Getting a website: where are the costs?
So you have made the decision to have a website built for your business, but are not sure of what is involved, and where the costs lie? It can be confusing, especially if you are not particularly Internet or PC savvy: web development, web hosting, domain names, email addresses. All of these are factors that need to be considered and costed into your project. As well as that, you’ve seen many great websites on the net, which are packed with loads of cool features, moving graphics, options to sign up for newsletters, database searches and links to other sites. Do you need all these features, and how much will all that cost? What should you have in your website, what’s the process, and how much will it all set you back?
The first step is to think of a suitable domain name. The name of your company can be a great start, so you get www.mybusiness.co.nz or www.mybusiness.com . Which do you need: dot co or dot com? I believe that a dot co domain name is OK for most New Zealand businesses, and that a dot com name still really implies an American site, although this is not a fast rule. Why not identify your business as a NZ one straight off and use dot co, which will promote our country to overseas net users? Something else to think about is whether the name lends itself to what your business does or provides. So the domain name www.circusanimalhire.co.nz (it doesn’t exist, I checked!) tells you pretty much what the website is all about. A name like www.prsmythe.co.nz doesn’t give as much information about the core business, and so users then have to actually view the site to determine what is provided. You need a lot of advertising, PR and brand marketing clout to get a name like www.amazon.com to be synonymous with books right? But it is possible as we know. When you’ve thought of your name, register it: $39.95 will secure you the name for a year.
What does a website cost? A basic website can cost as little as $1000 - $2000. What do you get for that? You generally get what’s called a brochureware website. That’s one that is like what it’s name suggests: an online brochure introducing your business, products and services, and encouraging users of your site (your target market) to contact you. You can have the basic structure of three pages:
1) Home page which introduces you, your business, products and services
2) Products and/or Services page for more detail
3) Contact page, which may include location (a map!), phone numbers and email facility.
The latter may be in the form of a link, which opens up a blank email when clicked on, or may include a form, which users fill in, and this generates an email which is sent to you. The form is great way of encouraging users to give you a certain amount of required information, so that you can give the most informed response, and hopefully generate some business. A brochureware website is a great start if you want to start off small, with a good Internet presence at a reasonable price. Don’t forget you can always expand it over time once you have analysed its effectiveness, seen the benefits, and increased your confidence. This sort of site supports your existing marketing strategy and initiatives and is another facet of your marketing strategy: it’s an advertisement for your business.
What if you want your website to be more than just an advertisement, and actually want it to make the sale for you right there and then online? What if you want some more features, such as a search facility, where people can enter criteria and search through your products, and maybe place an order on your site or even pay for it online? With these features you can actually secure a sale or an order while the user is still visiting your website. This dynamic functionality involves including programming and database components in your website and so will cost you more. What you want determines what it will cost you. (What you NEED may cost you less, so get advice). There are no set prices for including this sort of functionality, and the best bet is to shop around. There are options.
1) A web development company will be able to construct an online catalogue, ordering and/or payment facility for you
2) You could buy shopping facility software yourself, and have it added to your existing site
3) You can utilise one of the many providers of this functionality who actually lease or rent the facility to you.
In the latter instance your catalogue is housed on their site, you manage it yourself and it looks like your site, but it is provided by a third party.
Even if you start with a brochureware website you can of course add features over time, and it is important to plan for this from the outset if that is what you want to do. Ensure that your website is scalable, that is that it can be expanded readily, without having the whole thing reconstructed from scratch. Don’t forget to consider the size of your site and the impact that this can have on your web hosting costs. Adding a catalogue with a lot of pictures can take up more room on your website hosting company’s server, and this may cost you more if you start to exceed the storage limit that you have for your account. Credit card facilities also need to be paid for - they will generally cost you a set up fee, a yearly fee and a percentage of each transaction, but they are convenient in that revenue is collected immediately.
Don’t forget also that once a website has been constructed and launched there may need to be ongoing maintenance of the site, in terms of keeping the data in it up to date, periodic review and testing and further development work. Discuss with your web developer what might be required and what these costs might be. This should be discussed with you during the initial planning phase of your web development project. Also discuss search engine optimisation (SEO), which is the process of ensuring your site can be found on the net. Many web development companies will include this service initially as part of their development price, but will charge for an ongoing maintenance and review of your listings. There are Internet companies that supply these services specifically as well, so have a look around. SEO of your site initially and on an ongoing basis, is strongly recommended for your website, as search engines still account for over 80% of the traffic to websites.
Once your website is complete, you will need to have your website hosted, and there are many hosting company’s available which offer this service. The prices vary for these services from about $20 to $50 per month, and the value added services provided vary considerably. Options such as website stats, account size limits, number of email addresses available with each account are a consideration, as is technical support and assistance. So, a lower priced host sounds great, but they may not give you web stats or a free form script, and this may set you back if you want or need these facilities for your site. Ask the right questions, or read the available information on the hosting company’s website before you commit yourself.
So, in summary it is fair to say that the costs of owning and operating a website do not just lie in the production of the website itself, although this is the major component. You also need to consider domain name purchase, website hosting costs, domain name-based email accounts, website statistics, service/support, search engine optimisation and of course ongoing management, maintenance and development.