Why do some websites cost £100,000, and some cost £3?
Around a year ago, a client approached us with a website brief for a bespoke web application project. The client had been quoted over £100,000 for the project by a large Manchester based digital agency.
On the other hand, the online website building service Wix.com provides a basic website service at just £3 per month. This allows you to create your own small website and publish it online, using your own domain name.
Quite a difference, so how do you judge the value? How do you know how much a website should cost?
Here’s 10 things you should consider…
1. Professional website design is a service, not a product.
If you’re obtaining quotes from website design companies, the chances are you will be provided with a design and development service – not an off the shelf product.
A DIY website builder like Wix or Squarespace will offer their website ‘products’ on a monthly basis, and are usually based on pre-defined and somewhat limited template designs (more on this below).
Commissioning a digital agency to create your new website usually means that they will go through a creative process to produce a unique website tailored to your business needs and clients. There is no exact price comparison available on any given website project, because simply put every website is different. Approaches to this website design and development process can vary hugely from agency to agency.
2. Quotes are subjective.
All digital agencies will employ a different creative process to achieve their end result. Some will draw from and tweak pre-prepared templates to produce a good-looking front end small business website. Others will go through a lengthy and consultative design process.
For larger websites, the design of the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) can be a relatively drawn-out process that may require market research, unique design skills, and past experience on similar sized projects.
An agency will value their services differently from the next, and draw from their thoughts on the website brief and past experience to help price up a project.
3. The different types of website designers and digital agencies.
- DIY Website builder (Wix, Squarespace, 1&1/Ionos ) – Large companies offering high volume, low cost solutions. These are great for bedroom bloggers, sole traders, or consumers putting lowest cost as their highest priority.
- Freelance Developer – a sole trader working ad-hoc. A good freelancer can be hard to find, but they can be great for sole traders or small businesses who require a bit more of a personal service, aren’t especially reliant on their web presence, or who don’t have the time/ability to have a go themselves.
- Small digital agency – most cost effective option for a professional service, but potentially limited in overall design and technical ability. On the plus side, even a small agency will have numerous professionals on hand that will usually employ a more bespoke approach to website design and development.
- Medium sized agency (i.e. Pixel Kicks) – typically well established and experienced with the knowledge and the portfolio to back it up. You’ll be paying more for expertise, consultation, a proven design methodology, and a high-end bespoke end product. With a breadth of ability and experience, they are perfect for businesses of all sizes and sectors.
- Large agency – very well experienced and knowledgeable, potentially diluted client experience. Excellent for larger companies looking to invest heavily in digital strategy. Large overheads typically mean large costs, but you’ll have an entire team of experts working on your project.
- Enterprise level – typically only work with large corporations with very large budgets. Global agencies can help with corporation-wide digital transformation strategy, with the client facing website being a relatively small part of the overall brief.
4. The different types of website
- Basic website (template) – Templates are ‘one-size-fits-all’ predesigned websites that already have a layout and structure to all of their pages. Users will add their own pictures, text, make other layout tweaks, and setup basic contact forms etc.
- Small business ‘brochure’ website – A low cost custom website that showcases your products and services to potential customers. Usually limited in terms of search engine visibility and ease of management. Usually up to around 10 pages.
- Medium business ‘brochure’ website – A more substantial information resource, with a unique design and list of features based around the company needs. Usually containing blog section, case studies, various customised contact forms, and so on. Typically around 10-50 pages.
- Large business website – A high-end showpiece for large digitally focused brands. Usually containing large amounts of content, bespoke calls-to-action and user journeys, and a completely customised back-end CMS. Usually 50+ pages, potentially over 1000 depending on content databases etc.
- Small E-commerce website – An online shop selling around 100 products or less in low-medium volume. Usually built around a user friendly system such as WordPress/WooCommerce, or more of a templated approach such as Shopify.
- Large E-commerce website – An e-commerce site selling hundreds or thousands of products in high volume. Often integrated with stock controls systems, order management systems, and various online marketplaces. Typically built using a more powerful e-commerce CMS such as Magento.
- Web Application – (e.g. a social network, dating website, company intranet) A dynamic website that works by users inputting data, and involves varying degrees of user engagement. Usually relying on audience interaction or content contribution to add value. Web applications usually use programming languages to develop large back-end databases. Due to the bespoke nature and complexity of web applications, they can often require a very significant up-front investment depending on project scope. Ongoing user experience improvements and feature updates are often required if the platform starts to gain popularity.
“A unique and custom-built WordPress site will require extensive work from a developer. Costs for this can be in the region of £4,000 – £10,000 depending on the design.”
“A standard custom WordPress theme alone can cost you up to $5,000. More robust WordPress sites with specific custom features can cost up to $15,000 or even higher.”
5. Specification is king.
A website brief (also known as a website specification) is always an important starting point to any bespoke website project. Specifications can vary a lot – some can be many pages long and describe every single area of the website in detail. Other website briefs will focus on the overall business objectives of the website – the client often wants their chosen developers to take care of all the details so their energy can be spent in other areas of the business. This is where using a well experienced agency rather than a freelancer might prove important.
You can read our guide here on How To Write The Perfect Website Brief. Things to include:
- About Your Business
- Target audience & users
- Goals of the New Site
- Competitors or sites you Like
- Look & feel
- Technical features & requirements
- In-house requirements
- Hosting, support & maintenance
- Online marketing & SEO
- The future – measuring your success
A note on scope creep
‘Scope creep’ is an industry term used to describe the uncontrolled growth or changes to a project, after it has already begun (and costs signed off). Scope creep is especially prevalent with web applications and larger websites. This is another reason why a properly defined website brief or specification is important from the beginning.
Be realistic with your budgets…
6. The design and development journey
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Often there is a tendency to look at comparable or competitor websites/branding and judge the attached cost as completely out of proportion with the clean and beautifully presented outcome. The behind-the-scenes work to achieve the end result obviously isn’t seen by your average consumer, and often within this process where the value lies.
It’s not uncommon for websites to go through up to 4 or 5 different design variations, with continuous tweaks and updates based on client feedback and best digital practices. Throw in input from directors, marketing, and sales departments, and the design process can become very drawn out, and thus considerably eat into budgets.
Typically, a new website project will go through the following stages:
- Wireframe & Concepts
- Branding & Design
- Testing & Improvements
Multiple different team members will work on the project throughout the above stages, with a Project Manager keeping everything on track.
7. Value-based pricing vs Time spent pricing
A ‘time spent’ approach to a website project can throw up a number of problems. This method rewards quantity over quality, and can often spark debates between both parties in analysing the fees against their perceived expectations. It can also create the perception that an agency charging by the hour is of lesser value. Read more about how long it takes to build websites here.
Most reputable digital agencies will adopt a value-based pricing approach. This will be a subjective quote based on the clients perceived value of the service, their brief & budgets, whilst also considering internal costs (increasing in line with size of agency).
“Value-based pricing: Basing a product or service’s price on how much the target consumers believes it is worth.”
Source: Price Intelligently Dictionary
8. Hosting and support
“Facebook spent $860 million to deliver and distribute its products last year”
Hosting is where your website is stored, so that users can access it over the internet. These typically high powered computers (servers) are the hardware which securely holds (hosts) all of your websites files and data for 24/7 access.
There are various types of website hosting available, simplified as the following:
- Shared hosting (most popular) where multiple sites are hosted on one server to share the cost.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting which splits up one physical server into individual ‘virtual’ servers, each with its own dedicated resources.
- Cloud Server hosting which is a virtual server that runs across one or more physical servers for worry free maintenance and easy scalability.
- Dedicated hosting, where one site has a complete physical server to itself. Perfect for web applications where there is masses of database activity.
Most digital agencies will combine hosting and website support costs in a single monthly payment. For website support, there will usually be an agreement with your digital agency that gives you allotted support time per month. This can be used for helping you with updates and changes. Your CMS and any plugins should also be kept up-to-date under the support package.
Separate to your website costs, marketing budgets should be considered. This is especially important for newly launched or e-commerce websites. A whole range of activities fall under the umbrella of ‘Digital Marketing’ such as; SEO, social media, PPC management, mailing lists, conversion rate optimisation, and so on.
When a brand new website is launched, don’t expect any visits whatsoever without some form of marketing whether that be online or offline.
“Marketing is one of the most important things a business can do. Not only does marketing build brand awareness but it can also increase sales, grow businesses and engage customers. There are so many core business functions that stem from a good marketing plan that any SMB would be silly not to give it a shot.”
One of the most important parts of digital marketing is Search Engine Optimisation. New to SEO? You can read all about it here: How to Increase Google Rankings
10. Actual costs – an estimated guide.
Our current educated guesstimates go something like this:
|DIY||Freelancer||Small Agency||Medium Agency||Large Agency||Enterprise Level|
|Basic Template Website||£3/month |
|Small Business Website||£8.50/month |
|Medium Business Website||£18/month |
|Large Business Website||N/A||£3000-£10,000||£4000-£10,000||£15,000-£50,000||£50,000+||£50,000+|
|Small E-Commerce Website||£63/month |
|Large E-Commerce Website||£237+/month |
|Bespoke Web Application (dependent on scope)||N/A||£5000+||£5000+||£20,000-£100,000||£50,000+||£100,000+|
Remember, your website costs will all depend on your website brief or specification. Why not try completing our website brief form here, so Pixel Kicks can get in touch with more accurate estimates.
Here’s a useful video from Antoine Dupont. It’s in $USD, but you get the idea!
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