Website Pricing Guidelines and Website Design Costs
If you are a small business owner in need of a new or updated website, one of the first questions on your mind is probably:
How much will it cost me to get a new website?
From a business owner’s point of view, this seems like a simple question that should be easy to answer.
From the website designer’s and website developer’s point of view, it is a complex question that cannot be answered straightaway without some preliminary information gathering. (You may be wondering whether a website designer and a website developer are one and the same thing. They are not — but that is the subject for another future article.)
Buying a Website Can be Compared to Buying a House or a Car
If you have ever bought a house or a car, you know that your final purchase price is determined by a host of variables.
Housing Cost Factors and Variables
When buying a home, your purchase price will be determined by factors such as:
- Location: Is your home centrally located, close to quality schools and shopping? Or will you need to commute an hour each way to work every day?
- Size: Total number of rooms, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, total square footage, etc.
- Age: Is it a new home or an older home that will need costly renovations and repair?
- Acreage: What size is the lot on which the home sits?
- Taxes: What real estate taxes apply to this home and how much will they increase your monthly mortgage payment?
- Neighborhood: Does the home belong to a neighborhood that has covenants, restrictions, and home owners’ association fees?
All other things being equal, identical homes can vary in price by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars depending on where they are located, the size of the lot they sit on, and other pricing factors.
Car Cost Variables
Likewise, when buying a car, your purchase is determined by variables such as:
- Car Make and Model
- Age of Car
- Additional Accessories (leather seats, premium sound systems, power steering, premium wheels and hubcaps, etc.)
OK, I Get That: But What Should I Expect to Pay for My Website?
As a general guideline, you should expect an expert website designer and developer to devote a minimum of 40 hours to the website design and development process.
Website design and development tasks include:
- Preliminary consultation: Meeting in person or over the phone with the business owner to gain a proper understanding of his or her business and business goals, as well as his or her design vision for their website.
- Initial website design: creative envisioning and incorporating the essential graphic elements in a visually pleasing layout that effectively communicates your business message. Effective design will guide and persuade website visitors to take one or more desired actions that will grow your business. Those “calls to action” could include invitations to call you, visit you, schedule an appointment, request a quote, or purchase products or services online using online order forms.
- Design refinement: Reviewing the initial design concept with the client, revising design according to client requests, advising and educating client if desired design changes are ill-advised and why.
- Keyword research and consultation: Identify top-level keywords and keyword phrases that are relevant to your business, have high search demand and are necessary for search engine optimization to ensure your website gets found online by your best prospects and customers.
- Web Content Development: Ideally, clients provide ready-made content that is properly written for online viewing. Website content should be structured in small chunks of 5-6 lines per paragraph for easy scanning. Website content also should incorporate the relevant keyword or keyword phrase in the page title, in the first paragraph, in the last paragraph, and link to other related or supporting pages within your website. In actual practice, it is a rare client that provides ready-to-go content that does not require some degree of professional copywriting and / or copy editing.
- Image Editing: All images or photographs should be edited so they load fast (website visitors are impatient and hate to be kept waiting while large image files load). They also should be properly identified through “meta tags” (image names, image titles, image descriptions, image captions) that tell search engines what the image or photo means and how it relates to your business. It also takes time to upload images into your website and test to make sure they look right and that related text is placed correctly relevant to that image — i.e., does the text wrap correctly to the left or the right or beneath the image? Does there need to be more white space or margin between the image and surrounding text?
- Add-On Features, Bells and Whistles: Many clients want at least a few add-on features to enhance their website functionality. Such features could include customized contact or request quote forms, image or photo galleries, web video, ecommerce functions (paypal buttons or full-fledge online stores), social media integration (Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and RSS feed hotlinks, social sharing buttons allowing visitors to share or email page links to other people, etc.)
- Under-the-Hood tasks: Tasks that few small business owners understand but are also essential include creating and submitting site maps to search engines, installing anti-virus and anti-spam tools to keep your website secure, checking to make sure your website looks right in all popular browsers (different versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari); setting up Google Analytics to measure traffic to your website, etc.
- Search Engine Optimization: Optimizing website content for search engine visibility and indexing to make sure that your website is getting found by your best prospects. This includes adding your business name, address, phone number and relevant keywords and keyword phrases in search-engine-readable and consistent standardized format to every page of your website. It also includes adding relevant, unique titles and page descriptions to every page, and building external links pointing back to your website from at least 5-6 external “authority websites” like Google Places, YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, Merchant Circle, Yelp, InsiderPages, and more.
This is a high-level overview, and by no means exhaustive, list of the tasks a professional, qualified website designer and developer will perform for small business clients.
Hopefully, it will give you a better understanding of the time required to create and deliver a well-built, properly optimized website for your small business.
So What Is The Bottom Line? What is A Reasonable Price to Pay for a Small Business Website Costs?
The fairest website pricing model from the website designer/developer point of view would be to charge by the hour, because it is hard to predict how long any one website project will take. A fixed-price quote can result in a net rate of pay of $10 an hour or less, which is not a sustainable rate of pay for professional assistance and expertise.
Some small business owners are easy to please and approve designs quickly with few or no revisions; other small business owners may require two, three, or even dozens of design revisions before they are satisfied.
However, few small business owners are willing to commit to an open-ended website price based on the number of hours a designer spends on their website project. Most designers will, therefore, agree to a fixed price with specific limitations on the number of revisions that will be included for that fixed price.
In the American marketplace, professional website designers and developers typically charge between $60 – $120 per hour for their time and expertise. Using that figure as a guideline, you should expect to pay somewhere between $2,400 and $4,800 for a basic 8-10 -page small business website if quality design and workmanship are important to you, and you want a customized design and a few custom add-on features.
Wow! That’s a Whole Lot More Than I Want to Pay for a Website!
If you think about it, a $60-$120 hourly rate is pretty common and standard for a wide variety of personal and professional service providers: hair dressers, massage therapists, personal trainers, accountants, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, copywriters, graphic designers, and other professionals typically charge fees in this range, and even higher.
To put these rates into a livable wage perspective: At $60 per hour, the professional will only keep about $40 per hour after paying federal and state taxes. There are also costs of doing business that reduce their net pay — investments in computer equipment, software, professional training and tools, and more.
Assuming the individual’s productive work hours are about 30 hours per week (discounting time spent in client meetings and consultations, professional development activities, and more) then at a net $30 per hour, your website designer or developer is only earning about $900 per week, or $43,200 per year for a 48-week work year.
Even at $120 per hour, your website designer or developer will only be earning a net $86,400 per year after paying taxes and typical business expenses. This income level does not support a lavish lifestyle in our American economy by any means.
I Really Can’t Justify That Cost So I’ll Build My Website Myself
Some business owners decide to build their own websites using cheap or free website building services to save costs on website design and get the web presence they need. This is a mistake for the following reasons:
- If you want to be perceived as a professional business, you need to invest in professional design.
- Websites built on free or cheap services usually don’t get found by your target marketplace.
Do you build your own house, do your own plumbing, or do your own car maintenance to save money? Most people hire professionals to do these and similar jobs for safety reasons and peace of mind. Website development is no different. Your website presents your professional face to the world of online consumers and prospects; the first impression you make will be a lasting impression. If your website is not designed to impress your prospects the minute they arrive, and guide them towards an action that will lead to a purchase, your time and money are wasted.
As a business owner, your time is better spent managing your business than spending time working within limited free or cheap website design services to create a web presence that will market your business professionally.
If your best prospects and customers can’t find you by typing logical search phrases into their computers or mobile phones, you may as well not have a website at all.
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