Article: How much does a website cost?

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How much does a website cost?

How much does a website cost?

A common and reasonable question.
The answer most people get is that "It depends".
And this is correct, but a general rule of thumb would be useful, right?

One thing you can be sure of - the bigger, the more complex and the more effective you want your website to be, the more it is going to cost you. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is true.

If you pay a budget price, you aren't getting a great deal - you'll be getting cut corners. BUT - if you do decide to make an investment, you should understand what things are really going to make your website hum - and fancy design flourishes is not one of them.

The things that affect the cost of a website:

Level of customisation – if the visual styling and layout is designed from scratch by a graphic designer and then built pixel by pixel it will be a lot more expensive compared to use of a pre-built design 'template'.  It's a bit like getting an architect to design your home vs buying a Jennian or Stonewood home that is built to a plan you select.
Size – number of pages, images and/or files increase the cost. But there should be little difference between 5 and 10 pages.
Functionality – whether it has payment facilities, image galleries, email marketing module etc. will naturally lengthen the development and testing time and therefore the cost.
Bundled services – whether logo design, copy writing or search optimisation is included - if yes, up goes the price assuming these additional services are quality options.
Level of consultation – some web companies will build exactly what you tell them to, while others will develop user persona's, conduct usability testing, competitor and keyword research. Naturally the later will come at a cost.
Responsive design - although many web companies include a responsive design as part of the package, be careful. If you are not paying any extra, the site will probably only respond in a basic way - i.e resizing and hiding a few columns. True responsive design means thinking about the experience each different user will have and what they are trying to do for each device type - and this will increase the cost. 
There are a lot of people who say it should just be integrated and shouldn't cost more - this tells me they've never had to go through (what can be) the pain of building and testing a site across multiple devices and screen sizes and ensuring the experience works every time.  Template builds tend to incorporate responsive elements at not much extra cost.
Quality - while not always the case, you generally get what you pay for. Don't treat a web designer/developer like their skills are worth as much as your paper boy's. Designing and developing a half decent website takes time and thought.

How much will it cost in real money terms

The following is a guide for the cost of a website in South Africa.
These figures do not cover monthly hosted solutions where there is no or little set-up, but are you pay-as-you-go.

You'll get nothing except the tools to build it yourself. You could use something like Wordpress or Google Sites. And you have to think your own time has no value.
You won’t get on the front page of Google with a free website. Chances are it won’t generate leads either.

You'll get a limited number of pages (less than 5 and often only 1). You'll pick from a selection of very basic templates and there will be no customisation of the visual design. You'll have to upload the content yourself.
Unlikely to be any add-ons and reporting will be basic or non existent. You can setup a Wordpress site with quite a good (purchased) professional template, and spend a couple of hours doing it yourself for a reasonable cost in this range.
Watch for 'includes' that actually have no real value such Search Engine submissions.

These will still be template sites but may be more choice, with slightly nicer designs and/or include extras such as an image gallery, contact form. The designs however may be simple and/or ones that are outdated in terms of styles, fonts used etc.
Still will be a limit to number of pages i.e around 5. You might be a bit of tweaking of the template colours to match your logo but that will be about it

Still likely to be template design but may get some degree of customisation or the content may be uploaded for you.
It could include a flash header, image gallery etc.
You should get some basic responsive features, like the main menu collapsing and images resizing.
What you won't get for the above:
Search Optimisation of any real value. Often people working at this level don't really know how to get a site ranking well for any competitive keywords
User optimisation - to make the site work for it's money.
A template does not buy you a site that is easy for your audience. It is still plug-and-play
By now you should be getting a site built with a content management system that you can (if you want to) use to update the site content yourself.
A note on content management systems – for cheaper installations it will generally mean you can change the existing content or add new content within the existing site architecture and often nothing else. Adding new sections or changing the layout won't be possible.

May be custom designed if small and/or a simple design is required.
More likely it will be a pre-built template but with options of where the menus are, colour scheme is matched to your brand colours, possibly additional modules, extra menus etc. The quality of the templates should be better than for cheaper options.
Should have a decent Content Management System powering it.
You still won't get user optimisation or SEO (search engine optimisation) beyond the basics such as search friendly URLs and title tags – and you may have to specify these to get them included. You may also have to specify a decent analytics package like Google Analytics (although we include them in every site, this is often something skipped over if people can get away with it).
Links to your social sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. often come as part of the package, but make sure you can remove them if you aren't active on these.
You should get some basic responsive features, like the main menu collapsing, layout reorganisation and images resizing.
This should really be the entry point for a small business or sole trader if you want a half decent site. However, even if the site looks nice enough it is unlikely to make you stand out from the crowd.

Now you start getting into designs that have more customisation or are based on a template that has optional design features.
You could get extra functionality such as payment capability, blogs with commenting, image galleries, contact forms, email marketing modules, social feeds etc.
But you won't get all of these within this price range, or if you do you may well have to do some of the configuration and setup yourself.
Custom functionality like integration into third party systems and creation of visual assets will still be extra. Content creation (i.e writing) will also be an additional cost.
These site's should be search engine friendly, although we've seen some in this price range that are not because the business didn't specify that as a requirement. You should get some element of technical SEO but may also get some strategy applied i.e structuring the site architecture around your keyword phrases.
You should get some responsive features, like the main menu collapsing and images resizing, and some device specific content or elements.
It isn't until you get to this level that you start getting even half way 'serious', with something that has more thought applied in terms of how it will generate leads, and how it presents your business. However, you are still unlikely to get a site that stands out above the rest of your industry in some way.

Start to expect something extra – this may be in the form of a custom design, copy-writing of your content, SEO research and integration into the structure of the site, custom graphics, photography or ECommerce functionality (i.e shopping cars and payment processing). May even include set up of social media accounts for Twitter, Facebook etc.
But even a 'simple' site can easily cost this much if you insist on multiple reviews and tweaking of the design. If each page has a separate layout this will also extend the time taken. If the site is large (say over 50 pages) the time to upload the content will start to add to the cost.
Search friendliness, good reporting, a blog, the ability to add unlimited pages (within hosting storage limits), email marketing elements, additional menu items, calls to action etc should come as part of the package. You should get transition from an old site to the new in the form of 301 redirects (so you don't loose search ranking position), but there may be a limit if there are a lot of pages.
If you require member-only access to your site it can sit in this price range, but again it depends on what else you require and how sophisticated your needs are.
You may still have to do the actual uploading of content yourself or it may be included depending on mix of requirements.
If no additional functionality required, expect a custom visual and layout designed by a graphic designer (preferably with some user experience expertise) for this price range.
You STILL won't get:
Ongoing marketing that will generate consistent leads and sales, such as Adwords, social campaigns
Management of the site – reporting, optimisation, care and love
Technical upgrades, security monitoring etc unless agreed for a period of time
Custom imagery (i.e photo's taken professionally)

R25,000 – R100,000
Should be a fully customised design - which means a designer will start with wire-frames, and design the visuals from scratch. There could be variations of the design across the site (e.g different colour or different layout for different sections). Probably a larger site that requires sizable project management and collation of content from multiple stakeholders.
Would expect the input of a user experience professional to fine tune the layout and support of the buying process.
The extra cost may be for custom functionality, application development or integration with back-end or third party systems, software licensing costs etc.
Company wide training on CMS with customisation of content management work flows may also be included.
Would have to be a responsive design, with consideration taken of the different audience needs and experience on mobile devices.

R100,000 plus
As above but bigger (hundreds/thousands of pages) or more complex in some shape or form.
For corporate entities this kind of budget is not unusual.

Additional Costs

Standard ongoing costs you should allow for:
Hosting - for a few rands a month if you want to manage it yourself (only for web developers and IT enthusiasts!) How much you pay should reflect the level of support you get. R100 is average but won't include much active support. If you are paying more than R100 expect at least a monthly backup, extra space or some other feature.
Domain names R100-R300 a year depending on name
Secure certificates (depending on level of security required)
Transaction fees to process payments - a few percent per transaction.

The kind of thing that increase costs (sometimes significantly) are:
Paying for a web designer or developer by the hour. You use up their time and it's on your ticket!

Usually required for custom or complex projects
Any kind of custom functionality (i.e code) or integration with other systems that doesn't come 'out of the box'
Changing your mind about design elements after the build has begun
Creative - brand development, custom flash animations and graphics, photography etc
Content creation - writing it from scratch or editing existing material
Migrating content from an old site to a new one
Any kind of strategic planning and implementation including market research, social media plan, promotion (offline and online), ongoing brand management, SEO.
Software licenses for multiple users
If you want the site to work for people who use TV to browse the web or still use Internet Explorer 6.
Ongoing marketing of any kind

Don't pay extra for......
Reporting. Google Analytics only takes a little bit of time to be set up, but should be included or only a minimal cost. Unless you want campaign or event tracking and goals setup for you (this will be extra)
A Content Management System (CMS) – most sites are supported by a content management system unless it is a one page campaign micro-site, so having one is 'standard' not 'special'. The cheaper sites however may only have very basic update capability. Some graphic designers still insist on hand coding sites so you need to ask about updating the web site up front.
Search Engine submissions are rubbish, but set up Google Webmaster Tools and submit a sitemap to give it an initial kick. If not, as long as there is a link somewhere to your site, the search engines will find it, just a bit slower.

Things your developer wished you realised increases the time and cost

There is quite a lot involved in building a well functioning, optimised website.  There are many ways that clients (unknowingly) can increase the time spent on a project. Sometimes it's about the developer not being willing to put sub-standard content on a site or having to spend a lot of time on project communications.
You will or should get charged for these so be aware that if they don't increase the cost of a site they will try your developers patience, and it may well lead to corners being cut:
Having to chase you for content.  An email might only take a few minutes but its a disruption
Editing your content - do spellchecks and provide it in the format requested
Resizing and cleaning up your images
Review meetings.  If you drag the chain (ie are slow) to give them what they need it means constantly have to spend time reviewing a project and reading up on where things are at
Changes to the scope or structure - adding things last minute like new pages, features etc
Asking for design tweaks after the build has started
Conversations or email questions that start something like "Check this out, what do you think?" or "Do you think we should"
Having your cousin/brother/friend/collegue who knows something about IT provide helpful hints or questions

If you do delay in providing content, don't assume the developer is waiting for you and can do it the instant you get it to them.  Particularly if freelance, the chances are they've moved on to another project or other client work.  Which means you've missed your scheduled time and may well have to wait quite some time before they can get back to yours.

Be Careful of Promises:
To get you on the front page of Google
To create a sales powerhouse
To include setup of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Google + pages – this does not automatically make you social
Directory listings in the 'hundreds' or 'thousands'. There are a few worth doing, but once you get into offshore listings, they aren't worth it
Mobile versions of your site 'automatically' or at no extra cost. True mobile oriented user experience design takes thought. Read Responsive or dedicated mobile site – which one is best? that will explain what more is at stake.

All this only gets the foundation - ongoing marketing campaigns, content creation, technical management, security, measurement, care and attention are required. Either you employ someone to do it or outsource it but budget for it either way. A small-medium business's budget should start anywhere between R30,000 and R100,000 per annum for this ongoing work.

Redi Internet develops websites that sit in a number of these price ranges and yep, it depends on what you need!

What has your experience been?
If you're outside of South Africa we'd love to hear how these prices compare!
And if you agree/disagree with these ball park figures or think we've missed something - let us know!