One of the big questions we ask prospective clients is the budget for their website. We have a questionnaire we give every perspective site client. I can’t remember the last time a client answered the question. I’m sure some have a number in mind, but they don’t want to share. They likely fear it is higher then necessary and we will overcharge them.
Hint: We don’t want to know your budget so we can screw you; we want your budget so we know what we’re working with. We want to deliver the best possible solution for the money you have to invest. Additionally, we want to know so that we can set realistic expectations. If you’re a brick and mortar and want to start selling online with 10,000 products, that can’t be done for $2,000. Alternatively, if you’re a small insurance agency, you don’t need to spend $10,000 either.
Most prospective clients just don’t have any idea. Part of that is ignorance and part of that is misinformation found throughout the web. It would take all of five minutes on Google to learn that you could have a web site for $12.00 a month at Squarespace or spend $10,000+ for a similar looking and functioning site.
Don’t Trust What the Web Tells You
The Squarespace solution is a very misleading to the average business owner. Squarespace gives you the tools, but you still have to build the site and create the content. Don’t get me wrong; Squarespace is a very slick solution. But unless you or your marketing team have the time to dive in and learn the how the builder works, you’re going to struggle. Beyond that, if you don’t understand content strategy, SEO, information architecture, user-interface and user-experience principles, graphic design, etc., you’ll soon figure out that $8.00 a month investment is just the tip of a very large iceberg.
I’ve seen websites where I know the client grossly overpaid for what they got. Just remember, if you go with an agency that has 30 employees and a nice office with a cappuccino bar and ping pong tables, you’re going to pay for that on some level. At this end of the spectrum, you’re likely getting an experienced team with a variety of expertise.
Depending on what your needs are, this may be exactly what you need.
But it may not be.
If all you need is simple five-page website without ecommerce, a blog, photo galleries, private areas, etc., you don’t need to spend $10,000.
First Impressions Are Key
Have you ever considered hiring someone for a job but once you saw their website, met them in person or drove past their business you changed your mind? The web is the first place people will go to check you out. You want that first impression to be the best impression.
On a first date, do you skip the shower and throw on some dirty clothes? I hope not unless you want that to be the only date.
A website is that window to your entire business. If that window is small and dirty, few if any will look through it. Having a mediocre website or worse, no site at all, says a lot about your business and who your are.
First impressions are lasting impressions
So what should your website budget be?
You have to ask yourself two questions: who is my target audience and what is the initial value of a customer to my business.
If you are a change management consultant and your target audience are C-level executives that typically pay $20,000 per engagement, you need a website that mirrors their experiences, expertise and expectations. A website that looks like it was done by group of high school students over the weekend isn’t going to send the right message about the quality of the services you provide.
If you’re a small non-profit that just needs to share an events calendar and take donations, your typical visitor doesn’t expect to be blown away by your web site. It just needs to work.
If you’re an online retailer that projects $50,000 in sales per month, it should be easy to justify spending two or three times that for a solution. Why? You’ll likely recoup your investment in the first year depending on your margins.
In the end, spend an amount appropriate to convey the kind of image that will attract your typical client. If you’re offering a premium product at a premium price, you need a premium solution.
Think about it this way: What do you spend in other areas of your business? Do think nothing of purchasing a new computer for $1,500 or spending $25 a week ($1200+ a year) hitting Starbucks?
A website is an asset, not an expense. It works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn’t need health insurance, a 401K or vacation time. Depending on what your typical client pays for your service (or sales per month in online sales), landing just one good client (or one good month of online sales) could cover your entire investment.
If you think about what your website can do for you, especially when you relate it to the other things you spend your money on, it is easy to see that your web site is a vital part of your overall business. You should invest in it accordingly.
So what does a website cost?
The answer is…it depends. It depends on your visual and technical needs. It depends on your content, what brand assets you already have and what needs to be created, what imagery you already have, your target audience, the product/service you’re selling, etc.
You should expect to spend at least $5,000 for a well thought out, professionally designed and developed web site. The investment goes up from there if you want ecommerce or maybe a members-only section. You also need to consider content. If you’re not going to create it, you should plan $200-$400 per page for a professional content creation expert.
Yes, a web site is an investment, but one that can pay for itself over and over and over again.