John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, welder and hobbyist game developer.
When considering your website, it can be tempting to think of it as a mere digital calling card, or the online equivalent of a flyer pinned to a local noticeboard. In truth, it is far more like a phone number or physical address than an advertisement. When people require a service these days, they don't ask around and check word of mouth opinion nearly as much as used to be the case. More often than not, they head straight for their favourite search engine and search for the thing that they want. If your website is one of the options presented, you stand a much better chance of gaining the business of that person. It's not guaranteed, of course, but you certainly won't earn their business by not being in those search results, to begin with.
Why Your Business Needs a Website
There are several different ways in which your company could need a website. At the very least, it acts as a touchstone for potential customers. Through the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet, your clients can find you and reach out. Indeed, such has become the efficiency and reliability of search engines that even repeat customers will search for a business they like rather than saving the companies contact details. In a world where the number of tech-savvy people grows by the day, having this presence online should be considered an absolute essential, whether you're a small business or an international corporation.
Beyond a simple online presence, however, there is functionality to be had. For example, a website could encourage its visitors to sign up to a company newsletter, giving said company a direct line to those people and an additional way to convert them into paying customers.
Moving beyond mailing lists there are shopping carts, allowing you to sell directly through your website. This has the added advantage of reducing the amount of work required of a potential customer to become an actual customer. Shopping carts are particularly useful in a business where there is scope for misunderstanding during the ordering process. With online shopping, the customer's exact order is there in black and white.
Websites can also be designed to tie into other backend services as required. This could be in the form of automatic stock management; you sell an item through the website, your inventory is automatically adjusted to reflect the sale. This could also include user profiles, online tools relating to your industry, and much more.
Know Your Audience
One of the biggest mistakes a prospective website owner can make when establishing what they want from their new online presence is being too vague about what they do, and what audience they are targetting. Traditional advertising models work on the principle of getting a company in front of as many eyeballs as possible. This was successful on the basis that some of those eyeballs would become customers, and even a small conversion percentage is enough if the amount of people is seeing a brand or company is significant. This works, of course, but it is incredibly inefficient. And in the case of a business website, it's financially untenable; you would have to continually pay to keep your website in front of enough eyeballs to make it worth it.
A much more practical and cost-effective solution is to target your intended demographic with laser point accuracy. If you offer website design and development, for example, you are going to be fighting for a share of a bigger yet much more competitive market than if you can narrow it down to a more local region. In doing so, you will decrease the size of your potential customers, but you will also ensure that those you do reach are far more likely to be interested in your business.
There is also a helpful side-effect to this approach. We mentioned that trying to play the percentages by targeting a broad audience could be expensive. With a highly focused approach, your website will benefit from far more organic traffic as search engines place you higher for those kinds of searches. If you are a web designer in Toronto, you may rank low on searches for "website design and development", but you could rank highly for the same searches localised to the Toronto region.
How Much Does a Business Website Cost?
It is impossible to give a definitive, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The cost of a new business website will range significantly from business to business. As mentioned above, there are many different kinds of website your business could have, and they all come with their own price. Furthermore, two very similar sites may differ significantly in price due to the scope of the different projects. If two companies require the same functionality, but one company expects five or ten times the number of visitors, there will be differences in price. So we can't tell you exactly how much your new website will cost, but we can give you a good idea of where it may fall in the grand scheme of website pricing.
The Price Ranges of a New Business Website
The upfront cost of a new business website is typically the amount you pay your web designers and developers for building your site. It will not include any ongoing maintenance or development fees unless you specifically arrange a deal with them. In addition to the cost difference between varying scopes of website design, there may also be a lot of price variance to be found between different developers. For example; inexperienced developers may offer significantly discounted rates for the opportunity to fill out their portfolio. On the other hand, larger design studios with a high workload may quote over the odds to make the job worth their time. A higher price tag is not always a sign of a superior product. That being said, here is a rough guide of prices ranges you can expect to encounter based on the scope of your new business website;
- Small Business Website - $2,000 - $10,000
- Large Corporate Website - $10,000 - $35,000
- Ecommerce Solution - $5,000 - $60,000
- Website/Content Management System - $5,000 - $75,000
Of course, these prices are only intended as a rough guide. Some designers will be willing to go cheaper than $2,000 for a small website, some large corporate sites will run more than $75,000.
Running Costs of Owning a Website
Unfortunately, the initial cost of having a new website built is not the only expense to think about going forward. There are regular costs, such as domain ownership fees, and web hosting, that you will need to keep up if you wish to keep your website online. Think of your website as analogous to physical property. The cost of having the site built in the first place is akin to the cost of buying a property, but there are still utility bills and taxes to pay on that property once you own it.
Smaller websites—even ones with additional functionality—tend not to be that expensive to maintain. As the complexity of the site grows, however, and the number of people visiting grow, the costs can soon begin to add up. A fully-featured business website with a content management system and a high volume of traffic can easily cost thousands of dollars per month. Depending on the complexity of the site, routine running may mean hiring an in-house web developer, which would mean adding their salary to the cost of running your website. On the other hand, a small site with little more functionality than a "news" section will likely be closer to $50 than $5,000.
Finding a Good Web Designer
Finding a good web designer is an exercise in research and, sometimes, trust. If you are hoping to strike the best possible deal for your new business website, you should be aware that the saying, "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is", applies here. That being said, web design and development is a popular field that is continually being flooded with new freelancers looking to make their mark in the world. It is possible to find quality work at discount prices if you are willing to dive into this particular part of the market. Be aware, however, that you are taking a risk in doing so. There is a reason that web designers with an established reputation can command a higher fee than those without. You should always have a look at a prospective web designer's previous work before hiring. Even if they are entirely new to the web design space, and you could end up being their first-ever client, they should still have their own website to showcase their talent.
For designers with a body of work to showcase, look for testimonials. If a web designer is good at what they do and has a history of satisfied customers, they will want to show that off. Still, a lack of apparent testimonials is not necessarily a sign of bad work. If there is no portfolio or testimonial section to their website, contact them to ask about seeing previous work. You could potentially be spending a lot of money with them, it would be in their best interests to show you their best work. At the same time, beware of automatically assuming a high price tag is a sign of quality but beware of prices that seem too low. If a web designer quotes far below the average for other quotes you've received, it may be an indication that the web developer is in over their head. A surefire sign that you could be looking at lengthy delays and extra costs.
The Process of Getting a new Business Website
Before you can begin looking for a web designer, you first need to establish what you want from your business website. You will have to talk this through with any designer you choose to use, of course, and there is a good chance the scope of what you want will change. But it helps a great deal in your initial meetings with web designers if you have a firm idea of what you want.
Once you have an idea of what you need, it's time to find a designer or design agency to make that idea a reality. With regards to choosing a web designer, see the above section on pricing and the risks in going with unproven designers.
Once you have chosen your designer, the process can begin in earnest. By this stage, you will know what you need and want from your website. Your web designer, on the other hand, knows what is possible, as well as what is practical. Together you will reach a compromise that finds a sweet spot between your desired features and your budget/technical limitations. You may find it to be the case that there is no technical barrier to a particular feature you want, but that the additional costs of adding that feature do not make financial sense when compared to the benefits you'll receive from it.
The next step is to determine the costs and timeframe of the project. A typical system used is the "payment milestone." This system comprises of various project milestones being agreed upon, with partial payments being made at each milestone. This works well for both parties because it means the business can stay abreast of the designer's progress, but also the designer does not need to worry about cash flow problems, and can dedicate their attention to your project.
Once your website is finished, the subject of any additional running costs will need to be addressed. If your site will require regular maintenance, be sure that you are getting the best deal for that maintenance. Don't be pressured into a poor bargain by the company that built your website. This is not to say that the company that makes your website won't give you a great deal on continued maintenance, but it's not a guarantee. Don't be afraid to shop around.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 John Bullock
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 16, 2020: