Pay the right price for your website

It almost goes without saying that these days, every business needs a good online presence. But if you're not familiar with the processes involved in getting a website up and running, having one designed can be confusing, and too often business owners find themselves being ripped off by slow, bad or plain unscrupulous design companies.

You want a good website - so you should be paying a good price. But how do you know if you're paying too much? Read on for our guide to how much you should be paying.

Types of website

Before we start, it's worth explaining the different types of website. Most are variations between three kinds of design. We've included comments from Smarta's lead developer, Mo, who has provided helpful hints on timings and little shortcuts you can take to lower the cost.

  1. Brochure-style, static websites
    These websites generally only have a few pages, with content which rarely changes. When changes do need to be made, the owner has to get in touch with the designer. See The Island Queen's website as an example.
  2. Ecommerce websites
    Similar to the static site, but with an additional shopping cart which you can make changes to using a content-management system (CMS) - a bit like the Playlounge website.
  3. Bells-and-whistles, content-driven websites
    If your core business is your website, it's obviously going to cost a lot more to design than a few pages of images. Smarta's a good example of this kind of website: lots of content, hundreds of pages - all driven by a fairly complex CMS. It can include anything from text-based pages, to videos, to social networking elements.

What will I have to pay for?

When you're costing up a website, take the following into account:

  • Registration
    Registering your domain should be quick and easy - and you should be able to do it yourself. Use services such as GoDaddy, 1&1internet or 123-reg to register your domain.
    Ballpark figure: £10-£20
  • Hosting services
    Most internet registrars include hosting packages, giving you around 10GB, as well as a couple of email addresses.
    Ballpark figure:
    £2.50 per month for 10GB
  • Design
    Depending on how complicated you want your site to be, some businesses choose to pay a separate graphic designer to create a brand and determine how it will look before they hand it to a development team to be coded.
    Ballpark figure:
    £250 a day
    A note on timings:
    Your designer will talk about 'templates' - the different types of page on your site. You might want a blog template, a feature template, a shopping cart template or even a social networking element with templates for each page of that. Depending on the complexity of the templates, it could take between a few hours and a day for each template to be designed. The important thing is to set goals and agree on a timeframe with your designer beforehand.
    Tips: Save money by tweaking pre-made templates from websites like OneDollarTemplates or Template Monster instead of having them designed from scratch.
  • Development
    This is the coding process which turns images created by a graphic designer into HTML code. If you're having a complex, content-driven website designed, there's a good chance you'll need this done separately to the design.
    Ballpark figure: £300-£400 a day
    More on timings: Development is a complex process, and a lot depends on how advanced your site is. If it's a simple brochure site, converting the designs into code should be a relatively straightforward process - whereas if your requirements are more complicated, the development and testing process could take months.
    Tips: The Web Accessibility Initiative helps website owners to ensure their code meets accesibility guidelines, giving you advice on producing SEO-friendly, cross-browser compatible code. If it's a fairly basic site, save money on development altogether by trying PSD2HTML - it'll turn your designers' photoshop images into HTML code. Finally, if you want to add a social networking element, don't try to reinvent the wheel by building something from scratch. Instead, use pre-built systems like Pinax, Community Engine or Kickapps - or if you want something really basic you can build yourself, try Ning.
  • Copywriting
    While in most circumstances, you can probably do this yourself; you may want to employ a copywriter to make sure your website looks professional.
    Ballpark figure: £200-£300 a day
  • Photography/images
    Never underestimate the importance - or the cost - of images. There are dozens of image libraries out there, charging between £2-£200 for images. To avoid cringe-inducing stock photography, hire your own photographer - particularly if you want to showcase products.
    Ballpark figure: £250 a day, plus cost of retouching/prints
    Tips: In some cases - for example if you own a cafe or a shop and want to showcase its interior - hiring a professional photographer is essential to keep your site looking professional, although you may be able to rope in a student or a friend for less. If not, image libraries such as istockphoto.com do images from £2 - while sxc.hu has them for free. Flickr.com also has some free images - just make sure you use those licensed under the Creative Commons and attribute the photographer.
  • Blog
    If you want a blog custom-designed for your website, include it in the brief for your designer. They can usually create templates for free plugins such as Wordpress, Movable Type or Blogger.
    Ballpark figure: free - although you will have to factor the design cost in.

Tips and tricks: more ways to avoid paying too much

  • Spend time looking online for websites you like, then contact their owners to find out which company they used and how much they paid - it'll give you a better bargaining tool when it comes to agreeing a price.
  • Get quotes - lots of them. The more quotes you get, the better idea you will get about how much your should be paying. If you're in doubt, find out how much other businesses in your industry with similar websites paid.
  • At the beginning of the design process, set a project plan and agree on delivery dates with your design and development teams. This will allow you keep track of their progress throughout the design process and be kept abreast of problems as they arise.
  • If you want to use your website to keep your clients up-to-date with news but don't want to pay to have a content-led site designed, ask for a basic brochure site and include a blog which is free to install and simple to update on a regular basis.
  • 'Website in a box'-style packages such as Moonfruit can often be a good, cheap alternative to having one designed.
  • If all you want is a basic site, printing companies with in-house designers can sometimes get the job done for less than £200.
  • Try PeoplePerHour to get quotes from freelancers.

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