How Much Does a Website Cost?
The perennial question, and usually met with the frustrating response: “It depends...”
So in this post I will give you some hard figures about what you can pay or not pay to get your business online.
Firstly, you can get great websites for free or you can do what Australian retailer David Jones has done and spend $160 million with IBM to get your website up.
And while the new DJ’s website is impressive, I know there are some smart developers out there who could have got the same result for a fraction of the price.
So where does that leave the average business when it comes to building or upgrading their web presence?
Free, Fully Functional and Fantastic
There are plenty of options out there which will give you a perfectly good website for free.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of these sorts of services out there, so you are spoilt for choice. Plus, just because they are free doesn’t mean they aren’t any good. Most of them will give you everything you need to get started.
In Australia, the Federal government has partnered with Google and MYOB to give businesses a free site for a year http://www.gettingbusinessonline.com.au/ in order to get more businesses online.
If you just need a blog or a website without ecommerce options, then there are even more solutions.
Wordpress will give you a blog for free at http://wordpress.com/
Google offers a similar solution with Blogger at www.blogger.com/
And similarly Tumblr www.tumblr.com
Again there are so many to choose from, I’ve just listed some of the better known ones.
Even Freer than Free
Another option you have is to simply forgo having your own website altogether and make use of the various social media platforms to build you online presence.
Linkedin has Company Pages, Google Plus has Google Places and Facebook has Business or Fan pages.
By using all three in combination you can create a very viable online presence. In fact many small businesses already use their Facebook business page as their primary website.
It’s a perfectly acceptable approach, and one that will spare you the cost and time of maintaining an actual website.
Low Cost and Luscious
If you are prepared to spend a few dollars a month, then your options open up even more. By a few dollars I’m talking as low as $5 a month here to up to around $100.
For just a small amount you get just about everything you could want in a website. Many big name companies have already moved into this space and are offering some fantastic solutions.
Software giant Adobe, offers its Business Catalyst suite starting at about $7 a month for basic web features and about $40 a month for full blown ecommerce and online marketing features.
The beauty of the Adobe solution is everything is included and integrated: hosting, online shop, email, crm, cms and analytics.
A similar service is Squarespace http://www.squarespace.com starting from $8/ month.
Some of the previously mentioned free options, such as zoho, also offer premium versions with more functionality.
Even Australia Post offers a solution called Shop in a Box starting from $19.95 a month.
Low Cost Online Shops
There are also a wealth of hosted services that specialise in easy to use online shopping solutions.
Shopify is a very slick service starting from $29/ month. http://www.shopify.com
Another powerful solution is Volusion http://www.volusion.com/ This is a very powerful online shopping solution and the company has been around for a long time.
In a similar vein there is Big Commerce http://www.bigcommerce.com/
There is also Ashop http://www.ashop.com.au/
All start from around $25/ month and go up depending on what additional features you want. Prices and features can vary a lot, so compare carefully.
Hosted services means the provider takes care of all of the technical side of things, and all you have to do is select the options you want and pay the monthly fee.
Obviously this means there are some limitations in flexibility and design, but having said that, many of these solutions give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Again I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available, and new solutions are being released almost daily.
Is There a Catch to All These Goodies?
Well yes. You may not be able to customise certain aspects of your site the way you want to. You’re limited to doing things the way the providers’ programmers have decreed.
This may not be such a big deal when you’re starting out, but once you get serious about improving the sales and buying process, marketing funnel and running improvement testing, such limitations become a serious issue.
Also, you may not be able to add new features as quick as you like, as again you’re tied to the developers own improvement and implementation schedule.
Again, this only becomes an issue when you get really serious about your online business and marketing.
What Other Options Are There?
If you are a hands on, DIY type or have a programmer/developer that you trust, then there are plenty of free or low cost open source and proprietary solutions available.
The beauty of these is that they are either free or very low cost to acquire and install. In fact almost all hosting providers make some of these solutions available as part of their hosting packages.
The cost comes in having someone set it all up for you, but even so the cost can still be quite minimal.
Solutions such as
all offer solutions for free or for a few hundred dollars. And once again I am only scratching the surface here.
The advantage of these solutions is that you have complete flexibility to build your site the way you want it.
If you have someone set it all up for you then it could cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $10,000, depending on how sophisticated you want to get.
So What Should I Pay For?
If anything, the above options should show you that you can get set up for somewhere between free and a few thousand dollars. That should free you to invest in the things that will make a real difference.
The one thing that will make a real difference is getting professional advice before you start. And by that I don’t mean professional advice on how to develop a website, I mean professional advice on how to establish a successful online business.
In other words, don’t mistake technical development advice for business advice.
Getting professional advice is an expensive choice, but the money that you can save from avoiding bad choices and making intelligent ones can be huge.
Professional graphic design
The image you present to the online world can make or break your success, so it pays to hire a professional designer.
Expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a custom design on average, it could be more or less again depending on how much you want done.
Business and marketing strategy.
Before you build a website you need to have clear business objectives about what you want to achieve. Without them you’ll never know if your website is working. This is one of the most overlooked and ignored aspects of creating an online business. It is also why so many fail.
Expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 - $10,000 or even more.
Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is best done before and during the building of any new website. Too many people leave it until after the site is built, which while still possible is really too late.
Organic search engine traffic will account for a large part of your revenue, so it makes sense to do invest in it first and do it optimally. Unfortunately doing it after the development is always a poor compromise.
Again, $5,000 - $10,000 would not be an unreasonable budget.
Another overlooked and ignored aspect that can make a huge difference to your online revenue. Find and pay for a good copywriter, one who knows how to sell with words.
Don’t write your product copy yourself, don’t just copy it from the manufacturer’s brochure or outsource it to India.
Expect to pay, well a lot, but it will be far cheaper and more successful than wasting your money on online advertising.
What Else Should I Pay For
Most of the above are just the costs of getting started, and there are obviously ongoing costs. These costs need to be budgeted for.
As I’ve detailed in previous posts many of these costs quickly mount up and are often quite more than a business owner thought they’d be up for.
You don’t have to do everything straight away, but my hope is that these articles will give you some idea of what the costs of setting up and running a successful online business really are.
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