When considering building a new website or redesigning an old, outdated one, the first question business owners or stakeholders ask is how much does professional web design cost?
Some smaller business owners without much of a budget, or just looking to get the cheapest deal possible, try some of the following options:
- Put an ad out for a high school or college student who’s “good with computers”. That shouldn’t run you more than a couple of hundred bucks and a sixpack or two.
- Post an ad on freelancer sites like upwork.com or freelancer.com (there are lots more out there) with a budget of a couple of hundred bucks and a (virtual) sixpack or two.
- Get your son’s best friend’s cousin to do it for just the beer.
If you don’t have any more to spend, these might actually be your best options, so give it a shot. But if you do have a more substantial budget to invest in building a business website, you’ll be better off going a different route.
As in most things in life, the rule is: you get what you pay for. If you choose to go with an inexpensive offshore company you find on one of the freelancer sites, please make sure you read this article — Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Web Design and Development to India — first. Getting the type of website that meets your expectations from an offshore company or contractor might prove much more challenging than you think.
Another route you can take to save money is to do it yourself. There are lots of online services that provide you with the online tools to build a website yourself for a monthly fee that includes hosting, such as wix.com and squarespace.com, which can run anywhere from as low as $10 to several hundred dollars. You can even get a site for free if you don’t mind not having your own unique URL (web address).
The downsides to the DIY method are:
- You’ll have a limited number of templates to choose from
- You’ll need to do all the work yourself
- The features you’ll get are limited
- Customizations are either out of the question or an extra charge
- If you stop paying your monthly rent, you lose your website, regardless of how much you’ve already invested. It’s basically like renting a home instead of owning it. To read more about this concept read this – Are You Still Renting Your Website? You Should Consider Buying.
But if you’re a company with a reputation you care about and want to enhance, or if you’re a startup looking to create an online presence that will help you earn respect and be taken seriously by clients and competitors, you’ll be wise to invest in a quality web design company that you can trust and work with effectively.
What to look for in a web design company
Here’s a list of things you should look for when hiring a company to design and build your website:
1. Company Stability
You want to be sure that your web design company will be around to answer questions and deal with issues that will arise after they’ve completed your website and gotten paid. This can be challenging when working with freelancers, especially if they’re based offshore.
Building a website can be done from a laptop just about anywhere in the world, including that dream beach in Thailand. This works great for freelancers who like to stay mobile and on the road. It’s not so great for an established company who needs to know they have someone they can call and get a response when necessary. The money you might save up front will be offset later by the aggravation you’ll face when you need help but your designer or developer is no longer around to respond.
It’s tough to know exactly who you’re dealing with, since a well designed website can make a single freelancer working out of his closet look like a fortune 500 company. One way to find out is to check out the company address. If there isn’t one then you’ve got your answer. Also, if you google the address you should see a Google Earth photo of the place of business. If it’s a private home (or a beach), you’ve got your answer.
This is not to dismiss the option of using a mobile freelancer working from home. Just make sure they’re planning to be around for you in the long run.
Trusting the people you work with is probably the most important thing to look for. You’ll usually need to pay at least half of the total cost of the website up front, so you must be sure that you can trust your web design company to get the job done to completion. Once they have your money, there’s no way you’ll be getting it back.
How do you know if you can trust the company you’re thinking of hiring? You can google them and check out their address to see if their “for real” and not just a guy in his bedroom. But the best way to see if a company is for real is to meet face to face. This is why so many companies prefer working with local agencies. They know who they’re dealing with and where they can reach you. There’s a high degree of comfort in knowing that the company you’ve trusted with your online image is just a car ride away.
That’s not to say that working with someone you’ve only met via email or skype is going to be a disaster. I’ve had positive experiences working with contractors remotely whom I never actually met or even spoke with. It was all done via email. But that usually only works when you’ve got very specific requirements and tasks that need to get done (like creating a specific function or graphic) and you can effectively manage those tasks and hold the contractor responsible every step of the way.
Most companies looking to hire a web design company aren’t interested in managing every step of the design and development process. They’re looking for the company to guide them through the entire process and handle every aspect of the project from inception to launch. You need a company you can trust to accomplish that. Going local is a great option to find that.
Being able to clearly communicate your requirements, objectives and ongoing feedback is vital to the success of any project. A “misunderstanding” between you and your web designers could cost you time and money. That’s why it’s imperative to hire a team that you can communicate with effectively and easily.
You also want to make sure that when you do communicate, you’re speaking to a stakeholder or decision maker as opposed to a middleman who will then have to relay your message to the people actually doing the work. For example, offshore companies often employ native English speaking representatives who handle sales and client interaction. But once the sale is made and the papers signed, they usually pass you off to an offshore project manager who might not be so adept at American style communication. That’s when miscommunications can occur.
Just because a company is local doesn’t mean that they aren’t outsourcing their work overseas. The only way to find out is to ask straight out. You might not get the whole truth and nothing but the truth every time, but if you don’t ask you definitely never will. In any case, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a company that outsources tasks overseas, as long as the project is being closely managed and directed by the local team, who can address your questions and concerns on the spot. You shouldn’t have to wait for or rely on an answer coming from somewhere halfway around the world, especially when time is of the essence.
4. Marketing Expertise
A website is a marketing tool to help you achieve your business objectives. Its design and content should be geared towards achieving maximum marketing impact. The web design agency you hire should have marketing expertise. Otherwise you might end up with a beautiful design that is totally ineffective in achieving your marketing objectives (which equals huge waste of money).
5. Technical Expertise
You also need to make sure that your web design agency has the technical expertise to turn its design into a effectively functioning website that is fast, secure and easy to manage and update. Also, all designs must be responsive, which means they’ll look great on mobile devices and tablets.
6. Content Expertise
Who’s going to write your website content? If you plan to create all of your content inhouse, then you can move on to the next item. But if you can’t, or you need help editing or transforming your inhouse content into content that is more marketing oriented and user friendly and engaging, then you need to make sure the company you hire has content creation and content marketing expertise.
7. SEO Expertise
Getting found by search engines and ranking highly in their results is vital. SEO, search engine optimization, must be taken into account when building the structure of the website and applied to every page on your website. Your web design company must be able to ensure that you appear in Google search results, especially the local ones. Since SEO requires ongoing work to maintain and improve search engine rankings and performance, your agency should provide you with a proposal for an ongoing SEO strategy and campaign.
Launching your new website is only the beginning. To get the most out of it you’ll want to track and analyze how many people are visiting it, where they are coming from and what they are doing once on your site. This information can help you understand where to direct your marketing, how to improve your product and what changes to make to your web design, content and SEO to make it more effective. You’ll want to make sure that your web design agency knows how to track and analyze your metrics data and use it to improve your website to get more business.
How much should all this web design stuff cost?
Before we can answer that, you need to determine the kind of a website you want and what your website requirements are.
A strictly informational site, often called a brochure site, provides the user with information about your company, services and products and, most importantly, the best ways to contact you. This type of site doesn’t have much functionality, other than social media integration and a contact form. The number of pages really depends on the amount of information you need to convey.
A marketing site is an informational site that is geared towards acquiring leads. It will usually contain things like landing pages, lead magnets, intake forms and backend interfaces to track leads. There could also be an integration with an email service that would send a series of automated emails to nurture the leads (otherwise known as marketing automation).
If you’re actually selling products on your website, then you need it to be built for ecommerce, which includes the entering, displaying, selling and tracking products in addition to providing buyers with a password protected account and shopping cart. E-commerce sites come in various degrees of complexity with a wide variety of available features, depending on your requirements and budget.
No matter what type of website you choose, it must have a Content Management System (CMS) to allow you to easily administer the site and add and update content. You shouldn’t have to pay a developer to add or update your site content, unless you simply don’t want to bother doing it yourself.
Finally, as a wise man (or woman) once said, “Timing is everything.” You want to make sure that the company you hire can complete your project within an agreed upon timeframe. There’s nothing worse than a project that should take three months dragging on for six or more. Often the reason for the delay results from the client’s unpreparedness or procrastination in provided the necessary assets to the design company. But assuming the client does his part, there’s no good excuse for a company to promise a completed website in X months and then taking 3X to actually deliver it.
Now that we’ve reviewed all the things you need to look for in a web design company, it’s time to talk price.
Our average project, which includes web design, content, technical stuff, marketing, SEO and analytics typically starts at around $10,000 for an informational site. Prices vary depending on your requirements and could be substantially higher, or in some cases lower. Ecommerce sites usually start at around $15,000.
Of course you can find cheaper quotes from all sorts of places (remember the high school kid we talked about early), many of which are located in far off locations. If that’s the route you decide to take, God bless. But if you decide to invest in a team like ours or a similar one in your local area, then you should be prepared to make the reasonable investment required to get the job done.
If you’d like to get more guidance or a price quote, please contact us.