The Golden Question: How Much Should A Website REALLY Cost?

By Pete Czech

The Golden Question: How Much Should A Website REALLY Cost?New Possibilities Group

If there is one question I’ve heard more as a developer than any other, it’s this: “How much should a website cost?”

The answer? Somewhere between $100 and $1,000,000.

Yes, I’m serious.

There is no one set price for how much a web project should cost (read my previous post on that topic). Anyone shopping around for a web design and development partner should consider one important point:

Website design and development is a service, not a product.

It is important to note this because it will affect your experience of finding an agency or individual to complete your project. Shopping for services will always be different than shopping for a product.

Consumers must also consider the following points:

Apples-to-apples comparisons will be difficult

We are all driven to do comparative shopping for anything we buy—the Internet has made it so easy that we’ve become accustomed to it.

But since there are so many possible technologies to choose from and so many ways to do the same job, it’s nearly impossible to do a complete, 100% apples-to-apples comparison between two bidding agencies.

Even if the agencies bidding both recommend the same solution (WordPress, for example), there are still multiple ways to get the job done, which could result in a price divergence.  

Value is directly proportional to skill level

Not all agencies and developers are the same. Some developers can take twice as long as others to perform the same task. Some work faster than others. This is similar to any other professional service, whether it be a painter or an electrician.

It’s important to keep in mind that hourly rates and skill levels are directly related. Someone charging $50 an hour could be half as fast as someone charging $85/hr. The net cost to the consumer is a loss.

Or put another way: Would you pay someone with 15 years of experience the same as you would someone who is just starting out?  

Scope and spec determine time, which determines cost

If you were renovating your kitchen or bathroom, the contractor would have two costs: materials and time. But in the world of web development, the material cost is very low—especially when working with open source technology. There may be stock images and certain software costs, but that is usually so low a cost that the contractor would include it in a project price.

Because of this, pricing is usually based on the specification, which in turn affects total cost. The best way to ensure you’re getting the most accurate pricing possible is to perform a thorough discovery process and have a clear project specification.

Without a properly built specification, neither you nor the agency bidding on your project will have a clear idea of how the final product will look. And that will cost you way more money and time down the line when you have to go back and revise.

A service is provided by people

This is a very important point to consider.

How do you feel about the team proposing the work? Are they experienced? Is the company structured well? Is there a portfolio of substance? Do you deal with senior personnel, and will they work with you throughout your project? Is there a personal connection and trust factor? Do they want to make you a rock star?

These questions all matter. A project’s success or failure can be determined by the ability of the client and agency to form a solid relationship and a joint goal.

So, what does a website cost?  

Okay, I get it. You want numbers!

Well, let’s consider a custom informational website that takes 40 hours to design, 80 hours to code, and 20 hours to manage and thoroughly test. That’s three and a half weeks of work. And let’s say that the average rate is $100 an hour. The project would cost $12,000.

Or maybe you’re building a dating site with user profiles, a user matching algorithm, and a paywall. That could take 100 hours to design, 400 hours to build, and 100 hours to manage and thoroughly test. It adds up: $60,000!

Let’s scale out even further. Are you the US government building a healthcare marketplace?  Apparently, that cost a shade under $2 billion. Yes, that’s “billion” with a “B”—and we all know how that deployment went.

Is it worth it?

“Wow, that’s crazy. My nephew can do it for $500!”

Best of luck with that. Would you have your nephew build your new kitchen too?

Consider the cost of other professional services. The below are national averages for home improvement projects:

  • Cost of a kitchen renovation: $54,909 (resale value $40,732)
  • Cost of a replacement roof: $18,913 (resale value $12,777)
  • Cost of an upscale master suite addition: $224,989 (resale value 125,920)
  • Cost of an upscale bathroom remodel: $51,374 (resale value $32,660)

In reality, each of these is a losing investment.

But when you build a website, you are building an asset with a potential return.

Let’s pretend that your website is an employee. Would you invest $12,000 on an employee who:

  • Is your biggest fan and best sales person?
  • Talks to hundreds of people daily?
  • Works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year?
  • Works globally?
  • At this rate, works for $1.37 an hour? (If your site lives for the average 3 years, that’s $.46 an hour!)

I’m pretty sure you would!

Unfortunately, I can’t answer with any certainty what your website will cost until we schedule a call, talk about the specification, and walk you through all the options. But one thing I can guarantee is that your new site will be the most important investment you’ll make for your company in the long run.

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to discuss your project.

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