“I’m sorry but you didn’t get the job.”
These are never nice words for a business operator to hear – particularly when you work hard to get the business in the first place.
But I smelt a rat.
Apparently our competitor came in several hundred dollars cheaper than we did, despite us trimming our costs to the bone.
I was curious just where our estimate blew out. So I rang the client to find out where we were beaten.
“Naturally we like to get feedback to remain competitive” I said.
“Can I double check we quoted on pretty much the same website?
Comparing apples with apples
Custom design? Check. Project management? Check. Training and support? Check. Content development and implementation?… Sorry?
“Content development and implementation. Is there no line item for that?” I went on.
“Oh no, we were told we have to do that ourselves. They’re giving us training to use the CMS (Content Management System).”
The content development and implementation bit, where we take the client’s provided raw content, edit it and optimise it for search engines, then implement it into the website ready for publication – our most expensive line item and a critical component of a professional website, was not included in the competitor’s quote.
In other words, they quoted on about two thirds of a website.
Remove that element from our quote and guess what? We beat them on price.
Unfortunately this scenario is not uncommon when it comes to websites. Because few website estimates contain precisely the same ingredients.
So, as to ensure you know what you are getting when you get a website estimate, here’s a checklist of what you will need and a rough small business price range for a professional 10-page website.
There are really three ways of designing a website. Basic modification of a template ($100 – $300), a custom design laid over the top of a template ($600 – $1200) and complete custom design ($800 – $1500) for a small business website design.
This can be quite a surprise for the uninitiated. If you or one of your team aren’t good photographers, you will need to hire a pro to do it for you (at $600 – $1500 a day) or be prepared to pay for the labour in searching ($50 – $80 per hour) and rights to stock photography ($5 to $50 per image).
3. Content development and implementation
As above, its rare that your ‘raw’ content will be able to be added to your website without some serious editing, optimisation for search engines or even some re-writing. Then typically the approved content is added to the website ready for publication.
The cost will depend on the amount of work required to get to a professional level but for 10 pages, it will be $500 – $1200.
4. Project management
All of these disparate elements need to be co-ordinated and kept on schedule, which takes considerable time.
Expect to pay $200 – $400 for the labour involved in project managing a 10-page website.
Without work done on your Search Engine Optimisation, there’s a good chance your customers won’t find you on Google etc. Sometimes SEO is included in your content development and implementation component but if not, expect to pay $250 – $750 to SEO a 10-page website, depending on the competitiveness of your industry.
6. Training and Support
Whilst websites are getting easier and easier to manage thanks to developments in editing technology, few smaller businesses get by without some training and support allocation.
Expect to pay $60 – $120 per hour for this.
This is probably the most confusing line item of all, often due to poor industry standards and terminology. At its most basic, you might have a free ‘CMS’ which needs to be hosted reliably and with sufficient storage and bandwidth for reasonable traffic. Expect to pay $5 – $15 a month for this.
However, you may have been set up on a ‘software as a service’, proprietary (company owned) CMS which will include a licence to use the system, full technical support and free upgrades. This can cost anywhere between $15 and $60 per month for a fully featured platform.
Another tricky area. If your website is ‘open source’ (developers have access to the development ‘code’) expect to pay more for ongoing maintenance due to the cost of upgrading, securing and syncing disparate plugins etc. Some charge up to $100 a month for this.
Conversely, your maintenance costs will almost be non existent if you are using a proprietary platform.
9. Miscellaneous extras
There is no shortage of features or functionality you can arrange for your website. Animation, video, calculators, forms, effects… the list goes on and on. These can cost anything from a few dollars for a ‘plugin’ to several thousands dollars of labour hours to have these created and implemented.
Futureproofing my website
This is one of the most difficult aspects to predict as you will want to alter your website almost as soon as it is published. If you have a comprehensive CMS or website platform, many alterations will be able to be done by you or your team, however the addition of new design and features can soon mount up.
To avoid surprises, try to get an idea of the alterations you are likely to want in the near future and get an indication from your web pro as to how much it will cost to make them.
If possible, try get them to stick to that estimate for at least 12 months.
Offshoring and crowdsourcing
There’s no doubt that some of these costs can be trimmed considerably by finding an offshore provider or by using a ‘crowdsourcing’ (allowing service providers to ‘bid’ for your work) agency. In some cases both of these can yield good results but there have also been horror stories – particularly when it isn’t covered under Australian law. Make sure you do your research before trying these.
But my quote doesn’t include these!
Unfortunately there is no standard means of providing a website estimate. Some of the items may be given a different name or description and some might be included under another heading.
Either way, I can tell you that without the above elements, you will not have a complete and/or professional website.
In which case you might need to ask questions of your provider.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.