That’s like asking how much a new house costs.
Decide on what you need your site to do and the features you need (see Getting Started for tips). Then decide on how much you are willing to spend on a site.
You don’t go to a real estate agent and say I want a house, how much will it cost? You decide how much you can afford and what you want (a backyard, 3 bedrooms, short commute, good schools) and the agent tries to find the best fit between the amenities and your budget.
It’s the same thing with a website. Tell me what you want and what you are willing to spend, and I’ll tell you what you can get for the money.
Why can’t I just shop my list of requirements around to agencies or developers and let them give me a price?
Let’s stay with the house analogy.
You want to get a house built. You take your blueprints to a couple of builders and ask them the price. Depending on what finishes and appliances and which lot you build on, you will get everything from a low-price to a high-price.
The low-price builder will build your house with low-end appliances and standard finishes and the builders special carpeting. You know the house.
Now, the high-end builder will ask you if you want bamboo flooring, better insulation, good windows, a house that will withstand a hurricane, etc.
Somewhere in the middle is the house that you need and the finishes you want.
If I give them a budget, won’t they do less and charge me the full price?
If you are a small business needing a brochure-ware site, that has little to no complex functionality. You will get prices ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Why? Because a good designer charges more than a bad designer. The development costs may be similar for both, but the design and copy can take a site from ineffective to persuasive. A house left unpainted and with no furniture in it will sell for a lower price than the same house freshly painted with new carpet and staged with some furniture in it.
Only you can decide how important your site is to your business goals, but in this day and age, little happens without it being on the web.
So let’s say you are a small business, you’ve had a tremendous outflow of capital expenses to get started. You need a site, but you only have $800 to spend on a site. You’ll most likely need to go to a small-shop with only 1 or 2 people. Provide the developer with your budget and your list of things you want on the site. With that knowledge, the developer can tell you that you can get a site. You’ll produce your own site outline and content, and provide all the images. At that price, it will not be unique. It will have a template design, but it will meet your immediate needs. The next question would be what template are they using, how many sites look like it, and what is the cost to make it unique at a later date.
If you are a medium size company, you have 1500 products and a need for a transactional site (one that is a shopping cart). Now you will really get a wide range of prices. Can someone throw all those products in a cheap open-source shopping cart for $8,000-10,000? Sure. Can you adjust the shopping cart and modify how the customer experiences the process? No. If you spend $40,000, you will have tremendous control over the transactional experience and sell more product over time. Are they similar products? Yes. The difference is the time that went in to designing the process on the higher priced project. Wireframes, custom specifications, and more.
Weed out the “used-car salesmen”
Ask the following questions to keep from hiring a charlatan:
- What type of CMS are they using for your site?
- How difficult or easy is it to maintain? Make them show you a demo.
- Review examples of their work.
- Contact the owner of sites they’ve built and ask how easy they are to update.
- Ask if they do the work in-house or if they outsource (be particularly nosy about offshore developers – they must have clear and well-communicated goals or you will not get what was promised)
Create technical specifications
If you have a medium to large site, take the time to have the agency create technical specifications that identify the features and functions of the site. Your blueprint for your site. Everyone from the designer to the database programmer will use this to guide what they create. It will save you money in the long-run by keeping technical requirements unambiguous.
If you can produce your own technical specifications, provide them to the agency or developer along with your budget and ask what they can do. Doing this step yourself will save you money on your project.
Web developers as architects and builders
A good web developer is your architect and your builder. They should help you understand the technology, recommend good functionality, and help you find the right tools to accomplish your business goals. And whatever else they are, they work for you towards a long-term relationship.