Questions to Ask Before You Build a Website
It’s pretty common for me to get the question “What are the costs to build a website?” Before I answer I always ask what are their specific needs and goals, and once I know that, I’ll provide a cost estimate for their website project. It’s a pretty straight forward question and answer situation.
However, I always try to remind them of the so-called hidden costs for building a website.
Sometimes, they’ll look at me like I’m crazy. But I assure them, this is a very important thing to consider for both their budget and their technical/traffic expectations. I liken it to buying a house: when you buy a house, you are purchasing the home and the lot as is. The realtor isn’t going to furnish you with appliances. The county isn’t going to pay for your property tax and the HOA isn’t going to pay for front yard and backyard landscaping.
All of those costs have to get absorbed into your monthly and annual budget for house upkeep. Similarly, your website’s initial purchase cost gets you a fully realized functional website. But things like web hosting (property tax), security services (house utilities), and traffic generation through content (landscaping) require budgeting. Let’s take a closer look.
Domain & Hosting
Most people forget about the all-important first step of getting a website: signing up for a domain name and web hosting. Domain names typically run about $10 a year, so that certainly won’t break your bank. Hosting is a little bit more, averaging about $7 – 10 a month depending on the package, though it can be more than that if you’re looking at a heavy-duty media site. For most small businesses, though, the lowest level of service will suit you just fine. Also, when signing up for web hosting/domain, be sure to search around for coupon codes, because there are plenty of discounts to be found.
Third-party security features can be integrated into your website to ensure that both your identity and content are safe. These go beyond the default (and minimal) backup services provided by hosts. Instead, start to think about having a daily backup to regular scans for malware/virus threats of your website. For any business, it’s a good idea to consider a service like Sitelock.com, to help protect your website. Expect to spend about $100 a year for this type of safety net.
Updates & System Management
Websites built with flat HTML are purely driven by code, but most modern websites use content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. These CMS platforms run on core files that receive regular updates for bug fixes, feature updates, and general tweaking to increase performance. In addition, these platforms often utilize plugins for extended features, and plugins have their own regular updates. To get the most out of your site’s performance, it’s a good idea to contract outside support to run these updates and manage your primary system. This can usually run about $1,000 a year.
Getting your website up and running is just the beginning. You’ll also need SEO keyword integration (through analysis, research, and implementation) and content creation to execute an inbound market marketing campaign. All of this drives traffic to your site, helps engage visitors, and converts visitors into customers. Successful websites are no longer purely static; having a dynamic site with a flexible content strategy turns your site from a simple online brochure into an engine that churns out customers. Outside providers for these types of services cost about $3,500 a month.
Calculating Your Total Costs — And Revenue
With all that in mind, how much should you budget when deciding how much to spend on building your website? That’s ultimately up to you. You’ll definitely have to plan for domain and web hosting. The other stuff is technically optional, but based on your needs, I’d recommend them, though some are more important than others.
Feel a bit overwhelmed by the hidden costs to build a website? Don’t be — feel free to get in touch with me, and I’ll explain why these hidden costs are actually investments. And like all investments, they pay off dividends that should drive profit over the long term.