This is one of the most common questions we are asked by clients who are new to web development projects of any size. My response is generally,
“That depends on what you are trying to accomplish.”
The client’s response is then generally, “I know but can’t you give me an idea.”
The truth is we can’t give a good idea towards cost before determining desired results. I actually had on VP Sales say to me, “yea but is it going to be $5,000 or $500,00?” and really the answer is it could be either of those, anywhere in between or even more.
The question, “how much does a website cost” is analogous to, how much does it cost to start a business? The only real answer is, “as much as you can afford.”
Our primary focus on any new development project is to determine desired results and put them in line with the project budget.
There are unlimited different ways to create any web project and ultimately projects can be completed for any number of budgets. Whenever we entertain the RFP process with a potential client we handle their confusion about the proposals which range in price by an order of magnitude. Sometimes prospects respond that the high bidder must be old school and sometimes they respond that the low bidders don’t get it. The fact is that they all likely “get it” but the RFP process is broken by not describing the desired results and initial funds available.
Let’s use an example from real life to help explain the situation. We recently worked with a customer who was employing two full-time employees to handle scheduling and logistics on some corporate assets as they were used for training across the country. In this situation we could quickly make the determination that two full-time administrative employees equals approximately $80,000/year. If we could provide a solution for under $80,000 we would have a 1 year ROI as these positions would be eliminated. If we kept it under $160,000 we would have a two-year ROI and so on. Our goal is generally to strive for less than a 3-year ROI on our projects — which in this industry isn’t hard to reach.
In this instance we were able to create a solution for just over $40,000. However this company will certainly continue to improve the product over the years and likely will have a couple hundred thousand invested within 3 or 4 years. These expenses will come as they make the application more accessible, more usable, more intuitive, and as they continue to add features. All of the benefits gained from the project are not evident in the ROI calculation. The online system is available 24/7 whereas the two administrators where only available during business hours. Sometimes it is difficult to place value on these intangibles when calculating the actual return on investment.
So how much does a website cost? How much does a business cost? Many companies are started simply by registering with the Secretary of State at a minimal cost of probably $50. Many websites are created simply by registering a domain and parking it, at a cost of probably $10/year. On the other hand, many sites have millions pumped into them on a regular basis but they (hopefully) return more than that in value.
So how much will your site cost? Start by defining your goals and what value will be realized when the goals are met. Then you will know how much you can spend and you have answered your own question. Because in this business, the more you can spend developing and promoting your site the better your results.