Whats a good website budget? Where do you come up with the numbers?

One of the most frequent questions I get is; What goes into developing a website and what’s a good base range for the cost? Well, to get those answers we have to understand what it takes to make a living as a web developer. A decent American based freelance dev/designer is going to base quotes on a hourly rate of anywhere from $50 to $120 an hour. A decent experienced digital agency starts at around $140/hr+. I know some specialized backend programmers that start their rates at $150/hr for intensive development of modules and custom functionality. So to set the bar you can see that professionals aren’t cheap and their services are highly valued.

So. Let us say you’re a business owner with a three-page website on WIX. Let’s say after two years on WIX you realize it just isn’t providing the experience, functionality nor exposure that your business needs to grow.

You have a basic logo, a dated looking website and a little bit of text content. Now you’re looking to upgrade your CMS platform to WordPress, Add a client portal, maybe some online ordering and just improve your overall user experience and online exposure.

You jump on Google or Bing, Search up your local web designer and ask what it takes to get this project going. You saved up a little cash and you think to yourself that a $1000 is a decent budget to out do your competition and local market!

Right? Well. Not really.

To even begin a website redesign and re-platform project like this you need communication, you need consulting, you need gathering and organizing of your assets and you’re going to need to set up user flows, wireframes & mockups. Simply put. You need a professional to take the time to understand your business goals, needs, wants and to help you make the right decisions when it comes to your website.

Then you need a CMS setup, you need hosting, a domain, SSL’s, patching of the platform, base themes, modules, extensions, security etc. You’re basically looking at a good 8 to 15 hours of a web developers and designers time just to get you STARTED with a good base to build a new website on.

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The reality – Time cost money.

As a developer, You simply can’t build a website without researching the client and business your building the website for. There’s not a experienced web designer in the world that will jump into a project without taking the appropriate steps to ensure the project has a chance to succeed. Preparation and research is key to any good website.

Now. Let’s say freelancer has to make $70 an hour to make a profit and stay in business. If he can’t make a livable wage to support himself and pay his bills. He might as well go flip burgers at Mcdonalds because once he stops making a profit – his profession becomes his hobby. The initial $1000 budget you had in mind is gone in less than 15 hours. The initial $1000 budget we had in mind is gone in less than two working days. What can you accomplish at your job in two days? Not a whole lot right? A $1000 budget is just enough to get started. It’s definitely not enough to follow through and build a professional level website.

Anyone that tells you otherwise is either inexperienced, a amateur or in the business of selling you snake oil. For $1000. A professional web designer will take your content, resize a couple of photos and drop it all in a pre-made responsive HTML theme, send you the files and move on to the next project.

The only case where such a low budget is even workable is for designing and coding up landing pages to a already existing site or doing odds and ends work to sites that already exist.

Website Mock Up & Samples?

The only way I provide a mockup is if I have a contract first. There are hours of time involved in making mockups. To even provide a accurate quote for a client you need information, you need assets and goals. You need to see content and functionality expectations. You need to research the clients competition, their taste and get familiar with their business. Then you need to apply all of that knowledge to a visual idea (mock up) of what a website based on that information can look like.You’re looking at the least, a days work on the mock up process.

I charge full hourly rates for mockups. From the mockup, I’ll provide a flat quote on the end product work. The mockup is included in that price. If the client backs out – they still owe me for the time invested up to that point.

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Websites for $500! – Avoid the Snake Oil

Do you ever see Ads from agencies or web developers that state “Websites for $200!”. I’d imagine you even see the occasional “Custom WordPress websites for less – “Starting at $499!”

If it’s too good to be true. It likely is. Think about it. Why would a professional web developer that spent years learning 5 different programming languages and design principles only charge $10 bucks an hour for their time? That defies common sense and web designers who advertise such cheap rates are usually snake oil salesmen.

If it IS true then they are pricing themselves out of business. A $500 website. Say it takes 30 hours to build start to finish. Right at 3 or 4 days of solid work. That averages out to just $16 an hour. As a tax paying 1099 freelancer or business with overhead cost – they are barely making minimum wage. That’s rarely the case and there’s always a few common explanations.

Explanation A:) The web designers pricing points are bogus numbers to lead in potential customers on false pretenses. AKA they are selling snake oil and will upsell you on every single thing to reach a realistic pricing point and budget.

Explanation B:) A little bit of explanation A: and they are subbing out work for pennies on the dollar to 3rd world countries like India to make up for the fact they likely don’t know how to build websites at all.

Explanation C:) They are just selling snake oil, will drain your budget then disappear. Leaving you high and dry.

WIX & SquareSpace Drag & Drop Website Builders

Wix and SquareSpace are great personal platforms for amateur and entry level websites. The reality is that they aren’t intended to be professional level platforms. Anyone can build a website on the platforms and that shows with the hundreds of thousands of horrible looking slow performing websites on the internet that are hosted on the platforms. The truth is WIX and Squarespace are very limited in functionality, you never truly have ownership of your website with these platforms and if they ever go out of business – So does your website!

Don’t get me wrong. You can build or hire someone to build a decent looking website on SquareSpace or WIX. For the time and money, you spend on it tho – the return on your investment will be much much higher by going with a platform like WordPress or Shopify and, having a professional spend a little time on it.

If you ever come across a “web developer” that deals exclusively with WIX or SquareSpace, it’s likely because they have no real web developer skill sets. If they did they wouldn’t limit themselves to the extreme restrictions of a platform like WIX.

Whats a good base budget for a custom website?

A good workable budget goes back to the principles that you get back what you put it. That’s ever so true for web development and web design.

If you have all of your content together including images, text, logo etc. On average a single page WordPress based website will run you around $2000 to $2500. That’s using a commercial theme as a base for the design with no special or custom built functionality.

A professionally custom designed website with up to 6 pages can run you anywhere from $2500 to $7000 depending on the client’s specific goals, amount of content, needed functionality, and design.

A basic eCommerce website can get even more expensive. A basic eCommerce site starts at around $5000. eCommerce cost a little more because you need to take all the steps for a basic website then add on payment processing, individual products, additional spam, and security protection, category landing pages, email signup forms and so on.

You get what you pay for.

I’ve built $1500 websites and I’ve built enterprise level Magento websites costing in excess of $50,000. There’s simply not a one-sized-fits-all budget as every business owners needs and expectations are different. When it comes to web development and web design – like any other skilled trade profession. You get what you pay for! A good web designer will work with you on your budget and be able to tell you where to put your budget to get the best return on your investment.