“More than you can afford” is what I should start telling people when they ask. But I’m nicer than that.
Since 1999 I’ve been asked about how much a website costs more than a few times. The first response is usually “it depends” because it does depend on what the client wants. Do they want a one page website or a website with 5,000 pages? Do they want a content management system? Some Flash? Some custom illustrations as part of the design? There are too many factors to be able to just say “$5,000″ and be done with it.
I’m not saying it’s an unreasonable question, especially for someone who has never paid for a website before. However, when a client asks the question and the response is “it depends” they should instantly understand that more information will be needed. They might as well drive their car to the mechanic and ask “How much will it cost to fix my broken car?” and then expect him to answer without asking any questions about what exactly is broken.
But my favorite moments are when clients see a website they like and expect us to be able to deliver the same results for wildly less than what the website that has attracted their affection cost. For example…
“Hi, I’m interested in building a website and I wanted to see how much it would cost.”
“Great, tell me about what you want to do.”
“Well, I’m looking for something like Amazon.com, although not quite so big.”
I have seriously had multiple phone conversations with separate individuals like this. To me, this shows these people haven’t really thought about what they’re doing. In fact, I’m not sure these people have thought much of anything since breakfast. Now I shouldn’t get too down on these people, after all they’re not stupid, just ignorant. Well, they might be stupid, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Here’s why they are ignorant, at a minimum.
Guess how much money has been spent on Amazon.com’s website? Billions. Yes, with a big B. BILLIONS. There’s also an S on the end. Yes, BILLIONS.
When Amazon.com was getting started, their bricks-and-mortar competitor Barnes and Noble decided they better get in the game. They spent over $100 million (with an M) in nine months to build an ecommerce site, and it then took years and millions of dollars per month to compete in any way with Amazon. And trust me, BN is doing nowhere close the revenue of book sales that Amazon is doing.
So for someone to come and say “I’d like to have a website like Amazon.com and I have a $3,000 budget” is sort of like…well, I don’t think there is really any comparison that could be more outrageous.
By the way, if you find this interesting, you might enjoy reading Create Your Own Logo! and Other Mistakes by yours truly.
If anything could be more ridiculous than making this kind of statement, it’s the people who when you explain this to them don’t give up. I heard things like:
“Well, I just don’t see why it would cost that much” or “I’ve talked to another firm and they said they can do it.”
Ok, so why are you even talking to us anymore after we told you it’s impossible?
“Maybe the firm that told you they can do it for $3,000 isn’t really going to give you what you’re expecting” we might reply.
“Oh no, this is a good company” they say.
Yeaaahhhh….great. Well go get it from them then. Good luck.
Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made running a firm have been to agree to do projects based on a client’s expectations of what their project should cost vs. what I’m pretty sure, based on my experience working on hundreds of websites, it’s really going to take.
So what’s a website shopper to do? Get a lot of bids from a lot of companies. If the range in prices is $3,000 to $20,000 then you should probably ask the lowest and highest bidders why their bids are way out there. In the end, you probably want to choose someone towards the middle. That’s assuming you’ve got a good representation of firms. It might be that the most expensive firm is the only realistic one. I promise you the cheapest firm is almost never the one you want to go with.
This goes for most things you might buy, not just websites. The adage is true, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
So what does a website really cost? Well, a typical corporate site like www.sorensoncapital.com might cost $7,500 from my firm. But firms like Studeo or Boede and Partners might charge $50,000 or $100,000 for the same work.
Whey do they charge so much? Because they can. I would too if I could get away with it. Firms that do good work start getting more and more work and eventually they reach the point where they can start turning away work, and of course the criteria they use to turn away work is usually price. As they charge more, they are able to spend more time on each project which means the quality of each project increases. This means they get more and more requests to do work, so they keep raising their prices, and then they hire better designers and spend even more time on each project, and the cycle continues until you see a large disparity between relatively unrecognized small firms and larger firms.
Ok, I think that was therapeutic.