Quick and Dirty Guide to Estimating Your Web-Development Costs
So you need a new website. How much should you budget? Should you expect to pay $1,000 or $10,000? Estimating your web-development costs can be difficult due to the range of firms and freelancers available to do the work. In our previous article we broke down the main factors that contribute to web-development cost including your time, knowledge, and money and whether you hire a firm, freelancer, or friend. Whether you pay low or high pricing is largely determined by what you are paying for and how experienced and knowledgable your developer is.
Answering these questions with actual figures will get you an estimated web-development cost to budget for.
Web design and development are often considered two different pieces of the web building process. Web design includes colors, typography, and layout. A web designer will often deliver a mockup of the site’s design or at least a design direction for his client before actual development begins. Whether or not you are paying for web design is an important question to answer when determining how much you should budget for a new website.
You generally have three design options available to you. You can pay for a predesigned template, a customized template design, or a custom and unique design.
A predesigned template is usually the cheapest route to take with web-design. Your developer may purchase a robust and professional design template, make a handful of tweaks, and move on to actual development. This is both quicker and cheaper than other options. However, a predesigned template may have limited options for your developer and if you run into something you need changed you could be stuck paying your developer an hourly rate to customize the template’s code.
Customized Template Design
A customized template design is an excellent compromise between an “off the shelf” solution and a completely custom build. By asking for a customized template design you can keep your design cost lower while still ensuring you get the “look and feel” of your organization on the web. Your website’s atmosphere should be right the first time – a predesigned template doesn’t always achieve this.
Many website designers and developers will customize templates for you. You will be paying for him to purchase the template design, some software licenses, and the time it takes him to make the appropriate customizations.
A customized template design will give you something unique while saving you time and money compared with designing a site from scratch.
Custom and Unique Design
Sometimes the only way to achieve what your organization needs is to buy a custom and unique design built specifically for you. This way you will have a one-of-a-kind site, ensure it fits your brand, and (with a fair web-design contract) you will either own or be licensed the complete design.
Custom web-design pricing is based upon many factors including:
- Number of pages required
- Number of page layouts required
- Whether or not you need a blog
- Whether or not you need e-commerce functionality
- Whether or not you are providing images
Some designers will also ask whether or not you need a mobile optimized site (“responsive design”). You do. A knowledgable designer should always provide you with a mobile optimized design. If they ask always answer affirmatively. Don’t pay for a design that is behind the times.
The range for a custom design is so broad because the requirements for each design can be wildly different. When shopping for a unique design you will need to know exactly what you need (consider the list of factors above) and obtain some quotes.
Some Notes on Custom Web Designs
When shopping for a custom design make sure to ask the designer whether he is designing your site from scratch or customizing a template. Some designers will speak of both methods the same way but one is significantly less labor intensive (and consequently cheaper) than the other.
Depending on your web-design needs a unique and custom design may not actually be any better than a customized template. Be sure to get a list of precisely what your designer is delivering. If a template is significantly customized and fits your needs you could get everything on your design “wish list” but save thousands of dollars.
Web-development includes actual features, functionality, and building. Once a design has been chosen, customized, or created development can begin.
Many freelancers and firms offer both design and development. When the same creative professional (or team) designs and develops your site he knows he can translate that design into a functional site.
Web-development is the actual building of your site feature by feature and page by page. Once development is complete your site is delivered to you.
Development may include:
- Custom feature development
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Database integration
- E-commerce feature development
- Content Management System (CMS) installation and customization
- Speed optimizations
The price range for web-development is so broad because a part-time blog usually requires less work than a small business website and a small business website usually requires less work than an enterprise level website.
Don’t need custom features, database, or e-commerce? You’ll pay less.
Maintenance and Support
Design and development aren’t the only costs associated with obtaining a new website. There are a handful of other costs you need to consider. Some creative professionals will roll these costs into site development. You should be aware of them and ask your potential developer whether or not they are included and if not how much they cost.
Every website has a domain name. That’s the www… up in your navigation bar. Your domain name will be an annual cost ranging from $10-$20.
Hosting gives your website a place to “live” on the Web. Every website you visit is hosted on a server somewhere. Hosting is renting server space for your website. This is usually a monthly or annual cost. Annually, hosting may cost you $100-$500.
Maintenance and Updates
Web-developers do not offer lifetime support for free with your website. If you want to make updates to content or software you often can do so yourself through your Content Management System (CMS). If you need your developer to do maintenance or updates you will need to pay a monthly or hourly rate. Hourly web-development ranges from $50-$150 an hour. Alternatively, many firms offer web-development retainers. These are contracts for a set number of months for a set number of hours per month. Retainers usually include a discount on the firm’s hourly rate because it is guaranteed monthly work that they can schedule and plan for. You could save up anywhere from 5%-25% on a firm’s hourly rate by signing a retainer contract with them.
Today, due to Google preferring that all sites have SSL, your site should at least include an SSL certificate. If your developer isn’t offering this you need to ask him to and ask him how much it’ll cost.
Many hosting services include additional security features. Cheaper hosting will offer minimal security while full featured hosting will often include everything from firewalls to redundant backups.
If your site has a CMS (it should) you may need to implement additional security features for that admin panel.
Your security costs will range wildly depending on your needs and your site and hosting infrastructure. Just be aware that you need to consider this and ask the appropriate questions. Rystedt Creative recommends that you have an SSL certificate, site firewall, redundant backups, and thorough CMS security.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is essential for your website to succeed. The best developers will develop your site with SEO in mind and use current standards. When purchasing a website you may want to ask if your developer is including “structured meta-data” for every page and if so what he is including. Structured meta-data is special code that clearly communicates info about your organization to Google. This data may greatly improve your search search engine results.
SEO auditing and improvements on an existing site could cost anywhere from $1,000-$8,000. Yet, for a new website your developer should be delivering SEO ready content. If he isn’t – find a different developer. Don’t pay for work twice.
By the way, Rystedt Creative offers free SEO audits. Contact us to obtain a 15-20 page SEO audit of your site with actionable data on what you can improve.
Speed optimizations are also essential to having a successful website. Google and Facebook are give preference to web pages that are fast. Speed optimizations are sometimes included in development but sometimes not. Most developers include some optimizations but not others. If you are concerned that your new site is too slow ask what speed optimizations are being included with your development and what more can be done (and for what cost).
Speed optimizations usually include:
- Compressing images
- Adding page caching options
- Generating HTML cached pages
Speed optimizations may cost you anywhere from $500-$5,000 depending on how much data needs to be optimized and which optimizations are needed. Usually you will pay for speed optimization services at an hourly rate.
Additional Content Creation
Are you providing images and written content for your site?
Some people expect their developers to include stock images and copywriting with every web-page. Some developers do and some don’t (and some that do, charge additional fees). Stock images can cost as much as $15 an image. Copywriting for web-pages can range from ¢10/word to $1/word depending on how technical the content is and how experienced the writer is. You can find free stock images but these are often over used (making your site unoriginal). You can also find low-budget copywriters that charge as little as ¢1/word but such a rate is either a sign of an inexperienced writer or a writer with no knowledge of SEO and online marketing. By purchasing cheap written content you could end up paying again for SEO and marketing re-writes of that content. Don’t pay for work twice – hire an experienced and knowledgable writer.
Get a Quote
Rystedt Creative offers web-development, web maintenance and support, copywriting, and more. Contact us to receive a quote on your web-development project.
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About Rystedt Creative Services
At Rystedt Creative, we believe your web experience should be simple and straightforward. Whether your life’s calling is to make custom lawn gnomes or host conferences for pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, we can help you handle the details of maintaining your online influence.