I was inspired to write this based on a conversation I had recently with a reader. She had just gotten a proposal from a local web development company for building her website. And her initial reaction was, “Holy cow, really!?!?!”
I’m paraphrasing but… not by much. So she asked me if I thought it was too expensive.
Before I tell you what I said, I want you to imagine what you’d say if a friend called you up one day and asked, “My contractor wants $500,000 to build my house! Is that too expensive?”
I bet you’d want to know how big the house was supposed to be. And whether there was a kitchen island or granite countertops, hardwood floors or a marble bath. I bet you’d ask about the appliances, the square footage, maybe even the land acreage and the quality of the school system in that town.
The point is, you’d need more information before you could make an assessment.
You might have guessed that my answer was, “I have no idea.”
So we chatted for a bit, talked about her web needs and afterwards I outlined the project, plugged it into our cost calculator and came up with…
Almost the exact same price as her local company.
Was that an accident? Good luck? (Or bad…)
But after going through that exercise, I told my new friend that it still didn’t mean that the website wasn’t too expensive. It just meant that two people had come up with same cost.
There’s more to the cost of a website than just a number on a piece of paper. And there are better ways to decide if a website is too expensive than to simply look at that number.
So before you invest a single cent in yours, consider whether the cost is right by ignoring the number… and focusing on these important things instead.
Will The Site Meet Business Goals?
Before you can build a site you need to know what goal you want to achieve. That may be making sales, generating leads, building an email list, or any or all of those or more.
Remember the $500,000 house? It may be gorgeous – hardwood floors and travertine tiles and wide, winding staircases… but if you’ve got six dogs and three kids, you may just regret not having a mud room with some inexpensive indoor-outdoor flooring.
You may love the detached garage but curse every rainy, snowy, cold, windy day that you have to trek to the front door with groceries.
The point is that the house is great but doesn’t fit your needs. The same thing can happen with a website. You may invest a good deal of money for something that looks great, functions perfectly and does all but a song and dance… and end up without a single lead, sale or email address.
Whether you paid $50,000 or $5,000 or even $500 for that website, you paid too much. It was probably worth the cost – a lot of work goes into building super fancy awesome sites! – but the value just wasn’t there.
Before you wonder for a single second about whether the cost is right, figure out if it’s going to offer the value you need.
Do You Really Need That Feature?
Websites can do some cool stuff. And look pretty darn beautiful. And you can set up so much automation that it will practically run itself, from lead capture to nurturing and conversion.
But… do you need all that?
My husband and I have fallen into this trap at home more times than I’d like to admit, but it makes a good analogy…
When we first got married, we must have had “newlywed sucker” plastered on our checkbook because everyone who tried to sell us something, could.
The whole house ultra hypo-allergenic UV air filter? And the HVAC upgrade? And the extra super padding under the carpet? And the super carbon water filter? Yeah, we bought all that.
And do you know what happened about two years into the life of our 20-year guaranteed super resilient indestructible luxuriously soft under-carpet padding? We tore it up and replaced it with laminate. Because cats. That’s all I’m saying.
The point of this story is that we didn’t need super carpet padding with a 20 year guarantee. The carpet was something that didn’t fit our needs (see point 1) and the padding was a superfluous feature that we didn’t need at all.
When it comes to your website, you may be paying a cost that is fair for the amount of work that you’re getting… but if you don’t need it, then you’re paying too much.
That gorgeous home page slider? Do you need that or could you capture leads and attention just as well with a simple graphic?
All that automation, do you need it or is it overkill, a cool-sounding add-on that you’ll rip out 2 years from now when you realize your Excel spreadsheet is working just fine?
If you’re adding features or perks or cool things to your website that you don’t need, then you’re paying too much.
Do The Rest Of The Pieces Fit?
I wrote another post recently with some advice for hiring a web developer.
There are a couple of points in that post that are relevant to this one, namely, you need to be sure that you find the right developer for the job before you can judge the cost.
What if you hired a contractor to paint your house because he was the most “reasonably” priced – and you knew you were going to get exactly what you needed, no more and no less.
But you didn’t hit it off with that contractor. And the time he spent in your house drove you nuts. And he trekked across your carpet in greasy boots. And he covered everything with tarps then disappeared for a few days and didn’t return your calls. So you spent 3 weeks with your living room all tarped up with paint cans everywhere and you had to reschedule your birthday dinner because your house was unusable.
In the end it turned out ok, but six months later the doors started to peel so you called him for a touchup but you couldn’t get hold of him. And you had no idea what color paint he used so you had to hire someone else to repaint everything.
Your website is the house of your business. If it’s in disarray, neglected for long periods of time, if you can’t update it without much ado or possibly a redo, then you’ve paid too much.
Sometimes that number on the bottom of the proposal looks like a lot. And “a lot” is relative – for some people, $1,000 is huge. For others, ten is no sweat. But either one is too much if you end up with a developer who delivers late, is unreliable, can’t support you as your business changes or just makes you want to drown yourself in a bucket of chocolate ice cream and forget you ever decided to go into business.
Can you see how the “cost” of a website is more than just a number that makes you sweat? We all have budgets. And sometimes what we can do with our sites and other marketing is limited by those budgets. But if you approach your website wisely, asking about needs and about value, you can fret a whole lot less about the cost.
Have you ever felt that you paid “too much” for your site? I’d love to hear your story!
Join the discussion 4 Comments
My wife and I recently bought a house and the company I work for recently got a new website so comparing these two worked really well. I absolutely agree with the need to evaluate what you really want and need out of a web site vs what a web developer wants to sell you. Having goals in place and the ability to easily improve as your business grows are key in getting a good site that works now and later for your business and your budget. Thanks!
I always thought the “building a house” analogy was great because it’s something people can relate to that makes sense. Most people don’t have any idea what goes into building a site and that’s ok, but somehow we have to get the idea cross in a way that makes sense. This seems to work! Goals and growth are definitely keys, and of course the most often overlooked. “Building” is only part of the project. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
You’re making an excellent point here. It’s not so much about what’s great and beautiful, but what fits your needs. Your house analogy makes sense.
I remember when I went on a town house search after I sold my bigger house after my divorce. The house had to have a fenced patio because (also) of my two cats. There was no way around it. No matter how many whistles the houses that I’ve seen had, the fenced patio was the seller for me. It was the practical thing for me, because I like my cats to be able to go in and out, but safely.
This goes for websites. What’s the use of whatever great fancy website if it doesn’t fit your needs. Thanks for this great illustration that bring about the point super well.
Ah, you have your priorities straight 🙂 Always have to worry about those little darlings! And you got the point exactly – it’s not about all the great things you CAN have, but the things you really NEED!