other posted in other news  on 31 January 2010
by Andrew Lang 
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Why is website development so expensive?

I get this question asked a lot by potential customers. Not directly about the prices I quote, but about prices quoted from other website developers they've spoken to.

And I end up sort-of defending the other developers as to why they charge so much.

If I had the same business model as your typical website developer, I'd charge 1500 upwards for a website. Why? Because website development is difficult and very time-consuming. It typically involves more people than you'd think, looking at a typical website development company: a salesperson, a designer (imagery/HTML/CSS), a developer (coding/database), likely a project manager, and even someone involved with online marketing. That's a minimum of 5 people - all involved in some way with getting your website developed and online, with a hope it will do well with the search engines. There'll be various meetings, design mockups, further meetings, further revisions of mockups, signing off a design, then onto development - which means likely taking basic templated code and bespoking it to meet the exact requirements of the website. There may be completely new facilities that need to be coded for the site. And because the site is ultimately bespoke (no matter how much templated code you use, these end up being unique, bespoke productions by nature of hacking and mixing up code), the site will need to be thoroughly tested which is time consuming in itself, and often issues don't arise til way after the site has gone live.

But what really matters? The means, or the end? Of course it's the end itself that matters : your website and its hosting. But website developers charge you for the means, not the end. This isn't unreasonable - after all they have to make a profit, and their means of developing a website is not cheap. But what will you get as a result? You may be paying high costs because development costs are high, but getting a poor website as an end result. Many people mistake high prices for website development as an indication the end-result website will be of high quality. But the cost of the means, and the end result, are not always related. In fact, I'd argue they are RARELY related in website development.

Case in point: in 2004, the puresilva template was known simply as "ShopTemplate" and sold for 695. It had a 6 years less development than today's version which sells at just 250. What's going on here then? Simply this: it took me around 3 to 4 days to put together an e-commerce website in 2004. Of course I charged for my time. Now, in 2010 I can install one in 10 minutes. I've spent a fair amount of time streamlining the build process because I don't want to charge my customers for the build process. Nobody cares how costly the build process is for a website, especially when you consider the re-usability of code. They care about the end result. I want to charge them for a reasonably-priced license to use the template that can help pay my general business costs such as hosting and my time to technically support people, and also of course the time spent on new features for the template.

So when you collect quote prices for a website, you should also ask developers how many people are involved, how long is the development time, etc. Even if it's one person developing your site, the quote price is related very closely to development costs, which is absolutely no indicator as to the quality of the website you'll be getting.

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