If you’re in the market for a new website, or perhaps you need to redesign your existing site, there are some key questions you must ask yourself before you start shopping around for an agency or freelancer.
You see, nowadays anyone with a computer and Internet access can claim to be a website developer. With sites like Wix, Weebly and 1&1 you could potentially create a relatively cheap, or even free, website. Then there are some really nice WordPress, Joomla and Drupal templates you can purchase for under $100. Of course, if you’d like a highly customized website that is in sync with your brand’s image, online marketing goals, and is properly optimized for search engines like Google and Bing then chances are you’ll need the help of a true professional.
You must first decide which option is best for you, your business, and your budget.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do I have time to take this project on myself?
- What is my budget?
- What purpose will this website serve?
- Do I have all the content or will I need help coming up with copy and images?
- What’s my deadline?
What color scheme represents my brand the best and is it in sync with my existing logo?
If you’re the adventurous and daring type that is constantly seeking ways to challenge their technical skills, you might want to try one of the free services. You could possibly even try buying a template and customizing it yourself. These options are also great if you don’t have the funds required to hire a professional. You could always start with a free service to establish an online presence and hire an agency or freelancer when your financial situation improves.
One of the questions we hear most is: What should I expect to pay for a professionally built, custom website?
A safe range that is suitable for most small business websites is anywhere between $2k-$5k. The cost will vary depending on the functionality, existing number of pages that will need to be converted over to the new design and whether or not you need some type of e-commerce solution. If you’re looking to build a social network like Facebook or Twitter or even a dating website like Match.com, the cost could be in the millions (factoring in servers, maintenance, etc.).
What about WordPress, Joomla or Drupal templates?
While there is nothing wrong with purchasing a $40 template to use with popular blog or content management platforms like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, you need to be cautious and aware of freelancers or agencies that try to pass these templates on as custom designs. Unless they have the expertise and knowledge to customize the template’s code and layout to suit your specific needs, a $40 template shouldn’t cost you $5k. There are some exceptions however. For example, if the agency or freelancer spends 40-50 hours writing copy and developing additional custom designs for your site, then you should expect to pay several thousand dollars for their time alone- even if they are using a template.
Questions to ask when you interview a freelancer or agency:
- What is the most challenging website project you’ve ever worked on?
- How did you overcome those challenges?
- How many years of experience do you have?
- Did you study to be a designer, developer or are you self-taught?
- Will you be using a template or developing our site from scratch? (If a template is being used you can then negotiate a lower price)
- Can you show me a portfolio or examples of the sites you’ve built? (You should be able to notice a difference in the look and functionality of sites they’ve built as a novice compared to those they built as a seasoned professional)
- What’s the timeline? (30 days or less is average)
- Will I own my website after it’s built and can I move it to another server at my discretion? (This should be a yes, unless your contract states otherwise or you are using template based service like GoDaddy Website Builder, Townsquare Media, Wix, Weebly and 1&1)
- What do you charge for hosting? (Anything over $14.99 is expensive for basic sites. If you have a high traffic site you should probably look into a dedicated server with Amazon or GoDaddy.)
- Will I own my domain? (You should always opt to own your domain. This is very important in case you decide to move your site elsewhere or they go out of business.)
- What are the payment terms and will there be any additional costs once we go live?
- Will my site be responsive? (This is common practice nowadays, it means it adjusts to mobile and tablet screens)
The difference between buying your website and paying a monthly fee to keep it live:
Some companies like GoDaddy, Townsquare Media, Weebly, Wix and 1&1 will offer you a monthly service plan in order to keep your site active. This is different from a hosting fee which you pay to lease space on a server where you keep your website files. When dealing with companies that offer low monthly fees to keep your site active keep in mind that you’ll never own your site and will be unable to transfer your site elsewhere. Should you decide to go elsewhere you’ll have to start from scratch, which could prove to be costly over time. If you purchase your website then you are free to take your files and host them wherever you’d like. You have complete control of the source code and can do as you please with it.