We get asked ALL the time...what does a website cost? Well, as both consumers/customers and producers/sellers we thought we would like to clear up this question once and for all:
How much should a website cost?
I'm sure you probably both expected and feared that answer. So, instead of telling you what every developer ever told you...I thought we'd try to clear it up. Because, you probably don't have experience building a website...and that's probably why you are here right now!
Your Web Site is like Your Home
For the purpose of this exercise, we are going to use the analogy of a domicile or a place where one lives. It'll be easier to explain things this way, as we all live in and have had experiences with housing of some sort. We'll start at the most basic, and work our way up. Don't worry, not only will we explain what a website is, what kind of web design it takes, and what kind of web development is needed...but we'll also give you pros and cons for both!
Your website as a lonely webpage (a.k.a. "The Shelter")
A lean to...a refrigerator box...or an abandoned freight car. The shelter is your most basic form of domicile, if you can call it that! This is a one page post-card type website. It's usually sold as "Free" or "Starter," and sometimes comes with a limited number of other pages or some kind of page cap.
- Users will never find your page
- Users don't trust too little content
- Unprofessional in presentation
- Weak design
- "Commodity Community" websites only add value to the provider
- If everything fails, good luck getting support!
Users won't ever find your pages because there is no depth to your content. Users also do not trust too little content. It means to them that you didn't put enough thought or effort into it...or are too small to provide a better user experience. This means that the presentation screams to users "Hey! We don't really care about the information we put here. It's short sighted, and it just shows you what you might expect from us. Cutting corners and no attention to detail."
Oh, and just pray you don't have something go wrong...they aren't exactly quickly to respond to your issue.
- Cheap. Free or Nearly Free (>$5.99/mo)
Your Economy-Class Website (a.k.a. "The Cabin or Trailer")
A step up from the basic shelter is the cabin, or trailer. This will suffice for those who want a few more amenities, like running water and a stove to prepare meals. And, like the analogy these websites will give you the ability to do a few things like add blogs or other content. Think of it as Economy e-Commerce.
- Despite advertising pretty limited in choices
- Still looks "cheap"
- Modernizing is problem
- Feature poor
- Still on someone else's server
- Not easy to check change impossible to customize
They'll tell you have you have a TON of options to choose from, but those options are all still pre-defined. If your round logo doesn't fit the square hole, then oh well...there is no one to help you at this cost. Despite being a bit more modern in style and design sensitivities, it still comes across as looking cheap to the users. And, if you want to update your site, it's going to be a problem as you'll have to wait for the system to allow you to do it.
There are fewer features, and certainly only choice for technologies. For instance, you often can't use a shopping cart technology of your choice or a slider that supports video...if you decide to go this route. Remember, it's a trailer. It doesn't even have a foundation...
Being on someone else's server makes you a slave to your provider. If you ever do decide to change or disconnect from the provider, it can be a hassle getting them to work with your new development team.
We always insist that a company that does business has control over their own server. Not with someone who has your website on their own server...and holding all the keys!
- Cheap-only costs between $5.99-$14.99 / mo
- Multiple pages are possible
- Things people might see on more developed sites
These sites aren't expensive. They run between $5.99 and $14.99 a month. And, you can do multiple pages and sometimes can do menus and categories. But it's limited in terms of functionality and originality. And, sometimes you might not even have your own domain...though you will see things that are on other more developed sites like fancy animation and better, more current interfaces.
Your Business Class Website
(a.k.a. "The Townhouse/Suburban Home")
The first real step up to a real business class website is to look for a site that you control the server, control the log in, and control the content. This means that a professional web design firm sells you a solution to put up a website. These are normally based on a popular CMS (Content Management System) like Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, or Magento. These CMS-s allow the user to control the basic levels of content for the site such as pictures, galleries, blogs, and other media.
What we're talking about here is a Template Website. What that means is someone makes the design for a Content Management System and a development team or solo developer puts it together on the server, and appropriately adds/creates and adjusts content.
- Not unique
- Dependent on 3rd party if they change or don't keep up
- Design is not your intellectual property, and sometimes you have to accept someone else's name on it
- Not cheap (generally runs between $1,000 and $50,000 a site depending on complexity of add on-s and feature integration)
- Customization available, but not easy and would require professional help
- Does need professional back up if not fully handling it
The downside to this approach is that you don't usually end up with a unique design...unless you are prepared to buy the design out-right from the developer. This usually means a purchase of $2,000-$6,000 for the exclusive rights of the design. The site may also fall prey to outdated and not updated technology as you are often reliant on 3rd party plug ins and software. If the CMS doesn't fit with the plugin, you may have a site that no longer works.
- Templates can be swapped out to keep design fresh
- Communities push technology on its own
- Lots of community support
- Lots of bells snd whistles for your site to be customized with.
- Mobile becomes possible
- Cheaper than custom made
The Templates can be easy (by professional standards) to swap-out. So if your site gets old and tired looking, and you don't want to lose all that content...you can switch over to a new one. That keeps it fresh and modern and keeps your site from looking like no one pays any attention to it. Because if it looks like no one pays attention to it, then no one will!
The CMS based development communities that develop the templates, the plugins, and the software are relatively active. This means that they are constantly acting to update and upgrade the functionality of the system. This keeps the software and the tools that run on it fresh, and pushes the CMS to be able to do more as time goes on. There is also a lot of support for these systems, as a lot of users have adopted this way of production.
And, since there are professionals working on the software all the time there are a lot more bells and whistles to customize your site with. Don't like the shopping cart you are using? Choose a different one. Don't like the drop down menu animation? Swap out that plug in for another one.
This also makes different versions for mobile a possibility as designers are making their designs functional across different platforms. And, since you are essentially picking out all of the decor at once and applying it to your foundation and skeleton, it's usually cheaper than custom made.
If you are a business with an annual gross income of less than $150,000 then this is probably the best solution for you. Of course, if you have designs on being larger, growing to compete nationally and internationally, then this won't work for very long.
Your Enterprise Class Website: (a.k.a. "The Penthouse/Mansion")
Our discussion on website development has brought us to the last on our list: The custom made "Enterprise Class" website. These are, as you might assume, expensive to build. They take top designers sometimes millions of dollars to develop robust, integrated e-commerce solutions. You likely already have used one, if you like Amazon or Zappos or host of other multi-million dollar/year consumer shops. Or, if you've used a service like Priceline, Hertz, or happened to look for a new car over at Ford.
The Enterprise Class of website is a site designed from the first pixel to the last PCI Compliant bit of code for a single unifying purpose: To serve an organization in conducting their business and increasing sales. They are investments as important to the company as new machinery, research and development, and hiring and retaining the right talent. Often, these types of websites will consume entire development firms for years. Or as often is the case currently will hire entire departments and produce the online experience.
This can cost a firm millions of dollars to build--either by outsourcing or in-sourcing.
- Requires extremely competent help (if not gifted and high in demand talent)
- Takes the most time to complete, sometimes over a year from start to finish.
- Often an investment this large doesn't change fast enough
- Doing something that had never been done means taking a chance on the promise of the idea.
- Costs between $50,000 and $5,000,000 (or more).
To do a large Enterprise Class website you'll need plenty of funds and patience. It'll take highly skilled and high demand talent to pull it off. That means, it won't be cheap to get that competitive advantage. Making the website have an acceptable ROI (Return On Investment) means putting a lot of development through the disciplines of psychology, consumer behavior, economics, marketing and computer sciences. We're usually talking advanced degrees, technologies and fresh-from-the-lab software.
Because of all that is put into it, an Enterprise Class website won't change that fast. The technologies change only when the company can ensure a competent and consistent user experience. So, that sometimes mean dancing on the knife's edge trying to keep current and relevant while trying to get a better ROI out of your last capital expenditure.
You are also taking a chance on your idea. Sometimes doing something that has never been done before means taking the risk that you will have to change what that is.
- One of a kind
- Built to specification
- Content management that integrates and enhances your work flow
- Advanced technologies
- Intellectual property rights
- Retains highest % of profit
- No fees from vendors
- Just % with the credit card companies
As with anything that is one of a kind, it is special. Getting something no one else has gives you a measurable competitive advantage. Any way that you can differentiate or substantiate yourself online you should.
And, since it is unique it is built to your specification. That means the time, money and effort needed to sustain a long and sometimes expensive endeavor. To get exactly what you want and done exactly the way you want it, it means paying for skilled labor and the time it takes. Since it is built to your specifications: A proper Enterprise Class website can integrate with your inventory, marketing initiatives, data harvesting software and can greatly increase your revenue.
It is also most likely to be a leader technologically. This will add to your intellectual property rights, and can be something you can license down the road. Which is always a good thing!
You retain the highest percentage of profit. You don't have to pay vendors' fees since you did it yourself. Your enterprise class web design means that you aren't beholding to plugins and components that may (or may not) be supported tomorrow. The only real considerations to make with an enterprise class website are the credit card percentages. Which, in such rarefied air is not such a bad problem to have!
In the end it all depends. It depends on what your needs are. It depends on what your budget is. I hope that our guide gives you a frame of reference. Of course, prices change and are widely varied. This blog represents what we think in our best opinion is what a site of the corresponding magnitude would cost to build...or at least what it cost when we published it.
There are ALWAYS exceptions. Tucknologies recommends that you pick a site to suit you and make it your own!