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Virtue of the Small

How Much Does a Web Site Cost?

*These five factors influence the cost of a web site:*

Domain Name - Hosting - Development - Marketing - Maintenance


1. Domain Name

Getting your own domain name, like "myownname.com", is actually fairly easy and inexpensive. Although in the past this has cost as much as $100 for two years, prices have fallen and domain names can be registered (and renewed) for as little as $13 per year, and some places charge even less (but I think it's worth $13/year for dependable service from my usual provider). This will be an ongoing expense. I usually handle this for my clients, but if you'd like to do it yourself, or if you already have, just be sure you keep your access information and don't let it expire.

A unique domain name, that simply evokes who you are or what you do, is highly recommended for most sites. The alternative is often a web site address like "thehostserver.com/users/~yourdir/", which can be difficult to remember, awkward to describe over the phone, takes more space on your business cards, and will change if you ever change hosting services. Once you get your own domain name, it is yours for as long as you keep renewing it.

Having your own domain name also means you get to use it for your own e-mail address - or multiple e-mail addresses, if you like. Even if you change internet service providers, for instance, if you discontinue your AOL or HotMail account, your e-mail address through your own domain name will remain the same. It can also look very nice on your business cards, if you're into that sort of thing.

2. Hosting

Web sites consist of computer files that must be stored on a specially configured computer that's connected to the internet, usually through an expensive very high-speed connection, 24 hours a day. These computers are usually backed up regularly, have redundant generators in case of power outages, and provide more disk space, bandwith, and services that you'll probably need - but when you do need it, it's very nice to have it already.

Unless you want to go to the trouble and expense of setting up your own web server, or you have a friend who will host your site for free, you must pay someone to host your site. It's not that expensive.

There are many hosting services from which to choose, with a range of prices. Hosting fees are usually affected by the amount of disk space (megabytes) needed, the bandwidth used, and the various services provided. Prices range from around $8 to over $250 or more monthly, and tend to be more expensive if you want e-commerce features. I can arrange hosting with a service I know, so my clients don't have to worry about this.

Most of my sites pay $80 - $180 per year for web hosting.

3. Development

This is the major expense for the vast majority of professionally-developed sites.

Site design, content gathering and creation, image processing, HTML coding, and script (computer program) creation are all part of developing most web sites. Sites vary widely in their size and complexity. I could put together a simple text-only page in as little as a few hours, while a very complex site could involve weeks or months of design, coding, and graphics work.

Even if you create your site yourself, development will take a significant portion of your time. For an overview of the some of the tasks and skills required, see my page on what's to know.

Here are some steps we might take in the process of developing your site:

a) Planning and Architecture

This may sound fancier than it really is. This stage of development should result in three things:

- a "to-do" list of most of the tasks required for finishing the site, both for me as the developer and for the client;

- a basic structural plan of how the site will be navigated;

- if possible, a fairly firm cost estimate or quote.

I have found that some clients feel their sites are "basic" enough that this step isn't necessary - please believe me, that is almost never the case! If the site is simple, then this step will not take very long, and it can save untold grief and frustration later.

b) Design

Here, I use "Design" to mean time spent on the visual and architectural aspects of a site.

c) Content Creation

In most cases, there will be text to write. Since no one knows you or your business better than you, much of the time for creating this will come from you. I can help clarify, arrange, edit, and make sure the format is suitable for the web.

Other kinds of content can include location maps, logos, and content information.

d) Programming

For features like searching, interactive price quotes, or handling web forms, some programming will be required. This could be as simple as installing an existing script and configuring it, or it could take a lot of hours for a highly customized service.

The fact that I *can* program sets me apart from many web designers (hence I call myself a web **developer**), and means that there are a lot of possibilities open to my clients - but features like this do take time.

e) Proofing

I usually recommend hiring a separate site reviewer. I am glad to subcontract this work out to people I have worked with in the past, and for a small site, it's not that expensive. Although I of course check my own work and at all content, by the time we've been through a revision or two both I and my clients don't see errors or problems as readily. This is why a fresh, but discerning, pair of eyes is so helpful. I hire reviewers who are good writers and editors and comfortable with the web.

4. Marketing

Most of my clients have other channels for marketing their sites - print ad programs, existing client networks, or just word of mouth. Since most of my clients are locally-based, this works better than spending a lot of money on a national web marketing campaign.

Web marketing is not a focus of mine, and most companies that promise to yield miraculous results with search engine listings or driving traffic to your site are not doing so with the most lofty ethics.

Still, if you do want to do a web marketing campaign, there are a lot of ways to go about it. I've begun work on a lengthy article covering this topic, the gist of which is this: If you build a better web site and announce it with great expense and fanfare, the world will still not beat a path to your door unless they have a reason to.

This is a huge topic, but know that if you really want tons of people who do not already know you to visit your new site, you'll need to spend money, time, or both. And for this to pay off, your site will need to be genuinely useful to your potential visitors.

Search engine registration is generally included in what I do.

5. Maintenance

Keeping the content of your site fresh and up-to-date is very important, so be sure you allow for the time and/or expense of regular maintenance.

If you have information such as prices, hours, a special of the week, or your address on your web site, and that information changes, maintenance becomes even more critical. I usually do site maintenance at an hourly rate, although regular periodic contracts are also possible.

I can train you to maintain your own site, although this may take some time depending on your level of computer experience. In some cases, I may be able to simplify regular maintenance tasks with a CGI program, although creating such a program will take significant development time.

If you are seriously interested in a site, I will be glad to give you a quote that encompasses all of the factors above. First, however, I need to fully understand what you want. A web site can cost anywhere between a few hundred and tens of thousands of dollars to put together, in addition to hosting costs.

Normally, I will meet with a potential client (possibly over the phone or email), discuss that person's web needs, then prepare a detailed site proposal and price quote. If you are interested, please feel free to call me at (919) 929 - VOTS (929-8687) or e-mail me at "am@virtueofthesmall.com":mailto:am@virtueofthesmall.com.

Nothing in this web page is intended as a price quotation.

(919) 929 - 8687 or (919) 929 - VOTS