It's one of the first questions most folks ask when they begin thinking about redoing their business website.
Fair question. We all live in the real world and we don't have money to burn.
To answer the question lets begin by looking at what you're "buying."
What kind of website are you getting?
It may be a robust, dynamically generated website based on a content management system. It may be a basic, brochure-type website that requires you to go through your developer to make edits and add content.
On the surface, both are tools to help you market your products or services. But the investment - and value - of each are very different.
A content management system provides a greater value because you are more likely to make those changes or add content. When you need to go through a third party - and write another check - you might say "Mheh, I'll wait. It's not that important."
This, however, creates an opportunity cost. You forgo maintaining your website - content becomes outdated, search engine results go down - and as a result lower the return on your investment.
(For more information on content development systems, go to: Content Management System: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.)
How much flexibility are you getting?
You may be getting a website where the page layout is based on the type of information on the page. You may be getting a one-size-fits-every-page template.
One of the most important aspects of effective website design is creating a website that is not only attractive but easy to use - for your readers. Often this means creating one type of layout for your "About Us" content and another type of layout for your "What's Happening" section.
Trying to make your square-peg content fit into your round-hole template may cost usability - which will likely cost you visitors.
(For more information on website usability check out: Website Usability: Website Navigation and Website Usability: Wayfinders to help users find their way.)
Are you buying more than you need?
Just as often as clients ask for too little, they ask for too much. You may be getting a content management system that will allow you have an unlimited number of layouts "just" in case. This is the ugly cousin of the one-size-fits-every-page template.
You can burn through your budget creating a structure for every potential eventuality. Or you can make a reasoned assessment of what you need what you will need over the short to mid-term and build for that.
Paying too much for features you don't need will, in all likelihood, cost you features - or other marketing initiatives - that would help you grow your business.
(For information on combating this issue, read WHY SCOPE CREEP IS YOUR FAULT (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT IT) from Newfangled. Its from the perspective of the website designer/developer but worth reading.)
So how much should I spend on my website?
How much should you spend on your car? It depends.
It depends on:
- what you need it to do
- what features are important to you
- what kind of service you want/expect
- how long you expect to keep it
- what you can afford
When you are interviewing website developers about your project and you ask what a website costs, make sure you understand what that really means.