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How Much Should a Website Cost?
So, how much does a website cost?
The most honest, if unsatisfying answer: it totally depends. The cost of a website hinges on a thousand different factors, and the most cost-effective (or even most expensive) may not be the right fit for your business.
James and Jude sit down again to discuss website cost, the best choice of platform and why the personal touch is always the best option.
James: So when it comes to websites, there’s that one question you always get, and it’s the same for every service and every business: how much does a website cost?
Jude: Yeah, um…fifty dollars.
…but it’s a really hard to answer question, because you’re asking a question about not just the cost of the website, but a service to your business. I’ve seen websites that were really cheap to build, but they had a negative effect on the business. People are less likely to use that business after visiting their website.
I’ve had business owners say “I wouldn’t send people to my website,” after just getting a website rebuild from someone else, certainly not from us.
‘How much does it cost’ is not just the cost of a website, but the cost to your business.
James: So… platform choice.
Jude: Another impossible one.
James: Another impossible question, I know! So, we live in the day and age where there’s full-service managed platforms, so they say, which are all bells and whistles. Then we have very expensive premium platforms which are available, they provide some crazy benefits and insights.
Where do people need to go? Let’s take a hypothetical. Most of the people watching this are going to be people who are business owners, or maybe in charge of a small marketing team, so small to medium business. Those organisations: what sort of platforms are available to them? And where should they say yes and no?
Jude: It’s a really complex topic. There’s a few criteria that we look at that makes a good platform. One of those things is: has the market already determined that this is a good platform? And so we do. We look at usage, we look at how popular this is in the market, how many businesses of this size are using it, and is it performing well for them in terms of speed, SEO, all of those other rankings.
Then we can narrow it right down. From the 500 options out there, we can narrow it down to about five or six really good options, really high supported. And then you start to look at how extensible is it? What can we do with this if the business wants to take on a new opportunity or a new avenue. Would we have to start again, which you don’t want to do? Would we have to completely custom build every aspect of this? And so again, that acts as a filter and narrows the selection criteria down further.
James: So when it comes to that decision-making process of which agency to go with, should you be choosing the platform first? Or should you be choosing the agency, and with the agency, the platform? And it’s a bit of a loaded question, I know, I’m probably angling at a certain thing, but what are your thoughts?
Jude: I think that really, in a competent development team, there will be a wealth of experience across platforms, so you can safely pick a good agency and they will have experience delivering on multiple platforms.
…hope that’s the answer that you wanted.
James: No, no, it is, because I think one of the furstrations for us is…we see it time and time again. We have customers come to us, and they’ve been shoehorned into a platform simply because it is the platform of choice for that agency. It was not the right fit for their business, and as a result they are at the crossroads of making a decision: do they invest similar amounts of money to get it up to par, to make it where they need it to be? Or do they start again?
And that’s not right. So being truly agnostic around the platform decision, based on how it’s going to perform for the client, for me is really vital. So I think obviously you’re in the same boat on that opinion.
Jude: I’ll mess this analogy up, but say you’re picking an SUV. You’ve got a particular price range. There might be four or five in that price range that all fit the criteria. If you were to just pick the car first, and there’d be…ah, I’ve completely messed this up. Just cut that one out!
James: No, but I see what you’re going with. If you’re picking the type of model you want, you want an SUV, then you go and choose an agency which ONLY sells BMWs, well guess what? You’re only going to get an X5!
Jude: Exactly. You’ve rescued the analogy!
James: Whereas if you go to just a general dealer, with second-hand vehicles, they’re going to recommend the best car for you, so I completely understand the analogy.
I think that’s where, unfortunately, and we’ve seen this most recently, interesting information for a lot of people who aren’t aware: Adobe had a platform themselves. Adobe are one of the biggest software providers in the world, and they had their website platform ‘Business Catalyst’. Tell us what happened there.
Jude: This is a disaster story, this is one of those things that you hate to hear about in the industry. A whole bunch of agencies, a whole bunch of businesses were convinced to use this platform, and convinced a little bit by some incentive schemes and other things, so it wasn’t necessarily the agencies making the best decisions for the client.
James: So not being truly agnostic.
Jude: Yeah, exactly. Not being platform agnostic. They picked this platform because it was a benefit to their agency rather than it being a benefit to the client.
Anyway, Adobe’s a large business, very large scale. Everyone thought that this software, these service products, they’re going to be around forever. Unfortunately they announced that no, we’re wrapping up shop. And even though these businesses had spent thousands, tens of thousands of dollars getting on this platform and building their sites out- beautiful sites, but building them out on this platform- they all needed to migrate and move off the platform.
And it created, essentially, for some businesses, a disaster scenario because it literally meant that on a particular date, they wouldn’t have a website anymore, if they didn’t go ahead and rebuild their website.
This is one of the reasons I’m not so much a fan of software as a service platforms. I think you’re taking something so critical to your business – your website, more critical than ever before – and you’re putting it in someone else’s hands. You’re basically saying “you make the decision about what’s best for my business.”
I don’t think that’s a good idea.
“There are so many good products out there where you can own the IP, you can own the design, you can own the development, you can own the back end, you can own what happens to the leads and enquiries. It’s better for you as a business to build on one of those platforms and then have complete control.”
James: I would completely and utterly agree with you on that one. So the ability to now create a fully unique, custom solution for your business is no longer a million-dollar budget. It’s now a tens of thousands or a couple of thousand dollars for a truly unique solution for your business, which was before unattainable, only for the big corporate players.
But now we can do that, and that’s why software as a service was so great, because you could just pay a couple of bucks a month and you get access to all that code.
Jude: Yeah, I think that ultimately, what’s available now to rapidly develop applications is better than before. If you’re looking at innovating, it is a case of saying alright, these pieces are already available, and then this is the unique piece that we’re going to build ourselves. And your business owns that IP. It becomes an asset and a value to your business.
James: Funny you should say that, speaking about asset, and this is one of the things. If your primary solution is a third-party application and you’re just building around it, maybe paying extra development to that company to develop their own application, that you don’t actually own…that’s not an asset on the balance sheet. So it’s purely a cost, whereas if you develop it yourself, and it’s your own IP, and you own it, it CAN sit on your balance sheet.
So even from a business accounting perspective there’s another upside that can be considered.
Jude: The number of businesses that have developed what would have been their IP, would have been an asset for them, but built it on someone else’s CRM, or someone else’s platform…and then if they stop paying that monthly fee they’re going to lose all of that development work they’ve done. The number of businesses that have done that, that work they can move off that platform, it’s enormous.
It’s a real pity. If they’d only known from the start to build it separately, they would have, instead of something that’s a cost to them and a cost forever- they can never get away from it- it would instead of a value to that business.
Also, honestly it saves that headache of per-user per-month licensing, which is fine when you’ve got five people in your business but then your product is a success and your business is a success. Suddenly you’ve got a hundred or two-hundred. Looking at that now, it’s a massive line item, and most of the staff might only be using one or two items from that, but you’re paying for everybody.
So there’s a huge value to building on your own platform, and integrating with other platforms rather than building on top of them.