As a web marketing agency, we get asked about the options for building a business website all the time. People often shop for multiple quotes and look to compare prices to get the best deal. While this article doesn’t directly address how much a website costs, you will learn how to read between the lines when you do get an estimate from one of these people/companies as well as what to expect when you hire them.
Below, we will explore eight different options for building a business website and the pros and cons of each. Then you can make an informed decision on what the best option is for your business and be more prepared for the website building process.
DIY (Do-it-yourself) website builders are software programs that you can access online with a username and password.
This option requires that you add and write all of the text content, upload all of your own images (or stock images you purchase) into a blank canvas or a templated theme, and organize it all yourself.
WordPress is the most commonly used because it offers a free web platform, free site hosting, and free templates. Other free website builders such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Jimdo, etc. typically have themes that are free, but premium or pro themes and site hosting will cost you extra (and yes, hosting matters for marketing).
If you just need a basic web presence quickly and don’t really care how professional it looks, a DIY website can work for you.
But if you want a professional looking website that functions well and won’t require a near-endless amount of time investment, don’t go with the DIY option.
The mega web companies typically offer free DIY options; however, they have a lot of paid services as well.
Their “free” options are Do-It-Yourself, and often include very poor-looking websites that have their brand and advertisements plastered all over them. Any theme that allows you any functionality is going to cost you more and be a cookie-cutter layout that everyone else uses.
The most popular mega web companies are WordPress, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Wix, and Weebly, though this list frequently changes. Their website prices will depend on the number of pages, the level of design package, the website hosting plan you choose, the theme, and other frill services purchased like branded e-mails or stock photos.
For most of their services, you will still have to build the website yourself – the layout, content, images, video, etc. They simply give you the tools to build it.
Budget: Free - $3,000
Though it’s a better option than the free DIY service, building a website using a mega web company has a lot of drawbacks. And you should avoid using any company that gives you a free website and bills you monthly, because when you stop paying for it, you can’t keep the website.
The family friend is your niece, cousin, techy or computer-savvy friend, a close contact from school, church, etc. You go to them because you trust them, and they are an inexpensive option that gives you a level of expertise greater than your own.
Budget: $500 - $1,500
This option is probably best for a small business owner that doesn’t trust easily but desperately needs a website. In addition, if you’re going this route, you likely have little time, budget, or the tech-savvy confidence to build one.
If you decide to go this route, be very clear and detailed on what you are looking for. A business professional should reconsider wagering a friendship if they have the money to invest into a web design service.
In the end, you may have to decide which one you value more – the website (and your business) or the friend. In the end, you may have to get the website designed again by a professional anyway.
The employee is a tech-savvy individual who already works at your company and may or may not have applicable marketing skills or website building experience.
Sometimes, he or she is an IT professional that thinks they can just figure it out because they work with computers. More often than not, it’s a young millennial that is “techy” and needs something to occupy their time.
Budget: $1,500 - $4,500
If you have an employee with a solid background in web design, you may want to consider them as an option.
But it’s important that they actually have the time and are given the freedom to build the site the way they think works best. If your employee is a developer, let them decide the best way to design it – If you want to tell them how to do it, hire an agency instead. Your employee won’t tell you when you’re wrong.
At the very least, if you decide to work with an agency, this kind of employee would be a great point of contact or project manager for the website project. They can make sure that the agency is getting things done the way you want it and not pulling the wool over your eyes.
An added benefit to this scenario is that they can still keep up with their normal job responsibilities, but they have the expertise to oversee the website project and make sure you get the best quality website.
The freelancer option is a wildcard. It’s practically in the name.
Freelancers are self-proclaimed “professionals” and this may or may not be accurate. They are the riskiest of the professional options due to their unpredictable nature.
You could get really lucky with a great, experienced web designer and win big for a relatively low cost. On the other hand, you could pay them and then realize after a month that you don’t have a site and they’re not answering their emails or returning calls.
But both of these are rare scenarios. What most commonly happens with freelancers, is that the work is simply average in quality or is left incomplete due to insufficient time or funding.
Budget: $1,500 - $4,500
Small business owners or solopreneurs that already have a poor looking website with a mega web company and are looking to upgrade it could benefit from the expertise of a freelance web designer.
Just be sure to get a few trusted referrals, check their online reviews and look through their online portfolios to find the right match for your project.
Small to medium-sized businesses with the resources to take an even more professional option that ensures a greater level of customization and quality should look at the remaining options.
A web developer may build websites on the side of their full-time corporate job or they may have left their corporate job to go out on their own.
They typically have great website building experience, and will often have minimal overhead that may allow them to undersell a marketing agency.
A full-stack developer is essentially a software programmer, who has the technical expertise to build not only the front-end design of a website or application, but who can also program and understands the backend of a website or application.
This option is best for a business owner that has a strong grasp on both the marketing aspect of their business, as well as a clear vision for what they want their website to look like.
Again, you will want to get trusted referrals, read their online reviews, and review their online portfolios to see what they’ve done to ensure it matches your current and future needs.
You will also need to decide if you want to invest more for custom web development or if a less expensive templated design will meet your needs. The price of your website project will vary based on the level of customization and the complexity of your website.
Marketing agencies are professionals, not just in web design and development, but in other digital marketing services such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media and pay-per-click advertising.
They will have a team of highly-skilled professionals working on your project, with one point of contact as the project manager. As the client, you would have access to the best designers, developers, web content writers and SEO specialists in the market.
In addition, agencies typically work with specialists in strategic marketing, design, programming, photography, videography, and more, so depending on what your budget is, you can get the best quality and most professional website possible.
Agencies offer a range of simple or more highly customized website options, as they have the resources to focus on each individual experience. Thus your website should look different from any of their other clients. The pricing for each project varies based on the client’s needs and the services involved, but typically starts at around $5,000.
Agencies can build a new website around your existing content and images or they can write new, search engine optimized content and find or create new images. They can use a third-party web host or host your site on their own secure servers.
Similar to freelancers, web marketing agencies thrive off of a smaller portfolio of clients. Their goal is to deliver high-quality service and they live and die by client reviews and referrals, which means they care a lot about customer satisfaction and will literally bend over backwards for their clients.
Budget: $5,000 - $15,000+
This is a great option for small to mid-size companies, who are looking to be leaders in their industry or region.
Just as our own company name suggests, the marketing agency is for those businesses that are serious about growing to the next level.
Hiring a marketing agency is also a good option for businesses who have had negative experiences with freelancers or the mega web company and are willing to pay more to have it done right the second or third or fourth time around.
Corporate web design differs in many ways from smaller projects. Often, these sites require complex database and server configurations, data security protocols, and a lot of liaison with a corporate IT department.
The site design must exemplify the values of the corporation and must direct users to convert (lead generation or ecommerce purchase). Enterprise agencies handle less than five clients per year and spend many months working on one project.
They charge a minimum of $50,000 for a project, and up to $50,000 per month, with projects that can take up to a year to complete.
Budget: $50,000 per project+
The enterprise agency serves large corporations and startups with investment capital with large budgets that require websites with heavy functionality.
If you work for a corporation that desires a fully customized, highly secure, built-from-scratch website with hundreds or even thousands of pages that get extremely high levels of web traffic, then the enterprise agency is the right choice for you.
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