How Much Does a Website Cost?

costPerhaps one of the most common questions I answer on a daily basis, “How much does a website cost?” Frankly, all designers and developers hate this question because there’s no quick or easy answer. In fact, I typically break every rule of politeness that my mother ever taught me by answering with the following, “How much does it cost to build a house?”

The purpose of the response isn’t to be rude, it’s to put the original question into a  familiar context as most people understand at least to some degree, the home buying process. From selecting a plot of land, to determining the square footage of the home, and deciding what materials will be used, we understand that it’s our choices that ultimately impact price. With so many variables, most buyers are aware that if they hear the word “upgrade” over and over,  there will be no misunderstanding that the final price is moving upward. Similarly, building all of the features of Amazon’s shopping cart or Ebay’s auction system to your next eCommerce project might put you “in an exclusive neighborhood” requiring big budgets or more “house” that you can afford.

Be Realistic
FACT: Most mega sites are created using other people’s money via venture capital. If you are spending your own money and honestly think you get all of the bells in whistles included in a million dollar web site you probably aren’t being very realistic.

From the builders perspective…
Now imagine you’re a construction supervisor within days of finishing a home and you are asked, “Can we change the plan so that the garage faces Southwest instead of Northeast?” Realistically this would mostly never be uttered as the typical home owner would assume the cost of such a modification would be astronomical. But in the world of websites, there’s often a perception that such changes can be done with the wave of a magical mouse and “would probably take someone like you just a few minutes”. Unfortunately, magic doesn’t exist on a home site or in the digital world and what might be perceived as easy, can often be riddled with peril.

When you begin planning out your website, it’s always a good idea to understand your absolute top priorities or must have features as well as your budget. This approach can feel a bit restrictive, as we obviously want our websites to do everything. However, just like our homes, the more features we request, the higher the price, which can often lead to some level of sacrifice. The idea here is that YOU as a website buyer begin thinking beyond the financial transaction and more about their individual needs and how each of those stack up on the priority scale versus your budget.

Starting Your Website Plan
To prevent planning fees or multiple rounds on the drawing board (design), take out a note pad and break the desired features your website needs into the following two groups:

1) Public Features*
2) Private Features**

Public Website Features (Example):
1) Home page must have sliding banner images
2) Home page must contain a video that plays on desktop computers and all mobile devices
3) Home page should show awards and credibility items
4) Home page should have visible product for sale

Private Website Features (Example):
1) I need the ability to manage the sliding banner images on my home page
2) I need to be able to edit the video(s) on my home page
3) I should be able to add, change and delete credibility items on my home page
4) I need to be able to established featured products on my home page that are for sale

Obviously your individual needs and priorities might be considerably different than the example, but you should start to get the idea that constructing your website and understanding the price is all about the amenities and choices. So to avoid driving costs up and ensuring you get the most out of your hard earned dollars, keep in mind that customization drives up the price as does changing the design in the middle of the process. I always recommend that every client see at minimum, an architectural blue print (wire frame) of what the finished project is going to resemble to avoid any misunderstandings. Put simply, someone purchasing a home for $150k, typically has no misunderstandings that they are getting a home valued at $599k. 

Finally, don’t be surprised when you ask the question, “How much does a website cost?” if the immediate response isn’t, “Well that depends on your budget.” The question is very similar to a real estate agent’s knowledge of your buying cap. Knowing your budget upfront, allows your agent to show you properties that you can afford that address your needs. In short, your web developer must know your budgetary limits to provide you with the best end result considering your needs, priorities, and cost. If you are honest with your builder and yourself about your priorities, in most cases there’s a new website  out there that’s perfect for you.

Photo by puuikibeach – Attribution License Creative Commons

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