Archive Page 2

What Does a Website Cost? (part 2)

Choosing a Web Developer/Designer

I stipulated in Part 1 that costs depend on things like functionality, complexity of the design and types of content. But more important still, your cost will depend on the type of developer or development firm you choose.

Now I can almost hear you say, “who I choose will depend on what they charge.” Fair enough. But notice I used the word “type.” Before you start asking for quotes you first need to decide who you’re going to ask. And I believe this is where the pricing problems and confusion begins.

There are five major types of people/organizations that build websites:

  1. Large web development/services firms
  2. Smaller web development/services firms
  3. Advertising Agencies
  4. Graphic Artists and Web Design Studios
  5. Hobbyists, trainees and non-professional freelancers

The keys to choosing which group to solicit bids from are budget size, website goals and the overall complexity of the project. So here’s how I position a project for each of the developer types.

  • Large Web Firms require big budgets because you are paying for their big overhead. If you have a development budget in excess of $25,000 and plan to spend several thousand dollars a month marketing your site, then shopping large firms isn’t a bad idea. A large firm will have more specialized staff members to handle your needs.
  • Smaller Web Firms, assuming they are full service, can do most of what a large firm can do, but they have fewer staff and thus a smaller overhead. Small firms rely on outsourcing parts of your project that require a different expertise. For instance, at Just Imagine, we outsource custom programming and design elements like Flash development. Remember, the smaller the buget the smaller the firm.
  • Advertising Agencies came late to the web party and, for the most part, still don’t get it. Personally, I would avoid going this route, unless you already have an agency for traditional marketing. Even then, I’d get outside quotes to keep them honest. There’s nothing an ad agency can give you that you can’t get, usually cheaper, at a large or small web services firm.
  • Graphic Artists and Web Designers are not the same, but I lump them together because they must be interviewed in a similar fashion. Graphic Artists and Web Designers, for example, are typically one dimensional. They make things look pretty. While I know that you’re looking for pretty, remember that the actual look of the site is pretty far down the list of what makes a website successful. So again, unless you run across someone who is experienced in all phases of web development, and just happens to be called a “designer,” I would gravitate toward a web services firm.
  • The final type of website player is one to be most cautious of. This is where the majority of client horror stories come from. “I hired this student but now I can’t get hold of him,” etc., etc. If you decide to go this route, almost always because of money, just know that you get what you pay for. Also know that building a website isn’t like designing a brochure. You’ll want to change the content on your website at some point. Then what?

So if you follow my advice, the first thing you need to do is figure out how much money you can devote to this project, making sure you leave enough for an ongoing marketing campaign, if leads or sales are your objective. Once you’ve got a general idea of your budget (under $1000, under $2000, etc.) then you can start making calls and interviewing vendors.

If you don’t work in this order, then you’re likely to get wildly disparate quotes that won’t allow you to compare apples for apples. For instance, the $2,000 web project at a very small web development firm is $3,000 at a slightly larger firm, and it could be $15,000 at an even bigger firm. In fact, the bigger firm may start it’s quotes at that level because they can’t feed their overhead for anything less.

I should also mention, because I know you’re going to ask, that there is no standard breaking point between big firms and small firms. It really depends on your market, if you’re shopping locally. A big web services firm in Charleston, SC, for instance, may only have half a dozen full time people. If you read part 3 you’ll at least be able to know ’em when you talk to ’em.

So what does a website cost? Read Part 3.

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What Does a Website Cost? (part 1)

Of all the questions I get over the course of a month, this is the toughest to answer – at least to answer with a number. While I completely understand the importance of the question, and the earnestness with which it is usually asked, I can’t help but shake my head. I’d want to know. And I’d want to know without having somebody try to sell me something.

So my typical response is “it depends.” Depends on what?

Well, in point of fact website cost depends on the caller. There are many variables to consider when building a website – from functionality required to how intricate the design needs to be. The caller, though, is most attuned to the number of pages. “But I only need 5 pages.”

While the number of pages may have an impact, it is not really a quotable variable. For instance, 10 product or service pages, all with the same layout, won’t take nearly as long to create as the home page or a custom form. The subject matter of the various pages – and their layout requirements – is thus more important than the quantity of pages.

Design (the look and feel of the site), on the other hand, is a very important variable. How much Photoshop work will be required? Is there a Flash component? How about navigation? How many layers are to display at once?

Obviously, functionality is a big issue. If the website is required to interact with the visitors in unusual ways, that may mean custom programming, or off-the-shelf-customization. Does the owner need to be able to manage the content – requiring a content management system. How about a shopping cart for ecommerce?

Last, but most important of all, what does the website need to accomplish? What are the objectives? A lead generation or ecommerce site require a level of search engine friendliness that will dictate certain decisions. A sales support site or a website for internal purposes is not so restricted.

So what does a website cost? Call me and I’ll tell you. OR, you can read Part 2.

Web branding run amuck

This morning while I’m drinking coffee and reading the paper, my wife and partner in our web development company – Just Imagine, Inc., having just finished dealing with overnight emails, decides to check the menu of a Charleston, SC restaurant we’ve talked about visiting. Of course I didn’t know what she was doing when she started. But after a few choice words about Flash and FireFox, I had to look up.

Not only had she encountered a site with an elaborate (nice way of saying long) Flash intro, the site didn’t work properly in FireFox – 2 cardinal sins in the first 15 seconds. Now normally she would have been on to another site before getting upset, but she really wanted to see the menu of this fancy establishment. So she was forced to open IE – sin #3.

Now my wife is a pretty experienced web user, in fact she is webmaster to two sites – a Mayan Riviera travel site and her own group travel site. She knows all about user expectations and dos and don’ts of effective web development.

My question is (rhetorical, of course) why do THEY do it? Why do web designers/graphic artists insist on trying to turn our thirst for immediately accessible information into an irritating lecture on branding or some other such silliness? Why can’t a website be a website, a video a video and a brochure a brochure? Don’t they get that by alienating some large percentage of visitors that they do their client a disservice?

The answer of course to all of the above is they do what they do through the prism of design being a message, in fact THE message, unto itself. Certainly true in the world of print, where one has time to appreciate it. The web, however, has different requirements.