Years ago, I had a long-standing client who needed a new website.  We knew their business well, and quoted them a price based on their needs and goals.  They got a competitive quote (as they should have), and the difference in price was around $10k.

If you dug in, the proposals were extremely different in terms of methodology, process and deliverables.  That’s what made the prices so different.  But at the end of the day, both promised a functioning website.  It was up to the client to evaluate and decide how to move forward, with each service provider standing behind and defending their offer.

I have another client with an extremely outdated site, in desperate need of a new one for technical reasons.  They knew what they paid for the last one, and while they expected it to be more, they were not prepared for the sticker shock that came during the quoting process.

Their first quote came back at more than double what they were expecting to and able to spend, and it was only for a facelift of their current site.  It didn’t even address content and structural changes.

The client was frustrated and confused, so they called me.  Not for a new site, per se, but for advice on how to navigate the process.

Website Redesign and Development: A Process That’s Hard and Costs Everyone a Lot

Website projects are difficult for a few key reasons:

  1. They are among the largest singular marketing expenditures that companies make.  In addition, many business owners don’t make this type of expenditure often, and therefore don’t have much experience to draw on in the decision making process.
  2. Website projects touch nearly every part of a company’s business.  Websites usually fall under a marketing domain, but input (solicited or not) comes from every corner of the company.  This is both necessary and treacherous.
  3. Websites can make or break a marketing strategy. You can spend a lot of money on traditional and digital advertising, but if you drive traffic to a website that performs poorly, ROI will suffer.  Your website, no matter how you slice it, will affect your bottom line.

These factors = stress and high stakes in an already complex process.  Companies who need websites get nervous because it’s confusing and costs a lot.  Service providers who make websites get nervous because they’re hard to quote accurately in a way that satisfies clients.

So how can you get through it?  How can you understand website development prices and know what’s best for your business?

Three Things for Business Owners to Remember About Website Development Prices

1. Value is Way More Important than Price (i.e. You Get What You Pay For…)

You can find someone to build a website cheaply.  You can find someone to build that same website for a lot of money.

But value is not determined on price alone.  In order to measure value, you have to understand what you need your website to do.  What business goals do you need it to accomplish?  What needs to happen for your new website to be considered a success?

If you are getting a quote from a provider that’s based solely on an arbitrary measure like number of pages (especially if that number is based on the number of pages on your current site), then that quote is doing your company a disservice.

Has the provider asked you about your business goals to determine what needs to be on the new site?  Have they looked at your site’s current analytics to identify deficiencies?  Do they understand your overall business strategy and the role the site needs to play in that?

In some cases, you may have done that legwork internally. Maybe you just need to find a good partner to complete the work.  In that case, price and quality decisions are more cut and dry.

But if you haven’t answered those questions yourself, you need a provider that is willing to help steer the ship and add value to your business.  Otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of money on an ineffective site.

Key Words to Look for In a Proposal: goals, conversions, analytics, strategy

2. …But Expensive Doesn’t Mean Quality (i.e. Use Your Budget Where It Counts)

More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

The trick here is understanding what your business needs to get out of a website (as described above), and then being open to the best way of making your whole project work if your budget is limited.

When I started Zero Fox Marketing, I paid less than $50 for an already-built WordPress theme/template, and had the first iteration of my website up in a few hours.

I was able to do it by myself because of my professional background.  However, I made the strategic decision not to invest much in the first version of my website because:

  • My early business came from contacts and referrals,
  • My business model was still in complete flux.

Had I sunk a lot of time and money into my first site, much of it would have been a waste.  It also would have taken longer for my business to get off the ground, and I would have been focused on all the wrong things.

I was a start up, and I’m a marketing consultant.  Will a $50 WordPress template work for all businesses?  Heck no.

But the same type of principle can apply.

If you’ve answered the questions mentioned in (1) above, you should have a pretty good idea of what aspects of your site are going to drive value.  Spend your time and money there.

There is also no one right way to do things.  Maybe there is a theme, SaaS ecommerce service, or some other tool available that can cut down your website development process and still accomplish your goals.  Seek outside counsel, or challenge your service provider to make sure you’re exploring the avenues available to you.

You can also work with your provider to “future proof” your website.  Work within your budget to deploy the most important aspects of a website first, and then build on that success later to add additional features once more resources are available and you’ve tested what’s already built.

There are a lot of different ways to skin the proverbial cat.  Don’t allow yourself to be cornered by the way you’ve always done things, or the way someone is telling you to do things.

Challenge Questions to Ask:  How does this proposal let my website meet my business goals?  Are there any alternate ways of accomplishing the same thing?

3. Lipstick on a Pig, the Definition of Insanity, and More Cliches that Fit

If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.Lipstick on a Pig and Other Issues re: Website Development Prices

And Einstein didn’t say it, but the idea that it’s foolish to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is wholly true.

Real marketing results can come from simple changes, but they rarely come from purely cosmetic ones.  This is true with new websites.  Many service providers make their website offerings more affordable by focusing on the cosmetic rather than the important.  It’s the easiest way to win approval from the largest swath of a companies stakeholders (“Doesn’t our new website look awesome?”), and the most tangible way to show change (everyone loves a good before and after image).

But what about what matters?  Consistently attacking the low-hanging fruit means that real issues will never be solved, and true change will never be made.  Even the best performing sites always have room for improvement.

Make sure you’re working with a provider who’s willing to give you more than lip service and something pretty.

Things to Watch Out for In a Proposal: A new sitemap or quote based only on the pages of your current site, “facelift” or “redesign”

How Zero Fox Marketing Can Help You Decipher Website Development Prices

If your company is about to embark on website development, and you can’t understand the prices and you’re not quite sure what’s best, please contact me for an objective, third party opinion.  I may or may not be able to help, but I can give you a sounding board and a sanity check.