Who needs a website at any price?

by Colin Bryant, TelecomsAdvice

Allery Scott's feature, What is a fair price for a website, is fine as far as it goes, and the work involved in putting a website together is fairly represented - although some of us might wish we could earn the hourly take home rates suggested.

You can, of course, get a website up and running for far less than even the starter cost of GBP2000-3000 they suggest - it depends how much time you can put in to it yourself, whether you know someone who can do it "on the side", or if you have access to a trade association, Business Link, Chamber of Trade or other business support organisation who can help.

Our DIY website design information sheet might help if you decide to do it in-house - but do you need a website at all?

Let's face it, anything that makes your business easier to find and contact must be worth doing if it doesn't cost too much. Search engines and directories make it easy for prospective customers to locate company websites and with a memorable Internet domain name on all your documents and products customers will be able to find you even if your physical address or telephone number changes. So, register a suitable domain name for around GBP10-GBP30 and point it at a simple web page containing a business and product description, and contact details - it can be hosted on the ‘free’ space provided with a standard Internet Service Provider (ISP) account. Most ISPs have plenty of help on their websites to guide you through the process.

Cost - mostly your time and the computer you are using to write the web page.

Going a stage further, turning that simple web page into a multi-page site - and above all, giving it the sort of image you would like for your business - is a bit trickier. Graphic design and photography could be worth paying for, but try your existing printer or design agency first - they may be able to provide a website design service making use of your existing photography and graphics.

You have to make an assessment of how much business you expect to get from your website, and at what cost, in the same way as you would with any other advertising and promotional spend - you want to get a reasonable return on your investment. Have a look at your competitors' websites - if they are few and far between it may be the time is not yet right for your type of business.

While you are looking at your competitors' sites make notes about the look and any features you like or don't like - try to do this from a customer’s point of view - this will give any designer you employ an idea of what you have in mind, so they can quote more accurately. If you can put a design brief or specification together in this way, you should be able to get a reasonably accurate quote for design, but expect to pay extra if you depart from the brief, want custom graphics, photography or copywriting, and if you want the designer to manage and update your site on a regular basis. And remember, the associated costs of hosting and domain name registration need to be factored in as well.

As a benchmark, look at prices for website design services provided by BT business website and design products or Freecom which took over Virgin's Biznet, which make on-line catalogues and credit card payment systems more affordable for small businesses. You can also search for companies which provide "template" style website design at fixed prices.

Don't forget to consider the cost of staff time in administering the website and keeping it up to date. Also, you can't rely on people finding you with search engines. If your website is going to be a key part of your marketing strategy, you have to shepherd visitors there using traditional marketing methods such as press releases and off-line promotions.

Your business may lend itself to marketing or delivery over the Web, like mail order, travel or financial services; or your customers may always need on-site services, like hairdressing or plumbing - so the calculation of the additional income Web promotion may bring against its cost is an individual one.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011

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