“They don’t hire me to design a website for the sake of designing a website. They hire me to design a website that’s going to help them grow their business.”
— Breaking the Time Barrier, Mike McDerment
A professionally designed website is the most valuable tool and the most important investment you can make in your business or organization. There’s no disputing that a strong web, and mobile presence is the central focus for any successful marketing campaign.
Websites are valuable.
In the past, companies spent considerable amounts of money on media buying in efforts to increase business. With new marketing techniques, the focus has shifted to investing in a strong online presence which includes websites, apps, and more. Websites should be created for the sole purpose of increasing business leads, generating revenue, and encouraging participation in your business or organization. Done right, the ROI can be dramatic. That’s not the case for many of the things on which we spend money.
As important as time, materials, expertise, and effort are to the web development process, the best way of viewing pricing — when it comes to websites and other interactive products and services such as apps — is value. As creative professionals, our job is to make things that add value and have an impact on your business. We want you to be successful. We want the creative things we make to help you sell products online, increase donations, build business leads, and traffic. That’s our job. Making a website is simply part of the equation. We should be thinking bigger picture throughout that entire process and really focus on how we can make you successful.
In most cases, the value professional design services will add is the best way to determine price. This can manifest itself in form of long-term, or short-term, agreements where both parties analyze the business side of things and decide what works best. For example, we help one of our clients sell products online. We take a percentage of the online sales as our fee. The more products they sell, the more money everyone makes. It’s a great way to utilize creativity and ideas to grow business.
Perhaps it’s best to think of in terms how much you will gain as opposed to how much you’re going to spend. Determining fees based on value requires a conversation to determine requirements, etc.
In some cases, the value method isn’t the best fit and everything comes down to time.
Many people use the example of buying a car as a comparison for pricing a website and other forms of creative products and services. This analogy holds pretty well for web design and development. For example, if you look at the base price (or starting price) for a car, you will be looking at a number that will likely change by the time you actually make the purchase. As soon as you start adding the navigation system and other items, the price starts going up. In the same way, the price of a website can increase. The more features you add, the more expensive it is.
I think the car analogy is an okay illustration, but may be too “product-oriented” for an accurate depiction of website pricing. Cars are priced based on mass production. They are inherently cookie-cutter. Go ask someone to make a unique and custom car for you and I’d be willing to the bet the price will be pretty high. Websites can’t be priced like commercial cars because they are unique. They are one-of-a-kind and must be tailored to be effective. Making a website is more of a process than a product. If used properly. it’s a tool that never stops working for you.
So, I’ve often used the analogy of building a home to that of building a website. In many ways the process is the same: you plan/estimate (blueprints), conceptualize (renderings), build (construction). It is based on time and materials and the estimate is just that – an estimate. The numbers may need to be adjusted along the way to compensate for things that occur during the building process. The builder manages the process and works hard to come in under the original estimate.
Ballpark prices based on time
It’s also important to mention that, once a website is launched, it doesn’t stop there. It’s like a baby that never grows up or leaves the home. Again, a website is a tool that you have to use in order to grow your business. It takes effort. This is one reason why it’s important to build a strong foundation and do it right the first time.
The following outline will help give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay for a website. These numbers are based on actual projects and the time/materials pricing model:
Standard corporate websites, that may or may not include content management (the ability to edit your site), can range in price from $2,500 to $15,000.
Websites that include content management and more advanced features go from $15,000 to $25,000.
Websites that include all the bells and whistles like content management, eCommerce, and other types of online tools such as custom finance calculators, etc. can start at $25,000 and go as far as $60,000 and beyond. It really depends on the project requirements and the level of commitment and labor that will be needed to produce the website.
Everyone has experienced “you get what you pay for” on some level; the cheap weed-eater that doesn’t quite cut the weeds, the generic tires that had to be replaced a year later, the refrigerator that died right after the factory warranty expired, and the laptop that… well, don’t get me started. You know how it goes, buying things and deciding to make big investments is stressful. We’re afraid we’ll get burned and we’ve experienced that, in most cases, we get what we pay for. Websites are no different. You get what you pay for.
I think most folks would be surprised at the amount of expertise and labor hours that go into making an effective website. Web technology is ever-changing and web designers and developers are constantly having to educate, train, and keep up with what’s going on. It takes effort and commitment to stay relevant. Still, the per-conceived notion is that websites are somehow automated, cookie-cutter, or easy-to-make because the “computer does most of the work.” The truth is that is takes time to establish an effective message, gather and create effective content (which is critical), evaluate a target audience, produce an interface that’s usable and effective, and develop something that really works. The website itself is part of a process.
Professionally done, a website project is not like changing a tire. The process is unique and depends upon client needs. Also, there are many variables, which requires participation and collaboration from the client. It’s a partnership that includes getting to know the business, determining goals and priorities, developing an appropriate solution, and providing support throughout the process… and beyond.
The companies out there offering special deals such as a $200 website, or the “tech-savvy” brother-in-law that will do it for cheap, the do-it-yourself website building methods, and so on will not likely get the results you are looking for in the constantly-changing and competitive digital marketing world. You need something you can really use and a site that is built to last. It’s also important that you are engaging, memorable, and credible. This is achieved only through creative professional design and great content. Have I mentioned that content is very important? Well it is, and it’s typically one of the most challenging aspects of web and interactive development.
Again, making a website is a unique process for each client. It is a custom project and should be thought of as a partnership between the web development company and the client. An initial discussion is needed to help determine requirements and the price of any professionally produced website.