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How Much Does It Cost To Have a Website?

More people want their own website today than ever before.  The first question they ask is “How much does it cost to have a website?”  It depends on the type of website, who it is for and whether or not you want it built properly.

The Education of a Website Owner

I’ve never met a prospective client who understands what it means to create, own, promote and maintain a website.

Woman with a notebook.A Typical Meeting

When I meet with someone interested in starting a website, it soon becomes clear they have no idea what they are asking for.  Here is an example of a typical conversation:

Me – “What kind of website do you want?”

They – “I want to sell my products and services, have a newsletter, a blog, put up videos, have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus and I’m thinking of charging for membership.”

Me – “Who is the site for?”

They – “Anyone who comes to the site.”

Me – “Would that include people who wear eye glasses, are color blind, can’t use a mouse due to disease that causes hand tremors, are blind, deaf and….”

They – “Of course!”

Me – “Do you want the site to rank is search engines?”

They – “Definitely.”

Me – “Do you have a host?”

They – “What is that?”

Me – “Did you buy your domain name?”

They – “No.”

Me – “Do you want the site to be secure and set up to prevent hackers from getting to it?”

They – “I guess so.”

Me – “Who writes the content for it?”

They – “I will.”

Me – “Who will maintain it for you?”

They – “What do you mean?”

Me – “Do you want a website built to be standards compliant?”

They – “What do you mean?”

Me – “Do you want your site to work on all types of computers?”

They – “Of course.”

Me – “Do you want it to work on cell phones?”

They – “Of course.”

Me – “For purchases, do you have a payment gateway set up?”

They – “No. What do I need for that?”

Me – “Have you done any research into the needs of your target market?”

They – “No.”

Me – “What about your competitors.  Any competitive analysis done?”

They – “Competition?”

Me – “When do you need this website?”

They – “Next week.”

Me – “What is your budget?”

They – “$500.”

You Will Not Get a Website That Meets Those Requirements for $500

Advertisers on TV and elsewhere convinced the public that it’s easy to have your own website for free or very cheap. What these companies don’t admit is that their product takes advantage of people who don’t know the full scope of website ownership.  The extra items you want, such as membership, shopping cart and newsletter cost extra, if offered at all. Nearly every new small business client that signs on with me has used a free service and required a complete redesign and new host.  Corporations take advantage of the lack of education by the public by offering free websites with a new service, hosted by a cheap resource such as GoDaddy or their servers using their domain, not your own.

Standards compliance is the first item on my list that stumps someone.  They’ve never heard of W3C.  A website that is expected to function properly must meet W3C standards. Those standards are constantly changing and evolving.  The same is true for search engines.  There is a tremendous mythology around SEO and best practices.  The bottom line is not following them will get your website penalized and removed from search engines.  Usability and persuasive design, human factors and user centered design are skills required by webmasters.  No WordPress theme comes ready to sell or function out of the box.

Accessibility is a legal requirement for some types of websites and for retail, not providing access to your site by anyone with special needs can bring you a nice lawsuit.  This, too, requires someone who has skills in accessibility. Google and Bing require that websites work on cellphones. That said, their requirements don’t include mobile usability so just because web pages render on small screens does not mean people can read them or conduct tasks.

Your website is an investment that requires performance checks, promotion, maintenance and security precautions. There will always people ready to make you a website, but unless you do your homework before hiring them, you will not get a properly built, usable, readable, marketable, mobile, secure, tested, up to date, standards compliant website ready to surpass your competitors.