Probably one of the most common question I get from clients is, “How much is it going to cost me to update my website?” Good question. To be honest though, that’s like asking how much it costs to buy a house. There are dozens of factors that can drastically change the price of a house, and the same is true when it comes to creating or updating a website. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to outline cost factors involved in determining the cost of creating. They are:
The design of a website is, to put it simply, what it looks like. There are basically three kinds of website designs.
- Customized themes
- Out of the box
Custom website designs are quite costly and this is because they are essentially made from scratch. Most businesses don’t need this kind of website to effectively promote their services or products, but in a few cases it is preferable. For example, an interior designer or a professional photographer might want to show off their flair for design and art through a custom website. To create one, we bring in outside creative designers who produce a one-of-a-kind website that is completely original. This option can add anywhere between a thousand to several thousand dollars to your cost depending on the web designer and the level of customization.
Customized themes work well for most businesses. This involves taking a WordPress theme (sort of like a template) that fits your particular business and modifying it to make it unique. This involves changing images, colors, and text to create an attractive, efficient website that fits your business and its personality. Because no outside designers or complicated coding is necessary for customized websites, the cost for this kind of design is much more economical.
The third, “out-of-the-box,” design is the most basic. There are thousands of WordPress themes that look great just as they are, which means less work and time are needed for the design, reducing costs for you.
So, which kind of design do you need for your specific business? In order to choose the design that will best reach your clients, it’s important to know who they are, what their needs are, what challenges they are facing, and what objections they might present. We can help you create a “client persona,” a composite of your ideal client based on these factors, which will help you to decide what kind of website design you need. On a side note, content management systems are changeable. This means that if you choose an out-of-the box design and decide afterwards you would like to modify or customize it, we can do that.
Site development deals with the back end functionality of your website. Essentially what it does. There are two basic types of websites Static and Content Management Systems.
Static websites are basically a collection of web pages that don’t do anything beyond display information. Usually you need a web geek to make changes to the content.
Content management systems, (CMS) on the other hand, are highly functional. The most popular CMS is WordPress. A CMS allows you to add content yourself, without paying some geek to do it. They usually include a blog, which I highly recommend you use regularly. But that’s a topic for another time.
A CMS like WordPress is modular which enables you to add the functionality and tools that you need. Which of course affects the cost.
For example, let’s say you own a plumbing company, and you’d like sell plumbing parts without having customers call you up to place an order. You can add eCommerce functionality to your website, which will enable customers to place their orders and make payments online, anytime.
What if you need forms on your website to track information and allow customers to request quotes? A CMS gives you the ability to add a form system so that you can create as many forms as you need.
What if you want to track who visits your site, how many times they visit, and what they are interested in? This kind of analytics really drive marketing and sales and we can add these necessary tracking functions.
All of these tools are at your disposal, as well as other customer relationship management tools. At last count there are over 30,000 plug-ins available for WordPress. Because it’s modular new functionality can be added or changed as you need it.
Content involves what your website says, and how it says it. This seems to be the hardest part at times, since many of our clients don’t have the time or interest needed to create written content for their site. Fortunately, here you have a few options as well. Writing the copy yourself is less expensive than hiring someone to do it for you.
The best method is to have members of your organization write the content. After your people know your business and understand your customers’ needs. But I know from experience that sometimes this isn’t always possible. If that’s the case, hire someone to interview you and key members of your staff and write the material using your targeted keywords . They don’t even have to be in your city.
You may decide you can write the content for your informational pages (about us, services, products, etc.), but what about regular blogging? When most people think about blogging they think about things like stories about last trip to Europe or your child’s birthday, but business blogging is different. Business blogging answers your clients’ questions and educates them about how to solve their problems. It’s not about you saying how great you are. We recommend dedicating some time to learning how to write this kind of informational blog on a regular basis or identifying someone on your team who might be able to contribute. But again, if you feel you simply don’t have the time, initiative, or capability to do so, hire someone to do it. It’s that important. We’ll talk about this more in a future article.
A web host is a computer which is connected to the Internet that contains your website files. With an inexpensive web hosting service you share space on one computer with lots of other sites. It’s called “Shared” hosting. Often it’s really cheap,like $7 – $10 per month. For a small to mid-sized business with low traffic this may be all you need. I highly recommend Hostgator for shared hosting. We have many clients on their servers and have used them myself on and off for many years. Bluehost is also a good option.
The next step up is a dedicated WordPress hosting service. Typically they provide hosting, backup, updates, security and scaleability (traffic spikes). The cost for one website is about $30 per month. I have many clients on WP Engine and have a lot of respect for their support staff. Another good provider is Bit.ly.
If you need more resources and functionality the next level is the Virtual Private Server (VPS). This is still a shared environment but you have a guaranteed level of resources dedicate to your account. We use a very fast VPS for our own hosting and our clients. The cost starts around $50 per month for very basic service and increases from there. There are lots of very good VPS providers. We use LiquidWeb, and I think they’re excellent.
The ultimate (so they say) is a Dedicated Server. Just like it sounds, you rent an entire computer in a big air conditioned server room attached directly to the Internet that you have all to yourself. No bad neighbors. This isn’t for everyone, in fact we have only a few clients who have one. The cost begins around $175 per month and increases based upon the amount of storage, the processor speed, memory and other gizmos. It’s just like buying a computer for your office. Again, I recommend LiquidWeb for dedicated hosting.
Unfortunately most small business don’t give hosting much thought and buy the cheapest plan they can find. Let’s say you choose a low cost host, something along the lines of GoDaddy (not recommended). Like I said, your website is essentially a bunch of files on a computer. With cheap hosting services you’re sharing space with hundreds or even thousands of other people. Why is that bad? Basically, it’s like living on a small cul-de-sac. If just a few of the neighbors have big parties all the time, where lots of people park on your street and clog up traffic, it’s going to be difficult for your visitors to make it to your house. The same thing happens when you share a server with too many “neighbors.” You can count on an slow and erratic page loads, and let’s face it, people aren’t patient these days. If your page is loading to slowly, they will move on to the next option in search results and not give you a second thought.
Not long ago a new client asked us to do some research into his current web hosting environment on GoDaddy. I’m not picking on them, but they have a reputation of loading up their servers. We ran a report that showed they shared the same computer with over 2500 other users. I ran the same test on another client site using WPEngine (a dedicated WordPress host) and they were sharing a server with 35 other users. Big difference.
The good news is that there are affordable hosting options with good quality service at the same price as bad ones. Regardless of the service you choose though, don’t skimp on hosting. Remember that it will cost you potential clients.
Cost in a Nutshell
As you’ve probably noticed, there are so many factors involved that it is difficult, impossible even, to put a single price on updating a website. Still, if you have a good idea of what you need in the way of design, development, content, and technical support, it will be much easier for us to provide you with an estimate for what this is all going to cost you. On average the cost to create a good-looking professional website for a small to medium manufacturer or service business would be between $2,500 and $8,000. I know that’s a big spread, but it depends upon the factors discussed above.