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dollar signWe’re often asked by clients, “how much does a website cost?” To which we respond, “it depends.” Sadly, this conversation can often times be a non-starter on both ends of the phone:

From the client side …
The client can interpret this as a shakedown … a “how much you got” kind of question if you will, where they inadvertently spend $X on a site that should only cost $Y, because they tipped their hat on their budget.

From the agency side …
It tells us the client has quite possibly given little (or no) consideration to how valuable this kind of investment is to them, or has little knowledge of the costs associated with developing a custom website.

We often liken the “how much does a website cost?” question to asking a home builder “how much does a house cost?” Most people can relate to the “house” question because we all know houses come in a wide variety of sizes””from the 2 bedroom / 1 bath starter home to the 10 bedroom / 5 bath / custom kitchen / 3 car garage / in-ground pool palatial mansion. Websites are much the same: the larger and more complex they are, the more time and thus money they take to build.

You may now be saying, “this is all entertaining, but how exactly do we go about determine a website budget?” Good question, and here’s what I recommend considering:

1) You Get What You Pay For
You’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase and it applies to building websites in a big way. Good developers and designers are expensive and this is reflected in the price of their work. So do your best when reviewing a proposal to NOT go straight to the price.

2) Cost Benefit
How valuable is a website to your organization? If you plan to sell products through your website or utilize the site as a lead-generation tool, then you can directly attribute revenue to your site. In this case, it’s much easier to justify a higher budget. Conversely, if your website serves simply as the “YellowPages” ad from the days of yore, then a low-cost “templated” solution may be your best bet.

3) Agency Referrals
Don’t just rely on an internet search to locate an agency for your website project. Rather, ask for references from other business, friends, etc., who’ve hired an agency to build their site. This will help you locate an agency that has a track record for actually delivering a quality product. And see if your contacts can share their budget … or at the very least a ballpark.

4) Marketing Budget
Ideally, if you have a marketing budget, then consider the above three items and determine what portion of that budget your team is willing to allocate to a website.

And finally …

5) Share Your Budget:
At this point you may be wanting to tune out, but stick with me. Once you’ve determined a budget or a range you’re comfortable spending, share it with the agencies you’ve located through your referral network. At this point, you’re talking to trustworthy agencies who have the chops to build what you need. Now, what you need to do is compare everything they can deliver within your identified budget. In this instance your agencies are not focused on being the cheapest (which you don’t want) and instead are focused on giving you the most for your dollar. In addition, this will help you weed-out those resources whose minimums are simply too much for your organization.

In the end, a good business deal is defined when both parties (the buyer and seller) win. The buyer gets a product that meets their needs and for a budget they can afford. And the seller makes a profit on the service in which they’re in business to provide.

Keeping the above in mind will not only ensure your “new website project” is not a waste of time and money, but a venture that returns on the investment for your organization.

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