Updated 20 June 2019.
This post has been brewing for a little while now, and a conversation earlier this week with a fellow industry professional inspired me to write it. (Thanks, Mike!)
A simple equation: More investment = a better end result
As in many things in life, you get what you pay for.
If you bought a suit from Primark, would you expect that wearing it would make the same impression as one from Savile Row? Of course not. You are paying for something of higher quality that carries more prestige.
It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the cheaper option. It may be perfectly serviceable and all you need. Perhaps you don’t wear a suit very often, or just need it for a one-off occasion.
So why pay more? You are paying for something of higher quality that carries more prestige, and will last longer. Something that is made-to-measure and tailored for you. The whole experience of buying such a garment is more enjoyable, and you’re likely to have a longer-lasting and more fruitful relationship with the tailor than an anonymous checkout girl.
What do you expect your website to deliver?
If your goal for your site is to generate £10,000 of business, and your budget is £500, is that really realistic? You would be expecting a 1,900% return.
The biggest website myths
Myth: A website is a one-off cost
A website is not really a product – it’s a service.
A website is never finished. There’s always something you can improve.
I like to think of websites being like plants – they are living, growing entities. You need to nurture your website by adding content, like you would feed and water a plant, or it will wither and die. It’s a constant, ongoing process.
Myth: The “if you build it, they will come” mentality
In the early days of the Web, just having a website at all was a novelty. You could attract visitors just by being there.
Not so now. The total number of websites is nearly 1 billion.
You cannot sit back and wait for traffic any more. You need to be constantly marketing your site and encouraging visitors to come – and revisit.
And once they are there, encourage them to take the actions you want them to take – buy a product, contact you or join an email list.
What is a website for, really?
Brent Weaver said:
No one wants a website – they want more leads and sales.
A website is a really another marketing tool. But like any tool, it won’t work for you unless you create it and use it in the right way.
What really goes into building a website worth having, and how much does it cost?
Your overall goals for your website will depend on what your business is and who your audience is.
Spending some time and money figuring that out at the beginning is a good idea.
This will include factors such as:
- Email marketing (you can start with a free email marketing service like MailChimp, but need to pay for more subscribers and features)
- Social media
- CRM integration
- Content strategy and promotion
- Paid search
Do you need a logo? Colour scheme? Business cards? Specialized graphics?
To create a consistent brand, you’ll need to spend at least a few hundred pounds.
Content and copy
“Content is king”, as they say.
While the aesthetics of a website are important, content is what will keep people coming back.
A site like Reddit is not very pretty to look at, but its rich user-submitted content keeps visitors engaged, and it’s currently ranked by Alexa as the 32nd most visited website in the world.
Content doesn’t just cover words – it’s images, video, animation, audio and downloads too.
How often are you going to change or update your content? If your content is stale, you will bore your visitors and the search engines!
Who is going to produce them, and just how much will it cost?
Writing your own copy is fine, but for a more professional touch you will want to hire a web copywriter. They specialise in content such as landing pages, sales pages and blog posts.
For copywriting, you could pay tens to hundreds or even thousands of pounds, depending on the amount and purpose.
Stock photos can be free or range from a few pence to pounds, depending on the size you need.
Video could cost anything from free to millions, depending on how it’s produced and how long it is.
Don’t forget the cost of promoting your content, too – it’s just as crucial as creating it.
Design and development
How is your site being designed?
The traditional process involves:
- Site map
- Design mockups
Software like WordPress is free, and many themes are free too, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost time and money to set up a site.
Even for the simplest site using a pre-built theme, it will take a few hours minimum to add the content, build the navigation, configure widgets and select and install the best plugins. Some plugins are premium and cost annually, like Gravity Forms (from $39/year).
Adding more functionality like e-commerce or a membership area will bump up the price considerably.
Who Is Hosting This? has a website cost infographic showing prices for different website types in US dollars:
- Brochure Website: $1,190 – $3000+
- CMS Website (includes WordPress): $2,235 – $10,000+
- e-Commerce Website: $2,600 – $10,000+
I don’t know any website owner who doesn’t want to do better in search.
Even if you’re #1 for the term you want, Google is constantly updating its search algorithm, and there’s constant competition.
Most SEO specialists charge a monthly retainer of hundreds or thousands of dollars for their services.
If you want to know how your website performs, you need to be able to measure it somehow. There are a number of tools which can be used – Google Analytics is a common one.
Google Analytics is free, but it requires some skill to set it up, configure it (you might need custom programming to exclude your visits from the stats, and you’ll need filters to avoid referral spam), use it to set goals and to interpret the statistics.
Your choice of host is an important one – and the options vary from free to thousands in price.
If you run a site such as a membership site or ecommerce site, a good host will pay dividends with better uptime, backups, security and support.
Your website project will have the greatest chance of success if you can communicate your needs clearly at all stages.
Both client and contractor(s) need to be available, honest about what they expect, be able to take advice and compromise where necessary.
The trouble is that most people tend to underestimate the back and forth meetings, emails, phone and Skype calls that occur in the process of putting a website together, and it’s got to be paid for somehow.
There’s not much point in having a website if you don’t know how to use it or update it!
Training on your website needs to be factored into the overall cost.
- How many hours of training will you need?
- Do you want the training in person?
- Do you need videos or documentation as a refresher afterwards?
Are you going to maintain your site yourself, or pay someone to do it?
WordPress and other content management systems have software updates regularly. As with Windows, you need to update to the latest and greatest version to get more features and patch security holes.
Following good security practices, using security software and taking regular backups are key. These are super important if you’re selling online.
The cost of not doing so may be a lot more if you get hacked and have to put things right. Malware removal from Sucuri starts at $199 yearly.
There may also be other housekeeping tasks to do such as to moderate comments, remove broken links, redirect pages and so on.
Overall – can you get the best website for £500?
Do you really think that you can have all of this for £500?
I’m not suggesting that every single website will incur all these costs; more giving an idea of the scale of work involved.
It would be lovely to just click a button and have a fully-formed, beautiful and high converting website appear, that updates itself. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.
As a final thought, read what designer Sarah Parmenter has to say on the subject: Why I Can’t Build a Website for £500
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