BACKGROUND

That is an excellent question. A simple question. But the answer isn’t always so simple.

Anyone looking to have a website professionally built will ask that question. But before we delve into the spectrum of website design and development costs, and the myriad of factors that distinguish ‘price’ from ‘value’ – because in the world of websites those 2 are distinctly separate concepts – first lets rewind the tape a little bit.

Before you get to the ‘how much should my website cost to build?’ question, it might be circumspect and contextual to back up the logic truck a little and ask another question first:

‘What do I want out of my website?’.

That question is critical, and unmissable. In the old ‘chicken or the egg’ conundrum, you cannot reasonably ask ‘how much…?’ about your intended website, without first asking ‘what do I want…’.

The answer to the ‘what do I want…?’ question will completely define and dictate the answer to the ‘how much…?’ question.

In website design and development – you literally get out what you put in. So if you want a lot out of your website, you are going to have to put more into it. If you expect a world-shaking, industry-dominating, marketshare-eating digital wonderland of a website that attracts visitors and customers like proverbial moths to a flame – from a cheap, packaged website, then that is an entirely unrealistic and unfortunately doomed mindset.

Why? One simple reason: if it was easy to build a brilliant website that gave staggering returns to the person who commissioned that website, AND it was also cheap – then everyone would be doing it. But everyone ISN’T doing it, because if they were then the internet wouldn’t be bloated (as of September 2015) with over 1 billion websites, with an estimated 90% plus of those sites giving little to no financial return to their owners.

THE CORRELATION BETWEEN PRICE, AND RETURN

When it comes to setting your own expectations for the cost of building a website (whether it is meant to be a simple website, or a cutting-edge and sophisticated website) let’s first look at one simple, inarguable correlation of numbers:

  • Over 90% of websites are seen as giving little to no financial return to their owners
  • Over 90% of websites are cheap, basic, outdated and or ‘DIY’ websites (eg via a third party, hosted website building app)

We aren’t asserting that one statistic causes the other. But – it’s a pretty striking correlation of numbers so… draw your own conclusion.

‘Online’ is now definitively the battlefield for customers and marketshare. With over 85% of consumers researching and finding businesses online before choosing and or contacting them, online isn’t just the number 1 way to be found as a business – it is number 1, by a country mile. 2nd place is so far behind, it’s now barely visible. This has all happened relatively rapidly (over the last 10 years in particular) and is a one way trend – this number is expected to only increase in the short to mid term.

So – if you want to enter the online battlefield, you need to be properly armed to win that battle, not get turned back quickly and irreversibly by your competitors who are also looking to make their mark online. Moral of the story – having a ‘basic’ website, that is effectively just an online business card – isn’t going to get you out of that dreaded 90% of websites that do little, to nothing, for their owners.

It’s easy to build a website. Anyone can do it these days – with the raft of ‘website builder’ tools and ‘DIY’ tools.

But it’s really, really, really hard and really involved to build a good website.

So there are 2 ends of the website spectrum – there’s the ‘basic’ (polite talk for ‘low functioning, low features, low tech’) that you can accomplish by paying your ‘friend in IT’ or your 14 year old nephew to bang together. The other end of the spectrum is: high functioning, high end, loaded with smarts including but not limited to:

  • Built-in Search Engine Optimisation
  • Built-in professionally written copy / content that is loaded with relevant keywords so that Google and the other search engines find and rank your website above most of your competitors
  • Conversion tools – like forms, pop-ups, Calls To Action – to ensure that a decent % of people who view your website, actually then convert into enquiries / customers
  • Anti-abandonment tools
  • Clever and attractive UI (user interface) to ensure the site visitors are impressed, and inexorably drawn into using the site for more than 2 seconds
  • Constant updating of content and design to ensure the site keeps ranking, as static / unchanging sites tend to slip back down the rankings

So back to the question: ‘what do I want…?’. If you want a real shot at getting ahead of your competitors and winning customers, then you want a lot out of your website – so you’ll need to put at least more than the average person does, ie money and professionally sourced expertise, into your website.

If you are already flat-out with customer enquiries, and you really just want to ensure you have a basic website so that you don’t look backwards or unprofessional by NOT having a website then sure – get the cheap, low tech end of the website spectrum. And hope that you stay busy just from your existing customer base because a basic website will not win you much new business.

THE COSTS

So down to brass tacks.

The ‘basic’ end of the spectrum: DIY website tools such as WIX can cost as little as: $12.50 per month. So around $150 USD per annum.

BUT – bear in mind the hidden cost of your time. This cost is for YOU to design the website yourself, YOU to undergo the time and brain-strain of a learning curve of figuring out how to use their website builder application, and then you to spend let’s conservatively say 6 to 12 hours of your own time actually building your site.

Oh plus you’ll need to source your ‘design assets’ such as your logo, your photos, your copy (those fancy words that will get you noticed) which presumably will NOT have Google-refined keywords baked into them (as that in itself takes serious research and tools to make the keywords effective).

So adding in those ‘non-defined’ costs means doing the cheap end, DIY website, will in reality cost you a lot more than just the app price.

The other end of the spectrum? Some of the most profitable companies on the planet (ie Ebay, Amazon) turn over literally billions of dollars per year from their online generated revenues. And yeah, sure, they also have teams of dozens or hundreds of propellorheads who constantly update their gigantic and sophisticated websites. So let’s assume their websites cost them millions to develop and a whole lot of clams to maintain.

On the other end of the spectrum that is a little more realistic for regular folk like us to quantify the costs of, check out this image taken from an online ‘website cost calculator’ in the US:

Now granted, some of the features priced by this calculator (eg ‘database integration’) may be a little more involved than most websites might need to be, especially if you are in the startup or ‘small business’ phase. But this gives you an idea of the work and expertise, and finally cost involved for some higher end websites / online businesses to be built.

So – let’s average this out and look at the ‘middle of the road’ for getting something professional, attractive, in-depth, and functional designed.

According to the article ‘How Much Does A Website Cost In 2016?’ by Richard Parr from a US based web design agency, the below image gives you a more middle of the road guide as to reasonable costs for a reasonable bit of your online real estate to be carved out and prettied up, and made viable to get you some kind of return:

And according to an article published by www.websitebuilderexpert.com the average cost to get a WordPress website built (the platform used by 25% of all websites on the planet, which across around 1 billion websites is testament to its stability and popularity) is between $6,000 and $15,000 USD.

CONCLUSIONS

So – we’ve briefly covered the 3 ends of the spectrum:

  1. Lowball pricing – DIY website builders (or really cheap ‘packaged’ website deals) which clearly have the undefined costs of your time and other design assets, and have serious limitations in terms of getting you out of that ‘90%’ bracket where the website, yes, is a website – but is it basic and non-functional or is it something better that gives a better ROI?
  2. The high end – where websites are in themselves fully functioning businesses with a lot of moving parts, thus requiring serious investment but with the upside of potential serious ROI
  3. The middle of the road – the $6,000 to $15,000 range.

Most people looking to get a website built for their new business, shop by ‘price’. And the natural, human inclination, is to shop for ‘cheap’. Because – a website is a website right? Websites have become viewed as fairly homogenous, and unless you are a tech expert, what’s the difference?

The difference is clearly, repetitively demonstrated by the difference in how high-end (or even ‘middle-end’) websites perform, and are ranked, and their traffic, and finally their conversion of traffic into customers. In short – the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Decent websites, that have more smarts and a lot of little things invested into them to make a greater sum of all the many parts – give much better ROI.

And you may not want to spend much on a website – but then, if you want your website to do well, the assumption is you want your business to do well. And if you aren’t able or willing to invest enough into a business – it’s going to be extremely hard and pretty unlikely you’ll get a lot out of it. Websites run on the same, tried and tested principle.

So instead of just asking the most common question: ‘how much should a website cost to build?’, please consider asking the same question but in a different way:

“How much will it cost me to NOT get my website built well enough to get me ahead of my competitors?”

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