How Much Does a Website Cost?

How Much Does a Website Cost?

It’s the question we get from almost every potential client: “How much does a website cost?”It’s a simple question but unfortunately, the answer isn’t. From our perspective, the better question is “How much does a complete and coherent web presence cost that includes not only a professional exterior design, but properly validated programming and natural, well-thought out SEO that’s properly tied into my social media channels?” Maybe it’s a little longer of a question, but it encompasses the major points associated with crafting a detailed estimate and putting a price tag on a website.
Over the past decade, Vivid Software Solutions has developed dozens of websites, web apps and implemented cutting-edge technologies into myriad projects. Budgets for these projects have ranged from $1,000 to over $75,000. Depending on the project, some can take as little as four weeks and others can take six months or longer. We decided long ago that the software development field is where more and more customers will be looking for guidance. As individuals move more and more of their personal lives online, it’s only natural for them to extend their professions and businesses online as well. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about setting up an eCommerce store and letting their business run itself?Online success doesn’t just magically happen. Rather, it’s the culmination of experience, careful planning and precise, methodical execution. Our design and programming methodologies are based on our past experiences and built upon each project we complete. We’ve got a clear and basic approach for all of our projects broken down into five distinct phases:

  1. Discovery Phase
  2. Storyboarding, sitemapping, use cases
  3. Design Phase
  4. Programming Phase
  5. Publishing and Maintenance Phase

The time spent on each phase, of course, varies from project to project, but the overall approach is maintained and utilized no matter the size of the project. It helps keep us on track and keeps us accountable to our clients throughout our professional engagement. A flexible process means effort spent on each phase can be flexible which translates to a more flexible cost.

“So,” you may be asking, “what’s the cost of a coherent online presence?” It depends on what you’re trying to build. In the survey we send out to every potential client, we ask key questions that help us later put together a better proposal (and thus, a more accurate estimate).

  • What’s your online marketing strategy? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “if we build it they will come.” Where are your customers? Are they using mobile devices? Do they use social media? Do you use social media?
  • Have you thought about your branding? A vector-based format is best as it can be infinitely scaled and sized. A style guide is essential to a coherent brand. Typography is an oft-overlooked element as well.
  • Who will make decisions about your final design? Will the process involve a group or will there be one central decision maker?
  • What are the essential features and functions of your project? This is a surprisingly difficult question for many people to answer. To prevent a project from spinning out of control as the process goes on, it’s imperative to decide now which features are essential in the first version. You can always come back and expand functionality and features later.
  • Where will you host your project? We don’t handle hosting, but choosing the right hosting provider will help us set up and configure the options we need to set.
  • Testing and debugging. Every project has bugs and inconsistencies. It’s how quickly and efficiently these bugs are squashed that sets a company apart. It’s important to note that the more complex your project is, the more testing and debugging is required. There are at least five major browsers we test on – not to mention legacy (older) versions that often require work-arounds to get your site looking consistent across all browsers. Optimization for mobile devices also requires additional time and testing.

As you can see, it’s hard to imagine two projects returning the same survey results. As such, it’s extremely rare to have projects that are even remotely related. Sure we’ve completed numerous eCommerce projects, but each had its own unique characteristics and requirements that required personalized attention. The more requirements a project has, the higher the complexity of the project and thus, the higher the cost.

Taking into account the responses we receive from our survey, we draft up a customized proposal for each client outlining how many hours – we think – each phase will take.

  1. Discovery Phase – completely understanding the brand, the business and the goals.
  2. Storyboarding, sitemapping, use cases – developing a cohesive road map for success.
  3. Design Phase – designing the graphics, layouts, and any other web-related visual elements.
  4. Programming Phase – setting up the server, the database(s), programming the actual product and debugging along the way.
  5. Publishing and Maintenance Phase – launching the project and determining a realistic maintenance plan.

All of the phases take time and it’s up to the project manager to keep the team (including the client) on track. We’ve found that between 20% and 30% of the budget of a project can be claimed by the duties of the project manager. This, of course, varies by project and depends on the technical-savvy and responsiveness of the client, the amount of time spent on the phone and how a client makes important, internal decisions among other factors. Other project items such as logo design, copy writing and editing, marketing and SEO take time additional to the items listed prior.

After we’ve estimated the amount of hours a project will realistically take, we multiply that by our hourly rate and provide a final project estimate in our proposal. If accepted, the work begins and our team strives to keep the project on-time and on-budget. If the project manager sees that a project is in danger of exceeding the budget, the client is contacted, filled in on the situation so the budget can be adjusted or compromises can be made. In almost 100% of cases, a project that has exceeded the initial estimated time was due to major project changes or alterations while in the final phase of development.

Our hourly rate is competitive but realistically set. There are individuals and companies that charge less than we do and there are individuals and companies that charge more than we do. We are proud of our work and stand by it. The rate that we have come up with is we have decided our time is worth. It’s important to note that there is a world of difference between a college-student charging $15/hour and a professional software company in terms of expertise, experience and ability to handle any potential roadblocks.
Perhaps you’re still asking yourself how much your web presence will cost you. Let’s take a few examples of clients we’ve had throughout the years.

Basic Marketing Website

This type of project is compromised of a website that is intended primarily for online marketing purposes. Let’s say you already have a logo designed and a brand presence figured out. You’ve also got some ideas for website design. You have all the content ready to go – the text, images, and videos that will fill the pages on your new site. You’d like to collect email addresses to follow up on potential leads and conduct email blasts. You’ve also got a Facebook page and Twitter account you’d like to provide some level of interactivity on your site. You’re thinking there will be around 10 pages in total.

Design: 20 hours.

Programming: 30 hours (HTML, CSS and PHP)

Total: 50 hours (plus the cost of hosting)

Work Items

  • Document listing creative and website goals
  • Project timeline including milestones
  • Two home page designs
  • Design for secondary pages (including visual elements such as buttons)
  • Access to our development server
  • Programming for the entire website
  • Inputting prepared content (text, images, videos)
  • Integrating Google Analytics
  • Uploading to the server via FTP
  • Testing and debugging
  • Basic SEO
  • All files are provided to the client (Illustrator files, Photoshop files, HTML files, etc.)

This is one of the most common types of projects we do. After the project has been completed, clients can choose to purchase one of our prepaid support plans. The plans start at 10 hours and encompass any sort of web maintenance such as upgrades, graphics work or feature expansion.

eCommerce Website

We take a well thought-out approach to eCommerce websites. We realize that the online market is expanding at a rapid pace and setting yourself apart can mean the difference between failure and success. Let’s say you already have your branding completed for the project. You have a good idea of what you’d like your website to look like and you have examples of sites you like. You also have all your products organized and prepared to be loaded into a system (high quality and high-resolution photos, pricing structure determined, complete product descriptions, etc.). For SEO purposes, you’d also like a blog to announce new products and keep your customers up to date.

Design: 30 hours

Programming: 70 hours (HTML, CSS, PHP, cart integration, blog integration)

Total: 85 hours (plus the cost of hosting and an SSL certificate for secure checkouts)

Work Items

  • Items listed prior
  • Training on cart and store functionality
  • Uploading of products into online inventory system

Custom Website

Solely by the nature of a custom website, the cost will vary wildly. We’ve had projects that are just one-pagers and we’ve had projects that could go head-to-head with Craigslist. Let’s take a median example. You’ve got an idea for a new type of website. Everything will be custom-built because, quite simply, it doesn’t exist! You have no branding strategy and you are just now starting to think about content. You’d also like for your visitors to be able to register (directly on your site, via Facebook and via Twitter) on your site and have their own personal dashboard.

Design: 60 hours

Programming: 200 hours (HTML, CSS, custom-PHP, dashboard functionality, membership functionality)

Total: 260 hours (plus the cost of hosting an SSL certificate to protect your members)

Work Items

  • Items listed prior
  • Training
  • Completely custom-built application
For many of our clients, programming, design standards and the intricate interplay of online elements is somewhat of a mystery. And rightfully so. It takes years of experience and a dedication to a craft to discover all its nuances, quirks and best practices. We are proud to be able to help our clients navigate the online landscape and strive to provide the best possible customer service and the best possible customer experience. As you can see, every website is different – and every price is different. Interested to find our how much your website will cost? Call us at 619.578.9456 or contact us.
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