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Deciding to build a new website or to upgrade your existing one is a big deal, and it certainly deserves a lot of thought before choosing a company to build it. Unfortunately, many tend to approach it from the same mindset, focusing on asking questions about cost too early on which tends to lead down a less-than-ideal path. Of all the questions we get at Grue & Bleen, there is one in particular that leads to complications for everyone involved more than the rest. In order to get what you want from the process, the one question you should make sure to avoid when you are starting your search, is “What does it cost to build a website?”
I know, that seems like a straightforward question, but trust me, it isn’t! Fortunately, there IS a question you can (and should) ask instead, and a better point in the process to bring up the cost.
One of the biggest issues with asking what a website costs upfront is that it immediately limits your options, as the price you are willing to pay and the optimal build with the features you want are almost never in sync. Face it, you want it all, and you want it for as cheap as possible. The company best suited to your job can do everything you want from a technical standpoint, but they also know their value and what they bring to the table. Quality can (and usually does) carry a premium, and if you force a company to answer that question too soon, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not like their answer.
The bigger issue with asking what a website costs is that there is no real answer. Sure, you can find ballpark figures online based on estimates, but you need to treat it as such that rather than as a definitive guide. A website isn’t a defined product, and every single one is different in terms of size, functionality, capability, and more. It’s not a commodity; it’s a customized product that is tailored specifically to you and your company needs. For that reason, there simply cannot be a set price, and the answer to the overly generic question of “What does a website cost?” is always going to be “whatever you are willing to pay for it.” That’s not particularly helpful now, is it? So what should you ask instead?
Instead of framing the question from a loss perspective (what you have to give up), consider approaching it from a gain perspective (how a website can help your business). When you consider all of your possibilities, you’ll stop viewing it as a cost and begin to see the website for what it really is: an investment. “How can having an improved website help me and my business?” “How can we use it to add revenues?” “How can we use it to reach a wider customer base?”
Consider what it can give back to you and the impact of each desired technical feature independently. Are some functions more important than others? Will some have a greater effect on your business as a whole? Of course! When you take the time to consider a website as a series of moving parts rather than an all-or-nothing project, you gain the ability to prioritize, which allows for more productive negotiation that can align with your price expectations while maximizing your potential.
Another point to keep in mind when it comes to added value is that you may not have considered all of your available options, and that the website builder likely knows more about functionality and capability than you do. You may be the expert in your business, but they are the experts in theirs after all. You might enter with a list of demands that add complexity, when really there could be a simpler solution that would accomplish the same goal. Think more about what you want your website to do and the goals you’d like it to accomplish, and not necessarily about how it must be done. I guarantee you that builders are willing to discuss alternate paths with you that can save them time and save you money.
Once you have taken the time to think about your website and share some more detail about what you want it to do, you and the potential builder will each have a lot more knowledge to continue on with a productive discussion. At this stage, now that you have talked through the features and capabilities you’d like your website to have and given each a priority ranking, the builder will finally be able to answer the question you meant to ask, which was not what A website would cost, but what YOUR website would cost.
The next bit of advice for you, because you’re going to be asked about your budget, is to be honest, and give a range. Feel free to let them know you are talking with other companies (even if you’re not, really), but be ready to talk about the financial stuff, because it doesn’t matter what some random website’s average pricing guide told you; your site is yours. Unique. One-of-a-kind. It has its own unique, one-of-a-kind cost. Just ask them to break out costs for you according to your priority list when they provide their pitch, and to be prepared to walk through everything with you step by step to explain. If what they return looks ridiculous, you can always walk away.
The best website builders will want you to have the best product possible, and yes, the cost definitely factors into that. Sometimes you get it right and your expectations are in line with reality. You’ll get a quote that’s inside your range and you can begin shopping around in a meaningful way to see if someone else can do the same for less. (If you feel you are being overcharged, you’ll find out by going through this process with another company, which is why it may make sense to tell them you’re shopping around: to keep them honest.)
If what you want is not in the budget though, it’s not in the budget. Not everything is possible when restraints are added, and sometimes you just might not be completely familiar with how your wish list impacts the build difficulty or the price tag. That’s not your fault, (it’s not your area of expertise after all,) but this is when you can revisit the list of priorities. Sometimes cuts need to be made to drop the total cost of the website more in line with your expectations, especially if you got a good vibe from the people you’ve been dealing with and would want to work with them under other pricing conditions.
With the right info, the website builder can let you know how they can get the project to fit in your budget, and they’ll utilize your list of priorities to get there. In most cases, they are trying to be helpful, and not trying to get you to spend beyond your budget. Take what they say and take the appropriate time to process it. Remember that the best business relationships come from a place of agreement, and that talking about it is the only way to get there. It’s all about having an open discussion, and trusting that it will lead to a well-reasoned outcome.
At Grue & Bleen, we focus on websites that actually do what you want them to do. Every business has goals, and a well-built website can help you accomplish them with the appropriate planning and execution. From branding and user experience for a pleasant visit, to implementing analytics to provide an understanding of it all, to the launch of an informed marketing campaign to bring new people and repeat the whole process, we do it all. Get in touch with us, and let’s talk about YOUR website. Cheers!