Recently a prospective client asked “What other costs should I expect” after I’d sent an estimate to design and install her first web site. So I thought I’d share my answer. This will be of interest to first time web site would-bes.
First, let me say that the initial cost of having a custom website professionally designed can vary considerably – that’s why I do detailed estimates with “what’s included” after talking with an interested person. But since this assessment would be incomplete without the cost of a web site, I’ll go out on a limb here and pick a number. For my example I’ll use a six page brochure web site, custom designed but with no additional interactive features (no blogs, shopping carts, Flash animation, etc.). I’ll say this very basic web site would cost $1200 – $1800 for design, construction and installation.
As far as other costs go, I can think of these “ongoing” costs (assuming you already have an Internet Service Provider):
You’ll want to purchase / register this yourself. It should not cost more than $10 – $15 per year, or even less if you buy five years at once. Plenty of web hosts will include a “free domain for life”, and that’s fine, provided you go with a reputable web host (see below). Consider setting your account to “auto-renew” right off the bat; You do NOT want to lose your domain name after your business is established, just because you forgot to renew!
Again, you’ll want to purchase this yourself on a separate account. Some web designers will host the web site for you on their own server computers, so you can get a package deal. I don’t advocate this because small web designers such as myself, while providing great value in custom designed web sites, cannot compete with the big companies as far as hosting a site is concerned. You want a web host with 99.9% uptime guaranteed, and lots of customer support staff on duty! AND you shouldn’t pay more than$7 – $12 per month. My web host is Bluehost – they are great!
Incidentally, your web host should include email accounts in your cost. So, for example, if your domain name is www.mywebsite.com, then you can set up an account for email@example.com. Then you have an email address that reminds people of your website, and looks more professional. There should be no additional cost involved. “But wait” – you say. “I like to do all my email from my hotmail account -it’s too much work to keep track of all these email accounts!” No problem, just set up an email forward that sends all mail addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org over to your hotmail or gmail account. Your web designer may or may not include this type of set-up support in your fee (generally speaking I do this for my clients at no extra cost). But it’s not rocket surgery – you could figure out how to set this up yourself!
Web Site Maintenance
This is tough to estimate because it depends on your time constraints and ability to learn how to update your own web site. I have many clients who continue to use my services for all manner of web updates. Small business clients may spend anywhere from $0 to $300 per month on edits and updates. My current rate is $50 per hour. This rate varies considerably among web designers.
For budget minded do-it-yourself-ers, there are ways to set up a web site that can be edited. Edits to the text of existing pages are easy to learn, provided you’re willing to take the time to set up some free or inexpensive software on your computer and learn a thing or two about FTP (file transfer protocol – the way your home computer talks to your web host’s server computer when you are updating.) Or, if you have a shopping cart, there’s no reason you can’t teach yourself to update your products and prices.
But here are some limitations: If you’re adding new pages, moving things around, modifying the design, or adding images that need to be processed for the web (most do), you may need a web designer with the software and expertise to do these things. Here’s what I told my prospective client, who is doing a shopping cart web site:
“Let’s say we finish the web site, and 3 months later you have six new products to add. Assuming you know something about image processing, and can take your own digital product shots, I could probably train you to add the new products, prices, etc., in a 3 hour training session. Or I could do it myself in about 1 hour. So, at $50 / hour, you’re looking at $50 – $150 for that sort of update”.
“On the other hand, if you decide to do additional pages, re-format the design or layout, switch to a new web host or shopping cart, add a blog, enhance your search engine optimization, do online marketing, or any other upgrade – well you could spend a couple hundred dollars on each of these. But they are all entirely optional, probably not important for the first year you have a website, and can be done on your time frame as your business grows.”
So you can see there are plenty of considerations, but setting up and maintaining a web site doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. More importantly, it doesn’t have to take you away from your core business functions – if you don’t have time to think about each micro-decision because you prefer to focus on what you do best, there are services and people out there who can make it easy for you.