How much does a website cost?
How long is a piece of string?
I recently saw this thread on stack overflow, asking the question “How much does it cost to develop an iPhone application?”
This is a great thread to get a little insight into how much work goes into an app and how the cost is calculated. I think it’s because it’s not a physical product that people often underestimate the costs involved, and the same applies for websites.
It’s easy to disassociate the cost of a deliverable from the time that goes into it – I always “feel bad” sending an invoice, especially when it’s for an individual rather than an established business. I question whether I’m charging too much money for a bit of code that I upload in a few minutes and I remember that they have to eat too. Then I remember the fact that I’ve been working on their website, often into the early hours of the morning, for weeks or months on end, while I presume they get to watch tv, play video games, socialise and sleep like a normal person and I decide that they can suck it up and pay up. The reality is most likely different to that; small business owners do tend do work extremely hard outside of business hours too, but the image I have makes me feel better about asking them for their hard earned money.
I remember a few years ago a mate of mine asked how much the agency I worked for charged for a website. I told him that $3500 was about the lowest they’d go for something very simple. He was horrified that a website could even cost thousands, probably from seeing too much advertising for web hosting providers and offshore developers that sell a “custom designed website” for $399 (spoiler: you get what you pay for). I had to explain that even a small site would take at least a day from a designer, a day from a developer and a day of content entry, project management and deployment. We’re talking at least 24 work hours here – and that’s still a slapdash effort to throw something together. My friend didn’t feel that that amount of time was unreasonable for a site at all, so when you factor in that the people involved have worked or studied for years to learn those skills and that the agency had to pay rent, liability/indemnity insurance, wages and superannuation, and corporate tax – the costs involved start to make sense (their hourly rate was about $140 at the time), it’s almost a wonder that an agency can operate at that kind of price point.
Being “small” ourselves, The Mealings don’t have those overheads thankfully, and we can operate in a “leaner” way, but breaking down the time that goes into a project in this way makes sense; as a developer it helps to justify the invoice amount and sheds light on the fact that the cost to the customer is not the cost of a “piece of code” but the cost of your time spent understanding the problem, developing and delivering a solution, and for the customer it represents the value of what’s being delivered, not a snippet of code but a solution to a problem. This is why we try to steer towards giving a quote based on a time budget, rather than a fixed price for a “blog” or a “website” as though they’re a single unit of measure.
So how much does a website cost? The answer is really that you need to think about time more than dollars. A good quote is one that has an acceptable hourly rate, but has budgeted the project enough time to come to fruition. Want to know how much time your project will take? – get in touch.