Recently a prospective client asked in despair “Why do I get such different quotes for my website project?”. This got me thinking about pricing structures within BE Website Design and what should we be charging for our website design services.
“How much will it cost?”
That’s usually the first question I get asked by a prospective client.
It’s a fair question; after all, you’ve got to make smart investments in your business and you can’t jump into a project blindly. But asking how much a website costs is a bit like calling your builder and saying, “I want you to build me a house. How much will it cost?” He’d look at you cross-eyed for a while and then ask you a million questions about how many rooms, whether you’ve already purchased the land or not… all of which have very real parallels when it comes to building a website.
To make matters worse, as highlighted above there can be a huge gap between the costs you get from different developers. Why is one offering a website for £300 and another asking for £3,000? Is one stupid, or the other a scam artist? How can a person make an informed decision?
What should a website really cost?
There are some very real and relevant things that you should consider and a few things to know about how pricing works. Read on to get the inside scoop so that before you ask the question next time, you’ll be armed with information.
The Preamble: Where Does The Cost Of A Website Come From?
In a DIY world, most non-developers don’t understand the work that goes into building a website. There are plenty of tools that let you drag-and-drop your way to an online presence in a few hours and call it a website.That’s not the kind of site I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a website that reflects your business, your goals, your brand. I’m talking about a website that adds value and is a strong tool in your marketing arsenal. One that is optimized for search. One that works across browsers and operating systems. One that doesn’t stick you with another company’s logo at the bottom of it because you got it for £49.00 and now you’re obliged to perpetually advertise someone else’s brand.
So assuming we’re not talking drag-and-drop, “stick your logo here” types of websites, let’s talk briefly about what goes into building one.
Whether you pen a few paragraphs or hire someone to do it, it’s got to be written, organized, keyword optimized, human being optimized, spell-checked and proofread.
Whether they’re original or stock, someone has to find, organize, retouch and properly size and output them for web.
There’s high end custom and there’s minimal, but someone has to consider colours, fonts, graphics and how they all work with your brand.
Someone has to think about pages, navigation and usability, and the best way to get users from here to there.
Headers, footers, sidebars, call-outs, pull quotes, opt-in boxes, social icons. These things don’t magically place themselves on the page, nor should they be stuck somewhere haphazardly.
Beyond keywords, there are considerations for code quality, site speed, meta data.
Opt-in boxes don’t program themselves. Nor do contact forms, shopping carts or other features. There are fundamental questions like “what happens if…” and “then what?”
With half a dozen common browsers and twice as many versions, multiple operating systems and platforms, not to mention mobile, someone has to make sure your site works.
Someone has to install your site on a hosting server, set up the DNS, get your analytics, Webmaster tools and sitemaps in order and make sure everything is working in real life, including all those opt-ins and contact forms.
If this sounds like a setup for “…and that’s why a website has to be expensive!” it’s not. It’s just the practical reality of building a site. There are things to do and things to consider. These are just some of those things and they all go into determining a cost.
Things That Can Affect The Cost Of A Website That Have Nothing To Do With The Website
All things being equal (same site, same requirements, same amount of work) there are other things outside the project itself that can impact cost.
If you ask a company in London to give you a price for building your website, they will give you a higher cost than a company in Ipswich or Suffolk. Are they scamming you? Probably not.The cost of living in London is pretty high and so is the cost of doing business. A company covering its Canary Wharf rent necessarily has to charge a higher rate than one run virtually out of a couple of home offices.
Sometimes you have to make your decision, not based on cost, but based on value – which company do you want to work with? Which one has the most experience, the best portfolio, the most responsive people? A higher cost should not disqualify a company if that’s the one you’re confident can get the job done.
A less experienced person may charge less because they don’t have the full-blown skill of a seasoned professional. That’s not to say they’ll do a bad job, but it’s always a risk when you’re working with freelancers who build websites “on the side”, self-taught “learn web design in 21 days” types and people who are just starting out in the industry.
If cost is a big factor it might be a risk worth taking. Just do it with your eyes open and don’t expect things to be as thorough as they might have been with a more experienced professional.
Experienced developers can charge you more because they bring the weight of their expertise to bear on your project. An experienced developer may be able to do your site in half the time and charge twice as much, but remember you’re dealing with value and not cost. You should expect an entirely different experience and result.
Of the company, that is. If you’re comparing costs between a single developer and a company, chances are the company price is going to be higher. Why? It has more to do with expertise than overhead. In web development there are many skills. There are Photoshop and design skills. CSS and HTML skills. Copywriting and SEO skills. Programming skills, with subsets of skills across a vast array of programming languages. It’s unlikely that a single person can excel at all of these. So when you’re working with a single developer, you are naturally limited by what that person has in his skill arsenal.
But when you work with a company, you have a team of professionals, from project managers, copywriters and testers to CSS experts and programmers at your disposal. In this case, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It pays to consider your project needs before you jump at a particular cost option.
Here’s a little pricing secret among developers: annoying people get higher price tags. Part of development is project management and if evidence indicates that you’re one of those picky, indecisive people who will disappear for months on end, hold the project up then show up with instant demands and want the shade of blue changed with each revision – you’re going to pay a price for that.
The world is built on relationships and you can probably negotiate a lower cost if you have a good relationship with your developer, if you’ve gotten a referral from a friend and can do some name-dropping or if you simply find a developer willing to work out a deal with you.
Remember, this is a service industry. There is no widget price. Costs are based on the factors I’ve mentioned here plus “going rates” and about a dozen other little nuances. So don’t be afraid to talk to a developer about the cost. But do keep in mind that there’s a limit to negotiation and a developer who offers you the £2,000 site is unlikely to come down to your £500 budget. At that point you should probably reconsider your goals and budget altogether.
Now That You Have Bit Of Background, Let’s Talk Money
Pricing is not a magic, secret recipe. It’s just the cost of doing business, plus the value of expertise, plus the time needed to complete a project in a particular set of circumstances with a particular set of requirements.
This pricing is based on what I’ve witnessed in the industry, what my company does when it comes to pricing and what I’ve seen works and doesn’t work in the real world.