brief for a website. But the client should be in full understanding of the pro’s and con’s of this.)
Custom functionality takes planning, contingency, support and maintenance
The planning phase of custom functionality – the creation of a technical spec’ – add further expense to a projects overall budget.
With the inclusion of complex functionality modules for a website contingency needs to be factored in to the cost as finer points of the brief almost invariably evolve during the duration of production. Contingencies proposed by diligent development firms can be as much as 50% of the estimate for that functionality component of the project.
Custom functionality usually requires increased and more regular ongoing support and maintenance. Client website managers need to be up-skilled and supported as the learn the “controls” and technical time is usually required ongoing for maintenance and changes.
Size is a major factor in budgeting for an internet project
This could be considered a no-brainer, but there are some points to this that I think need explaining.
It isn’t just the time it takes to develop and input content that increases the time-cost of development. There is additional planning that needs to happen considering more complex user information architecture, user experience (UX) design and graphic design of different page templates.
Obviously the time required for in-page content development is directly related to the amount and complexity required. Larger projects and clients usually demand a higher level of design and “richness” for their content. This may include more custom graphics, embedded video, tables and in-page functionality such as Java.
Who is selected to develop the content will influences cost
Every business wants to achieve a high ranking for their website pages in search engines – predominantly Google. The cornerstone or, “price of admission” of content that search engines will start looking at ranking well, is that it is quality content.
Quality content requires a skilled content developer with SEO writing experience, to create it in a way that is well-received by search engines, and this will add further cost, as opposed to having content written in-house.
Different platforms require different development budgets
Platform selection is often made on a whim and arrived at through the preference of the developer a business has chosen.
WordPress is a preference of many web developers as it can provide a quick development time in comparison to other platforms such as Joomla, Magneto or Drupal. Also, with it’s popularity, there are vast resources available in the form of theme frameworks, developers and plug-ins. All this equates to less base cost when developing with WordPress. I say base cost because the proportion of technical development and implementation of the CMS in relation to the overall project cost may vary greatly. Planning, creative design and content development may out-weigh technical development or visa versa.
When considering a website development project I recommend researching developers thoroughly and then letting the budget lead the project. This may be initiated by you – as you will probably have a figure in your head, or it can be discussed with the developer and ballpark figures are thrown around in an initial meeting.
The benefit of this is that you will know what your website will cost, because you will set the budget. Another benefit is that the developer you engaged knows what they’re aiming for and can plan the project build accordingly. Some web companies may have price indications as a starting point for your to get your head around.
If you want to price hunt I recommend you search for fixed-price website packages. Just be aware that these are most probably templated and there will be less flexibility with the features available to you.