This is one of the first questions a potential client asks. Personally, I prefer not to quote set prices since every project is different. I like to meet with a potential client, discuss what is required and then present a proposal that contains a sensible cost estimate. This approach is best because the factors that influence the cost of developing a website are similar to those that influence the pricing of a construction job. Just like a building project, the cost of a website mainly depends on:
- the complexity of the design
- the cost and availability of raw materials (in the case of websites this usually means text and images)
- the number of changes requested during the development phase.
There are also recurring costs to consider.
Just as a property owner pays rates, a website owner also faces recurring costs. Unlike rates, the recurring costs associated with websites are minimal. The main costs are domain name registration and hosting fees. Costs vary, but domain names usually cost up to $50.00 for two years and hosting comes in at around $120.00 per year. Site maintenance is also a factor, but with the use of user-friendly software that shields the owner from having to deal with code, this cost can be kept to a minimum. If your website is particularly popular or you are involved in a design related field you may want to revamp your website every couple of years but this is optional.
Special features such as slideshows or flash animations, event calendars, subscription forms, non-standard layouts for different pages and e-commerce features such as a shopping cart and a payment gateway all add cost to your project. The actual amount of content (words and images) is also a factor as is the amount and degree of image editing required. Discuss with your web designer which features are critical to the success of your website and which are just ‘bells and whistles’ that are not important to your target audience.
Availability of content
The raw materials for a typical promotional website are the words, images and any other media that will be used. If you have good quality text and images ready for use (such as can be found in brochures, logos and promotional material) this is a major advantage. If you don’t, then content needs to be created from scratch – either by you or by someone else (like me). If you already have content take a good look at the quality – are the images good enough to use and is your copy well written? If not, it may be worth paying for professional photography or copy-writing.
Requesting changes to an agreed design or including new features later in the project adds to the cost of developing a website. When quoting on a project, a web designer will usually include in the price two or three different design options which are presented early in the project so that you can chose the look and feel that most appeals. Because it is normal for there to be some adjustment to the initial design as a site evolves, the web designer will also usually build into the price the need for a few design changes.
However, once the design is chosen and the construction of the site is well advanced it then becomes costly to modify the design. Requests to add more pages, images or features beyond that agreed in the proposal requires extra work that wasn’t factored into the initial cost.
Bear in mind that there are endless ways in which a site design could be tweaked and tinkered with and it is understandable that you want your new website to be ‘perfect’. Sometimes however it is better to get the job finished within budget and then look at making changes later. If you will be maintaining your own site using a content management system then you can always change basic things like text and graphics later on.
In summary – How to keep costs under control
- Have your content and graphics organised and ready for your website.
- Think carefully about how you want your website to look and what you want it to do and say For more information on this see my other article 10 key questions for designing your website.
- Communicate clearly to your web designer what you want especially during the early stages of the project when your proposal is being developed
- Once the project is well advanced think carefully about requesting variations to the design. Is this change critical or can it wait until the site is up and running? Is the proposed website ‘fit for purpose’ and looking the way you intended? If so, go with it – you can always change things at a later date.