Why Are Websites So Expensive/Inexpensive?
While this is not a question we are actually asked very much, it has come up. Some business owners have been amazed at the quality of work we offer for such value. Others, often think a website should cost under a thousand dollars. To better understand this question, it’s best to understand the process of developing a website.
In the old days (1990’s), we designed websites from scratch, using code, tables, and sometimes even frames (a mistake even the best of us made). We developed websites based on screen size; that is, the average screen size was 14”, so websites were developed to accommodate those screens. As time went on, and more screen sizes became available and were in regular use, and as internet connections got faster, we used more code, and more creative techniques to size a website “just right.”
As time went on, newer technologies which had only been something found in large corporate systems, made its way to the web. These are called Content Management Systems (CMS). Content Management Systems made incorporating forms, forums, shopping carts, and various plugins much easier than in the past; though not without their faults. A CMS is not unlike the way we did things in the past, though, as it is generally a similar language, with many of its own tags.
So, instead of spending more time and effort, we have a boilerplate system to work off, incorporating plugins, etc. to make the website display the content in a way that is both pleasing to the eye, and highly effective in expanding the website into something so much more than an online billboard. When we are working with a CMS, lots of time is spent finding the right plugins, altering code, and of course, building the website. Even if this is done based off of a template, it’s not as simple as plugging in content, as much more time needs to be put in to make adjustments. Often, it’s difficult to get things to work the way we want, so we have to contact the original developer of the plugin, template, component, etc. and find where certain code needs to be added, so we don’t break the system.
This leads me closer to the answer, though we are not quite there yet. The average website generally takes anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months to create, depending on how many individuals are working on it, and the complexity of the website. The vast majority of websites we work on take about 4 weeks to complete. Not only must the graphics be formatted to the right sizes, etc., but the layout needs to be setup in a way that it is responsive to newer technologies, such as mobile browsing. Now, we are no longer working on a website for 14” screens. Rather, a website needs to accommodate everything from 4” mobile phone screens to large 32” monitors.
If a website takes 4 weeks, for example, that’s 160 working hours. Even at $3000, that website is only generating $18.75 an hour for the web developer. But that’s not the whole picture. We host our clients websites on state of the art hosting servers. For every client we add, we need to increase bandwidth and expand our servers to accommodate the new website. Even if it is a minimal website with very few processes running, our cost ends up being around $12 per month to host that website and ensure our servers are running at peak performance to accommodate all of our customers. A more complex website requires far more processes, thus ends up costing us upwards of $60 - $120 per month to run, depending on the complexity of the website and needs of the client. Cheap hosting packages don’t cut it, because if your website is slow, you will rank lower on search engines, thus, defeating the purpose of trying to grow your business online.
In some cases, especially in our growing phase, we would roll the cost of hosting and the domain name into a neat little package for our clients; sometimes as low as $3000 for a year, including hosting, and maintenance. One thing not mentioned previously about content management systems, is not only how resource intensive they are, but how often they need to be upgraded. The system must be upgraded, as well as each individual plugin and component. Often, when doing these upgrades, some changes may alter the look of the content, or create a conflict or problem in the scripts, and more time needs to be made to fix these scripts.
Then there are recurring changes requested by clients. A client may have a new employee, or product, and they want that added. This is the reason for our maintenance plans, so that we incorporate these changes into a regular monthly fee, rather than charging a large sum to make minor or major changes, as is often the case. Since most web companies actually outsource these processes, it often takes weeks to make a minor change to a website. We are proud of the fact that we do everything in-house, and our clients appreciate that when they ask us to make a change, it is almost always accomplished in under 2 business days (much of the time, it is within hours of their request). We can do this because we build the websites ourselves, and we don’t rely on outside developers.
So when you take all of this into account, and add in operating expenses, taxes, etc. you realize that even if a website is $6000 or more, we don’t actually make much doing websites. We do them because we have been creating websites since 1994, and because we are good at what we do. We also know that the our clients are likely to stay with us, because they get much better service and reliability with our company than they do from these other fly-by-night web design companies. Lastly, we are not just designers. I personally have been a marketing consultant and marketing director for many large companies; so when I do a website, it’s not just from the standpoint of a website developer or graphic designer; it’s from a marketing expert who wants to help you grow your business. We don’t like putting our name on the bottom of unsuccessful websites. If we put “Website designed by Make it Active, LLC” on the bottom of an unsuccessful website, it actually lowers our rank on search engines. This is why we make sure to do our best at creating a website that is actually going to help grow business, and not just look good.
I know this was a long read, but you should have a better understanding of the process to ensure you chose the right company when looking for someone to design your website. Make it Active, LLC is that company.