When you start considering creating or updating a website for your business there are many factors to consider. While there are many companies that offer free website development tools you need to keep in mind that this is one of those situations where you truly do get what you pay for. Building a website on your own is fine if you are simply wanting a site that you can tell you existing customers about and share information about your business with that small select community. However, if you are seriously considering expanding the scope and market for you business you need to seek the advice and assistance of a professional web developer.
It can be hard to get an accurate quote immediately, very few developers list their rates upfront. Why? Because there are so many variables in creating a website. Your cost will depend on your needs and desires for your site. In order to accurately assess your requirements and formulate a cost to you the developer will need to confer with you directly. A professional developer will know the right questions to ask in order to achieve the best results for you.
After the initial consultation the developer may want to create a sample landing/homepage for your approval. Most developers will do this free of charge. It is a good way to ensure that you and the developer agree on the design you are looking for. This is a very important step because changes to the design during development can dramatically affect your end cost. Below I am listing and defining the primary factors that will influence the cost of your site.
- Initial Costs to development and implement your site.
- Acquiring a Domain Name.
- Actual site development
- Establishing a hosting agreement.
- Implementing the site on your domain.
- Securing your site
- Recurring cost of maintaining your site
- Periodic hosting cost
- Periodic Domain name renewal
- Maintenance and updates to your site
- Marketing your sitr
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of the site.
- Monthly fees to search engines
- Keeping your site updated to meet changing SEO standards
To the average business owner this all may sound overwhelming. That is why it is so important to choose a good professional developer that will not only build your site but also provide on going support for all aspects of implementing and maintaining it for you. Don’t be discouraged you will be amazed as you watch you thought and ideas come to life for the world to see via the web. In a series of short articles here lets look at each of the cost elements and what they entail.
Obtaining a domain name
Domain names are not really expensive but choosing one that fits your needs can be a little challenging. While it may seem as simple as choosing a name and applying it to your site; in reality there is much more to it than that. Domain names are broken into two parts. The first part is the name itself and this is what identifies you specifically (i.e, mydomain). The second part is what is know as the Top Level Domain (TLD). The is the dot extension that follows your domain name (i.e. .com, .net, .org …).
The .com extension is the original TLD and the most widely used. However, it is also the hardest one to find an available name to match your needs. Today there are many TLDs to choose from. They are established in genres that target specific industries and geographical locations. While everyone thinks of the web in terms of dot com it has evolved way beyond this simple limitation. Don’t be alarmed your site can achieve equal visibility and recognition regardless of the TLD you choose.
As significant as the TLD is the domain name itself. Long names are not advisable even though they may seem to most accurately identify your business. The more characters a user has to type the more opportunity for misspelling and frustration. It is better to choose an abbreviated name and associate it with the correct TLD. Your website developer will be able to help you do this. The cost of a domain name can range from $10 to $300 annually depending on your choice of TLDs.’
Actual Site Development
This will be your biggest initial investment. It will vary from developer to developer and greatly depends on your requirements. You could compare it to building a new home. If you have modest needs and not so picky about where you live then your cost will be minimal, but if you want a large elegant home in a particular upscale neighborhood you can expect to pay significantly more. You should approach you website in much the same manner as choosing your home. The first question is what type of site do you need:
- Do you need a simple point of presence site to share information about your business to a specific geographical area?
- Do you need to have visibility to a broad geographical area and have a high ranking on search engines such as google?
- Do you need an eCommerce site to sale your products or services?
- If so:
- Is your market local, national or worldwide?
- Will you require shipping services?
- What payment methods do you need to support?
- How many different products or services will you offer?
- How will you deal with customer service?
- If so:
- Do you want a unique site that is totally customized to your business or is the functionality the primary concern?
- Do you need to maintain your own information on the site or will you rely on your web developer to keep it current?
Depending on your answers to these questions you can expect your cost of development to range from $1000 to $50,000. So it is prudent that you take the time to formulate your answers carefully. Your web developer can assist you in answering them. So it is also wise to choose your developer carefully. The biggest and most successful development companies are not always the best choice. There are many small independent professional developers that can provide you service equivalent to the larger companies on a much more economical scale. However. I would caution you that there are also many would-be developers that make great promises but fall short on actual delivery.
You should have solid binding agreement with what ever developer you choose. Ensure that your requirements are clearly defined and not ambiguous. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of the site in detail you should at least have a blueprint of the design requirements. Most developers will require some type of prepayment arrangement. For small site this is relatively simple and should never exceed 50% of the final cost. For larger sites there should be milestone set to commensurate with the payment schedule. These milestone should include demonstration of progress on the site. This will not only allow you to see the progress but it will also dramatically reduce the cost impact of implementing changes.
There are several key features that are critical to the success to any website. The appearance of the website is very important. Visitors tend to stay away from sites that are poorly organized and crowded with to much content. Make sure your site is organized in a clean logical manner and avoid putting to much on a single page. Navigation is another important factor. It should be easy to maneuver around the site. A simple but very effective little tool is a return to top button. It does exactly what the name implies. From anywhere on a page clicking the button will return you to the top of the page thus saving a lot of scrolling. One of the most crucial features is a responsive design. This simply means the website can be views easily on mobile devices. More and more people are using tablets and cell phones for searching the web.
Your best choice if possible is to find a local developer that you can get to know and trust. Myself I am a small independent developer and I have no desire to be part of a corporate environment that places profit before performance. I prefer to focus on individual customers and ensure that their needs are met in a timely and economical manner. I am sure there are many like myself that are available in your area. If you need my assistance I’ll be happy to help you locate the right developer for you.
Establishing a hosting agreement.
This is relatively easy and a very small portion of the cost of establishing and maintaining your website. You website is like any other of your products or services you offer. You need a store from to display them or a warehouse to secure them in. You can thing of your web hosting service as that store front or warehouse for your website. This service is readily available from many sources. Chances are your developer will offer this as part of their service or refer you to a reliable source.Implementing the site on your domain. The cost will depend on the size of your site and the amount of traffic that access it. It will typically range in price from $10 to $100 per month.
Implementing the site on you domain
Most all developers will actually build the site on their own server. Once the development is complete and you have accepted the site as satisfactory to you then the developer will transfer the site onto your domain and make it live to be viewed on the internet. This is normally included in the cost of the development unless there are modification required on your host server to accommodate the site. This however is the time when the balance due for the development is to be paid.
Securing your site
Once your site is operational you need to be concerned about the security of you site. Just as you lock your store or your warehouse to protect you products you need to lock your website to secure your data. The first part of this is protecting the site from spam and this should have been done during the development process. The next part is protecting your site from data loss or theft (Hacking). While spam can shut down you site hacking can both shut down your site and jeopardize your business.
This security is provided through secure socket layer (SSL) encryption. Depending on the type of site you have and the type and quantity of data you store this cost can vary from $10 to approximately $1000 per month. For a small point of presence site that only store data which is publicly accessible on the site the $10 per month service is perfect satisfactory. However, if you are storing customer data and financial records you will need a higher level of security. To determine what level you need it will require that you assess the value of the data stored and purchase the appropriate level of protection. You can compare this to buying insurance. You don’t want to pay insurance on a yacht if all you have is a row boat, but at the same time you don’t want to depend on the insurance on a row boat to protect your yacht.
Recurring cost for maintaining your site
Periodic hosting costs
Hosting costs are a recurring cost. We have already discussed the cost of this service. Most providers offer a monthly or yearly fee, and there is normally a discount for paying yearly or more.
Domain name renewal
Again we discussed this cost as part of developing your site. You just need to be aware that it is a recurring cost. Most providers offer discounts for buying the service for longer periods of time.
Maintenance and updates to your site
Like any product websites require maintenance and updates. This requirement may include keeping you data updated unless you choose to perform those updates yourself. It should definitely include technology updates to keep your site performing correctly in an ever changing web environment. Most importantly the requirements to keep you site ranked high on search engines change frequently and will require some changes on your site to maintain your valuable ranking. The cost of this service is minimal and can be arranged through your developer on an as required or contractual basis.
Marketing you site
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The first step in marketing your web site is SEO. Why you need it: SEO is no longer optional. In fact, it is mandatory, especially if you’re running a commercial website. SEO is a series of tasks that ultimately determine where your website ranks on search engines for a particular keyword. The idea is that your website should be the one people see high above others if a search for your specialty is queried. How much you’ll pay: SEO costs vary per agency, but it is one of the more pricier expenses of anything related running a website. You can expect to pay an upfront cost (likely between $3,000 and $9,000), in addition to a monthly maintenance fee (approximately $200 to $500 per month, on average). The bigger your company, the higher you can expect costs to be. How often you’ll pay: SEO is an ongoing battle, it’s never a one-time thing. You should set aside a budget to pay for a company that knows what they’re doing, with a proven track record. The more credible they are, they more they charge. It’s better to pay a competent but expensive company for their optimization skills than to pay a cheaper but ineffective business making empty promises.
Why you need it: SSL (secure socket layer) certificates encrypt sensitive data like credit card numbers and personal information. An SSL certificate is a must if you run an ecommerce website as it secures and protects your customers sensitive data and personal information from being intercepted. What it’ll cost: SSL certificates are issued by certification authorities (CA’s) and range from $10 a month to as high as $1000 a month. How often you’ll pay for it: Annually, unless you prepay for multiple years in advance.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Why you need it: A CMS, or content management system, is what you use to display text, pictures, videos, articles, etc., on your website. While a CMS isn’t mandatory, having one will save you time, and make your website much more efficient. What it’ll cost: Depending on the CMS you choose, you could be looking at thousands of dollars for a customized one, or pay nothing using popular ones like WordPress. How often you’ll pay for it: Enterprise CMS systems that charge fees are usually billed annually. WordPress is free of charge.
WEB DESIGN EXPENSES
To make your website aesthetically pleasing, you’ll need to have it designed professionally.
- Full Redesign or New Design
Why you need it: If you’re launching a new website, or your existing one needs a makeover, you’ll need to spend some money to have it designed (or redesigned) and tested. What it’ll cost: The costs to redesign a site range from approximately $1,000 to $20,000, depending on what kind of website you’re running, what CMS you’re using, and how much customization is desired. How often you should get one: To keep things fresh and modern, all websites should get a refreshment every few years or so.
- Theme Design
Why you need it: Some content management systems, especially WordPress, provide themes that allow you to change the look and format of your website instantaneously. This may be very convenient, but it also makes our layout similar to others who are using the same theme. What it’ll cost: Most public themes are free. Premium WordPress themes can cost between $10 and $100, depending on its features. You’ll get varied rates to have an exclusive license to the theme, or to have it personally customized. How often you’ll pay: Your theme should be changed every few years or so. If you’re using a free theme, you needn’t worry about such costs.
- Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Why you need it: In 2015, Google began favoring websites that were mobile friendly by ranking them higher than websites that weren’t designed responsively. Responsive websites can detect which platform the website is being used on, and can tailor the layout for screen size purposes. What it’ll cost: Most websites designed today are already responsive. Upgrading an older theme or website, however, could cost you as much as $2,000 to do. How often you’ll pay: Getting your website to be response is a one-time task.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the costs to run a basic website, let’s analyze some of the features that are worth paying extra for. We’ll only focus on add-ons that can turn visitors into customers, increase your online traffic, and raise your ranking on search engines like Google.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Why you need it: SEO is no longer optional. In fact, it is mandatory, especially if you’re running a commercial website. SEO is a series of tasks that ultimately determine where your website ranks on search engines for a particular keyword. The idea is that your website should be the one people see high above others if a search for your specialty is queried. How much you’ll pay: SEO costs vary per agency, but it is one of the more pricier expenses of anything related running a website. You can expect to pay an upfront cost (likely between $3,000 and $9,000), in addition to a monthly maintenance fee (approximately $200 to $500 per month, on average). The bigger your company, the higher you can expect costs to be. How often you’ll pay: SEO is an ongoing battle, it’s never a one-time thing. You should set aside a budget to pay for a company that knows what they’re doing, with a proven track record. The more credible they are, they more they charge. It’s better to pay a competent but expensive company for their optimization skills than to pay a cheaper but ineffective business making empty promises.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Why you should use it: You’ll find PPC ads on the sidebar of Google search engine result pages, the bottom of YouTube videos, and on banners and footers on many websites. They are found everywhere, as publishers obtain a commission anytime an ad is clicked. Because they are so widespread, and paid ads are targeted to specific groups, they are effective in helping businesses get increased traffic. Whether that traffic converts to sales is up to you. Pay-per-click ads are an effective and fast solution to get traffic non-organically. How much you’ll pay: You pay for every ad clicked. The costs per click depend on how many people are bidding on the same keyword you are trying to be seen for. If you want your ad to be seen when someone does a search for “dog walkers” in the Chicago area, but there are 3-4 other dog walkers competing for that same ad placement in your region, the bidder who is willing to pay the highest cost-per-click will rank higher than the rest. The costs depend on how much competition you have in the area you are targeting. Prices can range from $100 per month to $1,000 per month, and higher. How often you’ll pay: You can pay for PPC ads for as long as you want to.
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Why you should try it: Conversion rate optimization can increase website conversions with call-to-action (CTA) tactics like landing pages, newsletters, sign-up sheets, buttons, and other options. One method may work better than others, so it’s best to test which CRO is the most effective with proper A/B testing.How much you’ll pay: A single A/B test package for CRO generally ranges from $300 to $600. How often you’ll pay: You might want to pay for a complete package to test out various CRO methods, or pay for each test individually. Cheaper costs come with packages.
Why you need it: Content to be written for web pages requires copywriting. Strong copywriting is a call to action into itself, as it encourages potential clients to see you as a leader in your field. Poor copywriting involves duplicate content from your own site or from someone else’s. How much you’ll pay: If you outsource copywriting services on an individual basis, freelancers generally charge per word. Some freelancers and agencies offer packages that provide you with all the content you require at a cheaper rate. They may charge extra to update those pages, and charge for additional copywriting upon request. Costs can range from $5 per 500 words to $500 for multiple pages of original written work. How often you’ll pay: Search engines favor websites that produce updated content on a consistent basis, especially those with minimal errors and a substantial amount of text. As such, copywriting expenses should be budgeted monthly, and should be spent on a competent writer.
- Content Marketing
Why you should create content: Customers tend to favor businesses that produce memorable content. Customer trust is established with information that people can depend on. Such content can be delivered through blogs, videos, social media imagery, charts, demonstrations, infographics, white pages, podcasts and other forms of multimedia. How much you’ll pay: Every form of content marketing differs, but none of it is cheap. Infographics can cost at least $500 to produce a single graphic, while video production can reach rates of $3,000 to $5,000. Writers tend to charge by the word, while podcasts require the use of audio equipment and a studio to broadcast from. How often you’ll pay: Depends on what form of content marketing you choose, and how often you publish. Content should be produced on a regular basis, so whatever form you choose, set aside a monthly budget for it.
- Social Media
Why you need it: Social media is a great platform for you to creatively promote your business, without selling to anyone. You can showcase what you have to offer in fun and creative ways, perhaps through humorous memes, video footage, statistical infographics or even a simple message. Sometimes, a business will promote an upcoming sale exclusively on one form of social media in order to make it worth following. Running contests on social media has also been proven to increase followers and engagement. Additionally, social media is a platform where customers can voice their concerns directly and publicly to a business. How much you’ll pay: There are many forms of social media, and you might be charged to have each one maintained and updated. The content on social media should not be identical on all networks, so taking the time to customize content will cost you. Monthly maintenance and updates could cost between $250 per month to $2,500, depending on the agency you use. How often you’ll pay: Social media marketing is an ongoing project, so a monthly fee should be budgeted for it. If you choose to run contests on social media, prize expenses should also be factored in.