How much does a website cost?

How much does a website cost?

2 Jun

Author : Brad Muncs, Categories : Web Site Development

How much does a website cost?  That's one of those questions that can't be answered with a catch-all response.  We've built websites for 4000$ and others for 150 000$, so the variation is quite large (and advanced applicative-style sites can cost much more than that)!

Websites are like Houses

I often compare building websites to building homes.  "How much does a house cost" can vary enormously based on location, terrain, size of the house, materials used, quality of work, the building company, market price, etc.  The price of a home can vary from a few thousand to several million dollars!

How are Estimates Calculated?

Estimates are based on the number of hours needed to complete a project. While we base ourselves on past experience, not two websites are alike. The amount of time required can vary according to:

  • the type of features required (such as content management system, e-commerce capability, blog, user accounts, etc),
  • the complexity of those features,
  • the number of design templates required (all pages look different vs. all pages look similar)
  • multilingualism and localisation
  • the amount of pages/data to be migrated
  • effects and animations, mobile device optimization
  • marketing, search engine optimization, social media
  • unknowns (integrity of data to be migrated, user workflow, backend report detail, etc)

Uncertainty Principle

Ideally, our clients have a very clear idea of what they want, how it should look and how it should work.  However, in real life, this can't always be the case.  Also, it's often easier to have a clearer idea of design and "feel" of a website, but details about features in the backend are often more difficult to identify at the start (ex: how to manage inventory of color variations of a single item sold on an e-commerce website).

Analysis Phase

On larger projects or those with high uncertainty, we often propose an "Analysis Phase" as "phase 0".  This way, we can help the client evaluate their own needs and determine the best course of action to implement solutions.  This analysis phase culminates with a "project specifications document" which is like a blueprint of how to build the website.

Same Feature, Different Cost

Some features can have different costs based on several factors such as: how advanced that feature is, if it needs to be editable, if it is added to a complex website or a 5-page microsite, etc.

For example, adding a "slideshow" can mean many different things.  Check out both examples below to get a quick idea.  Continuing with the "house" metaphor, it's a bit like buying your kitchen table at IKEA vs. having it custom-built in mahogany by a local carpenter.

Example: basic slideshow vs cool slideshow

Transparency about Client Budget

When we ask some of our prospective clients what their budget is, they sometimes respond that it's "confidential" or that "we'll see based on the estimates received".  Unfortunately, this plays against our clients needs. 

For example, if we know that a client's budget is 20K, we might suggest a "plug-n-play" e-commerce solution, not a fully-customized shopping cart experience with SSL security that synchronizes with his internal software.

Project Management and Quality Assurance

While building the website, we want to make sure that the site works properly and that the client is kept "in the loop" at all times with regular communication.  That is why these items are calculated as a percentage of the cost (normally 20%): the larger/more complex the project, the more project management and QA will be required.

Our Recommendations

For all you future (and existing) clients that will ask web agencies for quotes, here are my top 3 recommendations about how to present your new web project RFPs (requests for proposals):

  1. Be as detailed as possible in your request (features, content, design).  Just saying "e-commerce website that looks like amazon" is too vague.
  2. Provide examples of functionalities and design that resemble what you are looking create for your new website.
  3. Clarify your budget in-house and specify it in your request for proposal.  Knowing it will help us adapt our quote to your needs and limits.

Thanks in advance!


Thanks to Lullabot for a great article about estimation:

Tags : estimate, evaluation, quote

Add new comment