What Does a Website Cost? (Part 4)

You’ve made it this far and are either interested in my advice or angry that I’m dragging this whole thing out. So I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

A website costs whatever you want to spend. Now this isn’t a cop out on my part. It’s actually an important fact. If you know what goes into building a website, you know your budget and you know what you’re looking for, you will be in complete control of the pricing process.

We’ll use my company, Just Imagine, as an example.

Customer calls on the phone and asks what I charge to build websites? I say, “that depends.” And then I launch into my standard talk about how I go about putting together a proposal. Now I’ve done this so many times that I have a pretty good idea after a 10 minute phone conversation what the quote will be. And since I’ve done this for different companies in different market segments, I’m pretty sure that most web services companies approach each project in a similar fashion.

The differences are the starting price point and hourly rate.

I tend to use $1,000 as a starting point for most projects. This represents, to me, a small, static website. A larger firm may have a starting point a little to a lot higher. This reflects the cost of turning on the lights and showing up for work. The bigger the firm, the greater the cost.

The hourly rate is also typically based on the size of the firm. Again, wages, benefits, etc. all go into determining what a company needs to charge for it’s labor. Our rate is $60 an hour. A larger firm may rate based on task – data entry, design, programming, etc. I think our rate is about in the middle of what firms charge for web services in the southeast US.

So what does it cost to build a website?

If you’ve found a firm or group of firms that say their budget sweet-spot is in line with what you’re thinking of spending, then final price will come down to how much you can help the developer/designer and how much the developer/designer wants your help. The more perceived help you can be to the developer, the less time he or she will have in the project, the lower the quote.

Let’s go back to a small website project. I’m thinking $1,000 minimum when I pick up the phone to answer your call. That works out to be about 16 or 17 hours of labor. Typically half of that is going to be in designing the site (colors, navigation, home page layout, etc.). If you know exactly what you want the site to look like and you know what pages will be required (and the type of content on those pages), then you can convince me that I’m going to spend less time than usual building the site. In other words, I might give you a final quote of $800 instead of $1,000.

If, on the other hand, you tell me that I’m the professional and I should tell you what the site should look like, I double my design time. Why? Because I’m going to sit in front of blank screen, come up with an idea, flesh it out and then show it to you, at which point, you may say you hate it. Then I’m back to square 1.

The same holds true for content and functionality. If you know exactly what you want the site to say and do, I’ll be much more likely to keep the quote down. Someone who is vague makes me pad everything because I’ll anticipate “scope creep” – even when the scope is spelled out in a proposal, I’m just too nice a guy to always say “no.”

To summarize

  • Think your project through from objective through content and longer term service needs (changes, marketing, etc.)
  • Call around to web services companies in your area (better to shop local, unless this if your third or fourth generation website) and ask them what size projects they feel most comfortable with. Also review their websites for philosophy, staff size, expertise and portfolio. Ask for references.
  • Call references and ask them about the process: how easy or painful it was, how timely were the responses, how close was the firm to delivering on time and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, how responsive has the firm been to problems/changes with the site AFTER being paid in full.
  • Get two or 3 quotes, but only after having detailed conversations with the principles. Make sure they are aware that you know what you want and that you are willing to play an active role in order to keep the cost down.
  • Compare quotes to make sure apples are apples. Ask questions.
  • Choose the firm that gives you best combination of warm feelings and low cost.

Then you will know what a website, at least your website, costs.

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