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Why Does a Website Cost So Much?

Early on in 1996, when I learned how to build websites, I realized an interesting phenomena with the web -- people were reluctant to pay to have a website built. My theory was that it was really hard for them to pay for something they could not touch and feel in their hands. In their minds, it was air, and how expensive could that be? I recently read an article about hidden costs on website development. I believe many clients are not aware of the time involved in the creation of a website.

We work with mostly small to medium-sized businesses, and at least 1/3 of our companies are sole proprietors with only 1-2 employees. Their budget for a website is usually "we just want to spend a few hundred dollars." They often gasp when they see the simple little website they want is in the few thousand dollar arena. Why would this be so? They only have 15 or so pages. How could it possibly cost so much? Here's a list of the steps required to build such a simple site:

Steps involved in building a website in Joomla:

  1. Create information architecture and develop quote for client: 1-2 hours
  2. Select a couple templates for the client to choose from (selecting a template saves $1500-$2000 in design fees): 1.5 hour
  3. Purchase selected template: $25-$45
  4. Customize the template with client's logo, color scheme and possible modify module positions to work with content: 3-4 hours
  5. Gather content from existing site and create content outline for client in Word: 1 hour
  6. Set up hosting, Install Joomla, create section/category, menu and article structure: 3 hours
  7. Input client's content (all static content): 3-4 hours
  8. Optimize graphic layout of content to it abides by usability standards: 2 hours
  9. Search for stock photos for the site: 1-2 hours
  10. Pay for stock photos: $25-$50
  11. Size and optimize 15-20 photos for the site: 2 hours
  12. Input images and edits to content: 1-2 hours
  13. Create online contact form: 1 hour
  14. Install and configure FAQ component with 20 questions: 1.5 hours
  15. Test and optimize template for popular browsers: 2 hours
  16. Apply SEO to page titles, links, content: 2-3 hours
  17. 1 year hosting at Rochen: $95
  18. Talking to the client and calling/emailing asking for content or clarifying issues: 3-4 hours
Total hours: 28-33 hours
Out of pocket expenses: $145-$190

And what about nifty extras?
This time estimate is for a site that is basically text with very little extended functionality. We often add the following to our client's sites, which can vary in time required depending on the complexity of the pieces:
  • Google Analytics
  • Backup System
  • Search Engine Submission
  • Keyword analysis and SEO implementation
  • Blog setup and integration with the site
  • Photo Gallery
  • Flash slide show on home page
  • Event Calendar
  • Newsflash module for marketing taglines on home page or customer testimonials
  • Modification of custom components to match site
  • Purchase of commercial components to optimize performance
  • Etc...
So you can see how quickly the hours add up, and that's if the project goes perfectly without delays or technical glitches, which isn't always the case.

The time has come where a website is an essential part of doing business. It is a critical expense to include in your budget, and because of its importance, its creation should be carefully considered. It's okay to have a budget, but talk to your designer and understand what you're really getting for your money. Sometimes that $500 saved means you're getting a less-than-optimum product.

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