I dread this question. In my experience, the time it takes a client to ask is inversely proportional to the amount of hassle they cause. Many IT novices consider a website to be a product: they want X pages and expect to pay a fixed price of $Y. They do not appreciate that web design and development is a service which touches all aspects of their business.
I endeavor to explain this using the car industry as a metaphor. Asking for the price of a website is like walking into a used-car dealership and asking “how much does a car cost?”. The dealer must ask a series of questions: do you have a model in mind? What do you need it for? How many people will use it? How much luggage space is required? Do you have a preferred color? Does it need to be economical? Do you want a sporty car? What’s your budget? And so on.
A car could cost $500 for a ten-year old Ford or $1,000,000 for a McLaren P1, yet both provide the same basic function. The cost varies because of design, options, comfort, after-sales service and — most importantly — quality.
Website projects can be infinitely more complex and are tightly coupled with business requirements. Consider two companies: a local electrician and a software manufacturer. Both have the same number of employees, similar annual turnover and ten-page websites. Would you expect them to pay the same for their website?
- The electrician should have a web presence but it’s primarily for marketing. Their website is a adverting cost much like ads in local newspapers, trade magazines and the Yellow Pages.
- To the software company, the website is their business. It’s their prime marketing, sales and support channel; they would fail without it. The website has become a business asset — not a liability.
A good agency will assess the client’s business requirements to ensure they don’t under or over-pay for the facilities they need. That said, the question “how much for my new website?” will inevitably arise.