The more homework you do, the less cash you will part with
Understanding the differences between website design and website development helps.
The website salesperson
Different clients pay different prices based on the the perceived size of their wallet. You will pay premium for your technological naivety. So do a bit of homework when buying a new website. You already know how much your original website cost, so you have an idea about the market.
A doctor will pay three times as much for the exact same new website design as a cleaner. A tradie twice as much. This is evidenced by the myriad of specialist web design companies building sites for lawyers, government departments and health professionals. Listen carefully. The actual service is the same. God help you if you’re a government department in need of a website makeover.
A website salesperson’s job is to find out;
- What your budget is.
- What you don’t know about web design.
- What you want done the same.
- What you want done differently.
It’s best not to reveal your budget and keep mum about what you don’t know :)
What you should actually expect to pay for a website
A professionally built web site – say a 12 page site with a form and a gallery designed to generate leads for a small consultancy – should cost between four and six thousand dollars. A freelancer will charge about the same or maybe a bit less. A web design firm will charge more for even the simplest of websites ($15K is a typical quote for basic websites). A student or “bedroom designer” (say a uni graduate) could charge very little (say $1,500 for a basic 10 page website with one form) and if you look off-shore (India or the Philippines) you can get (what looks like) the same thing for hundreds.
We really don’t recommend going off-shore but that’s for another post.
Read our article about website design prices for more detail about website prices.
Custom Vs. Off-the-shelf website functionality
Custom functionality is more expensive because it takes a long time to get right. There’s the design, testing and deploying phase. And then the client has to be happy. Off-the-shelf functionality is much cheaper as there’s a myriad of off-the-shelf plugins that do common jobs effectively.
Examples of typical web functionality
- a booking form
- event listings
- document management
- photo gallery
- home page slider
- business directory
These things are relatively cheap because this kind of stuff has been built elsewhere on the web. Because competition is fierce and most of these things are available as plugins, you can incorporate quite complex functionality into your website without having to re-invent the wheel.
A web designer’s skill set
Knowing the skill set of your web designer or developer helps.
The same goes for programming. If it already exists (and is freely or cheaply available) it will affect the price.
If you are doing something that is highly unique, you will pay a premium. Because most things have already been done on the web, check out familiar sites to show your developer.
Draw up a website wishlist
To keep costs down, list what you need on your website (alongside what you don’t need) . . .
- Do you need to promote regular events?
- Do you need a shopping cart? Or will a single PayPal button do?
- Is your site a membership site where each member has their own page?
- Is your site going to perform specific industry calculations?
- Will you list your services on a location map?
If a company or website design firm has been going for 10 years or more, you will most likely get what you pay for. But research the company first.
Web design agencies with a bad reputation
The best deals are always made with web designers who are keen to make an impression by building up their portfolio. The web design industry is very competitive. Stayers often survive for a reason (Geoffrey Multimedia was established in 1997, but Edwin was personally building websites for screenwriters back in 1994). While AUS$10,000 for a stock-standard, 10 page WordPress website with a contact form is too much, that would be a great deal for a fully secure, eCommerce website with products and a shopping cart.
Sadly, more than a few web development agencies are pretty poor when it comes to servicing clients. Often you can find this out by reading their own Google Business Reviews. While websites are the primary hubs of communication between business and customer, the web design industry is infamous for terse emails and a sausage-factory style approach to service.
If you are considering parting with more than about $5,000, do some detective work.
Talk to their clients
Web development agencies (or freelancers) usually have a list of clients. At the very top of their portfolio page will be their show-pony website. It’s the bottom of the list where they keep their less fancy websites or even difficult customers. Contacting those clients personally (by asking about their website design experience) will give you a sense of what your potential developer will be like to deal with. If you don’t want to call, shoot them an email asking about their experience.
You can find both good and bad press by checking out a company’s Google Plus reviews. I’ve read many a bad review on web company’s own Google sites.
Posting your query or asking for web designer recommendations here on Iinet’s Whirlpool Forums will save lots of shoe-leather.
A stock standard website, with a form and 7 or 8 pages can cost you as little as $500.
While we really love building small websites, larger companies will baulk at a $5,000 job and pass your job on (often to us). About 30% of our work comes to us through larger competing companies. We have no issues meeting other web designers and developers – it always leads to more work. We even pass larger, more cumbersome (dare I say boring) jobs on. Naturally we only pass stuff up the line if we think the job is not a good fit for us and if we trust the company.
If you’re shipping beer around the world, running regular social media campaigns with streaming on-demand services, a customised real-time e-commerce experience and an online game, expect to pay a premium. You probably need a brand management agency, not a web developer.
I’d rather people fill in this website questionnaire and send it through so we can give a more accurate breakdown of budget. Incidentally you can download the printable PDF version of this form by clicking this button.
Website Questionnaire (PDF)
Short of filling in exhaustive questionnaires :) a bullet-point list of must-haves and would-like-to-haves is a good thing to send a potential web developer when getting a quote. Getting requirements down on paper speeds the website development process up. Put as much as you can on paper. Bullet-points are fine. No web developer likes scope creep (when additional work gets added to a fixed quote) and will quickly relegate a perceived “albatross job” to the bottom of the pile.
Clarity of purpose will save you money because developers are likely to over-estimate any job with unknown factors.
Author: Edwin James Lynch
Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jump-jet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites and guides companies through best practice, future-proof web development. He lectured 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best tutor out of 2,500+ Open University Australia tutor / lecturers.