Why Good Websites Still Cost $25,000 or More
In years past, it was common for websites to cost $75,000, $150,000 or even more due to the absence of pre-built templates and the need to program each website from scratch. Fortunately, this has changed with the emergence of easier-to-use templated content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. These and other tools have made the development of websites a much faster and easier task than back in the day when you needed hardcore HTML programmers to develop your site.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in human cognition – psychologists call it an opponent process – people overcompensate, and so the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Many people are under the false impression that good websites can be built for less than $5,000. Au contraire. Don’t be deceived by those who offer you a low price quote, only to discover that all of the things you needed for your new website were “not included” in the low bid and will cost you “extra.”
Building a website is a lot like building a house. The details of a website are much like the square footage, number of bedrooms, and style and finishes of a house: They determine the time and costs required to build the site. Until these elements of your website have been scoped, a specific and realistic cost estimate cannot be provided.
One of the biggest challenges we see among those who expect a website to cost $5,000 or less – besides not comprehending all of the elements and functionality the site needs to possess – is the penchant to focus only on the development costs and to ignore brand and content. Referring back to our house analogy, that’s like thinking about the house only in terms of framing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, windows and doors while ignoring all of the things we interact with, such as wall coverings, flooring, cabinetry and furnishings.
For a good overview of typical development-only costs for various types of websites, visit this post by the Executionists: http://bit.ly/1QLZmR3. We are not going to delve more deeply into development costs here as the link above does a great job of covering the subject.
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Brand and Content: The Oft-Neglected Components
In our experience, the majority of website clients underestimate how much time and effort is required to build a proper online brand experience and the creative assets required to bring that brand experience to life.
Your website is an important, if not the most important, element in your brand’s marketing mix. Digital marketing efforts are centered around your website, and customers and prospects alike turn to your site to evaluate your brand’s promise and credibility. As such, just putting information in a style or template to get your site up and running is to ignore the competitive leverage your website can and should provide.
The site has to reflect your brand promise and pillars. If these do not exist, or if they haven’t been updated, then it is critical to build or revise your brand platform first.
For an overview of developing a brand platform, you can download a free document from Six Degrees here: http://bit.ly/1N3wCTz.
Your website should also reflect your brand style, and ideally you should have a brand style guide that is applied to the design of your website. If you don’t have a brand style guide, the website is likely to be designed in terms of what the designers prefer instead of what customers should expect from your brand.
But beyond brand, you also need to consider the assets your website will require – not just at launch, but for regular updates and site freshening. All too often, we encounter old and nonoptimized content that no longer fits with a new website in terms of brand and search engine optimization. Sites that use untouched stock images and videos create an immediate impression of “generic” and “unrefined,” perceptions that few brands want to communicate. But enhancing stock content or shooting new content takes time and effort and also requires a brand platform and style to be in place, even if rudimentary. Quality copywriting is another area that is often overlooked or taken for granted but requires a skilled resource to provide. Your website is arguably more about brand and content than it is about development and coding. People interact with your website in the same way that they interact with the things in a house that they can see, hear and feel. Compelling video, imagery and written content are essential to a customer’s or prospect’s branded experience on your website. Make sure it is the best impression you can make, or they will leave and not return. Turn to your branding agency for help with creating high-quality content – and do not forget to perform quality control on your content! Few things undermine your brand’s image and reputation faster than typos or poor grammar.
Finally, another source of expertise (and therefore cost) that falls under development as well as brand and content is how to optimize your website for search engines. You want your site to be found by your target audience(s) for the products and services you are offering. This means making sure you are using the right keywords, meta tags, titles and content that your target audience is actively searching for, and that you avoid making a number of common mistakes. Fortunately, there are resources available that make much of that work a lot easier than it used to be.
Here is a resource that will help you assess and improve your website’s passive marketing potential and SEO: http://bit.ly/1GeL5Jo.
So, what should a good website cost? While it always depends on the particulars, you should expect a well-designed and well-branded website to cost between $25,000 to $45,000, unless your site is a simple blog site. Anyone who promises to build you a website for less is lowballing you and taking advantage of your proclivity to focus only on the development and programming costs of the site and not on the branding, content and marketing optimization. This will end up costing you more money and frustration.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have about improving your website.