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 has no black-and-white answer.

DigitalFlare has been building websites for over 12 years; in this time, we have worked on over 300 websites. But to this day, it is challenging 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. They view it as a service as a 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, which significantly 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 ship 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 need 3D Secure payments? Will you track your store 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 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 ready to pay for the time it takes to go through this process, essentially making the quote no longer accessible? Or is it better to 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 ask just a handful of companies for a price, you will get responses that vary far and wide... I've had clients repeatedly inform me that 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 a vast amount of extra requirements 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 of opinions, so technically no individual is right or wrong. For example, a designer may think an 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 many 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 building many websites, so we would be happy to help guide you with our ideas but be prepared to hear many 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 revised offer, you will receive a figure like £2000; 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 grey area (as you can see above), and it becomes a concerning gamble. Pricing hourly or perhaps even weekly allows clients to visit 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 also buy trust and essentially an augmented team for your business. If the focus is too much on the billing component, we tend to lose focus on why we are building the sites - ROI, fantastic work, and reaching and surpassing business goals.

Building a website can be similar to building a house in some respects. When making a house, problems can arise, which can often require more attention or even a re-work of some of the foundations. Clients who begin a project and then decide to change it halfway through often expect the website designer to adapt to their ideas. However, a builder wouldn't be able to do this on some occasions, and this can also be the case when building a website. (Specifically, the more complex website makes with specific 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 daily... But how one person or company builds a website may be completely different than another. For example, multiple languages are used to program a website, as well as many platforms and systems. DigitalFlare often builds custom-built sites so we can create something which is tailored precisely for the client. However, some companies will use 'off the shelf' systems like WordPress on these platforms.

This is even more complex, etc., and the solution can be reached in 1000 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 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.