“About the same as a second-hand car.” This is the best response I have heard to this well-intentioned, if misguided, question. So that’s anything from £75 to £2,395,000 according to a quick glance at today’s Autotrader. Sounds about right.
This slightly glib response perfectly illustrates the flawed nature of the question, without having to resort to the oft-used “how long is a piece of string”? In truth we are yet to see much consistency in the way design and marketing services are costed. We have quoted for website design projects and found ourselves to be simultaneously four times the price of one agency and yet a quarter the price of another, and all to the same brief. How does a business owner make sense of that one? I don’t pretend to hold all the answers, but I am always happy to share some thoughts and opinions.
A website is not a cost, it’s an investment
If your website is merely a “cost” then you’re doing it wrong. It should be an investment in the future growth of your business, and the spend needs to be viewed in the context of the return you expect to see. One business owner we worked with last year was nervous at the thought of “spending that much on a website”. Well, it paid for itself with one order within a week and he’s never looked back.
Wot, no fairy dust?
Contrary to the smoke and mirrors in evidence out there, there’s no magic fairy dust or secretive and expensive technologies involved in building a website. You are simply paying for time and expertise. A one man-band website developer can offer to build a website for just a few hundred pounds, but may such lack the breadth of skills required to deliver a truly high class result. (Trust me, the ones that can charge a lot more than a few hundred pounds!)
For this reason, established and profitable businesses tend to look for the peace of mind that comes from working with larger, more credible-looking agencies with a proven track record. However, I am sorry to say that even this comes with no guarantee of success. We’ve seen a website that cost nearly £200,000 that we would have been embarrassed to put our name to, and I’ve seen some truly stunning work done by a chap that works from home.
And all this fails to answer the question, how much does a website cost? Well, let’s have a look at some of the key contributing factors and considerations:
Factors that contribute to website cost
Creating an effective website requires a multitude of talents, including strategic marketing skills, project management, graphic design, coding, IT, copywriting, SEO, brand management, market positioning and more. Take a short cut on any of these and you could be compromising the effectiveness of your new website.
Creating a brief
Even if you are not really sure exactly what you want your website to be like (and most customers aren’t) you should put in writing what you do know… such as:
1. What do you want this website to achieve?
2. What would you consider a success?
3. How much content do you currently have and how much will need to be created?
4. Do you have suitable graphics and imagery?
5. Do you need features such as e-commerce, video or search engine optimisation?
6. Who will host and maintain the site?
See our blog: A jargon-free guide to creating a website brief
This is important because it provides a degree of clarity to the process for everyone involved. Depending on the complexity of the project and the detail to which a certain brand is defined and “micromanaged”, creating a brief can range from a simple half-day’s work to weeks of planning meetings and the creation of numerous detailed documents.
Redesigns can cost more than a new site
We sometimes hear “can’t you just refresh the website that we already have?” Well, yes we can, but it will probably cost you more and the end result will not be as good. This is because you are asking a website builder to de-code and understand the construction of a website built by someone else and then learn to work with a way of coding that may be different to their own – this can often take longer than starting afresh and puts limitations on what can be achieved.
If it is your goal to make a search engine-friendly website that gets found for specific searches, then keyword research HAS to be one of the very first things that gets done. Your keyword strategy should be inherent in the very DNA of your website and it amazes me how many credible agencies overlook this.
Keyword research is a skill that involves identifying a set of terms that are suitably relevant and searched for enough times to be worth targeting, as well as assessing how much work will be required to rank for these terms. Expect anything from a half-day to two or three days work to go into this, depending on the scope.
Creating suitably clear, concise and persuasive wording for today’s impatient website visitors is an art form in itself. While many agencies might leave this to the client, this rarely achieves good results. A good agency will invest the time to learn about their clients business in detail and subsequently craft a website that perfectly reflects the way they want to be perceived by the outside world and that includes wording. Plus, it takes a skilled copywriter to know how to create well-written content that ticks the right boxes for SEO
The look and feel of a website is arguably the most important part because this is what the end-user engages with. We often argue that your website essentially “defines” your brand, because in today’s world the default action is to “look them up on line”.
The website structure, page layout and choice of imagery are vital components that require a high level of design skill to get right. It is usually an iterative process and the more people there are involved, the more iterations there will be, so one should not underestimate the amount of design time (and therefore cost) that goes into the creation of a new website.
Imagery and Graphics
More often than not, if someone says “wow” when they see a website it’s down to the imagery. Stock imagery has its place but has to be chosen with care to avoid making an expensive website look cheap, cheesy and anonymous. Investing in original, professionally shot photography and custom created graphics can bring a website to life and give the designer some great material to work with.
Mobile-friendly “responsive” design
Now that mobile devices account for more than half of internet traffic, this is simply a no-brainer; your website needs to automatically adjust to suit the device upon which it is being viewed. This will incur extra design, coding and testing time but most agencies offer this by default anyway and so is becoming more standard.
There are any number of ways in which your website can be tailored, but extras can add up, especially if they are being coded from scratch. Note, don’t let an agency charge you extra for “integrating” an open source content management system such as WordPress, this should be fairly standard. (And don’t suddenly ask for extras half way through the build or you risk witnessing a real life web-designer-hissy-fit first hand.)
Costs for e-commerce websites vary wildly, as many agencies create bespoke platforms tailored to the client specific needs. The costs for this can run into tens of thousands of pounds, with expensive support contracts too. Personally, we prefer to build our e-commerce sites using Shopify, a powerful, user-friendly and well-supported platform in use throughout the world. This keeps costs low for the client, and we are yet to find an e-commerce requirement it can’t cope with.
Handover, Training and Documentation
We would suggest it takes no more than a half day to show a client how to operate the content management system on a WordPress site or similar, and agencies should have standard documentation to leave a client. More complex sites may require longer.
Hosting and Maintenance
Websites don’t maintain themselves! If your website is being built on a custom content management or e-commerce platform then expect to be tied in to paying big bucks for ongoing support. Websites built on open-source and more common platforms such as WordPress or Shopify, on the other hand, are far more straightforward and therefore lower cost. Maintenance contracts vary greatly, but we suggest that as a minimum you have telephone support, regular backups and software updates covered, and ideally disaster recovery in place so that in the event of something nasty happening, you know it will be sorted.
So how much DOES a website cost?
OK, OK, I’ll stop beating around the bush! The majority of business websites that we create range in price from £4,000 to £20,000. And I’m sorry for taking so long to get the point, but I felt it was important to give you a clearer idea of how much work goes into the creation of a commercial website and also explain why costs can vary.
A Final Note
A business website is too important to be taken lightly. It is your shop window that can be seen from all around the world and will underpin virtually all of your ongoing sales and marketing activities. The internet is a busy and competitive place, with many thousands of new websites being created every day. If you make your decision based on cost then your website is likely to be just that, a cost. However, with the right partner and the right budget you can expect to see a profitable return on the money you invest and add real value to your business.
If you have any comments, good or bad, I’d be pleased to hear from you. Likewise, if you would like to discuss a new business website… you can call us on 01787 464023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading,