How much is my website going to cost?

This question is the one that is always forefront in a potential customer’s mind, and no wonder, since none of us like to pay more for something than we have to.

In fact, if you are a small company starting out then paying nothing for your website is what you would prefer to do, not so?

Let me explain what some of the factors are that goes into the cost of a website, and then some options for reducing the costs, or even doing it for free (if you want to go that route!)

1. The biggest cost component of website development is that you are paying the salary of the developer. Basically, the more skilled a developer, the higher salary he will command and the higher the base cost of the company offering your their services. Unfortunately, if you want a website that really looks professional, is designed in such a way to maximise conversions and attracts new customers, you will have a greater chance of getting it if you make use of a really good web designer, and a good web designer has built up his skills over the course of a couple of years.

What you will get with a good web designer, as opposed to a junior one, is someone who will:

  • Be on top of the lastest developments in terms of web design styles and trends in the industry and will give you a design that will ensure that your website will continue to be at the forefront of layout and design for a good couple of years (in other words, your website will not look dated soon)
  • Be able to advise you as to what works and what doesn’t work in terms of the design of the website, the layout and the functionality. He has years of experience building sites and he just knows what is possible, what is feasible and what is really not advisable! Listen to him – you are paying him for his expertise.
  • Be able to work with you, the client, and be able to really give you what you require. Junior web designers or inexperienced web designers do not know yet how to ask the right questions or read between the lines of what the client is trying to say or interpret his real requirements.

2. The second biggest impact on cost is that of the type of website. Some websites are just more expensive than others. For example, an eCommerce site (online shopping cart), is more expensive than a company site. Why is this? The problem is that shopping carts has additional components that you would not find in a normal brochure type site. These are aspects such as:

  • The shopping and checkout process and experience – most shopping carts available for the ‘average’ customer today are based on a standard way of working, such as the way that the products are displayed, and the way that the checkout process works. Sometimes clients wants this to be slightly modified – for example, they would like to have more images display on the product pages, or a hover-over effect with an enlarged image displaying, or a change to the checkout process – either an extra step, or reduced steps. All of this entail that the web developer has to tailor the code of the existing shopping cart software in order to achieve this. But believe me, all of this is still cheaper than getting a company to write a shopping cart for you from scratch!

    Let me just explain the basic difference between a shopping cart website and corporate websites, for example. Both the eCommerce website and the corporate website has a design element (the overall look and feel of the website pages) and a content element (the text and pictures on the site), but the eCommerce site has an additional component, and this software code that is used to enable the dynamic interaction between the website and the person who orders from the site.

  • The shipping process. This can be quite complex to set up and can take hours to configure correctly (and remember, hours=time=cost!) Is your shipping based on a flat rate (easy)l; or is it based on a combination of weight, size and distance (complex!)
  • The payment process. There are various payment processes and they all need to be set up. Most of the times, if you want to offer credit card payments, you need to sign up for a merchant account at one of the major banks, and then sign up with a payment gateway provider (someone who will manage the security and actual payment of the credit card, and who will then pay over the money into your account). This payment process needs to be integrated into your shopping cart website by the developer.

3. The third biggest impact on cost are things such as design and functionality. The design aspect has to do with what the website looks like. We have already seen that you will probably pay more if the designer is more experienced and skilled, but there will also be a price impact based on how complex the design is in itself. Some designs are easier to implement than others, and a complex design will require more time and effort. The functionality of the site will also have a bearing – for example, we have already seen that shopping carts are quite interactive and therefore more expensive to implement, but even normal corporate websites or small business websites might require some measure of interactivity. For example, you might want to have a newsletter signup box on your site – this signup needs to capture email addresses and names and store them somewhere. Or you might want to allow people to upload and download documents from the site – this is also ‘interactive’ functionality and requires additional effort to implement.

As you can see, there are various cost elements going into the cost of a website and to be blunt, the less you pay, the less are the chances that you will end up with a high quality site.

Of course, we all have budgets that we work with, and especially starting out, it is difficult to scrape enough money together for everything that has to be done to get your company to be successful.

To minimise the cost of your website, you can do the following:

1. Be very clear and very specific about what you want. The less the developer have to guess, or rework things, the cheaper it will be.

2. Cut on the design costs. Ask the developer if he can use a template, and if he can direct you to some nice templates from which you can choose. Templates are normally very nicely done and can give you a good looking website at a reasonable cost. Just don’t start requesting changes to the template design – that will push up the costs again!

3. Get a web design company that makes use of a Content Management System, such as Joomla or WordPress. These will spead up the development process. Just make sure that you get a company that is experienced in Joomla Web Design or WordPress web design, else you will spend more money due to the web developers/web design companies not knowing how to use these tools to the maximum.

4. Do it yourself. If you are technically inclined you can always learn the skills yourself. It will take you a bit longer to do, but it could be a viable option to start with. Just remember – there are reasons why we don’t make our own shoes or build our own houses! In theory it is possible for anyone to do these things but you need to weigh up whether learning these skills are going to be worth it for you in the long term. The time that you are spending on learning how to design your own website, is time that you are not spending on building your business!

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