As a small business, you know that you need a website. But you don't want to spend all of your profits, or your marketing budget for the year, on a new website. We get it, you're a business owner and you want to be able to make sure that a new website doesn't break the bank. Buying a website is like buying a new vehicle, you want to make sure that the website has the correct features needed to support the business. The cost, however, seems like a mystery when you start asking people.

One person may state it costs about $500 and another may say it will cost tens of thousands. If you ask another half a dozen people, you'll get an additional half a dozen different numbers. The truth is that there is no magic number that will fit with every project. A lot depends on what you want your site to accomplish, what features you want to include, and a number of other factors. 
The total cost can be narrowed down if you can answer a few initial questions and then take into account some of the hidden costs that often throw a person off because they aren't put into the budget. Let's take some of the mystery out of determining the cost of a website.

Initial Questions

Cost will vary depending on who sets up your site. For example, you are likely to pay more for having a professional set up your site than doing it yourself. A design company will charge more than an individual. Keep in mind that you are paying for, among other things, experience. The more people involved, the more experience you have at hand. Ask the following questions to begin:
What is the upfront cost of a website?

This will depend upon how many pages you want as well as what custom features you are asking for. Most agencies have a set base price for a custom design, a few pages, and a few key features. They should also be able to answer what extras are included and what the ballpark cost of unincluded add-ons will cost. Note that sometimes price ranges will be given depending upon what you are looking to do. It’s like asking “how much does a custom house cost?”

What is the monthly cost of a website?

This is mainly based upon what monthly services you will need. Most websites now need security updates on top of hosting. It also depends if you want to have a set number of hours each month of support. Some places charge monthly while others base their cost on a yearly rate. It will also be different if you own your own domain name or are renting the name from the design company.

How long until I have to redesign or rebuild my website?

Websites need to be updated regularly but if you have a great design, a complete redesign won't be necessary for 4-5 years unless your business undergoes a major change of direction (for example, rebranding). In most cases, regular updates to include new technology and security updates is all that is necessary.

How much time does it really take to build?

This is a tricky question to answer. The timeline of a website project depends on a few things: how complex the website will be, how much content we have to create and/or migrate, and communication between us and the client. Time can be reduced if there is great communication between everyone involved in the project. However, it can also increase if response to questions is slow and multiple revisions take place. So, if you have a deadline in mind make sure that is known and clearly communicated.

Will you really understand what I want/need?

This is where communication is key. A reputable web company will have an initial questionnaire for you to fill out. They will interview you and will get feedback throughout the process. If you commit to being available and are willing to both listen and explain, there is no reason you can't get a final site that is exactly what you want.

Now let's take a look at some of the hidden costs that sometimes get forgotten when you start planning for your website.

two people's hands reviewing and pointing out things on a professional looking document

Hidden Costs

Many of the hidden costs involved with a website can be determined in advance. Others, however, are personal things that are difficult to put a monetary value on. Let's take a look.

Domain Registration - Your domain is the unique name by which others can find your site online. While some hosting companies include this in the initial setup, others charge a separate fee. If you have to register your domain name yourself, you will be looking at somewhere between $15 and $25 dollars a year for a .com, .net, or .org.

Hosting - Hosting involves having a place to keep all your website files so they can be accessed by visitors to the site. Your options are shared hosting, where you basically rent the space, or VPS hosting, which is more like having your own private hosting space. VPS hosting often offers you more freedom in what you post and how you run your site. In addition to the price variance between the two types of hosting, each type often has tiers in their pricing, depending on how much space and bandwidth you need. On average, shared hosting cost $3-$10 a month. VPS hosting will run you an average of $50-$150 a month. We bundle our hosting and security updates as one cost.

Theme (Design and Building) - This is the largest part of the initial cost of your website. Some places separate the cost of design and building, but most companies will combine the two. The price is often listed as a certain price for so many features and the cost will rise with each added feature. How complicated the site is will also be a factor. On average, you can expect to pay between $2500 and $6000, although it could run much higher if a lot of the extras are included.

Custom Features - This can be anything from an integration with MailChimp to a full custom online learning management system. When it comes to custom features it's best to map out what you want the custom feature to do. There is no way to get a ballpark figure on this category without doing research, planning, and mapping out ideas. Talk with the web agency and together you can get an idea of what you may need. This will help you know what is included and what will run you extra.

Security Updates - Regular security updates are often included in the initial setup but most websites need ongoing security updates. This is especially true for sites that accept credit cards or collect any type of personal information (including email addresses). In these cases, you will need an SSL certificate, monthly or bimonthly security updates, and a secure server. You can expect to pay between $100 and $500 a month for basic security updates.

Storage and Backups -This is another cost that will vary depending on how much data you will need to backup and store. You can expect to pay about $10 dollars a month, or $120 a year, for backups. This is another category where doing a bit of research may help you find the best deal. We always include backups with our hosting.

Your Time - How much do you know about designing and setting up a website? Will you need to learn how to code or do you have time to teach someone else how to? Determining how much time it will take for you to design and set up a site is something that only you can determine. Most business owners don't have the time to learn the skill that a professional already has. Ask yourself if you have enough skill available and if you have the time to spare or if your time can be better spent on activities such as promotion and developing your own business. What is your time worth?

Your Peace of Mind - This is the one hidden cost that is priceless. You need to ask yourself how comfortable you are with the ones you entrust with your website. You may be able to get it done fairly inexpensively, but will the site be of the quality that you need or want? Remember that your website is in many cases the only impression others have of you and what you offer. What is a good impression worth to you? We monitor our clients website 24/7/365.

What is a website worth to your business?

This is often the bottom line when deciding how to go about getting things in place. You may hear people saying their site doesn't seem to bring in any business. This isn't an indicator that a website doesn't work, it is an indicator that the site is somehow broken and needs attention. Researching, designing, deciding on content, all these things take time. Your site has the potential to make the difference between failing and succeeding at something that means a great deal to you. Determining just how important your business is to you will help you determine just how much your site is worth.

Is Your Website a Pet Rock?

You may be too young to remember the pet rock fad that took place in the mid-1970s but you may have heard about it. Someone got the idea to box up simple rocks and sell them as the perfect pet. They didn't need to be fed, watered, or taken for a walk. As buyers jumped on the bandwagon, decorations were sold and everyone wanted a pet rock. Yet, they did nothing but sit there and eventually, as all fads do, their popularity faded away. Are you seeking a website because it is like a pet rock and everybody seems to have one?

If your reason to create a site is just to have one because everyone says you must, then you can build one for almost next-to-nothing on free sites like Squarespace or Wix. You don't need access to custom features or a great deal of security. Backing things up isn't necessary. Your site will become a modern-day pet rock, sitting there and taking up space, but doing nothing.

Is your website a pet rock or is it meant to have value to you and your business? Only you can make that decision.
 

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