There are plenty of tools that let you drag-and-drop your way to an online presence in a few hours and call it a website. That's not the kind of site where discussing the costs. Where talking about a website that reflects your business, your goals, your brand. A website that adds value and is a strong tool in your marketing arsenal. One that is optimised for search, works across all browsers and operating systems.
Lets discuss briefly what goes into building one.
Content. Whether you pen a few paragraphs or hire someone to do it, it's got to be written, organised, keyword optimised, human being optimised, spell-checked and proofread.
Photos. Whether they're original or stock, someone has to find, organise, retouch and properly size and output them for web.
Design. There's high end custom and there’s minimal, but someone has to consider colors, fonts, graphics and how they all work with your brand.
Structure. Someone has to think about pages, navigation and usability, and the best way to get users from here to there.
Layout. Headers, footers, sidebars, call-outs, pull quotes, opt-in boxes, social icons. These things don't magically place themselves on the page, nor should they be stuck somewhere haphazardly.
Optimisation. Beyond keywords, there are considerations for code quality, site speed, meta data.
Functionality. Opt-in boxes don't program themselves. Nor do contact forms, shopping carts or other features. There are fundamental questions like "what happens if…" and "then what?"
Compatibility. With half a dozen common browsers and twice as many versions, multiple operating systems and platforms, not to mention mobile, someone has to make sure your site works.
Launch. Someone has to install your site on a hosting server, set up the DNS, get your analytics, Webmaster tools and sitemaps in order and make sure everything is working in real life, including all those opt-ins and contact forms.
These are just some of those things and they all go into determining a cost.
Other Factors That Can Affect The Cost Of A Website That Have Nothing To Do With The Website
All things being equal (same site, same requirements, same amount of work) there are other things outside the project itself that can impact cost.
Geography. If you ask a company in Sydney to give you a price for building your website, they are probably going to give you a higher cost than a company in New Delhi or Dhaka or Auckland. Are they scamming you? Probably not.
The cost of living in Sydney is pretty high. So is the cost of doing business. A company covering its SoHo rent necessarily has to charge a higher rate than one run virtually out of a couple of home offices.
Sometimes you have to make your decision, not based on cost, but based on value – which company do you want to work with? Which one is more responsive, easy to communicate, trustworthy, most experience and the best portfolio?
Experience. Experienced developers can charge you more because they bring the weight of their expertise to bear on your project. An experienced developer may be able to do your site in half the time and charge twice as much, but remember you're dealing with value and not cost. You should expect an entirely different experience and result.
In web development there are many skills. There are web design skills. CSS and HTML skills. Copywriting and SEO skills. Programming skills, with subsets of skills across a vast array of programming languages.
Relationships. The world is built on relationships and you can probably negotiate a lower cost if you have a good relationship with your web designer/developer.
Remember, this is a service industry. There is no widget price. Costs are based on the factors I've mentioned here plus about a dozen other little nuances. So don't be afraid to discuss the cost, but do keep in mind that there's a limit to negotiation where a $5,000 site is unlikely to come down to your $500 budget. At that point you should probably reconsider your goals and budget altogether.
Now That You Have Bit Of Background, Let's Get A Price Range
Pricing is not a magic, secret recipe. It's just the cost of doing business, plus the value of expertise, plus the time needed to complete a project in a particular set of circumstances with a particular set of requirements.
This pricing is based on what we have witnessed in the industry, what my company does when it comes to pricing and what we have seen works and doesn't work in the real world.
I'm taking a "stacked" approach here, which means that as the price range goes up, you can assume that you get everything in the previous range plus some additional goodies. Of course, this might not be the way it works in the real world. For example, your site may have some specialized programming requirements that put you in a higher price range, but you may already have your logo and branding guidelines so you don't need any additional creative work. Such is the challenge of creating a budget for a website!
$1,000-$3,000. This is most likely your entry-level range. In this price range you can expect a decent site put together for you that includes common functionality such as a content or image slider, contact form and opt-ins, photo gallery, blog and a branded design. While this range will afford you a site that goes beyond the generic template-look with features like a designed header or background and consideration for colours, fonts and layout, it's not going to buy you a completely custom design. Often, sites in this price range are based on a WordPress theme or HTML template.
Even at an entry level you should expect basic optimisation. That means your site is built to current code standards and optimised for speed, functionality and fundamental search requirements. While your content may not be optimised, the rest of your site – from basic meta data to sitemaps and other essentials – should be.
What you will not get at this level is copywriting or any content creation. You should come prepared with whatever content you want on your site and that includes copy, photos, videos or whatever else you need, plus your logo and branding requirements.
The bottom line: this is where you'll be if you're just getting started, a small service business, or one without ecommerce or data management requirements. Plus platforms like WordPress afford you the convenience of content management without the added expense of custom programming. It's often a good place to start on a redesign, since you likely have your logo, branding and content ready and will only need to tweak and perhaps reorganize it.
$3,000-$7,000. In this range you can add a fully customised design. This is where you get to sit with an actual designer and talk specifics when it comes to branding, style and layout. Custom sites tends to be more time consuming to plan and build, so if you have specialised site requirements whether for design or functionality, you can expect to hit the higher end of this range.
You can add basic ecommerce in this category but don't expect too many bells and whistles.
The bottom line: this is where you'll be if you want to move past a basic design and if you've got fairly simple ecommerce requirements and don't need anything customised like inventory management.
$7,000-$15,000. In this range you can get quite a robust website with accommodation for more custom requirements when it comes to programming, photo galleries and portfolios, forms, or other functionality.
You should also be able to get some keyword optimisation here and depending on the size of your site. As with the last price range, you should come prepared with your branding materials.
The bottom line: think of this in similar terms to the previous category but with "more stuff" and a couple of added bells and whistles; perhaps multiple photo galleries, video options, quite a few product pages, or more complex user forms. It's also where you want to be if you need a copywriter's eye to kick your content up a bit.
$20,000-$30,000. In this price range content creation and full-on optimisation is done for you. Also provides a designer, not only for your website, but for logo and branding development plus mobile considerations, too, although it won't necessarily afford you anything specialised like custom photography or video.
The bottom line: this is sort of the all-inclusive vacation of websites. It's where you want to be if you want to take more of a "hands-off" approach to your website and let the professionals deal with everything from the creative to the content to the optimisation and construction, with some bonus collateral materials like business card and letterhead design.