Web Development

What a Web Site Costs

I’ve been doing some research, and it looks like my rates for web site development are on the low side – although, of course, I probably can’t raise them too much or too fast, not in this economy.

Clients have been telling me that I’m charging a lot less and delivering better work than other firms they have dealt with. At the same time, I’m conscious of the existence of rock bottom pricing (including free options) for the small businesses I typically cater to. As my friends in the newspaper industry can attest, competing with free is a tough nut.

Still, after browsing a few relatively recent “How Much Should A Web Site Cost?” articles and blog posts on the sites of other web consulting firms, I see that I’ve been pricing my work at the bottom of (or even below) the range they quote for a small business website.

For example, another Florida-based firm, Altius, says:

A basic designed website, acting primarily as an online brochure to merely establish a necessary presence online to answer the questions ‘do you exist?’, ‘are you professional?’ and ‘what do you do?’, can be done for a mere market average of $2000. This website will not allow you to interact with your audience (social networking, blog), transact business directly through your site (ecommerce), or enable you to manipulate and update the pages and content within your site without hiring a web programmer/designer to do it for you (Content Management System does enable this for more $$$). (more here)

I have been charging significantly less than that for a small business website and routinely including blogging/content management (WordPress) because I believe it’s important for my clients to be able to manage their own sites. To be fair, Altius looks like a fairly substantial firm that probably has specialists in a number of different programming and graphic arts disciplines. In contrast, Carr Communications is a family business. But even in those cases where I’ve subcontracted or teamed up with another specialist, such as a graphic artist, I’ve turned in complete websites for less than $2,000.

Another blog post from WebpageFX of Pennsylvania provides a nice historical summary of how web development prices have dropped over time as competition has intensified. I’m not sure how scientific it is, but they surveyed other developers and related specialists and came up with a price range of $2,000 to $7,000 for a small business website during the period 2004-2008. I’d have to suspect there’s been some downward pressure on prices over the last year, though, given the state of the economy.

A third firm, Webconsuls of Tuscon, AZ, has a breakdown of the components of a website’s cost, including design, hosting, and domain registration. Again, I find myself at the low end of the range.

One problem with trying to make these comparisons is the issue of who you are hiring to do the work. A larger firm may be able to provide a team of specialists that I cannot match. Other small firms like mine may have slicker designers or more hard-core programmers than Carr Communications. But I also hear horror stories about a lot of my competitors who charge much more than I do, while sending most of the labor offshore and delivering inconsistent customer service.

We compete in this market as competent generalists. I know a lot about works on the web, both through my own experience and from my study of other web operations as a business and technology journalist. Beth Anne is my editor and design coach. And we want your business.