How Much Should My Website Cost?

6 07 2008
651.gif A common question I get is, “Chris, we got a quote from this company for our new website and they want to charge us $XXXXX – is that too much?” “Well, what are they going to do?” I counter. “I don’t know, design our website!”

Simple “Brochure” Type Websites
The fact is, $2,000 can be too much or too little, and so can $20,000. It depends on what the purpose of the website is and what type of functionality you want it to have. The simplest websites to build are like “brochures” or “business cards” on the web. These have static content, meaning that if you want to change anything you need to have web design experience or have your designer make the changes. These types of sites generally go for $1k – $5k, depending on the experience and quality of the designer, and depending on if it will have flash, and how many pages it will have.

Content Management Systems (CMS)
The next upgrade is a site with some form of “content management.” CMS allows the site administrator or anyone else with permission, to login to the site and make changes to content and pages using a simple text editor. Website owners like CMS because it makes them less dependent on their web design company for changes. Changes to content can be made quickly and easily by the site owner or admin.

Types of Content Management Systems can vary considerably. Popular “out of the box” CMS systems these days are Drupal, Joomla, and believe it or not, WordPress. While the simple brochure site mentioned above can usually get CMS for a small additional charge ($1k-$2k), large corporate sites with CMS can get very expensive, in the “10′s of thousands” price range.

Ecommerce Websites
What about shopping carts? Depending on the amount of customization needed, shopping carts carry a heavier price tag as well. The simple solution, if you just have a few products for sale that won’t change, is to get a Paypal account, and use their built in system for the shopping cart. this can be done with just a few simple website edits, and is the easiest way to sell items online (a reasonable web designer might add in a few Paypal buttons for free with the initial design, or for about an hour’s labor if done after the fact).

Most ecommerce sites will have products with options, that change regularly, or limited inventory, or large numbers of products, all of which lend themselves to being better handled by some form of shopping cart script. Don’t let a web designer try to rebuild the wheel for you. There’s usually no need to program a shopping cart form the ground up, and most web designers don’t have that ability by themselves anyway. There are plenty of shopping cart scripts available that can be installed on a site and modified to match your site’s look and feel. Some popular examples are OS Commerce, Zen Cart, Cube Cart, and others. Modifications are what will drive up the price here. Out of the box, these things are simple to install, but modifications to the code and templates can eat up a lot of time. Expect your custom website / shopping cart combination to run anywhere from $5k – $20k, and make sure the designer or company has experience doing the type of ecommerce site you’re looking for. To save money here, go with a ready made template instead of custom design. For all types of website templates, check out Template Monster, TemplateWorld, and Open Source Templates.

Social Media Websites
Want to start a community? There are a lot of ways to do it these days. Social media is taking the web by storm, and a good place to get your foot in the door is by creating something for a small niche. Probably one of the oldest, popular forms of social media is the online forum. Again, like shopping cart scripts, there are scripts out there for forums as well. These are ready made forums that are relatively simple to install and manage. The three most common that I know of are PHPBB, VBulletin, and Invision Power Board. Similar to customization of shopping cart scripts, customization of bulletin board scripts can run up the price as well. Expect installation and customization of new forums to run anywhere from a few thousand dollars up, depending on how far the customization is taken and how many non-standard features are added. For forums as well, you can keep the price down by using a ready-made template from one of the sources mentioned above.

Believe it or not, there are scripts available for creating websites similar to MySpace, Digg, and Youtube as well. Just do your research on them before you decide on one. I always check out their support forums (if they have them), to see what kind of trouble people are having with the scripts, and to see how quickly their support staff responds. If you hire a company to create a site like this for you, be sure to check their references and past experience. You don’t want to be someone’s “test run” on creating a social media site.

What About Hosting?
Your web designer might offer hosting or some type of maintenance plan, or even some form of marketing at a monthly rate for your website. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting for the price you agree to pay. For the simple brochure websites, shared hosting is usually adequate, costing anywhere from $5 – $20 / month. But shared hosting may not be adequate when you move up to an ecommerce or social media site that will have many users interacting with it at the same time. For these types of sites you might need a “Virtual” or “Dedicated Server;” my favorite of which so far, has been LiquidWeb.

The amount of traffic you receive will be proportional to the effectiveness of the marketing you do. Don’t expect a flood of visitors just because you have a great website. It can take a lot of time and money to get decent traffic to your website, and there are a lot of different ways of going about marketing it, but that’s for another post.

So What’s the Total Price?
It depends. Good designers with a lot of experience will charge more. Look at their portfolio and check references. You usually get what you pay for, but it’s also easy to get ripped off if you don’t do due diligence. The advantage to going with the more experienced designer or company, is that they usually know what they are getting into before they give you a contract, and they can easily deal with problems that come up along the way. A less experienced designer is more likely to give you a lowball price, then either not meet your expectations, or have to ask for more money to get the site where you want it. That’s not always the case though.

The price goes up as you add features. So it’s important to consider the purpose of your website, its profitability, and what you can fit in your budget. Things like design quality, flash, ecommerce capability, and interactivity can really drive up the price, but they can also make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your site.

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4 responses to “How Much Should My Website Cost?”

24 11 2008
Websites for Therapists: TherapySites.com | New Orleans Internet Marketing (16:38:16) :

[...] that you were referred by the FMC Directory when asked! If you read my post entitled “How Much Should My Website Cost?” you already know that decent web design can start in the $2k range, and go up over time with [...]

11 11 2009
New Orleans Web Design (00:27:48) :

Building a website is a lot like a construction project. There are an exponential number of variables that an add to the price of a site.

At it’s most basic form, a website takes about 20 seconds to produce. It’s basically text on a white page. Even something that simple would take time to decide what kind of hosting is required. From this point on, every option and idea can add to the cost.

btw, cool blog chris! I’m in the new orleans area as well.

3 03 2010
Paul (11:24:37) :

Hi, I am a designer in New Orleans and I ran across your blog. I find that most clients either want a simple template website with their logo/colors or a custom website to match their company image. Custom designs can go well over $2000.00. Lots of time is involved in designing a great website! Go Saints!

23 11 2010
Jeremiah (12:11:47) :

In my opinion the cost of a website depends on the body text content and the backend, which are difficult to calculate because the backend might be an expesnive CMS or other server side code that can not be verifed

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