The answer to this question is: it depends.
I know you probably didn’t want to hear that, but there is no black and white when it comes to this question but many shades of grey.
As a website producer I’ve worked as a freelancer and in an agency environment, and I have quoted very different amounts for similar projects. For custom websites prices can vary from $3,000 right up to $150,000+. Then there are pre-made templates that you can buy uninstalled for as little as $50.
It comes down to context, target & complexity.
A few key things that can make website prices differ include:
- expected high traffic, eCommerce,
- high level of security requirements,
- compatibility for older browser support,
- specific non-standard functionality; and
- generally all the fancy cool stuff that’s around at the moment.
If you’re shopping around for a web designer, first of all never shop around based on price.
If you do it’s likely you’re going to get burnt and end up with a website that is useless or end up spending a lot more trying to get it to do what you want it to do.
Unless you want to keep redoing your website, a web partner is a long term relationship that you need to look after. Find a partner who you like working with, who has a good portfolio of work and most importantly is accessible (ie. you can pick up the phone and have a chat).
Know your stuff
The best way to get consistent pricing is to know your requirements right down to the very last detail. If you have a rock solid requirement document that leaves no room for assumptions you are more likely to get consistent prices. It’s a tricky and time consuming process, but one that I urge everyone to do if price is a concern.
The way you really need to look at custom built websites is not as a commodity, but as a service. Similar to if you were going to see your accountant or a lawyer. A lot of people really get stuck on this and expect that one price will cover the ongoing changes or things that were expected. A website budget can easily get blown out with ‘out of scope requests’ if you start changing things, so knowing what you want right from the get go is a good way to counteract this.
Something to note though, a website should never ever be seen as finished. It needs to constantly evolve to ensure it works for your business and your customers. Getting a support agreement with your web designer is a great way to counter act this.
A rock solid brief may not necessarily prevent the disparity of quotes.
There still may be varying prices depending on the type of business you approach for your digital requirements. Like anything there are classes of providers with large agencies, small studios and freelancers, all with different skill sets and years of experience. All come with very different price tags and very different levels of service.
What type of provider you go for really depends on where you are at with your business and what kind of level of support you require. At the end of the day website development is very much a collaborative process so you really need to be able to work well with whoever you engage.
Keep in mind that there are ongoing yearly fees that come along for the ride – hosting, domain registration and if are accepting credit cards you’ll generally have gateway, security certificates and merchant fees.
These hidden costs often have nothing to do with developers and it’s best to keep control of this yourself.
Make sure that you check what is included as sometimes it is included and sometimes it isn’t.
Don’t get screwed
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I’ve seen lots of deals around that offer $99 websites, but when you start adding all the things you actually need it ends up being far more than what you’d pay if you went to a professional agency.
Read the small print, do your research and keep informed.