Putting your business on the digital map takes a certain finesse. The first thing that often comes to mind when talking about digital presence, is having a website followed by social media. The realm of website development is vast and navigating through all the options and costs could be overwhelming, to say the least. The website costs could range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. And there are some websites that will cost into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Time is money and you get what you pay for. Someone could certainly charge a few hundred dollars to give you a brand-new website. But, what exactly would you get for that investment? Would you have a website that’s designed to increase your leads and help you rank well on Google? Alternatively, if you spent $15,000 on a website would that put you ahead of all your competition? What should you expect from the different price tags and what pricing option is best for your business?
The purpose of this blog post is not to deter you from getting a cheap website, but to educate you on what goes into making a good website. It’s important, before hiring a developer, to understand the website costs and what can impact pricing. After reading this blog post, you should have a better grasp of why one website developer might give you a quote for $500, while another developer might give you a quote of $5,000+.
Intent Behind Website Development
It’s important to establish your website goals. To start thinking about your goals, begin by answering the following questions:
- Why are you getting your website made?
- Do you need an entirely new website, or will an upgrade be enough?
- Is the website solely intended to function as an online brochure or does it require additional functionality (i.e. online shopping, making reservations, etc.)?
- Is it meant to bring in a continuous stream of leads?
- Do you wish to rank well on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.)?
Once you figure out what you want from your website, your expectations and pricing for the site will be easier to understand. For example, if you only want your website to function as an attractive online brochure, with limited functionality, you could probably just build the website yourself. Or, you could likely hire someone for a few hundred dollars to put it together. But even then, there are some additional considerations to think about, which we will talk about later in this post. If you want a full-fledged website, that’ll run as an independent lead generating and sales machine, spending several thousand dollars is not at all unrealistic. Consider it an investment; if done right, it’ll pay off.
Website’s Search Engine Rankings
If you don’t care about ranking well on search engines, like Google, you might not want to spend much on having a particularly SEO-friendly website. Search engine optimization (SEO) involves more than just creating great content. Getting a website that ranks well in search engines can include the use of images, videos, URLs, backlinks, ALT tags and much more. SEO should not be an afterthought. Rather, it should be included in the development process of the new website. Having a pretty website made for $500 might sound appealing at first but if it is not created in an SEO-friendly way, that could be very problematic. If you do care about Google rankings, then purchasing a cheap site may not give you what you need on this front. Additionally, an SEO-friendly website often provides a better user-experience. Here are examples of how SEO can enhance a website, aside from just improved search engine rankings:
- Quicker website load time
- ADA compliant for people who use readers to have the website read to them
- Enhanced website security
- Easier to read content
- Informative and strategically created content
The time and money put into the cheap site could have gone into creating a website built according to SEO best practices. But, that would make the website cost more. If you don’t care about ranking well on sites like Google, having a website built without an SEO focus can save you money.
What Makes a Website Good (or Bad)?
Not all websites are the same and they don’t all have the same purpose. A good website excels in wowing its users and can effectively convert website visitors into actual leads or sales. Here are some factors that distinguish a good website from a bad website:
Characteristics of a Good Website
- Load time
- User friendliness
- Mobile friendliness
- Clear information
- Domain security
- Reliable hosting
- Tested for quality and functionality
Did you notice that many of those factors overlap with the SEO best practices we already mentioned?
These features directly impact website costs. You should ask your developer or agency what you will get for the price you’re paying. What exactly are they giving you and is the cost all-inclusive? Is it a team that’ll build your website, or is it one person who’ll buy an online template and whip up a quick website? Also, website development isn’t the same thing as management, hosting or on-going security. To learn more about these services and general costs, click here.
Dig A Little Deeper
Don’t just ask a developer if the website will be SEO-friendly. Chances are, almost anyone who builds the website for you will say “Yes.” And they can honestly give that answer because most websites are mobile-friendly these days. Since being mobile-friendly is a factor for SEO, the developer can automatically say it’s an SEO-friendly website. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be as optimized for SEO as it should be, if you’re trying to rank well on Google. Here are a few great questions to ask you developer:
- Will the developer create unique meta titles and descriptions for each page, based on a logical keywords that are important to you?
- When images are added, will the developer add alternative text on the backend, to each image?
- Will each page include an h1 and at least one h2 header, with appropriate keywords being used?
Ask the three questions above, and find some other relevant SEO questions to ask as well. That will really help weed out the developers who aren’t so familiar with SEO. If the developer says they do include these SEO elements in a website, then expect this to impact the pricing. Of course, if you don’t care about ranking well in search engines, then ask the developer if they can build a website for you, without including those types of SEO in the design. If they say yes, then see how much that might lower the cost.
Design and Development
Remember designing and developing are not the same thing. A designer knows what attracts customers and what should work with your brand and your needs. The developer is a technical professional who’s responsible for the coding and actually creating the website that has been designed. A developer will take the design and turn it into a reality. A website with a great design is more likely to generate organic leads. If you’re thinking about doing PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising for your business, your website should use catchy graphics, content and landing pages to help improve your conversion rate.
When a website developer builds a site for a few hundred dollars, they are likely getting a free or inexpensive design that has already been created. Then, they are editing that design with your information. In this case, there might be very limited capabilities to edit the layout or design of the website. If a cookie-cutter style website is fine for you, then this might be an appropriate option. But, before using a site like this, do a little research on the pros and cons of using a free or cheap theme.
If a pre-created theme is being used, then a designer isn’t needed. This will save some money. However, if your developer is going to create a custom website based on your specific business and goals, then this can certainly impact pricing.
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Other Considerations for Website Costs and Management
The process doesn’t end with your website being ready. What happens once the website goes live? Keep in mind the following pointers to discuss BEFORE you hire someone for website development:
- Who handles the changes to the websites?
- Will the developer test the website for quality and functionality?
- What happens if your website is down or you have a broken page?
- Will you be given FULL access to the website along with tutorials to help you make changes later on?
- How many revisions would the designer make?
- Ongoing support is a key factor. Websites are, usually, never a one and done project.
Is It Expensive If It’s Not Cheap?
As you can see, a lot goes into making a good website. An all-inclusive website development involves multiple people and a great deal of work. The more you want from your website, the more time it’ll take. The more time someone spends developing your website, the more they’ll need to charge.
Someone who knows what they’re doing, will actually involve you in the process. They’ll spend time learning about your business, competition and industry. This information will be used during the design stage of creating your website. They’ll tell you what will work and give recommendations, if needed. If you already have graphics or content in place, they can give you advice on how to improve it, to help you meet the goals of the website. They will also be able to take care of the SEO aspects of your website, as talked about earlier in this blog post. Now, if website costs are around $500, would you expect the developer to do all that? Probably not.
Consider this – websites typically take about 80-120 hours to create. This is assuming the website doesn’t require a lot of complex functionality. With that being said, think about the hourly rate. If someone charges $10 per hour for an average 100-hour website, they will end up charging a total of $1,000. If they charge $3 an hour, website costs would be $3oo. Although $300 sounds great, ask yourself this question; why would a developer only value their time at $3 per hour? In most cases, they are either extremely inexperienced or they are cutting corners in the development. If they’re cutting corners, what will you be missing out on? Ask them the right questions to check their credibility and the value of the website.
Can You Get a Great Cheap Website?
We aren’t saying that someone really skilled at their job couldn’t deliver a great website to you for a cheaper price. Someone might just be looking to build their portfolio and reduce their prices significantly to gain more projects. There can always be exceptions. Always ask for credentials, experience, portfolios and references when you find a deal too good to be true. If everything checks out, you might have hit the jackpot! It’s not a common occurrence though, in our experience.
Just because the website development is not cheap, doesn’t make it expensive. Expensive is really a subjective word. One person might call a $4,000 website very expensive while someone else would say it’s so cheap they wouldn’t even consider hiring the developer or agency. They think a website should be at least $10,000 if it’s quality. If a website fulfills its goals and gives your business a head start over your competitors, that’s an investment well-made.
How to Find a Good Website Developer
Here’s another consideration: The average developer charges an hourly rate of around $100 per hour. Don’t be surprised if the developer says they charge somewhere around $75-$125. That’s very normal. If they charge much less, than ask why. Ask the same question if they charge much more. Once you have an idea of their hourly rate, take a look at their previous work and see if it’s an appropriate rate, based on what they charge. If they’re a good fit for you, and the pricing seems fair, then move forward. When a prospective developer doesn’t seem like a good fit, look for someone else.
The purpose of this blog post is to explain why there is such a significant range in website costs. While we didn’t talk specifically about how to select a website developer, that’s definitely something we skirted around. That topic though, is worthy of an entire series of blog posts. There really is a lot to think about when hiring a website developer. For that reason, we published a series titled “How to Hire a Website Developer.” You can find all seven blog posts in that series here: https://www.jjlyonsmarketing.com/category/series-how-to-hire-a-website-developer/
We hope you found this blog post helpful. And if you need help updating or creating a new website, let us know! You can connect with us through the contact form below.
As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.