Why is it so expensive to get a website?

I heard a quote the other day that I really liked.

“If you’ve never been turned down on the basis of price, then you aren’t charging enough.”

dollarI love that! We have definitely lost jobs because our rates were more than a client was willing to pay. But on the flip side, we’ve also lost jobs because we weren’t charging enough. True story, but I’ll get to that a little later.

I find that often times, when prospective clients come to me, they have absolutely no idea what a website should cost. I’ll get a quote request with a laundry list of requirements, and then find that the client is absolutely shocked when I give them a quote. My quote might be $2,000 and they were expecting $200.

For good measure, this client may have gone to three different companies and gotten three, very different quotes.

What’s up with that?

When it comes to web development, there is a lot more to it than just making it look pretty and uploading your pretty files. Let me break down the process a bit so you can see what’s involved in the most basic website.

Phase One – Consultation: When you start a project with us, we begin by assessing your needs and figuring out how to make the website meet those needs. We think about what you want your user to do, how to get your user to do that, and how you will evaluate whether it’s working or not.

Phase Two – Design: Thinking about the information we gathered in phase one about what we want the user to do, we come up with a design concept. This concept may use some of your own graphics, your own logo, or we may be starting from scratch. You will offer a lot of feedback and may have multiple revisions during this process to get the design looking how you want.

Phase Three – Development: The design is just the starting point. Once we know how it will look, then we have to make it work. Since we develop with WordPress, that means setting up the software, the plugins, and configuring them. Then, we have to make it look how you want it to look – that design we finished up in phase two.

Phase Four – Content: If you have content ready, then we need to organize it, get it onto the right pages, set up the photos or images you want to use.

Phase Five – Security: The last thing we want is your site to get hacked. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. It could and it wouldn’t be surprising. WordPress is fantastic as a CMS and is pretty secure, but there are steps we need to take to be sure that your site is as secure as possible.

Phase Six – Testing: We want to go through and test all your links, all your buttons, make sure your images are lining up correctly. We need to make sure it looks great on your iPad and your mobile phone. This is the phase where we make sure everything is going to function how you want it.

Now, looking at all the phases of developing your website, how long do you think this is going to take? If you walked into the discussions with a budget of $200, and your designer is charging only $50 an hour (which is pretty low for a designer) do you really think all this can be done in four hours? Do you still think that $200 or even $500 is a fair price?

I can’t tell you how many hours each phase will take on your project, because each site is different. Your design needs may be more complicated than someone else’s. You may need more functionality. You may need less. So we evaluate each project to come up with a price that is appropriate.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the cost of premium plugins, stock photography, and other extras you may need for your site.

Now, looking at all that’s involved in getting your website developed, when you start talking to a developer, you have an idea of where to start and it’s not $500. If you don’t have the budget to pay for a professional to design and develop your site, then you may need to look into using a site builder or pre-made template to get your site up and running. If you talk with a web design company and they are offering you a $500 website, you should wonder how they can do it for so little. Which phase are they skipping? Which phase are you willing to eliminate to get the price down?

Of course, all this relates to custom design projects, which are much more expensive than using a template. We do offer a budget package where we help clients get online for less by using an existing theme with their existing content to get them up and running fast. You can find out more about that package here.

Didn’t you say you’d lost jobs because you charged too little?

I did! It’s true that in the past, I have struggled with a bit of the Impostor Syndrome. To that end, there was a time when our fees were much less and if you’d received a quote from us two years ago and you ask for the same quote today, you’ll get a much, much different rate.

What we learned is that often times, when the price is too low, people would wonder why. Why is it so cheap? And so while we’ve definitely lost jobs because we were too expensive for some clients, we’ve also lost jobs because we were too cheap.

If it seems to too good to be true, it probably is.

When it comes to web design and development, you definitely get what you pay for. One last thought… if you go the cheapest route, and you are unhappy with the result, it will cost you more to have the work redone than it would have to get it done right the first time.


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Amy Masson

Amy is co-owner of Sumy Designs, LLC. When not creating websites, she can be found writing restaurant reviews at Lafayette Eats, tweeting at @amymasson, and geeking out about all things WordPress.