Are you looking to get a website built or redesigned, but finding it really hard to know where to even begin with your budget?
Web design and development has a long way to go before it’s anything approaching transparent on the pricing front. There is even an air of secrecy around what some freelancers and agencies charge. Personally I think that being clear about pricing saves time wasting and sets correct expectations right at the beginning. I followed with interest recently a request on a Facebook business group for an approximate price for a simple three-page site. The questioner had dozens of responses with links to companies, but only two of them gave her the direct figure she explicitly asked for. She was quoted £300 and £1500.
Wow. So why the discrepancy? And what should a simple website like this cost?
Define your site
Firstly, it’s really important to be extremely clear about what you want before you ask anyone to quote. Do you want a newsletter sign-up page? Are you selling handmade items? Is it just three pages of text to tell people about an event or your business? If you have an idea in your head, but don’t make this clear right from the start, you risk getting halfway through a project only to be told you have to pay extra for all the ‘extras’ that you are asking for.
Secondly, it’s important to be aware that web design and development is one area where you really don’t get what you pay for. It’s true! More expensive definitely does not equal better. You can pay several thousand for a website with a behemoth code base that runs dreadfully and is a nightmare to maintain, and equally you can be very lucky and pay a few hundred to end up with an elegant, fast and responsive site that does everything you need and is adaptable going forward.
Types of website
For the purposes of this article, websites can be broadly divided into three categories (there are always exceptions, but bear with me).
1. A simple site with 1-5 pages.
This is often enough for a sole trader with a service business, a basic personal resume site, or it can be used to advertise an event or a new product or business.
2. A small business website or flourishing blog.
These will include several pages, a blog or news feed, and other straightforward features such as a contact form, a portfolio area, a newsletter sign-up, and possibly a very basic shopping cart if the user wants to sell one or two products from their site (such as an online course, ebooks, or knitted egg cosies).
3. Enterprise sites.
These are usually representative of large organisations or ecommerce stores. They can run to thousands of pages, include member-only and personal account areas, full online shopping facilities, interactive forms, questionnaires and other site enhancements.
Each of these categories requires a different approach, and each should be priced accordingly.
Note that although I have divided sites up for simplicity, there is a continuum along which websites appear. Your site may be more than a small business website, but not quite the scale of a full online store. Obviously you would expect to pay slightly more or less accordingly.
There are also other options to consider that can apply to all of the above, such as whether your developer sets up integration with google analytics and social media, and if your quote includes any search engine optimisation.
Always be clear what you are paying for.
I did a lot of research on pricing when I set up Five Pixels, and the following figures represent a reasonable approximation of the current market (Autumn 2016). I have assumed that you are obtaining your site design and your site build from the same source (see below for more on this).
Small brochure-style website
£200 – £500
Small business website
£500 – £2,000
£2,000 – £12,000
A freelancer will cost less than an agency, generally.
There are a number of other things you need to budget for.
1. Domain name
You, the client, should always purchase this. Depending on whether you go for .co.uk or .com or some other tld (top level domain) like .photo or .online you can expect to pay between £10 and £50 a year. A premium domain (one considered desirable) can cost a lot more for first registration (hundreds, or even thousands). I initially wanted to call my business Daisy Designs, and although the domain was available it was being sold for £460. I decided not to buy it!
Everyone needs hosting. You can buy very cheap hosting yourself for around £3 or £4 a month, but you need to have the technical knowledge to know what you are doing with the server. Most web companies can advise on or provide hosting for you and this starts at around £6-£10 a month. For dedicated servers, which you would need for large scale sites with heavy traffic, hosting ranges from around £50-£200 per month.
This might sound obvious, but all websites need content. Are you going to generate all of this yourself? Are you writing news articles or updating pages, or are you likely to outsource this work? Content creation comes as cheap or as expensive as you can imagine and generally you pay more for better work. Copywriters with experience and qualifications will do your site justice.
A website shouldn’t be left to decay once it is built. It is important to keep the code base up to date for security reasons (website hacking is very commonplace), and it’s really useful to have someone to turn to for support when you want to make small changes or accommodate new content. You can do this one of two ways – ad-hoc when you need support, or you can pay for a monthly retainer. A retainer usually covers a number of hours each month and you pay whether you use them or not. If you are keeping an eye on costs and don’t expect a huge amount of change to your site, having a good relationship with your designer/developer and paying piecemeal is probably the most cost effective way. Hourly maintenance rates are around £20-£75.
Design or development?
A complete website has two main parts – the design, or the visual look and feel, and the underlying code, or the development. They are often lumped together but actually they are very different and require very different skills. A freelancer who provides both the design and development is known as a full-stack developer (like me!). Web agencies are more likely to employ separate designers and coders. What does this mean for you? Firstly, it sounds obvious but make sure you are buying a website, not just the design for a site. Secondly, it’s worth appreciating that website creation is a two-step process. You should see, and sign-off on, a design before the development of the site begins.
I hope this article has been useful and gives you an idea of what getting online will cost. Paying a web designer/developer is the traditional route, but today there are a plethora of companies that will provide you with the framework to build your own site, such as Weebly or Wix, or even do it for you at a low monthly cost. I will discuss all of these options in a future post. In the meantime, get your list of requirements, do your research and talk to at least three companies for a quote. If you need more help on choosing a web developer, I’ll be talking about that soon too!