The typical answer would be “it depends”, but I want to be quite detailed in this article. It pays to be prepared when you shop around, knowing that you’re not being charged too much, but also to know that your expectations and objectives are in line with those of your website provider.
“It depends” however, is an accurate answer. Pricing a website is far less about the number of pages and its functionality than it is about the website design, business objectives and the availability of information.
Let me break it down.
Before your Web Design Company can start pricing
Keep in mind that your website is a reflection of your business, whether that is a brochure site or a shopping cart, so if you’re expecting your web company to accurately present your business, then be prepared to answer a list of questions. In most cases a website is aimed to achieve above a list of competitors. To make that happen, your web designer must be familiar not only with your business, but also that of your competitors.
So, even before your web design company can start pricing, they need to fully understand your objectives, your products and services and your clients and they may need to spend some time on researching that information.
A very basic website
Unless you want a bespoke design, one that truly reflects your brand and your business, you can probably work with a templated design. That may work to keep design costs to a minimum. The may be build is limited to adding a logo, changing colours and adding content, so the expectation can be that this is the least expensive way to build a website.
Don’t be fooled by how much work is really involved though. In my experience, the minimum time to set up a meaningful website, including creating the core, adding templates, written content, images, logo, SEO, security etc. will take between 16 and 24 hours. That excludes meeting with the client, assumes that images need little or no manipulation and that content is supplied in a web-ready format and also that there is no functionality beyond perhaps a web form.
It you’ve ever worked with templates then you’ll know that they can be very restrictive and to make any changes outside of the allowed parameters can be frustrating and can take time. If you want a low-cost website, then don’t expect anything that falls outside of the template design or functionality.
A bespoke design
You may be surprised that many web designers or developers use some form of template even for bespoke designs. For some of my websites I use one standard template that provides most of the “device responsiveness”. That saves me time, but does add some “bloat” (strictly unnecessary code) to the website and can therefore compromise performance. It’s a payoff I can live with most of the time.
The templates I use do not restrict design and, before I even think of the build, I design both the front page and the follow up pages. Those are presented to the client on A4 paper.
The design proves can be time-consuming, not only to gather ideas, but inevitably, a final design usually consists of a few failed attempts before the final showing on glossy paper.
Bespoke design usually places more emphasis on the business brand compared to a templated design. Brand, presentation, user interface and a many other parameters have to be geared towards the business and must consider outcomes. That usually means a longer meeting time with the client, more research and sometimes a second or third attempt after the initial presentation.
If you want a bespoke design then anticipate that you need to work closely with your web design company and that you or someone in your business has to spend time on the project. Also remember not to be too prescriptive. If you’ve chosen your web design company well, then trust them on their guidance. How much more time to add for a bespoke design depends on many factors. Usually your web design company can give you an accurate quote after the first meeting. Be prepared to spend the time with the designer in that meeting and don’t expect a quotation without an initial meeting.
If you’re after a bespoke design and you’re still shopping for a web design company to work with, then be prepared to kiss a few frogs. You’ll find that the pricing can differ significantly. Be careful not to choose on price alone.
I’ve seen websites held up by over a year because of a misunderstanding around content. As web designers we’re unlikely to be experts in your field of business. Many times I’ve come across the expectation that the web designer magically creates content. Even where the content is supplied, it has to be re-written (usually condensed) and geared towards “web speak”. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to come up with the right hero words and images. If you’re no prepared to pay your web designer for the time then you may want to work with a branding agency on some areas of content.
A good business website should have images that are unique to the business, i.e. not stock images. For that there may be the cost of a professional photographer and the cost of image manipulation. The images that are take on a phone or are on the business Facebook page seldom make good website content, and if they do then they usually require some time-consuming manipulation.
Selecting stock images that are consistent with the business brand and image also takes time, so even for a templated site this must be taken into consideration.
Be clear with your web designer who is responsible for providing and reshaping the website content and be clear about the direct costs and time costs.
Skills and knowledge of your web designer
Experience counts for a lot. Learning about my clients business is one of great positives of being a web designer. The website success is greatest where the web designer can get immersed in their client’s business and work closely with them, not only during the design and build phase, but also after the project completion, on the marketing and SEO of the website.
It pays to use a website designer who can write sufficiently well so that you don’t have to re-write the content yourself. Also, it’s worthwhile to choose a design company that has some experience with your business products and services, or enough business experience to be able to relate to the needs of your clients. After all, most websites are created to speak to your clients or to your potential clients. (See how to choose a web design company).
So what is the actual cost of the website
Expect to pay at least $2000-$4000 for a basic templated site, even if you supply all the written and content. That should include the complete website, with initial on-page SEO take care of.
For a bespoke design you can pay anything over $4000. Factor in the design time, potentially the cost of a professional photographer, branding agency, graphic designer (if required) and the time it takes to create content (written and media), research, etc. and the cost will be anything above that. With a bespoke design, the answer really is “it depends”.
So how can you get a reasonable estimate? The answer is to meet with your potential web designer before you expect a quotation. Trust me, that meeting is essential for all parties.
What about on-going costs?
That’s perhaps the topic of another blog, but understand that having a website without active SEO and on-going marketing is a lot like arranging a party and forgetting to invite the guests. Expect to allocate some on-going costs to make your website a success.