Website Development Costs – Comparing Apples to Oranges?

cost of a website comparison

How much does website development cost?

People contact me daily wanting to know: How much does it cost to build a website?  Often the email has 1-2 – maybe 3 sentences describing the project, but no mention of their budget or timeline to complete. I reply back asking questions to try to get specific details of the job so I can provide a realistic estimate.  I always ask what the budget is, but often get a response back “I don’t have one”, or “I am just getting quotes now”.

Simply put, to be able to give you a specific website cost, I need to know the specifics of the project. The amount of money you want to invest is a huge factor in quoting a project.  I will not give out “ballpark numbers”, as they never match a final quote once I know the details of the job. To get an accurate website development costs, you need to fully define the details of the project before gathering quotes. This includes your website budget and timeline.

Your website budget has to consider the following website development costs:

  • Hosting the website, domain registration, secure certificate
  • Web design  (graphic design work to create a vision of what it will look like)
  • Website development ( coding/programming/database development)
  • Website maintenance   ( website code updates, and content related updates and new functionality added over time)

It’s a lot to consider. Most people are out of their element when it comes to understanding technology involved in building a website and  have no idea what it costs to build a website. There are some areas that you can estimate costs, but others vary greatly.

If you are “price shopping”, you can get a general idea for some website costs.
Web design and development, can be approached in many different ways though.
You need to have a budget for a web developer to work with in order to get an affordable website quote.

Some parts of a website have fixed costs that you can determine up front.

In addition to actual web pages, every website needs to have a domain name, web host and secure certificate. (Secure certificates have become standard since 2018). These all have ongoing annual renewal fees associated with them. Pricing varies on these parts based on where you purchase them and features, upgrades associated with them. So you can determine the cost of web hosting and the cost of your domain name up front.

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Some parts of a website are more difficult to estimate website pricing.

Quoting website development costs are true to the idiom “The devil is in the detail”. What may seem simple enough to describe in a sentence or two, quoting web programming accurately comes down to knowing the specifics of the project. The complexity of website and database development depends on the requirements of the project.

Web Design and Development

I ask lots of questions so I can fully understand a project before providing an estimate for web development. This should be a clue to the level of experience you are going to receive if you decide to work with me.

For the project to go smoothly, I need to have a clear understanding of what needs to be done. I want you to be happy with the result. I don’t want misunderstandings of “I thought it would do this or that”. If you don’t communicate to me that you need specific functionality, how could I possibly know?

When I quote web development services, the final cost of the project is based on the exact details you have provided to me.

If you are getting quotes from web development companies, vs freelancers based in the USA or overseas contractors prices are going to be all over the place.  You have different levels of experience and probably services they can provide to you.

This is where the “comparing apples to oranges” comes in to play.

Think about it. If you are gathering quotes from multiple web developers or companies,  but not providing each of them with a budget and same list of requirements, prices are going to be all over the place. Assumptions will be made of what to include (or not) along with an approach to build it that will effect the final cost.

Website proposals from different freelancers and/or companies will have different sets of deliverable since they have not been defined up front.  So rather than price shopping,  I see it more like you are “fishing” to see what you will get.

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It’s your project, shouldn’t you know what you need before you get started so you have accurate quotes to compare features and functionality that will be delivered?

My advice is to provide the same information to anyone you request a web development quote.  Website proposal deliverables should then match closely.

You can break down your request like this:

  • Provide a list of fixed costs items that you need or don’t need. i.e. I need a domain name, web hosting, secure certificate…
  • Web design – communicate if you need a custom web design, or if you are open to customizing a theme or template.  Possibly, you already have a web designer that has created a design. Make sure to clarify this.
  • Web Development –   If your project requires programming functional logic, you need to spell out all functionality.  Visualize yourself as a user and write out what they will see and what they should be able to do.

Website Budget

Your website budget is the most important piece of information to share. Without it, I can not provide an affordable solution for your project.  I can provide website pricing, but if it does not match what you want to spend, you are not going to hire me.  Why should I take that risk?

If you want a free quote, then provide me with the information I request.

If you don’t want a free quote, I will gladly charge you for my time to create a website proposal that may or may not work for you. : )  That doesn’t make much sense does it? It would be a waste of your money. Just like it would be a waste of my time to quote a project for you for free when I don’t have all the information I need.  Think about it, would you walk into a car dealership and tell them you want to buy a car without telling them your budget and what kind of car and features you need? Do you think the salesman will waste their time showing you any cars if they do not know what you need and are willing to spend?

Planning your website project up front will pay off. Trust me.




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