Just How Much Should a Website Cost?

How Much Should a Website Cost

So, you need a new website. If you’re like most business owners, one of the first questions you’re going to ask any potential website developer is:

How much is this going to cost me?

The answer may surprise you. Mike Carroll, Creative Director here at Kaleidico, has seen a lot of clients pay too much for their last website. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, you should probably never pay more than $20,000 for a website,” he says. “Far too many new clients who paid a small fortune for their last website are now having problems with its basic functionality.”

Your Website Is an Investment, Invest Wisely

There’s no question that investing in a great website is key for any business. And not just any site build will do. You need a site that:

  • Positively represents your brand,
  • Is easy and intuitive for site visitors to use,
  • Maximizes your conversion rate,
  • And boosts your lead generation.

It’s a tall order for a website’s requirements, sure, but each of these project benchmarks are a must for your business. Similarly, achieving each of these project benchmarks could be incredibly profitable. With value-based pricing models, the potential for profit could factor into the high prices some companies are paying. Still, Mike says that’s not what people seem to be overpaying for.

Website Owners Overspend on Custom Builds

“Too many people are paying for a custom-built CMS they can’t use,” explained Mike. A CMS, short for Content Management System, isn’t a part of the website your visitors can see.

Instead, a website’s CMS is the interface the website owner uses to administer their site. The CMS handles everything from allowing site maintenance to publishing, editing, and organizing content. A CMS can automate the access levels granted to different members on your team and facilitate a collaborative workflow for managing a site.

While your customers may never see it, your website’s CMS will become a familiar side of your website that you and your team work with most often. With such an important job, you might think it’s worth it to pay for a custom-built CMS to manage all your site’s content.

“Typically, I see people who end up with an interface that’s got limited functionality and is difficult to use,” counters Mike. If you can’t easily modify your site or its content via your CMS, or, if it can’t do what you need it to do, your investment in a custom build won’t give you a good return.

The Best CMS Is Customizable, But Not Custom Built

When it comes to choosing your web CMS, 99% of the time a customizable out-of-the-box solution is usually the way to go, says Mike. You may have heard of one of these popular options:

  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • WordPress

“We build a lot of our client sites with WordPress,” explains Mike, “It’s totally customizable on the front end [the part of your site seen by visitors], yet it has that power of a professional content management system on the back end.”

WordPress is a free software application, much like your email account, Internet search engine, and social media accounts. But don’t judge it by its cost. Kaleidico isn’t alone in our love of WordPress.

Websites Can Be Custom as Well as Easy to Use

With a platform like WordPress, your web developers can bypass trying to reinvent the wheel with a custom CMS, focusing instead on building functionality and ease of use into your new site. So what functionality do you really need in a website?

“I’d say about 99% of businesses only need a website to do three things. You need:

  • A blog, where you can publish blog posts, company updates, product info, etc.
  • A place to organize and display resources, such as static web pages, industry research, photos, and video.
  • And maybe an e-commerce component offering a catalog of products or a page for available services.”

Functionality like this lets you control more aspects of your website, which is always a good thing, even if you don’t want to devote time now to managing your site yourself.

The Importance of Owning Access to Your Site

“In today’s world, it’s important for website owners to be able to make changes and publish new content,” notes Mike. Perhaps you don’t want to manage your website yourself, but it’s important to have the option.

With a CMS like WordPress, you don’t need to pay a professional developer every time you need to publish a blog post, add or remove a product from a catalog, update the CEO’s bio, or add a staff photo of the new accounting intern.

Having the control to make these site changes is powerful and makes for a leaner organization, whether it’s you, a team member, or a contractor who didn’t work on building your site that’s doing the updates.

Situations Where You Should Spring for a Custom Build

At this point, you may be wondering about that other 1% of businesses that do need a custom built sites. There are some special situations where a good bit of this advice won’t apply, both to how you should build your site and what you can expect to pay.

Mike explains, “The only time you should pay more than $20,000 is when you’re getting custom software that adds custom functionality and perhaps an interactive component.” What’s that mean exactly? Here are a few examples:

  • You want to have an interior decorating site that lets your users create interior design layouts with furniture and materials you can then sell to them.
  • You sell highly customizable products and want a website that includes an interactive feature to demo a user’s customizations as they make their choices.
  • You need to build a site that handles large numbers of intensive search queries, like those for flight deals, insurance quotes, or stock trading.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. These are the types of features that require extra web development work and, consequently, a higher price tag. In fact, any custom features like those in our examples could quickly send the cost of a site above $50,000 and potentially even into the six-digit territory.

But if your site has a blog, a moderately sized product catalog, and some static page content, you don’t need custom functionality and shouldn’t be paying for it. Most sites fall in this category.

So what should you do when you’re speaking to a potential web developer and they bring up creating custom functionality you really don’t need? “Run for the hills,” Mike surmises.

Conclusions

If you’re on the hunt for a web development team, now you have a good frame of reference for what you can expect to pay and why.

Paying for a new website is an investment, for sure, but one where features and costs aren’t your only concerns. Make sure your website is as easy for you to manage and make changes as it is for your customers to use. And lastly, don’t overpay for features you don’t need or want.

Keep this advice in mind, and you’re more likely to get a website that looks great and provides great value to your business without breaking the bank.

See how Kaleidico can help you build the website you want, at the price you want.