What’s the easiest way to create awkwardness, spite, and frustration between clients and web site developers? Bring up the price of the project and you will instantly create a volatile situation. In most interactions between clients and web site designers or developers, expectations of project costs are drastically different. So how much should a web site really cost? The answer is more involved than most people assume.
As a consumer of web site development services it is important that you take some steps to educate yourself about the process. An informed consumer is knowledgeable about what he or she wants to buy and does research on options, availability, and market prices. These are the basic elements of an average web site project:
- Web Hosting
- Database Design
- Business Logic Programming
- Markup, Styling, and Graphic Design
- SEO Optimization
- Standards-compliance, Accessibility, and Testing
- Ongoing Maintenance
Make sure that you have at least a high level understanding of each before working with a web developer or designer.
Placing Value on Time and Knowledge
Behind every web site is a web programmer and a designer. The knowledge that these individuals possess and the time they put into every project is often overlooked and not considered when pricing a project.
- Details. Professional web designers and companies pay particular attention to the details that will make or break your site.
- Time. Most people who end up using a professional web designer or company understand that their time is worth something, and that spending your time on your core business is one of the best places you can invest your time. Working with web professionals allows you to tap into our experience and knowledge and save hundreds of working hours.
- Experience. A professional web designer or design company isn’t just selling you hours on a project; we’re selling you years of experience in the sometimes-overwhelming world of the Internet.
- Knowledge. When you hire a professional web designer or company, you are also getting access to a wealth of information that we’ve gathered and are happy to share.
Keep in mind that you are not just paying for the web developer’s time, you are paying for the knowledge and insight they have acquired over many years of experience. You may feel you are paying way too much for the actual time spent, but in reality you are paying for knowledge, not just time.
Paying for the Quality
As with most things, it comes down to this: You get what you pay for. If you want a successful website that is attractive, standards-based, accessible, search engine optimized, stable, and fast, then take the time to find a good web developer and web designer and be prepared to pay them what they are worth. You will not regret the purchase.
Sure your computer geek nephew knows HTML and could build a web site for just $100. He also knows how to use a screwdriver. Does this mean he could build a safe, reliable, and fuel-efficient car for you? Probably not, so why take the same risk with your web site, a potentially large value-center for your company?
A good way to gauge what you can afford is to ask designers and developers for their prices and rates. Ask for examples of past projects and how much was charged for each. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay. If you can’t afford what you originally had in mind, consider scaling back the project and breaking it into smaller chunks that can be completed when you have the budget.
Find Someone You Truly WANT to Work With
Don’t try to wrangle a bunch of individuals and companies into a bidding war, for two reasons.
First, you are basically saying that you don’t care who develops your web site, as long as it is cheap. If this is the case, you might as well just call up your nephew. Second, this just makes the winning developer bitter because he or she had to bid beneath their real costs to land the project. Now you have an angry developer who is under-paid and trying to minimize the damage by finishing as quickly as possible. Does this sound like a good situation for you and your web site? I don’t think so either.
A Quick Overview of Hosting and Other Costs
- Hosting is a topic that I will write about in more detail later on, but for the purposes of this article, it is important that you factor in recurring fees. There are basically three recurring web site fees: domain Registration, site hosting, and on-going site maintenance.
- Domain Registration – Domain registration is simple, I recommend purchasing your domain for as many years as possible
- Web Hosting – There are several different levels of hosting, but to give you a ball park estimation, I would expect to pay anywhere between $15 – $500/month for hosting. Obviously this is another example of getting what you pay for. At $15/month you will be sharing server space with a bunch of other websites. At $500/month you will most likely have your own dedicated machine that is managed by an experienced server administrator.
- On-going Site Maintenance – Site maintenance is typically billed at an hourly rate. For freelance developers this is usually between $40-$100/hour. For emergency, 24/7 maintenance, be prepared to pay $200+/hour.
The bottom line: educate yourself. Not nearly enough businesses understand the value of a well-designed website and suffer because of this ignorance. More and more people are using the Internet to research and purchase goods and services. If your online presence is lacking, you will miss out on a lot of potential business.