Whether you’re contracting a website for the very first time or you’ve been involved in contracting them in the past, a question we frequently get is, “how much should a website cost?” In our opinion, the answer depends on who’s building it and how well you want it to perform.
Usually, the most inexpensive option when developing a new website is to have a freelance developer do it for you. A freelance developer will be a one man/woman show who does it all: sales, project management, design, development, hosting, and even minor IT. Quality of work really runs the gamut here, from self-taught, inexperienced individuals that don’t have any business building websites for anyone, to talented developers from multinational firms that are burning the midnight oil for a little bit of money on the side.
Con: Wildly variable quality of work, frequently have no professional insurance, lack of accountability, not a lot of breadth of experience to draw from, fails the “what happens if they get hit by a bus?” test.
Cost: Usually $2000 – $5000 for a website.
Usually, having an overseas company develop a website can result in cost savings. Some companies operate locally as sales offices for overseas employees, while others manage and direct from abroad. In our experience, and that of customers we know who have dealt with overseas website development, iterations and changes can brutalize the project timeline and cost when dealing with remote companies. Problems in design and implementation of design frequently need quick, minor clarifications to get right. When dealing with remote companies, these clarifications are all “next day” due to the time difference. Marketing strategy concepts can also be difficult to convey.
Pro: Lower costs
Con: Communication delays lead to project delays, difficult to sue or negotiate with the company for non-delivery on the contract, your money is gone if the company disappears.
Cost: Outsourced companies run the gamut on costs. Usually competing in the $500 – $8000 segment
Small website company (2-4 employees)
A small website company will have marked advantages compared to a freelance developer. You may be able to work with a project manager or account manager who is able to communicate with you better than the developer working on the site. They have a better understanding of what they can and can’t do. They can draw on more than their own experience. Some of these small website companies have chosen a niche to work within and are very capable of building functional sites for that market niche. Often, small website companies save money by using and making minor modifications to templated designs, known as ‘brochure websites’. These companies are a good choice for other small businesses, sole proprietors, and other companies with very limited budgets.
Pro: A better mix of business competency and professionalism than a freelance developer.
Con: Design quality at these companies is still very basic or templated, frequently unable to tackle any kind of integration or mildly complex customization.
Cost: $3500 – $8000 for a website
Medium sized website company (5-15 employees)
At 5-15 employees, website companies almost always have professional liability insurance, an office to meet at, professional administrative staff, dedicated project management, relationships with other professional hosting and IT vendors, etc. Older companies usually have more polished policies and procedures and are able to understand customer requirements better due to experience. Quality of work ultimately depends on the quality of employees.
Pro: Should be much fewer surprises during the process, now dealing with companies that understand business jargon, higher calibre of clientele and portfolio work to back it up
Con: Potential for too much bureaucracy, some companies are overspecialized in certain niches and are unable to perform outside of them
Cost: $10,000 – $30,000 depending on features