What Does a Website Cost? (part 3)

Back about 7 years ago, while running a fairly large web services firm (27 people), we were asked to quote a web project for a local utility company. The parameters of the job were straight forward, as I recall. The project called or a new website that would provide utility customers with information from all departments. Department heads were to be trained so each could manage content for that department. This required a fairly robust content management sytem, which we had already developed. The site had to interface with the utilities accounting system so bills could be checked and payment made. And there were probably a few bells and whistles that I no longer remember.

If memory serves, we bid around $10,000 for the job (it would cost much less today). Three other companies also bid. One was around $15,000, another in the low $20’s and the last bid over $150,000. After demonstrating that we could do the work, we got the job and proceeded to make money, do a redesign for more money, etc. The client was happy and so were we.

The moral of the story, from the client’s perspective, is be careful who you ask to bid. In this case, the high bidder was a Midwestern IT consulting company that did work for large firms. Their proposal called for moving a team of 3 to Charleston for 90 days to “really” learn the client’s needs. Everyone else was just going to build a website. But the client did such a double-take on the range of bids that they began to question whether or not the little guys could do the job.

So before you send out your RFP or just start calling around, first ask the prospective vendors what their “market sweet spot” is. NOTE: it’s best to ask BEFORE you tell them what kind of firm or type of project you have in mind.

If you’re on a tight budget I would avoid vendors who talk excessively about your “brand.” Whether they know what they’re talking about or not, “brand” costs money and, in my opinion, rarely results in a return on investment. Let the big web services firms and their clients discuss the ins and outs of web branding. You focus on building a website that will accomplish your objectives and stay within your budget (development and marketing).

Also avoid designers who talk too much about their experience with Flash technology. While some Flash is fine, often designers want to build the whole website in Flash. This will help neither your budget nor your prospects for good search engine rankings.

If you’ve got $5000 to spend this year on a website, you want to hear someone talk about building practical websites for $2000 or less. It’s also nice to hear a vendor ask about the site’s objectives and tell you to make sure you set aside money for marketing. The last thing you need is to build a $5000 website and then have to wait until next year to market it.

So what does a website cost? I’ll finally tell you in Part 4.

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