HOW TO BUY A WEBSITE: THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN QUOTING FOR A WEB DESIGN SERVICE
If you want to buy a website for your business you will find that the prices vary from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the website vendor and the sometimes difficult to understand features provided. Before you jump into asking for quotations for your website the best is for you to understand the technical terms in plain English so you can ask and pay for what you really need. If you buy a “cheap” website it might not have the functionality you expect and if your website ends up being an expensive project you might be paying for features you don’t even need.
When quoting for a website the following items will affect the cost. I suggest you read the article below to understand all these terms:
- Number of web pages
- Number of images
- Type of website: static or dynamic
- Template vs custom based websites
- Flash animations
- Scripts required (functionality)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)tools
- Web Hosting
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Shopping cart and ecommerce
COMPONENTS OF A WEBSITE
There are 3 major components of a website and it is important to know this since each one of them involves different costs within them:
1.DOMAIN NAME: This is the name that your website will have (e.g. www.mywebsite.com.au). Prices start at around $10.00 per year and the name is subject to availability. If the name you wanted has been taken you have to choose another name for your website. If you want a “.com”.
2.WEBSITE DESIGN : A website is like a folder in your computer: It contains files, sub folders, images and so forth. Those files are created by your web developer and this is what is called the website design stage or package. A good website design involves an easy to use interface and navigation, use of adequate colours and layout and efficiently communicates the information within.
3.WEB HOSTING : In order to share those files to the world over the internet you need to pay for a hosting service. A hosting service is like your computer: it stores the files of your website and acts as a server to anyone who wants to have access to them and look at your site anytime. A good web hosting service offers at least 99% uptime service. This is the time your website is available to the users. Although the hosting service is in most of the cases included on the price of the website package, it is worth knowing its features. For more details on web hosting features read below.
With all this in mind lets have a deeper look at each one of those components in order to understand the costs involved.
There are 2 types of websites in the net and they serve different purposes:
STATIC WEBSITES (Brochure website): This type of websites are those that work as “online” catalogues. The contents is embedded on the pages and in order to change that information your website developer needs to do the changes you need. Alternatively you might be able to do your own editorial changes if you have a Content Management System built in your website. These type of websites are normally the most cost effective for small businesses. You can add online shopping capabilities to this type of websites and it is recommended if you sell a small amount of products (read e-commerce section).
DYNAMIC WEBSITES: Unlike static websites the contents displayed on each page of a dynamic website is generated through 1 or more databases or other website(s) that feeds this database. Generally speaking you can modify the contents of the web pages using a Content Management System software that you can access by using a login name and password. The cost of this type of website is directly related to the features, functionality and the areas of your website that you want to be able to modify. In this category of websites are most of the e-commerce shopping carts/online stores. A good example of this type of websites include real estate agencies websites where the properties displayed are obtained from other websites (such as realestate.com.au) or databases.
This term refers to businesses that sell products online. There are different ways to sell your products depending on your requirements and sales volumes.
PAY PAL BUTTONS: If you want to sell only a few items (10-15) Pay pal offers an option to integrate buttons on your website for your customers to pay for your products using Pay pal services. This is option is the less costly from the website development perspective. If you sell a large amount of products then the most cost effective and functional effective way is to use a shopping cart.
SHOPPING CART: A shopping cart is a software built in your website that allows the user to add products to a virtual basket and pay for all items at once. The process is similar to shopping in a retail store and it is widely used nowadays. An example of a shopping cart is: Amazon. When buying a website with shopping cart you might be asked to upload your products (images and descriptions) yourself. If you want the web developer to do this for you and depending on the amount of products you have the development costs will be increased accordingly.
When using a shopping cart there are 2 types of payment methods available for your customers:
Paypal account: One of the most cost recommended methods to sell online for the first time is by using Pay pal service. You can visit their website to check their fees and charges per transaction. The advantage of using Paypal is that you just pay a percentage of the transaction and there are no locking contracts. The disadvantage is that your customer has to leave temporarily your website and go to the paypal website when processing the payment and this might look risky for some people, although this used to be more a disadvantage when paypal just started. Nowadays Paypal is widely recognized all around the world.
Merchant account: With this option you need a Gateway service which will approve the credit card details and then deposit the money into your bank account when the transaction is approved. The payment process occurs within your website but there are some fees and charges involved from your bank and the gateway service.
A CMS is a software built into your website that allows you to perform some changes on each page such as adding images, text, pages and others depending on the CMS capabilities and your requirements. The advantage of a CMS is that you can perform those changes anywhere in the world where you can have access to a computer connected to internet.
You just need a username and password. The disadvantages are that some CMSs require some training on how to use them and in some cases the use of some CMSs affect the SEARCH ENGINE performance of your website. Fortunatelly there are other options for CMS softwares called WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and the interface is very easy to use even for someone with basic computer skills (easy to used CMS example here). Ask your website developer what kind of CMS they provide and make sure you know what type of functionallity you need from the CMS before you ask.
Do you want to have a website that only just you and the people that you know is able to see or a website that appears in relevant search results of the most important Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN). Depending on your answer to this question you need or don’t need the use of SEO tools for your website.
Most of the website vendors offer now SEO but unfortunately there is no way to determine if they use the right tools, which ones and to what extent they use them and this which will impact on the performance of your website and your potential sales. Unlike the rest of the design tasks of your website, SEO is an activity in which you have to be highly involved in order to determine the strategy to attract customers based on your market research. Your knowledge on your market and customers will determine the effectiveness of the SEO tools used.
Some other factors affecting the costs of the website design are:
CUSTOM BASED VS TEMPLATE WEBSITES: Are the layout and the colours of your website designed to attract your market? Is the new design reflecting the look and feel of your brand? Although there are some very good looking templates (pre designed websites), if you purchase a template based website you run the risk of having a website that doesn’t match your brand and corporate image. Template based websites are an affordable and excellent solution where the look and feel doesn’t compromise the end results desired: SALES.
FLASH ANIMATED WEBSITES: You might have come across some websites that start with a very interesting intro that takes a while to download and gives you the option of “skip intro”. Those websites were built using a software called Flash and although they look great there are some implications involved:
1. Considering that most of the users evaluate the contents of the website in the first 10 seconds, what would you do if you are looking for some information and the only thing you get is a screen that says: “DOWNLOADING” and “SKIP INTRO”. Some people will probably leave your website and you will lose a potential customer.
2. Some people disable flash in their browsers or they don’t have the latest version of flash player to see the animations and therefore they will not see your website.
3. Flash is not recommended for websites where SEO is relevant.
4. For large file size animations Flash doesn’t work very well when using a dial up connection.
5. Flash websites are recommended for businesses where image is everything and the brand is very popular so it is easy to find.
SCRIPTS REQUIRED: Depending on your requirements of functionality for your website some custom scripting might be required that will increase the cost of the project. Scripts are used when you require specific functionality for contact forms, password protect pages, special features for navigation, database connectivity, database management and others.
There are a lot of considerations for a hosting service but the only ones you need to know given their relevance and impact on the costs are the following:
Storage Space: If the files that conform your website are in total 1.5 Gb (large website) and your storage space is 1 Gb then you have to pay for an upgrade package.
Email accounts: This refers to the amount of emails you are allowed to have using your firstname.lastname@example.org Nowadays most of the host service providers offer unlimited email accounts.
Data transfer: If your site is in total 10 Mb (including images) and your data transfer is 15 Gb per month this means that your website can be downloaded up to 1500 times before it reaches the maximum allowed. The data transfer can be upgraded anytime if your website is very popular and an email will be send if you are about to reach your limit.
Up time: The time your website is available to the users.
Support for dynamic websites: If your website makes use of dynamic content make sure that the host service provider supports those files.
Website statistics: Ideal to check the performance of your website.