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What variables affect website cost?

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One of the most frequently asked questions with regards to website design and development is, “How much will it cost?” If you’ve ever asked this question to a web development professional before, I can almost guarantee the answer is along the lines of “it depends”. Which, for many business owners attempting to plan a budget or get even a general idea of costs, can be frustrating. To get a better understanding of the costs involved, there are 5 general questions you should ask yourself before reaching out to web design firms for quotes.

1.) What is the number one goal of your website?

The driving motivations behind having a website in the first place can ultimately affect the cost. It’s important to identify the business goals you want your website to achieve at the forefront so you can ensure your web design company can quote your project properly and produce a deliverable that meets your needs. Common goals for websites include:

Awareness: Some companies simply need consumers to know they are open for business. Typically, these websites display the services/products they offer, their address and contact information. These types of websites are usually the least expensive.

Lead Generation: This type of website generally involves more in depth functionality such as the ability to fill out a form, take a quiz, or download a PDF or sample software. A website with the primary goal of generating leads will be designed and implemented differently than other types of sites.  

Online Sales: A website looking to generate actual sales online requires much more detailed product pages, a higher level of security and the ability to easily add, edit and delete information as products change. These types of websites are generally the most expensive.

2.) What content needs to go on the website?

It’s important to analyze your content needs at the forefront. This will help you better estimate the cost for a couple reasons. Firstly, it will help you understand approximately how many pages you will need. If you plan to display a variety of product lines and individual products on unique pages, that requires additional page layouts, time and effort on the part of the web designer.

Secondly, understanding your content requirements will help you better estimate the kind of help you’ll need from your web development company. Companies requiring highly technical or specialized content may write much of it themselves for the website meaning you won’t need to pay your web development company for content development. However, you if you simply don’t have the time or writing skills and your content is more general, you may rely on your web design company to write most of the content which will drive up the price.

3.) Does the website require any sort of database on the backend?

This is likely the biggest factor that would affect the cost of your website. For certain types of website functionality, a site must be connected to a behind-the-scenes database of information. The complexity and use cases of this functionality can vary wildly, depending on the needs of the company. However, here are a couple examples of websites requiring a database on the backend:

Customer/Client Log-in: If you are interested in disseminating unique information to your customers on your website via a log-in and password, your website will require a database as well as a Content Management System. This will allow you to setup new users and add, edit or delete information from each user account. This functionality can be a highly effective way to communicate and distribute information to customers, however will drive up the price of any website.  

E-Commerce: If you plan to accept payment in any way shape or form on your website, you will not only require a database on the backend to capture customer purchasing information, but also a heightened level of security on your website. These types of sites require more planning, design and programming which make them more expensive.

Dealer/Store Locator: Incorporating any sort of locator into your site also requires a database on the backend that typically links zip codes with a list of all stores or dealers in a given area. Again, building this type of functionality into a website will drive up the cost.

4.) Do you want to add, edit or delete content yourself?

If you require frequent content changes on your website, you will probably want to invest in a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS allows you to easily make changes on the site via a graphical dashboard rather than paying a web design company to make those edits each time, or learning to make changes yourself in the code itself. For most business owners, this is the most cost effective way to build a site in the long run. Some examples of companies requiring a CMS include:

Real Estate: Real estate companies are a good example of a type of business that uses their website as a primary lead driver and requires constant changing of listings, pictures and other information on the site. A CMS allows you to do this quickly and easily to ensure your site is always up to date.

Bloggers: If you plan for a blog to be one of your central digital marketing strategies, you will likely need a CMS on the backend to allow you to easily add new blog posts, or edit existing posts. Many Content Management Systems also integrate with social media allowing you to easily share new content across your social channels.

E-Commerce: On an E-Commerce site you are likely changing the products featured on the site on a regular basis including images, product pictures, pricing and availability notices. The ability to do this in a time-efficient and cost-effective way will save money over time.

5.) Do you want any special features?

Finally, you will need to identify if your website needs any special features. Any sort of special feature will require additional planning, design and programming time on the part of the web development firm which will drive up the cost. Some examples of special features include:

- Appointment Scheduling

- Web Calculators

- Customer Review Integration

- Filtering Functionality

- Product Registration  

Asking yourself these 5 questions before you ever reach out to a web development firm will give you a much better idea your business’s website needs so you can make sure you choose the right design partner at a fair price.

Contact us today to work with us on your next web design or marketing project.