When you need pro website help but are worried about the cost, it’s not easy to find clear answers on the internet.
Google something like “price for professional website design” and you’ll see everything from $249 to 20X that amount and more. Prices are all over the place, even before you factor in what you need and how that might affect cost.
I’m sure there are a few dodgy developers and designers out there. I have to believe, though, that price differences have less to do with trying to bait and switch or take you for a ride than what a given designer/developer is actually capable of.
Like most any expense, there isn’t a short answer to the question of cost except “It depends.”
What kind of a site best suits your business or blog? Will the price tag you see deliver the site you need? Do you have enough experience with websites to know what you need and have a realistic budget in mind?
All great questions to ponder before hiring someone to create your online home.
Read on for my best advice to help you get what you need – at a price you can afford to pay.
Here’s a better question: What do you want to pay?
The smart approach is to first determine how much you can or should spend. Some business owners call several developers or designers and ask for prices in order to decide how much they have to spend.
What about your marketing budget? Yes, you need to know costs. But if you are working with a limited budget you need to know your limits, determine your needs, then find out how to meet your needs within that budget.
What do you need?
It’s common for web pros to receive requests for pricing with little in the way of background information. To people without experience, a website is a website and they’re all pretty much the same.
Without the right details, a good developer/designer will reply with a series of questions.
A less-good or too-busy developer/designer might make assumptions about what you need, which might not fit your particular situation or needs.
You think you asked the right questions about what’s included. But oftentimes it’s a matter of not knowing what you don’t know, and learning the hard way.
Find out what kind of a site you need before searching for someone to build it. Visit sites you like – or dislike – and take notes about specific details that will or will not work for you.
Seek out others with similar businesses or similar needs, and find out about their site building experiences. You don’t have to have a rigid plan in place, but doing some homework in advance should give you basic information that you can share with each pro you talk to so that all are giving you pricing for the same scope of work.
If the developer or designer you finally choose has experience and input that suggests a deviation from your initial plan, your decision to alter the plan will be a more informed one.
5 tips to keep website development costs low
- Employ a Content Management System (CMS). Even though it costs more up front than a static HTML site, a CMS will save you time and money when you need to make changes. Instead of gathering your changes, sending them to a web developer and waiting in his or her queue, you can log in and quickly make most common changes yourself. Most small and medium sized businesses can make use of WordPress as a CMS; the WordPress platform is open source, making it cost-effective and flexible.
- Clearly communicate all requirements – in writing – before design begins. Making sure your designer or developer knows your needs will ensure that the job is done right the first time. Put all requirements and specifications in writing so that all parties have something to refer back to. Revising a design can be costly.
- Make sure your hosting is ready to go. If you have already purchased hosting and can provide your web pro with login credentials needed to set up files and databases, this saves time and money. The hosting space must usually meet certain minimum requirements that can vary depending upon the type of site that will be built for you. Make sure you have the best website hosting setup for your particular situation.
- Write your own copy and headlines for each page, and have it ready to go. You know your business best, so you’re probably the best person to communicate your message. Yes, ineffective, unfocused or error-laden writing will make your business look bad. But if you can craft a good message, do it and then enlist a pro to whip your copy it into shape.
- Provide high-quality source files to your web pro at the beginning of your project. Provide original files (i.e., not resized) so that the designer or developer has files of sufficient quality to work with. If you have a good eye and a good camera, providing your own digital photography is a way to save money. As with writing, if you can’t do it really well, hire a pro for key website images. If you don’t need shots of your products, people or business and just want to convey a concept, there are many low-cost stock photography sites where you can purchase images. Free image sites like Unsplash and Pixabay can help you out here, too. Just know that these sources tend to be overused.
5 things that increase the cost of a new web site
- Multiple page layouts. Each page with a unique layout requires a significantly greater investment of time than what would be needed to simply flow its content into an existing layout. To lower costs, use the same basic template for multiple pages. Caveat: Too few unique layouts can lead to poor information flow and usability problems when the same format must be used to serve up varying types of content; also, seeing the same design page after page can be monotonous for visitors. Sites for small to medium sized businesses typically use two or three templates.
- Multiple change requests. I work best when requests for changes are provided as a single response to my request for feedback. Review your web pro’s work thoroughly and note any questions or items you think should be changed, then provide this feedback to him or her in a single e-mail. It’s far more efficient to make several changes at once to files in active development than to switch gears several times to go back and make changes that were overlooked, repost the files for review, then notify the client.
- Bells and whistles. Things like animation, video, extensive image galleries, new graphics, forms, forums, online stores, online payment acceptance, member registration and a host of other options add costs. If you’re trying to cut costs, some extras might be best put off, but money-making helpers like online shopping are a necessary investment.
Having the developer or designer handle everything. If you have no experience with anything web related, your customer-facing business website is not the best place to learn. But if you have common sense, a little time and a willingness to try something new, you may be able to shoulder some of the load and reduce your costs by:
- Securing a domain name and hosting before work gets underway.
- Providing detailed input about any desired design or functional elements.
- Gathering all of your access data (FTP, hosting control panel logins, credit card processor information, etc.) in one place and providing it to your web pro at the start of the project.
- Locating photography that works with your design.
- Inputting all of your page content (if your site will have a CMS).
- Having rigid requirements that hamstring your developer or designer. Experienced web pros can make almost anything work given sufficient time and budget. But if you let your developer or designer know what’s important to you as well as where you can be flexible, he or she may be able to give you a design you’re happy with at a price you can live with.
These days I don’t do many new website or full-site redesigns myself (I prefer working on specific issues like slow website optimization or tutoring new WordPress users). When I do, I charge according to complexity.
Smaller, less-complex sites can cost as little as $1800. The upper end pretty much has no limit, except that in addition to my fees the complexity can require bringing on additional team members.