Man shrugging his shoulders with www in the background.It’s been a year since I published Website Cost – Part 1.  We’ve been busy, both in life and work and these are good things!

So, what factors are driving the higher-cost websites?  In a nutshell it’s based on the level of resources, product and services you require from your friendly web designers and developers.

Let’s go through a couple of examples.

The Basic Website

The basic website is supposed to be low cost options. If you’re starting out with your “basic” website the most basic things you need are content and graphics.  So:

Content

Content is the the information on your website; arguably the most important element of a quality website. Do you have your content already written in the form of marketing materials or having staff develop it internally? If yes, great! You’ll save a few bucks here.

If you do not have materials developed or do not have the resources to do it yourself, then you will require copyrighting services to develop your content.  Content authors are valuable here as they are great at creating the content needed to promote your business and provide the information your customers need.

How about multi-language content?  Although it seems like magic, multilingual sites have professionally translated content.  When you click on “French”, the website does not translate it for you.  There are tools like, Google Translate that you can implement to provide on-the-fly translation, but keep in mind it is not perfect.  Electronic translation does not take into account context, interpretations and cultural differences.

Graphics

Your logo.  Do you have one?  Do you need one created?

Do you need custom graphics developed to dress up your website? Most of the really fancy websites you see are designed by professional, dedicated graphic artists.

Photographs

Will you supply your own photographs from your own collection or take your own photos?

If you need photographs, you can’t just hop onto the web to search and download any picture you need.  You will likely be hit with letters claiming copyright infringements and unauthorized usages.  You might even get a bill for using photos you “found” online.  You can expect anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per photo!  Don’t download photos at will.

If you dont’ have your own photos you’ll either have to purchase (license) some for use, hire a photographer, or obtain permission from the owner of the images.

Animations & Video

If you need animations realize you need someone to create this for you.  So if you want a cute little rabbit bouncing across the screen sniffing flowers around your product, someone has to draw up the scenery, create the rabbit character and then make it move around.  That’s a mini cartoon!  Expect to fork over a few bucks for that work too!

Video?  If you don’t have the video already then consider costs for production, filming and post production.  The big cost is in creating the videos.  Sticking it into the website is easy!

E-Commerce

This is a big one.  It’s important to understand that an online store is not just a website.  It is a system that facilitates the business of selling goods and services through a website.

What happens in a typical sale in a physical retail store:

  • Customer shops around the store (goes through the aisles, compares products, compares prices)
  • Customer find what they are looking for and adds to their shopping cart
  • Customer proceeds to the checkout
  • Cashier processes the items by scanning the item and totalling the cost
  • Customer decides on method of payment (cash, debit, credit)
  • Cashier processes the payment and on verification the sale is complete
  • Receipt is issued

Someone has to build and/or setup the store, make the aisles navigable, place the products on the shelves, price all the items, monitor the inventory and process payments.  A level of customer service has to be maintained to help shopping customers find what they are looking for, answer questions, deal with returns, etc…

So how do we duplicate this process on the web?

This is where we get into the realm of development versus design.  Design can make the website for the store look nice, just like the painters and interior designers can make the retail store look pretty. But that doesn’t guarantee a good online store.  Especially if customers can’t find what they’re looking for, or if the purchasing process it too cumbersome, unreliable, and insecure.

Development makes websites do things. Things like, return search results, provide product information, categorize products, list products, sort products, keep track of shopping carts, process totals, calculate taxes, estimate shipping, accept payments, and so on.  And that’s just a portion of what the system has to do for the customer.

What about the store owner? The business needs to receive the order, be notified of orders, receive payments, obtain shipping labels, packing slips, process shipping, keep track of orders (reporting), update products and more.  Then there’s the service side of things like order returns.  Whew!

Then factor in ongoing costs for web hosting such as storage space (for all those product images), bandwidth usage (traffic volume… all those images!), and databases (inventory, customer information, etc.). There are also fees associated with payment processing (per transaction, monthly fees) and security in the form of SSL certificates.

You definitely cannot expect something like this to be cheap given how crucial it is to the business to have an online store ready for business 24/7 –  365!

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!

In some cases, such as content management systems and online stores, products are readily available for use, whether it is free or purchased.  There really is no need to re-invent the wheel.  There are major cost savings compared to having something like an online store built from the ground up.  Available products are typically backed by a company that has dedicated time, money and people to perfecting their product.  So in this case you could have your web developer/designer instal. configure and even modify a product to suit your needs.

Custom Development

Specific processes that exist in your operations may benefit from the convenience and automation that computers, and by extension the web, can bring.  Example – member registration.

In the office the membership is received by way of completing a paper-based form and submitting it to the receiver for processing, payment and filing.  This can be reproduced on the web:

  • Online form that a customer fills out
  • Payment is done online
  • Organization is notified of a new member subscription
  • Staff logs in to the system to review the member data
  • Export the data to internal filing system

All member data is in electronic format so we reduce possibilities of error in re-typing, the data is easily transportable to other systems and the applicant was able to complete the process at their convenience.  Since all this information is stored in a database, the organization can benefit by the statistics that can be reported on!

All of this requires custom development – a process that begins with identifying a problem and delivering the final product. All the steps in between take time, and as they say, time is money.  Other implications such as securtiy and data protection are important factors that should never be overlooked.

Get What You Are Paying For

When considering your costs, be sure you understand where your investment is going. If you’re not sure and you want an unbiased (well, as unbiased as possible) opinion?  Search it on the web!  You’ll find answers to just about anything. Is it in the prettienss of the site or is it in the functionality?  Balance is the key and choosing the designers and developers that can deliver is the challenge.

For an true picture of what your website project involves, contact us.  You’ll see the difference in our methods.