Without considering the time and effort required to properly plan, research, prototype, record, and write for a website, the cost to design and develop the web is likely much higher than it was when you built your first site. Hopefully, you’ve arrived at site 3 or 4 by now… and it’s not getting any cheaper. The cost of a website appears to be increasing.
People and businesses today, understandably, want options, customization, and the ability to manage their own content. Users (and website owners) expect highly interactive functionality, mobile (or responsive) design, bells and whistles, and personalized experiences. Demands and requirements have become more complex, and expectations have risen significantly in the last two years. This significantly lengthens our process.
You’re probably used to (and enjoy) the experiences you have on million-dollar websites like Apple.com, Facebook, or eBay – and you expect visitors to your site to have similar experiences. Unfortunately, this comes at a higher cost. This level of “simplicity” is difficult to achieve and requires planning, coding, refining, and testing.
Building a website is comparable to building a new home. When you think about it, that’s exactly what you’re doing with a website: creating a new digital home for your company. You can choose between contractor-grade laminate and finer granite countertops, but it will cost you our time and consideration.
Not to mention that there are now so many more design options available. Let’s look at the essential (and some not-so-essential) elements of creating a highly functional website that, unlike many others, will still be relevant two years down the road…
The design elements that comprise your site’s aesthetic face are not by chance. We spend time searching for, creating, and experimenting with the perfect textures, shades, palettes, flourishes, and design treatments to communicate effectively. A designer’s job is to think about things like branding, themes, concepts, design flow, user interface, image manipulation, typeface selection, and so on.
Our design team devotes more time to the following elements:
Initial ideas. These include conducting industry research, investigating existing brand elements, and/or developing new brand aesthetics. We have to sift through thousands of typefaces in libraries to find web-friendly fonts, palettes with subtle, nuanced color shifts, and dozens of layout elements.
Revisions. Before we present them to you, the design team will receive revisions from the project manager and creative lead, and you will receive revisions as well. The number of revisions you request will determine how much time we need to spend. What appears to be a “minor change” may actually involve many layers and masks that must be altered.
Various screen sizes are available. When creating a responsive site or app, we must create not just one, but three, four, or five (or more!) versions of each page so that the developer understands how the site should respond on different browser and screen sizes. Let’s not even get started on retina displays. We’re no longer just designing down; we’re also designing up.
Interactivity. Because websites can move and change when you hover or click, we must consider and design what happens from an aesthetic standpoint for each button, link, image, or element.
Page designs. Every site requires a homepage, but we can’t make every other page look the same unless you’re looking for an off-the-shelf generic WordPress theme. For example, your blog post should not look exactly like an event calendar page. The designer must create page layouts that visually connect the copy and imagery in a creative and useful way.
Backend is where the magic happens. It is the software that drives the content management system, the e-commerce platform, and any other feature you can think of. The component that connects your database to your website is known as the back-end. Using programming languages such as PHP or Ruby, each web application communicates with a database. Each site feature may require five to hundreds of files and hundreds to thousands of lines of code, all of which must be meticulously crafted.
Some factors that influence the cost of website development include:
Hosting. There are several options here, and it’s an important decision because it often determines a website’s security and speed.
Project goals and scope. What is the site’s purpose? What is the client hoping to achieve? Who is using the site, and who should? All of these are questions that must be thoroughly considered and defined before embarking on a concept.
Selecting device support. How important is it for your website to be accessible (and enjoyable) on all devices and screen sizes? Using responsive website design, we must consider, plan, design, and develop for far more screens, browsers, and visitor settings than ever before. (You can now access Facebook from a screen on your refrigerator.) The future has arrived.)
How to Select a Content Management System (CMS). Is the site going to be built with WordPress or ExpressionEngine? Shopify or Magento? This decision is based on our research for your project, the amount of customization required, and how well the platforms fit your requirements. Whichever one we select will determine how much integration and custom code we will need to write.
Integrations with third-party services. To accept payments, do we need to integrate with your merchant account and gateway processor? What about an event calendar? Facebook or Google Maps? Is it necessary for your users to login and be remembered? We can plan for our own code, but when we rely on third-party vendors, we are dependent on their documentation and ability to integrate in the way you want – which can increase the time it takes to get it right.
Your website is attractive and functional, but it is likely that it is not yet complete. You require content, and you usually look to us for it. Copywriting, photography, and videography are all aspects of creating useful content for your website that require time and practice.
Content is a critical component of your website that is frequently overlooked. The telling of your story is ultimately what sells your product or service. This isn’t just any old copy: it needs to be optimized so that your site appears in search engine results. This entails keyword research and the careful incorporation of terms relevant to your audience. This, like all other aspects of a custom website, takes time and effort.
In reality, creating an effective, modern website takes a significant amount of planning, time, attention, effort, and skill. If you want a branded site that tells your story, reaches your target audience, and is simple to manage, look no further.