Putting together the perfect website isn’t easy. Design, functionality and accessibility make for lots of moving parts and shifting goals. So how do you assess exactly how much your website will cost to make?
The bad news is, pricing a website can be complicated and difficult. Every website is different and has different needs and requirements. Those needs often change as the design process goes on. There’s no hard and fast universal rule for determining pricing. For a smaller site, the end price could start with as little as $500, but could easy go to $6000 or more, depending on the size of the project. For larger projects, the costs can vary even more.
The good news is, it’s still possible come up with a rough estimate of what your website will cost, based on various factors.
Five Points on Cost
What determines how much a website will cost? In our (considerable) experience, it mostly comes down to five unique factors: content, unique views, features, optimization, and management.
Content is the heart of your website. Without it, your site is literally nothing. Your content needs will be one of the main determinant of your website’s cost.
When taking stock of your design needs, consider these questions:
How much content do you need? How much do you already have?
Does the content need to be researched, developed, or edited?
Do you have multiple sources for your content (video, testimonials, photos, etc.)?
Once you have your content needs in place, it’s time to think about how that content will be presented. Do you want a blog with search capabilities? Categories and tags for your content? All these elements will require their own dynamic, custom views, which should be designed for maximum impact and with SEO needs in mind.
It’s no mystery that a bare-bones website with a bit of text and some photos isn’t tough to design. But the more features you put on your website, the longer the development time and the more the cost.
Ecommerce, mapping features, importers, and 3rd party API integrations will all take time and money to properly incorporate into your site. Customized features will require their own unique views to be developed, so they can be attractively and effectively presented to the audience.
A website does no one any good if it doesn’t run smoothly. Research, testing, and optimization of coding and design is just as important as the coding and design itself. Once the content, features, and views have been developed, it’s a necessary part of the process to make sure they’re optimized in terms of speed, efficiency, and reliability.
One major factor that most estimates don’t take into account: the management process. Agreeing on design and features is simple enough if there’s one point of contact with the designer, but that’s rarely the case with major projects. Long approval processes, frequency of meetings, phone calls, and emails, and lack of a clear plan will all add to the development time. More development time means more money and higher costs.
A tight or rushed deadline can also increase the cost, and possibly cost you more later if problems arise because of a rushed design process or feature implementation. This is why, despite the “time is money” aspect of website development, it’s often best to give the development process room to breathe. Creativity is an iterative process, and people on the planet will create perfect content on their first pass.
How to Get a Good Estimate
Put together, these five factors determine much of what a website’s cost will be in the end. But the approach to the design process itself will also be a major factor.
For example, at point A, a design process might follow established best practices and end in a clean, well-designed site that works. At point B, the designers and client can obsess over content placement for every page and use conceptual interviews to research and back up every single decision.
One of these processes will take longer than the other — it’s easy to see which one. The first approach works well for small organizations, but the latter is often required for larger organizations.
When looking for a website estimate, it will be to your benefit to keep all these factors in mind. Pay for discovery and outline your needs in an RFP so you can get estimates from multiple sources.