Monday, February 25, 2008

Affordable Website Design - The Right Price

(Part one in a series of five.)

by Dustin Schwerman

The very fact that you are interested in an affordable website design indicates that the price is a key consideration. Qualitative value vs. quantitative cost semantics aside, you have a budget. I've explained in the previous three articles in this set what it takes to get a good value from your website - a design based on actual functions and benefits rather than systematic price increases, a full-service dedicated web host, and an understanding of exactly what you want your website to do. With those advantages, you can be sure that you will only be paying for things that actually improve your website, rather than arbitrary markups designed to exact the greatest cost for the least amount of effort.

Naturally, this means that you are paying for the actual power of the coding, the extent of the design work, and of course, the overall time spent and difficulty encountered in getting your website on-line. Unlike strict pricing packages, these things are going to vary based on the individual site and the individual designer. It is for this reason that it is so critical to have an idea of what you plan to do with your website. If you can discuss everything with your designer on day one, you can be sure that the initial estimate will not be far off from the final price - unless you go and change your mind mid-way through the project, of course.

But no doubt you're sick to death of articles that have great keywords like "affordable" and "price" in the name and only give abstractions and indirect suggestions. So with the understanding that the suggestions below are based on my personal beliefs and not an industry standard (which to the best of this writer's knowledge does not exist), here are the sorts of prices that I think are reasonable to expect and quite affordable to boot:

At the very least, any professionally-designed website should offer an overall site layout, up-to-date xhtml formatting, and a stylesheet and linking structure where necessary. Ideally, the code should also be clean enough that another website designer can go in to make changes if you hire someone else for updates. Such sites might also offer minor additions such as basic programming (such as button images changing on a mouseover or other simple functions), some minor graphic design (a logo, button system, or other simple image), or some initial proofreading and keyword optimization of text (assuming you provide the keywords). Such a site should generally run for around $100-$200.

A more advanced site may include some solid programming, general graphic design, and/or more extensive SEO. It might bring into play a simple admin system or other database work, dynamic or dynamically created content, and the like. It may include a full graphical layout. If you're getting a couple of these things, but there won't be too amazingly much formatting to do, vicinity $500 is a solid value. It may go lower if the code is particularly simple and the graphics sparse, or higher if you need more or more complex systems.

Once you're getting into the realms of highly advanced custom coding and particularly elaborate graphic design, you're usually talking at least a thousand dollars, and maybe several thousand. These would be sites with customized shopping carts, forums, or chat rooms, or sites that require several different graphical layouts for different pages.

In the end, the cost of your site is going to be based on the site you need and the designer you choose. As a final suggestion, prioritize! You want an affordable website design, so it may be wise not to go all-out with the initial site design. Get the important functions up first, make sure the site looks good, start on the SEO. Then drive a few clicks to it, see how people respond, make use of any tracking systems that you can get from your designer, host, or third-party sources. As always, knowing what you want and determining the best people to get it from is key to obtaining the right price.

About the Author

Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites of all varieties, from office supplies to hydronic cooling and heating.