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How Much Does a Website Cost? Understanding The Key Cost Drivers

By October 27, 2014April 20th, 2015Web Development

A website’s cost can be difficult to calculate. Technology has advanced to the point where websites range in price from $100 “do-it-yourself” projects, to projects that cost well over $100k and require an entire team of highly skilled individuals. The difference between the two extremes is the amount of time and expertise invested to important website development tasks. These tasks act as key website cost drivers, and understanding them is the first step to calculating the final cost of a website. When calculating the cost of a website, keep in mind that the key website cost drivers are designing the aesthetics, creating the content, and programming the advanced functionality.

Designing website aesthetics

Designing the aesthetics, or the look and feel, is the first key website cost driver. This includes page structure, layout, font, colors, typography, and other features that brand your website and make it unique. When it comes to website aesthetics, there are two design options:

1) Theme-based website design
2) Custom website design

Theme-based: With theme-based development, you are basically selecting a pre-built website theme that includes page layouts, font and color styling, and basic built in website features. There are thousands of themes to chose from with different styles, looks, feels.  If you can find a site design that suits you well, it’s a lot more efficient than trying to design from scratch.

From there, you can decide how much you want to modify and customize it to make it your own.  This can range from almost no customization to a very high level of customization. The further you stray from the theme design, the more time and expenses you’ll incur. I recommend finding a theme that meets 85% or more of what you want, and moving forward from there.

Custom: A custom site is like going to a haberdashery, where they will custom measure you, pick custom fabrics, you can decide on your buttons, lapels, everything individually.  If you have specific functions that you want your website to accomplish, a custom design is right for you. Building a custom designed website is time-consuming and costly, but the result is a one-of-a-kind website that has everything you want, the way you want it. This uniqueness can leaves a lasting impression on visitors and provide huge returns. If nothing off the rack fits, or if you have specific wants and needs, or if budget and time are of no consequence, a custom website is the only way to go.

Creating website content

Creating the content, or the material that goes on websites pages, is another key website cost driver. This material includes headers, footers, forms, pictures, videos, graphics, words, documents and more.  When it comes to filling the pages of a website with content, there are also two options:

1) Repurpose existing content
2) Create new content

Repurpose existing content: Repurposing existing content is only possible if content currently exists. Finding existing content is not usually a problem as it can be found in the form of an old website, sales materials, internal and external documents, photos or videos used for advertisements and more. When you repurpose existing content, you take this existing material and modify it for public viewing, make it timely, and strategically add keywords and links for SEO purposes. It is much less time consuming to repurpose existing content than to make new content, which makes it the more cost effective option. I typically recommended that content be repurposed, if possible.

Create new content: Creating new content is best for startups with no existing content, or established companies that are rebranding or trying to enter a new market.  It is very time consuming to create content from scratch, but doing so will allow you to have complete control of the language and message. In addition, website content today needs to be optimized for search engines, visually stimulating, and stand out for you to compete, which is why I recommend using experienced content creators when creating new content. Doing so is not cheap, but the uniqueness, targeted leads, and greater ROI you get from new content created by individuals with experience make it worthwhile.

Programming advanced website functionality

Programming a website’s advanced functions, or making a website able to perform specific tasks, is the final key website cost driver. This can include social integration, photo galleries, intuitive forms, comment systems, a blog, e-commerce components like a shopping cart and more. Some of these functions can be implemented into a website quickly and easily with a simple plug-in, while others need to be programmed from scratch by someone with knowledge of code and years of experience. You can save money by keeping website functionality to a minimum, but sometimes these costs are unavoidable. For example, websites built to capture online sales require e-commerce components that require a skilled programmer which cannot be substituted. Be mindful that programming your website’s advanced functionally may have the largest affect on overall cost as it requires a skilled individual and many hours of labor.

Designing the aesthetics, creating the content, and programming the advanced functionality are the key website cost drivers. For your next website build or redesign, understand that the final cost is affected by the amount of time and expertise invested to these three tasks and plan accordingly. If you would like to discuss your next website project, feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to help.

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