Last fortnight, one of my favourite social network groups played host to a debate on what a good website should cost.
The dialogue (much of it contributed by people purporting to be web professionals) threw up a range of prices ranging from ‘nothing at all’ to several thousand dollars.
While its participants were twisting themselves inside out trying to impress in the hope of winning the business of the ‘poster’, the same conversation was most likely being repeated in both live and online networks around the developed world.
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Of course asking how much a website should cost, in the absence of more detail, is likely to get that old chestnut response ‘how long is a piece of string’, or ‘how much is a car’ or a house and so on.
So, before you sign on the dotted line (or its virtual equivalent) with a provider, make sure you are across the main cost components of a professional website.
Design: Is it a full custom design, modified template or ordinary template? If it is a full custom design, is it just designing templates that fit around your site, or every single page?
Technology features: Which features and tools would you like with that website, e.g. content management system (editing access), customer relationship management system (for want of a better term, an interactive database), e-commerce, form builders, etc, etc.
Very importantly, are these features built, upgraded and supported by a reputable organisation or by (largely anonymous) enthusiasts?
Content: How ‘publish ready’ is it? Is it well written to promote you for the web or optimised for search engines? How many pages are there?
‘Population’: Are you ‘populating’ (building) the content yourself or would you like us to build the initial site for you?
Search engine optimisation: How optimised is your content for search engines and how much work is required to get it to perform for you?
Hosting: Is it sufficient for your needs? Does the host do all the maintenance, upgrades, security patches, or do you need to do it yourself?
Training and support: How much training and support do you need and is it incorporated in the quote?
Photography: Is photography supplied, do we need a pro photographer or would you like us to search and supply stock photography?
Device friendliness: Does your device-friendly website need to differ in any way from your ‘desktop’ version? Does it just need to be device ‘friendly’ or fully ‘responsive’ (a separate device version)?
Co-ordination: All of these disparate elements need to be pulled together, and that takes time and money.
Future costs: How much will it cost to make changes in future? How comprehensive and easy to use is the content management system, assuming it has one?
These are the main ones, but there is many more depending on your specific requirements.
Once all this is considered, you then have to bear in mind the quality of each, which in turn will impact on price.
But with this checklist at the ready, you will at least be better prepared when the time comes to create or renovate your website.
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.