The question

This question has been asked for nearly as long as web design companies have been in existence. If you spend 5 minutes doing some research on Google, you will find the answer lies somewhere in the vicinity of FREE to upwards of $100,000.

I’m not sure this helps with making an educated decision as a consumer.

Having met over 200 small business owners in the past few weeks as part of the Achieve More Online workshops, I’ve seen first-hand some extremely bizarre website pricing and fielded many a question about what an appropriate cost might be.

The extreme

Unfortunately, I came across a business (single operator, home-based) who had shelled out over $7,000 for a basic templated web site with 4 pages (Home, About, Photo Gallery, Contact) by a Perth web design company who shall remain nameless. They had also paid for a content management system (CMS) which they had not received. The site would have taken less than a day to put together.

On the contrary, there seems to be an expectation from the SME sector that a high quality website should be somewhere in the vicinity of $2,000 or less.

The price is right?

While I don’t think there’s an easy general answer to the title of this post, here at The Frontier Group we have our own reasons on why our websites are priced the way they are.

The breakdown of a typical small business website:

Research – This is the first stage in the project, where requirements and the purpose of the website are determined. A website needs a real business reason to exist, and we need to know what that is.

  • The website needs to pass the what, why, how, what if? test. ie what/who the business is, why they should deal with you as opposed to a competitor, how you work, what the benefits are of using your product/service or alternatively, the downside of not using your product/service.

Content – This component is often overlooked or left until last. How can your website be effective in communicating to your customers without content? Just what content you want your website to have will determine how the site will be designed and structured. Knowing and planning for this upfront is key.

  • Think about the problem/s you’re actually trying to solve with a website and how that might potentially need to look, do some research on competitors who have successfully achieved a similar outcome in your industry.

Accessibility – Now we’re moving towards the design phase, so it’s time to start thinking about accessibility. We’re committed to complying with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 when it comes to developing a website for all. This makes sure online information and services are accessible by people with disabilities. We adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.

  • Most people designing their own website or using an online site builder will miss this step completely. On the other hand, there’s plenty of companies who will also leave it out, or fail to inform you about it due to price or ignorance.

Wireframing & Visual Design – At this stage in the project a designer may present wireframes of the concept ideas to develop an outline with the customer. Once a layout structure is agreed, they then develop the visual design of the website. At the completion of this stage images or “flats” are produced for each of the individual page types.

  • If you’re after a unique business look and feel, don’t succumb to the temptation of a templated site. While this may reduce barrier to entry, chances are, there’s a hundred other sites out there that look identical to yours.

Prototyping – We produce a prototype website for our customers allowing them to view it in a web browser. This allows them to “click around” the site and get a better representation of how different effects or transitions will appear. At this stage, cross-browser testing and necessary website code validation occurs.

  • Check that the site functions correctly and give it a thorough test. Select a handful of your best customers and give them the option to test it for you.

Deployment – The website is then deployed to a test server, so the customer can approve that the website has been produced to the required standard.

Hosting & CMS – Domain name, Email and Website hosting needs to be considered at this stage. Also licensing and setup of a CMS product for content management. For our customers a CMS is non-negotiable, as it enables the customer to make basic changes to their content on an on-going basis. This negates the need to contact us and pay for changes.

  • Watch out here for vendor lock-in. If you want to pick up your site and change hosting company or web designer, can you do so?

Other Considerations – You might think that the website is now complete, but a website needs constant revision and updating to remain relevant. Other options at this stage involve setup of specific analytical tools, search engine optimisation techniques, email marketing tools and maybe a complete online strategy.

The answer

Armed with all this information, how much would you now pay?

You should be able to make an informed decision as a consumer that you are indeed getting what you paid for. If you’ve got a specific budget in mind, you need to appreciate and understand what that will get you from a reputable company. The value of the website to your business is the single most important point to remember.

Finally, I’ve included a guide to fairly common pricing structures by companies who follow this similar process for small business websites:

  • $0-$3,000 – Simple templated design or inexperienced student or freelancer.
  • $7,000-$15,000 – Small business website with a unique business look. Reputable company/freelancer.
  • $20,000+ – Custom website with unique requirements. Usually requires a large amount of additional programming.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below, as a customer or web design company dealing in this area.