This is the question I hear most often, as you would probably guess me being a website developer. At this point I would usually ask some pertinent questions such as:
- What do you want the website to do for your business?
- What value does a website have for your business now and in the future?
- What type of website do you need? (eg A brochure/branding website or a full on E-Commerce website)
- How do you want your customers and prospects to interact with your website?
I usually try to refrain from asking the first question that comes to mind; “How long is a piece of string?” because I guess it’s not the most constructive question in the world.
When I first started developing websites I used to have a fixed price because, and call me naive if you like, I thought I had it all covered and that I knew exactly what any business needed from a website. How wrong could I be!
Whether it was the added support that some clients needed or the endless revisions I always seemed to be doing something for nothing. Would you do something for nothing in your business?
For me it’s not about charging fortunes but it is important to qualify, what my service is, and what value it has for you.
It is important to qualify, what my service is, and what value it has for you.
Cost’s that affect all websites.
There are, because of the way the internet works, some costs that are unavoidable when considering a website for your business.
- You need a domain name – the costs here are by and large fairly standard ranging from £0.99 to around £10.00 per year of registration and the cost depends on the TLD you choose.( TLD = the domain part of a domain name ie .com or .co.uk )
- You need a hosting server – this is where all your website files are kept and viewed from when someone comes to your domain name. This again can vary from a few £’s to £100’s or even £1000’s per month. For the most part a small local business website should cater to around £15-20 per month for a decent hosting solution. There are cheaper options, but from experience you get what you pay for, so I would steer clear of the cheaper options.
What options are available for building the website?
Now we are coming to the heart of the matter, the actual cost of building a small or medium business website. Before we look at cost’s let’s take a quick look at the options available to you.
- DIY – Certainly it’s possible for anyone that can operate a computer and write an email to build a website using one of the plethora of site builders that are on offer.
- Platform – There are many platforms out there that offer website building options and they range from the low end of the scale with free options to the high end of the scale offering integrated e-commerce options.
- Agency – Design and Marketing agencies are another option, there are many and again costs can vary wildly from a few hundred pounds to 10’s of thousands.
- Freelancers – Independent website developers are another option and again the cost’s will vary depending on a several factors their location in the world being one.
Whilst I am sure there are other options available I’m going to restrict this article to those 4 options and look at the pros and cons of each in turn as well as a break down of the average costs involved.
So you have decided to go for the DIY option lets look at the costs, both real costs and the not so obvious implied costs.
In real terms you can pretty much buy your domain name and set up hosting with any registrar and in the control panel or account management section there will almost certainly be a means to build a basic website. So the real costs are how much you pay for your hosting which can be as low as £2 per month.
That’s Great you have a website and it’s only costing you about £35 per year, but ….!
Your time is valuable isn’t it? I know mine is, right now I’m sat here writing this article and there is a cost, it’s probably going to end up taking me a couple of hours and that’s time that I could have spent on other means of marketing my services or doing some client work.
I don’t know what your business is, but I’ll be willing to bet that it’s probably not Website Design, and I don’t know what value you put on your time but lets say as a business owner it’s somewhere around £15-25/ph. With that in mind I think a conservative estimate of the time it is going to take you to put together a basic website is going to be somewhere around 40-50 hours when all is said and done.
You know where I’m going here now I’m sure!
The implied cost is going to be £600 – £1250 depending on how you value your time and that’s without even taking into consideration any losses that might occur while you are concentrating on building a website and not on your core business.
Pros of the DIY option:
- Total control over the design and look of your website.
- No real out of pocket costs and expense. (excluding the domain name and hosting).
- You get to boast that it’s all your own work 🙂
Cons of the DIY option:
- Can you really get the look and functionality that you want for your brand?
- Have you remembered everything you need on the website?
- What if you make a mistake?
- Can you really afford the time to learn and implement the various technologies that are essential for a business website in 2016?
I’m sure there are more of each but these are the Pros and Cons that come to mind right now.
Let me start by explaining what I mean by using a platform vs DIY to build your business website since they can seem very similar in nature since you will still be doing the work. By platform I mean the likes of Wix , Weebly and Rainmaker Platform and many others that exist. The difference is that these platforms offer a much better functional experience than the website building software you will usually find as part of a hosting package.
The costs will vary from Free to a few hundred pounds per month.
At the Free end of the scale you nearly always won’t have the option to use your own domain name and the site will have some kind of branding displayed.
At the more expensive end you will get more functionality, better support and better options to integrate with third party services.
So the real cost is going to be £0 to around £75 pm plus the implied costs similar to those I mentioned in the DIY option so I won’t go over them again.
Pros of the Platform option:
- Total control over the design and look of your website.
- Usually some kind of intuitive drag and drop builder or a good selection of templates.
- You get to boast that it’s all your own work 🙂
- A better level of service and support than the hosting companies built in site builders.
- Usually some great basic third party integrations.
Cons of the Platform option:
- Depending on the level you choose your business website may carry branding info from the platform.
- You are putting your business asset into the hands of a third party, it’s rare but not unknown for these platforms to go out of business or fall foul of search engines which affects all the sites on the platform. (This happened to Wix recently, Google de indexed all Wix sites).
- The more functionality you want, then generally you are going to have to pay for it. (this can apply to all options but worth mentioning)
Again I’m sure there are more pros and cons and no doubt someone will point them out in the comments.
Depending on your needs a Design Agency can be a great option, but with this there is a cost and typically you are not going to get a lot of change from £2000 for a basic 5-10 page static website. That being said you gain the advantage of a pool of knowledge that in most cases can not be gained from a single person or from learning yourself in a short time frame.
Agencies can take the weight of building a business website including creating the content and even marketing strategies. If you are looking for something with more functionality then you will start to look at figures in the £4000 £10,000 arena. By more functionality I am talking about the likes of E Commerce or membership sites and integrating with third party software for better marketing functionality.
You can reduce the costs by providing the content but in reality a good agency will take care of this for you anyway, it’s what they do and for the most part what they are good at.
If you are looking at using an agency to take care of your website goals and needs then you definitely need to be looking at the “Costs” as investments and value rather than a written off amount. How much value can the website bring you in a 12 month period? Will you be able to recoup your investment in a timely manner? These are all questions that you need to seriously consider when approaching any agency. In fact these should apply to all options and do.
Pros of the Agency option:
- They do all the heavy lifting.
- You can take advantage of a good pool of knowledge and experience usually.
- They will usually be very efficient with processes and systems in place.
Cons of the Agency option:
- Once the project is finished you may find they are slower to respond to you.
- Depending on the size of website you need the costs can be higher than a freelancer because agencies generally have bigger overheads.
- It can be easy to lose sight over the overall goals your website is going to fulfil for you.
- A busy agency may not be able to easily meet your time frames.
That’s obviously not an exhaustive list.
My favourite subject because unless you hadn’t already guessed this is the category that I provide services under. Don’t worry this isn’t a sales pitch and nor will it be some kind of self justification.
Why use a freelancer? Well there are many reasons why a business would choose to use a freelance website design consultant, from personal experience usually it’s because you are getting a one to one service and you dont feel that you are part of a system or conveyor belt of websites.
Freelance costs can vary wildly from £10 – £75 per hour and that can have a big impact on the overall cost of a website. Generally a medium sized website that has no branding or content to begin with can take around 100 – 150 hours to complete. So that gives a range of £1000 – £11,250 give or take that’s quite a scary range right there enough to put off a good amount of small business’ for sure.
This is why I prefer to talk in terms of investment and value, for me a business website is a value proposition and the only person who can decide that value is you the business owner. You need to ask yourself, in reality this applies to all options;
What extra value will a new website bring to my Company?
On the surface of it it looks like hiring a freelancer is going to be more expensive than any other option, and it can be but in practice there are usually a lot of assets already in place and the example I gave above was a blank slate scenario.
A lot of the time and cost can be saved by most business’ because they already have thing’s like branding, and content done. More time can be saved by having a clear idea of what you want your website to do for you and your business.
Pros of the Freelance option:
- Often it’s easier to get your vision and ideas across because you are dealing with just one person.
- Cost’s can be lower because Freelancers generally have lower overheads.
- Most Freelancers are constantly learning and expanding their knowledge and skills to expand their expertise.
- You will usually get a quicker response for any aftercare arrangements than you would with an agency.
Cons of the Freelance option:
- You are reliant on one person, to do all the work which can extend timelines.
- What’s the back up plan if something happens to them ( not a great thing to think about and I hope it never happens but as the saying goes “Plan for the worst, Hope for the best”)
I am sure it’s not a complete list but no doubt someone will add more in the comments.
I could probably write a lot more on this subject but I’m going to finish with a summary of the potential investment levels you can expect for different types and sizes of website projects.
Small Business Website
- Domain Name : £0.99 – £10.00 per year
- Hosting : £5 – £10 per month
- Website Design : £500 – £1000
- Website Development (programming) : £800 – £2000
- Ongoing Maintenance : £35 – £100 per month
Over all for this kind of website you should be budgeting around £1200 – £4000 this level of investment should include a responsive design (to cater to different devices, tablets and mobiles), and any simple graphics needed at the lower level. at the higher end it could include some stock imagery and more functionality such as a small e-commerce (online shop) section.
You should really also have a marketing budget, because after investing in a new business asset you need traffic and visitors to make it work for you to give you a return on your investment.
Medium Business Website
- Domain Name : £0.99 – £10.00 per year (The caveat here is if you buy or need a premium domain name )
- Hosting : £15 – £30 per month (You need to up the ante a wee bit here and have the host take care of some essentials)
- Website Design : £1000 – £1800 ( Typically this kind of site is going to have more content and technical elements)
- Website Development (programming) : £1000 – £3000 (Again this is the kind of site that will most likely be a medium sized e-commerce site)
- Ongoing Maintenance : £50 – £150 per month
- Content Creation : £100 – £1000
A medium sized site would be one that has a lot of pages and information or is likely to be a medium size e-commerce website, hence the extra investment. Also with potentially more moving parts it’s important to invest time into properly testing the website on various devices to make sure that it functions as it should and doesn’t impact your business. At this level you are also looking at having and using dynamic content on a regular basis therefore it is likely that you or a staff member will require some form of training so that changes and additional content can be added.
Overall look at investing a minimum of £2500 and definitely have a budget for ongoing marketing.
Large Business Website
- Domain Name : £0.99 – £10.00 per year (Same caveat as a medium website applies here)
- Hosting : £30 – £100 per month (You need to look at catering and scaling for high traffic events)
- Website Design : £1500 – £3500 (The extra costs here are typically associated with branding as well as overall design)
- Website Development (programming) : £1000 – £4000 (More complex design elements take more time to get right on all devices)
- Ongoing Maintenance : £50 – £150 per month (Basic maintenance shouldn’t change too much here because by using a better hosting solution some of the work will be passed off to them)
- Content Creation : £100 – £1500 (At this level you really need to be budgeting for an in house content creation plan)
- Copy Writing : £500 – £3000 (Good copy writing doesn’t come cheap so consider this carefully unless you already have these skills in house)
At this level you would not be looking for an individual freelancer as the work involved would most likely exceed their skill set, however lets not exclude them completely as often you will find that freelancers work in networks and would most likely be able to pull a team of people together for a larger project. Really you would be looking at investing a minimum of £4500 for a larger or expanding business website.
Well this turned out to be a tiny bit longer than I thought it would so I won’t take too much more of your time. I think the reason I wrote this article is because after a long hard look at my own business model I realised that I have been undervaluing my skills for a long time.
The biggest message you need to take from this article is that you need to start looking at your website as a business asset and as such it needs to bring value to your customers and business. You need to make it work for your business and not allow it to become an after thought or another utility cost. It’s true this internet thing is here to stay and it’s only going to become more important in the future. We are about to start 2016, if you haven’t looked at your website for a while or it’s not helping your business at the level it should then it might be time to dust it off and take a long hard look at it.
The more I think about it the simple answer would have been;
“How long is a piece of String?”
Cheers for now and I hope you find my musings and ramblings interesting.