January 3, 2016
In this blog post I'm going to be answering the question, “How much does it cost to have a website built? Looking at everything from domain hosting to support fees and up-front costs. The answer is, “Free to expensive and everything in between!”
The article emphasises the importance of understanding the full range of costs associated with building and maintaining a website, from domain registration to ongoing support and updates.
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I'm going to read out a couple of statistics to give you an idea about some of the more expensive websites that have been built. Typically these tend to be our UK government-based organisations who are squandering lots of tax-payers money on websites. The HMRC website recently cost £35m per year to build and maintain over three years. The Business Link website, built several years ago, cost £105m, which included £6.2m on strategy and planning, £4.4 on design and build, £4.7 on hosting and infrastructure, and £15.3 on content provision, and finally £4.5m on testing and evaluation. Those costs were repeated every year for three years, it's ridiculous. Business Link also no longer exists so what happened to all that infrastructure?
Typically for a small business you could be looking at anything from zero, if you're going to be building a website yourself using tools such as 1and1, Wix and WordPress. You could spend anything up to those ridiculous figures, which I talked about earlier. I'm going to break down some of those costs in a little bit more detail.
The first thing that you need when you're setting up your website is a domain name. A common mistake made at this juncture when someone is registering a new domain is to register every single domain suffix under the sun. For example, CoconutStrategy.co.uk, .com, .net, .whatever, .fr or .de, you can have .london now, .marketplace, .whatever, .anything. I always ask clients, "Where are you going to be trading?" and, “What type of business do you own?" If you've got a standard small business in the UK then I'd recommend you start by registering .co.uk, and maybe if it's available, get the .com to protect your name. But you only need to buy the other domains if you're planning on selling overseas or have a really valuable brand to protect. You don't need anything more than that.
It's really important to make sure that your domain is set up for auto renewal. If it isn’t then your website is going to go down. It's your domain that sends traffic to your website and to your email. Make sure it's set up to auto renew, and update your credit card information too. If your credit card expires, then add your new one. Otherwise, when your domain comes to auto renew and your credit card isn't up to date then your domain will expire which means your website will go offline as well.
We register domains on behalf of our customers ensuring that the credit card details are up to date and the domain is set to auto renew. I would recommend that, if you're a busy entrepreneur, pay your web designer to manage the domain and billing on your behalf. Then you don't have to worry about it. We manage hundreds of domains on behalf of our clients. It takes all the stress and hassle out of it.
My second tip is to make sure that you compare quotes on a like-for-like basis. In my professional opinion, cheap quotes tend to mean that you end up with a cheap looking website which is typically delivered behind schedule and not to the spec which you laid out. The more money you spend then the better quality product you're going to end up with Th.at's not to say that you can't get a really great quality product for a reasonable price; there are some really great web designers out there who can do it cheaply and well but they are hard to find, trust me!
I would recommend drilling down into the feature set and look to see whether those cheap quotes include the same set of features as the more expensive quotes. It might be you've got a cheap quote, but they might have missed something really fundamental out from your specification document; it's worthwhile comparing the two proposals in detail.
Take a detailed appraisal of those DIY and free tools that are out there if you are considering using one. First of all, if you're doing it yourself, it's unlikely you're going to end up with an enterprise-level website. I would question whether it will be super-fast loading, high performance, well-optimised, and organically drawing traffic in. I doubt it's going to have analytics installed, and all those other great features that you get from having a professional web designer build your website.
On the other hand free and DIY tools are great if you're on a budget and you've got to get something online quickly and cheaply. If you have got a reasonable budget, then it's worthwhile spending a little bit to get something done to take you closer to that enterprise level quality I mentioned earlier. What you don't pay for now, you will end up paying for further down the line. It makes sense to do everything right now, and don't forget, if a professional's build your website, it's going to stand your business in much better stead. If the site's well optimised, it's going to be making you money, it's going to be drawing customers into your website. That’s what business is all about at the end of the day, it's about making money.
As your business grows, your website is going to need scaling. Making an investment now to prepare your website to grow at the same pace as your business is really important. I would ask you to be open minded about paying professional for help. Again, from experience, even if you use free tools such as WordPress, eventually your business may grow to a point whereby you do need professional help. It's going to be a bit of a shock when you go from WordPress which is free to all of a sudden paying £60, £80, or £100 an hour for a professional to help you out.
Get into the mind-set that at some point you're going to have to pay for your website even if you’re not paying much for it now. Whether it's now, in terms of getting something set up, or for professional help further down the line. At the end of the day, a DIY site is going to depend on your technical ability. If you're not very technical, i.e. you don't know how to open up a Word document and, I don't know, upload an image or how to buy a product on Amazon, or you don't even know how to switch your iPhone on properly, then perhaps building a website yourself isn't really for you.
Maybe you should think about, consider leaving it to the professionals, regardless of how easy your friends told you it is to build your own website.
Expect for there to be ongoing costs in some way, shape, or form. It's not about paying up front for the website, but once it's live, you're going to need support and hosting. There may be some extra features which you're going to need adding to it. Maintenance, for example, if there are server updates required to your server or support if you are struggling to edit the website content. When you switch on ecommerce on your website, you're going to have to pay for an SSL certificate on a monthly or annual basis. And, SSL certificates, case in point, are complex to install.
Although generally these days most hosts have got very good technical support.
Finally, I would always try and get a fixed price quote up front, both for the build fees and any updates which you might have further down the line. It means you know exactly how much you're going to be billed in advance rather than getting a shock bill at the end of the month.