A realistic outlook on how much your website should cost
The cost of creating a website can vary widely depending on your needs and the company you ask. One thing that is guaranteed is that you will not get a well-built and effective website for cheap. A simple search in Google for “how much does a website cost” brings up many results, all supporting that statement and we encourage you to try the search out for yourself. Here are some of our results…
While our prices vary slightly from what these articles mention, they are in the right ballpark. Creating a website is time intensive, and not something that can be done in a day.
The Real Cost of a Traditional Website
The hourly rate depends on a number of factors, such as location, if you’ve hired a freelancer or if you’ve hired a website development agency. In North America, the average rate of web agencies is between $75 to $150 an hour. If we take the minimum amounts, use a template and make the assumption that it is a small site, the very least your site would cost you is around $2000 – not including any monthly monitoring, marketing and hosting fees.
Why does a website cost so much?
Building a website is a time intensive process, and not all of that time is spent actually building the site. A lot of time is spent in planning, communicating and researching before work even starts on the website.
When considering the price of a website, here are some of things that are accounted for.
Communication and Project Management
Every successful project requires good communication between your web agency and you. While most web development companies build this time into their prices, some charge a lower overall rate, and include it as a separate item. In either case, a good website development company will take the time to communicate with you. This overlaps somewhat with the research, as a lot of the initial communication is about finding out more about your business, your clients, what your expectations and goals are.
In addition to the communication with you, there is also time being spent communicating with others involved in the project, making sure that they have the information they need to move forward with their tasks.
While on a typical project, the time spent communicating and project managing is around 4 hours, we have seen some projects where the time spent communicating was more than the time spent on all other aspects of the project.
Research and Discovery
Any good web development agency will take the time to research not only your company and your target market, but your competition as well.
Knowing about your target market and your company helps us understand what people are looking for when they visit your site, as well as how they are looking for it. This information is critical to the planning phase as it determines what content pages may be required, the language and voice we need to use for those content pages. It also helps in the website design phase as we can prioritize information that is most relevant to your target audience in the website design.
Knowing about your company and your goals is essential when designing as it helps determine the visual style of the site and allows us to focus attention on conversion elements. It also aids in the planning stage as we can tailor your site and your content to better achieve your goals.
Researching your competitors will tell us what strategies they are using, how effective they are or aren’t, how well they are addressing the target market, and can help set a benchmark for your new site. It can also help us identify weaknesses in their strategies that you can use to your advantage.
While we say 5 hours is the time it takes, that is for a small site. Often times the research phase can be well over 20 hours, with a lot of time spent looking and evaluating competitors’ sites.
With all the research done, the next step is planning. Any experienced web development company will take the time to prepare a plan for the site. Conversion paths, wire frames, content strategy and site maps, marketing strategy, are all elements of the website planning process.
If this sounds like much more than you need, you would be wrong. Skipping the planning stage often results in more expenses down the road. It results in website designers, developers and copywriters taking more time as they have to ask more questions, or worse, make decisions with insufficient information, and have to go back and redo work. It also results in a less effective final product. Many websites that were built without proper planning fail to live up to expectations, and don’t have great conversion rates.
For most small sites, the planning time is around 3 hours. For larger and more complex sites this time can be well over 20 hours
$.05-$1 per word (average page between 300-500 words)
While most businesses we encounter want to write their own content. It is rare that they are able to produce copy in the right voice for their target audience. It is usually a much better idea to have the content done by a professional copywriter. These people have years of experience writing copy in a variety of voices, on a wide range of topics. A professional copywriter will produce copy that appeals to your target market, and will help you achieve your website’s goals.
Copy writing is just part of the overall cost to be considered. Once the content has been produced, it has to be reviewed to make sure that it is suitable for the site, and also proofread to ensure that it is free from errors. Once reviewed, proofread, and approved by you, it needs to be added to your website.
The costs for copywriting can vary depending on the subject, the target audience, and the quality of the copywriter. Most good copywriters cost between 5-15 cents a word, and if you are looking for a highly researched technical document, or are targeting a specific industry professional, the cost can go up to a dollar a word or more, as more research and fact checking is required. – http://writtent.com/blog/how-much-do-quality-copywriting-services-cost/
Assuming 5 pages of content, at 300 words each at 10 cents a word, and add 2.5h to review, proofread and add the content. You are looking at $150 + 2.5h.
Website Design and Development
Website design starts with creating a visual style that appeals to your target market and fits with your company’s image. Different designers have different approaches and workflows. Almost all will work off of a wireframe of some sort, some will work in a sketchbook, some will create a style guide, others design directly in the browser, and some create mockups. Whatever approach is used, a good design takes time, as not just existing or proposed pages need to be designed, but currently unused elements as well (in case they are used in the future.)
Out of all the steps, website design and development would be the one step that can be skipped. There are many templates out there that look great, and with some modification can be adapted to fit in with your company’s visual style and goals. Note “with some modifications”. Using a template doesn’t mean that there is no design or development work needed. Time still needs to be spent modifying it, and any other add-ons.
If you are working with a template, then the design and website development takes around 10 hours to properly configure and stylize everything. If you are looking for a custom design, depending on visual style, it can take 10-80+ hours just in design, and depending on complexity and interactiveness another 15-80+ hours in development. This doesn’t include any additional custom programming that may be required.
Testing and Bug Fixing
Once a site is designed and developed, any good web agency will take the time to test the website on a variety of devices and browsers to ensure that your website looks good and is usable to the majority of your target market.
If things go well, there won’t be any bugs, but the reality of it is, there are almost always a few. Sometimes these are quick fixes, and there are times where it might take a day to chase down a bug. Most website developers won’t charge you for the time spent testing and bug fixing, but will make an allowance for it in the cost of building a website. Businesses refer to it as breakage – an allowance for loss or damage. Established web agencies have a good handle on the average time it takes.
In addition to the technical tests and bug fixing, additional tests can sometimes be done to see how certain calls-to-action, colors, or content perform, and how well the people in your target market react to your site. Some of these tests can be costly and are rarely performed on smaller sites.
Generally speaking the time spent in this stage can vary based on the scope of the project. For most small sites, barring any stubborn bugs, This process takes around 2 hours.
Optimization is the process of making improvements to the site, either for improved loading speed, improved search engine visibility, improved conversion rates, or pretty much any factor of the site that can be improved upon.
Usually a lot of the performance optimization is done while the site is being programmed, or is handled automatically by the server. For many small sites this is enough. For larger sites that have to deal with a lot of traffic, this might not be enough, and in these cases some extra time needs to be spent to determine what is slowing down the loading of the page, and streamline it.
Some of the site optimization can be done while the site is being programmed, however most of the optimization is done over a period of time and is an ongoing process, as results need to be measured, testing needs to be performed, and additional tasks
As we’ve mentioned, for many small sites, little needs to be done for performance optimization. For larger sites though this could take 2 hours to 10 hours or more. We actually know people who make their living just optimizing sites, and could spend days making sure a site loads as quickly as possible. As for search engine optimization, that is usually part of a service or marketing agreement once the site is completed.
Monitoring and Marketing
Once a website is launched our job as website developers isn’t finished. The site needs to be marketed according to a marketing plan established at the start of the project, and monitored.
Monitoring the site enables us to see how well the site is performing, how well the marketing strategies are working and make adjustments as needed. Many times it provides information and insights that are not expected – and in some cases has helped our customers take advantage of a gap in the market they were not aware existed.
Marketing can be done in many different ways, online as well as offline. Effective online methods include email marketing (in compliance with all anti-spam regulations), Paid advertising (adwords and bing ads), social media marketing, content creation (blogging), among other methods.
The overall cost of monitoring and marketing can vary depending on the marketing strategy. Ideally we wouldn’t recommend anything under 5 hours. Once you take away the time needed to monitor the site, generate reports, and understand what the reports are telling you, there isn’t much time left over to market the site. In general, to properly monitor and market a website, you should be looking at spending around $1000+ a month, and that is not including paid advertising costs.
So how can companies offer cheap websites?
We know what you are thinking, why would you pay thousands of dollars to get a website when Company X is offering websites for $399 (Having family or friends build one for you is a whole different topic).
Many cheap website companies stay in business by cutting out essential steps like research, planning, testing and monitoring and they usually leave the copywriting to you. Since the research, planning and monitoring phases are cut, the time spent communicating is also reduced.
The design and programming steps are also skipped as templates are usually used – a very valid way of cutting costs – but they fail to adapt the template to fit your company’s visual style, and fail to properly integrate any additional add-ons. Since the research and planning stages are usually skipped, the templates generally fail to take into account your business’ goals as well.
I haven’t mentioned monitoring or marketing, and here is why. Many of these cheap website companies aren’t interested in building a relationship with you, they are only interested in delivering you a website as quickly, and as cheaply as possible, and move on to the next client. They work on quantity and not quality.
Those that do offer marketing and monitoring are doing you a disservice. By marketing a website that isn’t built around your business’ goals and doesn’t have high quality content, you end up with a lower return on your investment. For some forms of online advertising, it can even increase the advertising costs. Considering that the average hourly rate for marketing and SEO is between $76-$200 (according to http://moz.com/blog/seo-pricing-costs-of-services) If they are only charging you $100/month to market the site, well there isn’t much marketing that can be done in an hour.
Looking at costs, you may have saved yourself some money initially, but over the life of the website, you will get less business, and see a lower return on investment for your advertising. For example, an Adwords campaign for a poorly build site can cost four times more for the same results that a professionally built, high quality website will provide, and in some cases may not give any results at all.
It is our hope that this article has provided some insight as to why a good website can cost as much as it does.
Since we work with a Growth-Driven Design model, our prices are a bit different, having an initial payment which is a bit less than a traditional site, followed by a regular (monthly or quarterly) retainer fee. You start with a small site that will grow over time. Overall it does cost more than a traditional website, but it also outperforms them in driving new business, and will have more, better quality content in the long term.
If you would like for us to quote you on your website, you can get a quote here.
The site that was built for me by Last Rose Studios was fantastic. The style that was created is simple and beautiful. Most of all, the service I received was focused and they understood how and what to highlight on each page of my website.