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How Much Does A Website Cost Anyway?

August 1st, 2008 by Emira · 3 Comments

With options that vary as widely as choosing between having your boyfriend’s roommate build you a website in exchange for making him dinners for a week, or paying a professional studio like ours to design your website (let’s put our cards on the table here and I’ll let you know that typically our budgets start at $10,000), it can seem like trying to figure out what a website actually costs (3 bags of groceries vs. $10,000?) these days is pretty much impossible. Lucky fo r you, we’re not only business book authors but also website designers and as the head sales girl at Raised Eyebrow — meaning I’m the one who most often answers this question by email/phone/in the elevator — I’m going to tackle this question along with some more detailed pieces like how to get yourself a cheap(er) website without relying on the timeline of your boyfriend’s roommate in this and subsequent posts.

One of the factors that makes pricing a website tricky is that really (and forgive me for getting a bit esoteric here) websites themselves don’t really cost anything. At all. Unless you need to pay for some software licensing for things like a shopping cart or a Content Management System (CMS) or some other groovy widget on your site, there are really not any hard costs involved in designing a website. What you’re actually paying for when you get a website is the time an expertise of your website designer (or boyfriend’s roommate as the case may be) and that time and expertise is always going to vary in how it is priced.

In our case, when we get hired to design a website, our clients are hiring us to engage in a fairly formal and detailed process. A process that involves all kinds of documentation, meetings, research and strategic consulting in addition to the more tangible deliverables like design options (we typically put together more than one design option for a client to choose from), design revisions (typically anywhere from 2 to 4 rounds of revisions), and of course eventually all the code that comprises the final website in question. In terms of hours, our projects typically clock in somewhere around the 80 hours plus mark (some are in fact WAY higher and well into the hundreds). And, of course we need to charge for that time. We also charge according to our expertise level, which is at this point to be fair pretty darned high given how many years we and our staff have been in this field. Add to that the fact that we need to recoup our own hard costs (things like rent, computers, phones, internet and all the things that Lauren so masterfully explained in Chapter 3, the Finances Chapter, in our book) and you get to $10,000 websites pretty quickly.

That said, not everyone needs a $10,000 website. In fact, I’m going to venture that most of you reading this blog don’t. So what do you do? And what should a website cost you? Of course it depends on what your website is going to do, and getting clear on all of this before you go out asking for quotes is a great way to get a more accurate quote out of your website designer to be. Here’s a partial list of questions to ask yourself with regards to the kinds of functionality a website may have to guide you:

  • Is your website just going to be a basic online listing that includes a description of your services/products, a bit about your company and how to contact you?
  • Will you website actually sell products? If so, in how many different currencies will you sell? How many products do you have to sell?
  • How often are you going to want to update your website? And do you want to do that yourself, or do you have the budget to hire someone on an ongoing basis to help with that?
  • Do you need/want a photo gallery? If so, how many images will be in that gallery?
  • Do you want your website to include a blog?
  • Do you need a calendar for events/happenings? If so, how often will that calendar change?

Websites that include e-commerce are as a general rule more expensive than ones that don’t. That said, there are lots of great services out there you can use to get e-commerce up and running on the web on the cheaper end of things. We mentioned Shopify and Etsy in the book and I’ll write another post on e-commerce here next week along with one on how you can get your very own website without breaking the bank. So stay tuned!

(Notice how I avoided answering what a website actually does cost? Smooth huh. Really, I’ve got no hard answer to that. But this article from a few years back at Entrepreneur.com I think does a pretty good job of setting some reasonable benchmarks).

Tags: Business Advice · Uncategorized

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 S.Joy Studios » The age-old question: What does a website cost? // Aug 2, 2008 at 6:47 am

    […] recently read an excellent article by web developer/author Emira Mears on the cost of a website. It’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? It’s highly intangible at first, and […]

  • 2 Natalie Ferguson // Aug 3, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    We are int he same boat as you. Some of our customers are very web based and they see their website as an investment in a long-term asset. Others have been burnt int he past or have a website that gives them nothing, they see it as a needless expense.

    I think you’re right with your quotes, but I do think a lot of small businesses can happily start by spending $3-4K to get a website that gives them more sales or gets visitors to make contact more frequently. from there, they can continue to spend money adding value to the website as it is deemed necessary – or they notice it is what potential customers want.

  • 3 Stephanie Daga // Aug 5, 2008 at 10:22 am

    This post couldn’t come at a better time. I am currently building a sister site to my current website and am working with a great designer (who isn’t my boyfriend’s roomate). This has given me a lot of insight into what I want for my new site and I’m really confident in my designer.

    P.S. I’m reading your book and LOVE IT!