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Pricing a website isn't as easy as you may think...

At DigitalFlare, we regularly receive questions from people who want to know, 'Exactly what do websites cost?' And like asking how long a piece of string is, it is a question that really has no black and white answer.

DigitalFlare have been building websites for over 12 years , in this time we have worked on over 300 websites. But to this day, it is a very hard task to price up a website build.

Here are a few reasons why a one-off website quote is nearly impossible:

1. Website design and development should be viewed as a service, not a product. It's hard to shake the idea that websites aren't a commodity. Websites are something someone, often multiple people, have to put together. Viewing it as service is a much better way to understand why a one-off price isn't simple to give. Building a website takes time and effort. The content, collating photographs and planning a structure (or 'wire-frame') alone can take several hours.

2. Building a website involves a complex level of planning. Detail is an integral aspect of Web development - and this greatly affects pricing. For example: you may want a feature on your website for users to upload an image. There are 50 questions the DigitalFlare team could ask you, and based on your answers, we could either build the feature in one hour or it could take days...

For example, We may ask a client: What's the size limit of the images you're uploading? What file formats does it support? Do you need the ability to crop the image or resize an image? The list goes on and on...

Another example: A client recently wanted a way for individuals to buy artwork on a website. But when it came to quoting the client we had several questions about the shopping process, some of these questions included:
Where will the client shipping to? Should VAT be added to prices? Will you require a way to manage your stock and prices? How will payments be handled? Do you require 3D Secure payments? Will you track your stock so people can see when a product has sold out? Are there product variants such as sizes/colours? Once again, a simple question such as 'please quote me to allow potential customers to buy products on our website' can trigger thousands of other possible combinations.

So, if I asked all these questions in order to figure out how long it would take to develop one feature, are you willing to answer these questions for potentially 100+ other features and functions that your website will require? Also, are you willing to pay for the time it takes to go through this process, essentially making the quote no longer free? Or is it better to simply find a trusted team that works for a fair rate, and you set the budget and objectives, and they do the best they can within the budget specified? At DigtialFlare we try to be realistic, but we do also appreciate receiving a well written brief.

3. Quotes are far too subjective. Building a website can be accomplished in hundreds of different ways. Don't believe me? If you were to ask just a handful of companies for a price, you will get responses which vary far and wide... I've had clients inform me time and time again they received quotes ranging from £2,000 to £60,000 for the same set of requirements. How can that be possible? Equally, some companies will present a price knowing that there will be a vast amount of extra requirements which will need to be bolted onto the quote also.

4. The definition of success for your website may vary from company to company. The web development market is full opinions, so technically no individual is right or wrong. For example, a designer may think a excellent website should look like a piece of art, while a developer may think it's best if the site has been created using the latest web technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3. A marketer may pride the site on being simple, direct, and SEO optimised, while your perception may be a site with a lot of great features and videos. The real success of your website comes down to your business goals and how you want to accomplish your goals. We have experience of building many websites, so we would be happy to help guide you with our ideas but be prepared to hear lots of opinions! Sometimes too many cooks can indeed spoil a website.

5. There are two ways you can end up with a price for your website: fixed bid or hourly. For a fixed bid, you will receive a figure like £2000 for example. With an hourly price tag, you will pay someone £60/hour for as long as it takes to complete the project. DigitalFlare like to give our clients a clear indication of costs so we offer fixed bid pricing as much as we can, although there are occasions where fixed bid pricing can present a gray area (as you can see above), and it becomes somewhat a concerning a gamble. Pricing that's hourly or perhaps even weekly allows clients to see the website as a service that involves numerous elements to effectively and efficiently complete - like people, brainpower, and time. This way, when you buy time, you're also buying trust and essentially an augmented team for your business. If the focus is too much on the billing component, we tend to lose focus of why we are building the sites - ROI, amazing work, reaching and surpassing business goals.

Building a website can be similar to building a house in some respects. When building a house there are always problems which can arise, and these problems can often require more attention or even a re-work of some of the foundations. Clients who begin a project and then decide they want to change the project half way though often expect the website designer to also adapt to their ideas, however a builder wouldn't be able to do this on some occasions and when building a website this can also be the case. (Specifically more complex website builds with certain functions.

6. The Web development industry has very few standards, however this is changing and the good guys at the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) are setting more each day... But how one person or company builds a website may be completely different than another. For example, there are dozens of languages used to program a website, as well as many platforms and systems. DigitalFlare often build custom-built sites so we can build something which is tailored exactly for the client. However some companies will opt for using 'off the shelf' systems like Wordpress / Blogger etc and simply skin these platforms.

This is made even more complex when each solution can be reached in 1000 different ways. As the industry grows, more standards are likely to emerge, but until this happens the lack of uniformity causes an issue when determining price.

There's truly no good answer to the question, 'How much does a website cost?' But understanding the subjective nature of this service will assist in the future.