Definitive Short Guide to Website Development Costs and Hitting That ‘Sweet Spot’ For Your Business

Website design & development prices vary because agencies are trying to make a different level of profit, have a different level of skills and / or have a different understanding of client’s requirements. It is not unheard of for an agency to quote one price at the beginning of a website development and for the costs to triple at the end.

This generally comes down to inadequate planning from the start and one of the key reasons that we always recommend putting in place adequate budget at the start of a project for initial consultancy and documentation.

Is price a true reflection of an agency’s quality?

There are some good digital design agencies out there that are inexpensive and other bad agencies that are expensive (even more so because they deliver poor quality products – doubly bad value). Value does not come down to low cost, value comes down to getting what you want or need at a price that is beneficial to your business – after all, if every time you invested £1,000 into your business, it returned £2,000 – that is good value, even though you are spending £1,000. Yet, if investing £10,000 was to return £20,000, that better value even though it’s more expensive!

In general, you get what you pay for and a £150 website redesign (as we have heard quoted) sounds suspiciously low. Is the work being done in the UK? Do they have a good understanding of what is required? What is the quality of their work like? For a potential client, if they have received a low quote that becomes their price ‘anchor’, then all additional quotes that might be in the thousands can seems like bad value, but can offer much better value when viewed from a return on invest perspective.

Perhaps a best first step is to ask for a relevant professional reference from the agency. Make sure the website design agency matches the referee’s turnover levels to yours, so that you have a realistic comparison. I have been involved in created websites for SME’s for under £2,000 and on the other side, websites for larger corporations with budgets over £100,000. References must therefore be carefully selected in order to provide realistic expectations.

It may be difficult to image how there can be such a difference in the cost of designing a website, but put simply, a larger budget allows more time and resources to be allocated. Many smaller businesses have ’till shock’ at the initial consultancy costs for the start of a project. However, the initial consultancy stage is incredibly important, creating a stable platform for the development of:

o content

o design

o code

o delivery

Without adequate consultancy, discussion and documentation, most projects are doomed to fail. Larger projects many have week and even months allocated for initial consultation and documention.

So what is a good ballpark idea of website development costs?

The ‘average’ business website would have between 10 and 30 pages of content created in HTML with contact form, some search engine optimisation, easy-to-use navigation and some basic animations throughout the site to engage with visitors visually. So let’s estimate the cost for a hypothetical basic 10 page website with quality design.

Consultancy & content

There should be around 5,000 words of content (500 words per page minimum) with each page targeting three specific phrases. These phrases should be researched in search engines like Google in order to accurately target the best terms for you business.

This leads to clear content guidelines for the pages plus naming conventions for the pages themselves and can take several days on its own. A larger site, one with hundreds of pages, would take longer to ‘rationalise’ as access to content becomes more complex, as the navigation structure must work within a ‘deep’ content environment.

A good ballpark for the consultancy for a 10 page website would be £1,500, broken down into:

o 1 day for project consultancy & brainstorming

o 1 day to document the projects requirements & expectations

o 0.5 day to research other sites, terms in Google

Design

The creative process is perhaps the most difficult stage to pin down in terms of time scales and costs. If the client has a clear idea of what they want from a design perspective (and can illustrate it through other example websites, print materials and/or brand ‘values’),꽁머니사이트 the design process becomes quicker (and therefore costs less). However, if the client is looking for the creative agency to do all the work (“just make it look nice”), then there is more time and cost on the part of the agency.

Good creative design needs time to mature and develop otherwise the resulting product can be ‘shallow’. In our experience, for the average 10 page website for a small sized business, the ideal balance of cost vs. creativity is:

o 1 day to consult, information gather and brainstorm with the client

o 3 days to create design concepts

o 2 days to artwork content pages

If branding is involved, then a further three days after the consultancy stage is required, bringing the overall design process to two weeks (a rough budget of £6,000).

These are broad generalisations of the design process and businesses in general. You only need to look at the breadth of businesses in the UK, to get an idea of the breadth of potential costs associated with a website development.

Multimedia details

Once you introduce multimedia & interactive elements, costs become significantly more ‘spread’ because of the types of technologies involves and the relative work required to make each perform.

Flash has become a common element in websites, helping to lift the design of website page by bringing animation & interactivity to the content. It is possible to create a short 10 second intro animation for a website for a cost of £600 but does this actually add value to the website? It is doubtful.

A series of animated components distributed across various pages of the website might cost more (perhaps £1,500) and in spite of the higher cost, deliver much better value in the form of a better experience for website visitors.

Video can very quickly communicate the ‘values’ of an organisation, but can incur significant frontend costs in terms of the creation of the video. However, cheap video cameras and home editing software, means that it is possible to high impact create video testimonials from clients very cost effectively.

Interactive navigation provides a good, cost effective element to your site, as it is going to be used by site visitors many times and therefore becomes one of the most ‘noticeable’ components of the website, yet applying creative flair to the navigation should not cost much in terms of design & coding time.

HTML coding

Putting together simple HTML pages doesn’t take long or cost much. A simple HTML website can be code in a day, but again, the risk to your brand can be high. How often have you visited a website and immediately gotten the impression that the website was put together by someone’s “brother in law” or a student? Did you continue to investigate that business as a potential supplier? No.

So why take that risk with your own business? The small details on the webpage are obvious signposts as to the quality of HTML code that businesses are likely to recognise. A well constructed, modern website is accessible (even if at the most basic level of users being able to set the size of the print), quick to load (but with the prevalence of broadband these days, an agency would have to be making some fundamental mistakes for the site to be slow to download), use CSS (making it easier to update the design across all pages of the website from a single file) and readable in all browsers.

Writing good quality HTML code does not rely on tools such as Dreamweaver. The job of these tools is to make writing code easy – but unfortunately, this is often to the detriment of the code quality itself – so ask the agency what tools they use to create their code. If the agency is writing code from scratch, then it is likely to write better quality code and to have a better understanding of how that code works.

For our fictional 10 page website, the cost of producing quality, well constructed HTML code would cost on average £3,000

o 1 day for setup of CSS, navigation & overall page layouts

o 1 day to chop-up graphics for the pages

o 2 day to write HTML code with quality details (such as meta tags, alt tags on images, code comments)

o 1 day for testing

Setup & installation

Website hosting is cheap as chips these days. It is possible to find hosting for as little as £5 per month. However, there are costs associated with setting the account up, purchase of domain name, putting the website online & testing. These costs are likely to vary depending on the complexity of your website but again, using the 10 page HTML model website, the whole process shouldn’t take more than one day.

Ongoing maintenance costs

Keeping the content on your website up-to-day is essential – absolutely critical. Research indicates that after design, the most important factor in deciding the quality of a website is how often and how recently information on that website has been updated. People return to websites that update their content often and search engines ranking sites that update content often more highly.

The consultancy process should identify the best approach for keeping content up to date – whether a content management system is recommended or if it is more cost effective to edit HTML or text files directly. This may sound like a technical process, but it doesn’t need to be. A couple hours of training, especially with a website that has only ten pages, is often all that is needed to put you in the driving seat – saving you on development & implementation costs.

Overview

The overall cost for a professional, quality 10 page website constructed in HTML can be broken down as follows:

Consultancy £1,500

Design £6,000

Programming £3,000

Setup & installation £600

Ongoing maintenance DIY and pay nothing!

Inevitably, the quality of your website and its business performance will be reflected in its price, but this does not mean that more expensive is necessarily better. We often hear of companies charging many £10,000’s of points for websites that can obviously be created for much less.

Larger agencies have higher overhead costs and work on larger margins than smaller agencies. There is a sweet spot in terms of website development cost that is unique to you, so make sure you get at the very least three quotes for your project (and ensure that all the website design agencies has the same understanding of your requirements), but ideally try to target five quotes, from around the country.

Jan-Erik Paul is a freelance journalist for the extreme sports, creative design, and persuasion science industry. In addition, Jan-Erik is MD of E-creation, an award winning creative design & marketing agency based in Bournemouth, Dorset and Gerrards Cross, London.

Established in 1998, E-creation delivers creative marketing & digital projects incorporating persuasion science. Clients include Slough Borough Council, BP, London Underground, Learning & Skills Council, Royal Bank of Scotland, Unisys, the NHS and City & Guilds.

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