Pricing a website isn’t as easy as you may think.
At my Web agency Ciplex, we regularly receive questions from people who want to know, “What do websites cost?” And like asking how long a piece of string is, it’s a question that really has no black and white answer.
I’ve been in this industry for more than 13 years, and my company has built more than 2,000 websites of all sizes and types. But to this day, I still cannot answer this question.
Here’s why a one-off website quote is nearly impossible:
1. Website design and development should be viewed as a service, not a product. It’s hard to shake the idea that websites aren’t a commodity. Websites are something that someone, often multiple people, have to put together. Viewing it as service-based will help you to better understand why a one-off price isn’t simple to give — building a website takes continued time and effort.
2. Building a website involves a complex level of planning. Detail is an integral part of Web development — and this greatly affects pricing. Case in point: you may want a feature on your website for users to upload an image. There are 50 questions I could ask you, and based on your answers, I can either build the feature in one hour or 100+ hours.
For example, I may ask you: What’s the size limit of the images you’re uploading? What file formats does it support? Do you need the ability to crop the image? The list goes on.
So, if I asked you all of these questions in order to figure out how long it would take to develop one feature, are you willing to answer 1,000+ questions for the potentially 100+ other features that your website will have? Also, are you willing to pay for the time it takes to go through this process, essentially making the quote no longer free? Or is it better to simply find a trusted team that works for a fair rate, and you set the budget and objectives, and they do the best possible approach to get there? Buy trust, not line items.
3. Quotes are far too subjective. Building a website can be accomplished hundreds of different ways. Don’t believe me? Go out for a quote and I guarantee by asking just a few companies for a price, you’ll get responses all over the map. I’ve had clients tell me over and over that they received quotes ranging from $3,000 to $100,000 for the same set of requirements. How can that be possible?
4. The definition of success for your website may vary from person to person. The Web development industry is full of opinions, and no one is right or wrong. For example, a designer may think a great website should look like a piece of art, while a developer may think it’s best if the site has been created using the greatest and latest code built from scratch. A marketer may pride the site on being simple, direct, and SEO optimized, while your perception may be a site with a lot of great features. The real success of your website comes down to the business goals you want to accomplish with it, not what’s in it or how it’s made.
5. There’s more than one way to price a website. There are two ways you can end up with a price for your website: fixed bid or hourly. For fixed bid, you will receive a figure like $5,000. With an hourly price tag, you will pay someone $100 an hour for as long as it takes to complete the project.
Ciplex used to offer fixed bid pricing, and we moved away from that. There’s too much gray area (as you can see above), and it becomes somewhat of a gamble. Pricing that’s hourly or even weekly allows clients to see the website as a service that involves numerous elements to effectively and efficiently complete — like people, brainpower, and time. This way, when you buy time, you’re also buying trust and essentially an augmented team for your business. If the focus is too much on the billing component, we tend to lose focus of why we are building the sites — ROI, amazing work, reaching and surpassing business goals.
6. The Web development industry has very few standards. Since Web development is a fairly new industry, there really aren’t many standards. How one person or company goes about building a website may be completely different than another. For example, there are dozens of languages used to program a website, as well as many platforms and systems. This is made even more intricate when you factor in that each solution can be reached in 1000 different ways. As the industry grows, more standards are likely to emerge, but until then the lack of uniformity causes an issue when determining price.
There’s truly no good answer to the question, “How much does a website cost?” But understanding the subjective nature of this service will help you in the future.