How much does a website cost?

This is possibly the most heard question by any web developer, worse it’s usually the first question we hear. I find it a little odd honestly. Would you call up an electronics store and ask “I need a new TV. How much will that cost?” without giving any details about what you want at all? How about calling a car dealership with “I need a new car, what do they cost?”.

Yet it’s almost always the first question I hear when someone wants a website. I guess it makes a little sense, people know that TV’s come in different sizes and different technologies, and cars have different models and options. The average person really doesn’t understand what is involved in creating a website, they just know they want one and want to know how much it will cost them.

Websites are like any other product.

When thinking about your website think about it like any other product you’d buy. Let’s take cars for example. There are dozens of manufacturers, hundreds of models, with thousands of options. You can get from point a to point b in a bargain basement Hyundai Pony or you can get from one to the other in a Rolls Royce Phantom. Do you have to have power windows, air conditioning, or a back-up camera?

Those choices are going to dictate what you pay for your car, just like the choices you make, and options you require are going to dictate what you pay for your website.

What is your budget? Is not a trick question.

To be honest I’m always a little worried how this question will be received when I ask it. I’m concerned that people think it’s some sort of scam, that I’ll set the cost of their site based on how much they’re willing to pay.

Of course that isn’t the case. Understanding what a person/company is willing to invest in their website gives me a better understanding of what we can accomplish together. It will affect my direction on what technologies we use, features we can implement, etc.

It also allows us, as developers, to weed out the dreamers. “I have this great idea to compete with Facebook! I have $1,000 to spend too!” Yeah… no.

Determining a budget early in the project saves time, and money. It allows the developer and the client to focus on absolutely critical features first and make sure they fit the budget. In other words it’s all part of the process and an important part.

Websites aren’t “cheap”.

I had a friend call me a few years ago, he asked me “Hey, my girlfriend’s company needs a website. She called some place she found on the web but they quoted her a ridiculous price, what would you charge?”

Notice something about that request? Go back to the first section of this article! Of course my first comment was, knowing my friend well and also knowing he doesn’t really understand what I do, “Define ridiculous price”. I was pretty sure the “ridiculous price” wasn’t going to be ridiculous at all, in fact I was positive it was either going to be reasonable or stupidly cheap.

I wasn’t disappointed. “Ridiculous” was $499. I smiled to myself, and responded. “Tell her to call them back and take the deal”.

I’m not sure if it’s because websites aren’t physical products, or it’s because there are so many fly-by-night companies that will build them for next to nothing. Perhaps we can blame GoDaddy and for their volume pricing. Whatever the reason, there seems to be a perception among some people that websites have little value or are easy to create.

Like anything else in the world, you get what you pay for with a website. Go back to the car analogy. Yes, the Pony is going to be much cheaper than the Phantom but they aren’t the same thing are they? The Pony isn’t going to be as comfortable, it probably won’t do the things you’d really like it to, it likely won’t last as long, but it’s cheaper. Your website will likely be your first contact with many potential clients. You may not need a Rolls Royce, but is a Hyundai Pony really the first impression you want to make?

Client: My current website doesn’t work right and doesn’t look at all like I wanted it to. How much would you charge to fix it?
Developer: * sumbits quote to client.
Client: WHAT???? That’s three times what the old site cost!
Developer: ….

How much does a website cost?

What do you need it to do?
What features/options do you think you need?
What message are you trying to convey?
What is your budget to create your site?

You wouldn’t ask an electronics store how much a TV costs without telling them what type of TV and at least a screen size. Don’t ask your web developer how much a site costs as your first question 😉

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