I’ve been searching the web recently to answer this question, not because I don’t know, but because I’m assuming there are still plenty of people out there searching for an answer. Not only are they searching for ‘what should a website cost’, but they are searching for a standard by which to base their own opinion of website value. That’s where hopefully this post comes in.
During my search I found an old forum thread where someone recited a saying popular in his circles. “How long is a piece of string?” Now of course, this is a question with either no answer at all or thousands of answers depending on how you look at it. Perhaps that’s also true about pricing websites.
Why is a ‘simple website’ $100 to one developer, and $1000 to another? Assuming their skill is the same and their expenses are the same, perhaps where they begin holds the answer.
Maybe the developer that would charge $100 sees the request as a simple one that deserves a solution that, at a minimum, qualifies as a ‘simple website’. He’ll scratch together 15 minutes of time and have a few html files ready to deliver the client. Done.
In contrast, the developer that would charge $1000 understands the request as a desire for a website that does something. They believe that the client seeks a site that works, is secure, follows web standards, and will not be obsolete the second it goes live. And for that, the minimum this developer is willing to charge is 10x the amount of the first developer.
How is the client supposed to know the difference? Is there a “how-to” book for buying websites?
Confusing isn’t it?
Hopefully these next few paragraphs help make it slightly less so.
If we were all to look through the eyes of the first developer, we’d all talk about web design like it was easy, anyone can do it. Perhaps that’s true, especially if your standards are low. I know a guy that would probably build you a site for free. He’d probably say he could sell your house and give you a tattoo for free too, but would you let him? We can sum this one up by saying, if you’re not expecting much, you can afford to go with the $100 (or Free) option.
In contrast, the developer charging $1000 or more probably doesn’t look at web design quite so casually. I’d bet that he or she would even talk about their work as a service as opposed to a product, because part of what the client is paying for is their expertise and constant development of their skill and education. Someone that cares about their craft is continually trying to get better, they’re never satisfied with what they know. That constant pursuit for better processes and more knowledge on behalf of their clients isn’t cheap and so the client ends up paying a bit more.
There is another group we haven’t talked about yet.
Big Business, Corporate Giants, Website Factories.
The reason I’m not talking about them in the same context as the $100 or $1000 developers is because they fundamentally look at clients differently. The first two developers still see the client as a person, with specific needs. Big business, Corporate website factories see numbers, not people. The CEO doesn’t care what the client’s name is or why they need a website, he or she just cares that the money comes in. Usually the business model for these giants is to create a solution that can be sold over and over again to as many customers that will buy it. Whatever keeps them viable in the market is their goal. It’s all about the Benjamins.
Most companies have sales guys from these companies knocking on their door, direct mailing or email spamming their in-boxes. We’ve all seen the ‘Get your own professional website’ commercials on TV, you know who I’m talking about.
In my opinion there are two categories of giants. The biggest ones ‘serve’ everyone, and the slightly smaller ones ‘serve’ specific verticals. Some popular ones are Real Estate, Attorneys, Restaurants, Contractors, and so on. The trend isn’t stopping either, the number of industry specific website factories out there grows bigger every day. It’s good business because so many people like the sound of an instant solution to their website woes. Having a website up in 48 hrs sounds pretty sweet, even to me.
Are industry specific web design firms bad?
First let’s be clear. There is a BIG difference between a website factory and a web design firm. Some small firms grow their knowledge to serve a specific industry and narrow their focus to be targeted and efficient. I love that idea and applaud those firms that decide to do that. What I don’t like is when those firms grow to a size that causes them to forget the clients are people and begin treating them like numbers, the factory mindset.
So, to answer the question, no, not all industry specific web design firms are bad. It’s just unfortunate that the good ones seem to be getting harder and harder to find.
So what should a website cost?
I haven’t really answered that yet, have I…Well,…
You can have your nephew in high school crank one out for a school project for Free. Meanwhile, your cousin can practice their tattoo skills on your arm.
For a bit more, you can get a basic site from someone that ‘does it on the side’ on a regular basis. At least you’re not the first site they’ve ever done.
For slightly more than that, you can have someone install a diy template from a website template site and fill in the words and pictures for you.
And finally, for a fair price (in-line with the value of having a successful website) you could have a professional firm sit down and figure out what your business needs to truly be successful. A team that will ask you questions like:
- What do you plan on sharing with the web that will attract visitors?
- How do plan on turning those visitors into leads?
- What’s an average sale worth to your business, and
- How many new sales a month would you need to justify the expense of having a website built?
Hashing out the tough questions that are important to your business’s bottom line helps to ensure the finished website will be in alignment with your financial goals. These questions will also help your website firm build in a manner that’s scaleable, growing with your business. Think about the money you’ll save not having to redo your site year after year. Silly me, nobody thinks about that.
So, the short answer is…
Websites are not products with price tags, they’re a service offered by a wide skill-range of people. If you do your homework and ask tough questions of your prospective designer/developer, the old adage will finally be true, ‘You’ll get what you pay for.’
photo credit: 401(K) 2013