We get asked how much a website should cost at least once a week. It can be by friends, friends of friends, business connections, anyone really. When they learn what we do for a living, they invariably ask us “what should my website cost?”

If only it were easy to give a good answer.

The fields of web design and web development are filled with a wide spectrum of professionals, hobbyists, students, freelancers and outsourcing firms around the globe. Web design projects can also vary, beginning at a few simple pages in a “brochure” website to complex websites that have a content management system, e-commerce, and interactive features. Some projects can be completed using open source free download packages, template projects based on work already done such as “choose from one of these existing designs”, application service providers using ready-to-go packages, or work custom designed and developed for you.

And these are only some of the variables that contribute to the pricing. We won’t even get into fixed price or estimate pricing or subjective variables such as the interest level of the project and whether the firm is desperate for new business, not to mention the grossly unqualified or the bait and switch prices. We once saw a firm bid $500 to make a complete banking website with the ability to do everything a banking website should be able to do… We’ve also seen companies charge over $1 million, have a team of 50, and deliver a basic 5 page website after over a year of process. In this industry everything and anything is possible and logic can often be thrown out of the window in regard to pricing.

What will your website do for you?

Determinations on how much you should spend on your site should take into consideration what you are anticipating in terms of Return On Investment (ROI). If your website is your primary sales and marketing piece and the way that most people find information about your company it makes sense to spend more on the site since it has more value to your company’s bottom line.

Other returns on your investment could be in the form of:

  • saved time and resources by accepting information through the website
  • saved money on printing and shipping materials by placing digital copies of those materials on the website
  • increased productivity
  • social marketing and collaborative ventures
  • anything else that you want to accomplish through your website that contributes to your organization

The value you derive from your website and its contribution to your mission should have a direct correlation to the amount of money you’re willing to spend on your site.

Be prepared to spend what you’re willing to spend

Your website can cost whatever you’re willing to spend on it but you should limit the budget based on your above ROI determinations. It can range from looking like a bad ad in the yellow pages to the greatest marketing piece you’ve ever seen. It can be one page or dozens of pages, it can be hard-coded or it can have an easy to use Content Management System integrated with it, and it can be flat or it can be interactive.

Obviously the more unique, the more functional, and the more interactive the more expensive the project, but good and unique graphic design is also an expense to factor into the equation. In much the same way that two girls won’t be caught dead in the same prom dress, do you really want your website to look identical to a competitor’s website? Distinguishing yourself costs money.

Deciding the budget for your project should be an allocated part of your overall technology, marketing, advertising, and operating budget and not a one-off expenditure. If you haven’t established a technology budget or determined how technology fits within your strategic plan you should consider hiring a Virtual CTO, and if you’re ready to start getting quotes, we recommend our primer on how to select the right web design and development company.

Don’t spend it all in one place

As we’ve mentioned in our last article, your web project doesn’t stop at the launch of your new site, but there are also a number of incidentals that you need to consider such as hosting, maintenance and upkeep… and keeping the site fresh with content and functionality that continues to advance the goals of your site.

Keep some money in reserve and plan for the future beyond the site release.

Researching for your website redesign?