This is something that people seem to be searching for so I thought I should write a post to explain. It seems that the general knowledge of websites and their costs is fairly low and therefore I shall explain.
There are four main costs when setting up a new website. These are Domain, Hosting, Design and Programming. I shall talk about each area in some detail.
The domain is the name of your site. My site is called currently sean-barton.co.uk but I intend to move it to tortoise-it.co.uk very soon. A domain is essentially a lookup service which turns a IP address (a set of numbers to uniquely identify the server on which your website resides) into a name such as tortoise-it.co.uk. This is 100% necessary for you to buy. People charge varying amounts for domains and the cost will fluctuate depending on both the person registering it for you (the design agency or technical contact you are dealing with) and the domain registrar, the company which actually sells the domain to you and provides you with an interface for administration. My recommendation is to always register the domain on your own or with advice but perhaps not doing it via a technical person such as myself as it cuts out both complication in billing and of course overall control of the brand linked domain. I personally use 123reg.co.uk who charge £2-£5 for a .co.uk domain I think although, of course, there are a vast multitude of registrars around the internet. Once you buy your domain I recommend putting it onto direct debit or a card which you don’t think will expire any time soon because one of the most common causes of older sites going down is the owner forgetting to pay up each year for the name.
I won’t go into too much detail here but I shall say that hosting is a massive area of the internet. Costs are annual although a lot of companies offer a pay monthly thing and normally accepting payments via Paypal. If you don’t have a Paypal account then get one as they are both free and ubiquitous in western society. I personally use Hostgator. use ‘tortoise25‘ in the coupon field for a discount. Yes I get a kick back but you also get a cheaper deal than their public prices, even with any seasonal sale they might have on. So what level of server do you need? They are so complicated right? Well 99% of the people on the internal will only need the cheapest deal that hostgator will offer for $8 per month. Forget that the price is in dollars as Paypal will do the conversion and charge you accordingly. However running a server isn’t entirely straightforward and therefore your technical contact or agency might offer to host on your behalf and bill you accordingly each year. This is generally a bit more expensive but it means you get more value and things like email management, crisis recovery and backups are handled accordingly. This is even more important if your livelihood is reliant on your website being up. A general price for a ‘managed’ (by someone like myself) hosting package capable of running any type of site with no imposed limits or quotas is around £100-£150 per year. It is not entirely important for you to have control of this as servers are interchangeable unlike domain names.
So you have somewhere to put your site. Now what?..
A website is written in HTML, the language of the web. You might have heard of it.. it’s been around long enough. However there are languages which people like myself use to generate the HTML of a site. CSS for styling, JS and jQuery for moving and dynamic elements and then on top of that all you have two of the most popular languages of the web PHP and ASP. The latter, ASP is antiquated and used only by those people who don’t know better. Support for it is low and software for websites written using it is generally horrendously and unnecessarily expensive. However.. PHP on the other hand (you can tell which I use by now I hope).. This is all largely irrelevant but you need to be aware of the language names at least. ASP generally runs on a Windows server and PHP on a UNIX server. They are, however, interchangeable but they are the normal configurations. There is also SQL, the language of the databases of the internet. This comes in two flavours MySQL and MSQL for PHP and ASP respectively. All of these languages are free to use although ASP sites are generally both more expensive to develop and maintain on account of ASP developers asking a premium for their efforts in my experience.
Deciding what you want your site to accomplish will largely effect the cost. Right now I shall say anyone that charges by the page just walk away. Websites are not written by the page and therefore charging for a 3 page site differently to a 5 page site is misguided. The amount of effort that goes into a site is magnified with each template (or unique layout). You might find that your 50 page site includes a unique homepage layout and then 49 pages which share a common layout. To a developer such as myself we consider this to be two pages of effort with varying content.
There are a few types of site I generally meet… magazine/news, brochureware, ecommerce and bespoke. For the vast majority of sites we can use a base system called a CMS or Content Management System which puts a prebuilt user interface and administration system in place for someone like myself to ‘theme’ and extend with ‘plugins’. Those who claim to ‘hand code’ sites clearly know no better. Unless of course they don’t mean they use ‘static code’ and they mean that they don’t use a piece of software like Adobe Dreamweaver to generate their sites for them. It’s not a bad thing so much as it not being very effective and the results generally being fairly poor.
The CMS’ of choice on the internet right now are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The latter two being hopeless and outdated so I tend to use WordPress unless the client specifies otherwise in which case I convince them. WordPress is actually powering a vast corner of the internet at the moment. The range of plugins and themes available to allow a non technical person to put a site together is phenomenal. I got into WordPress a few years ago and have since then been making it do some very complex and very useful things for my clients. All the while at the end of the job they remain in full control of their sites and do not need to call me each time they want to change some text, add a page or upload something. All three CMS’ are free to use and there are both free and premium extensions for them.
WordPress has their own directory of ‘themes’. A theme is a set of files and images which can be applied to a WordPress site to give it the look and feel that you want. There is a plethora of free themes on the internet but mostly they are amateur efforts in both code and end result in my experience. Of course also using a free theme for your site means you don’t have that unique or branded feel to it. Themes come in varying shapes and sizes and of course qualities. Of course the ‘free’ aspect of this attracts people and so is an option. I’m not suggesting that all free themes are bad but the compatibility and support level will always be unknown to you. If you would like to try and make a site yourself then I recommend getting a premium theme. You need to pay for them obviously but the support will be better and the quality of work and compatibility is likely to be superior. I tend to recommend Woothemes as a premium theme supplier. They charge $50-$70 for their work or you can buy an annual thing for a couple of hundred and get access to all 97 or so themes they offer.
For those that do definitely want something unique for them the only path is to use a graphic designer. People like myself (developers) have good relationships with these sorts of people as we often work closely together. The job of a graphic designer is to take your vision (or help you build one) and turn it into a site design for someone like myself to then take and turn into a theme/site combination. Generally a designer will want to talk to you about your existing branding, logos, fonts and colour schemes and generally ask for examples of sites or chunks of sites you like with reasons/justification. They will then produce a set of ‘concepts’ for you to look at and then you would approve one before it goes to full design. Costs vary per designer. In my experience they generally ask for a similar amount of money to a developer such as myself although there is a huge range of prices.
A developer or technical person such as myself will be able to guide you through the entire process. You could talk to an agency who will be able to provide the full service from hosting for you to design and development and of course maintenance. A site generally if a design is done or a template being used should cost less than the average persons monthly wage or even less if ou specify you are on a budget. However what most people tend not to realise is that not wanting to spend a lot directly effects the end result. You can’t walk into a Ferrari dealership with £10,000 and leave with more than a brochure. It’s the same in this business. Frankly you get what you pay for although people in my profession will always be able to talk you through the options and find the right balance of cost to quality. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word quality. It’s more the functionality you can have which might need to change. Designers, in my experience, tend not to charge more for more features.. only more time (which of course has a cost).
Having a shop on your site isn’t as complex as you think. Yes it increases the cost by a not insignificant amount but using WordPress and a plugin called Woocommerce (which is free) you can have basic shop functionality without the need to rebuild your existing site. The thing which does cost money though is Payment Gateway integration. If you want to use your bank rather than Paypal and if there isn’t a prewritten module for it then you would need to have the interface written. This varies in cost dependant on who it is. The more popular ones are available as premium addons for prices ranging between £20 and £100. I tell my clients that a basic gateway at a guess will cost around £200 to integrate. Then depending on the level of documentation and support available work can commence. You might be tempted to go for a standalone shopping cart for your site and have a blog or content pages separately but this is only really recommended when you are going to have thousands of products and want a quite complex shop setup. Most people do not need this and the content capability and extensibility of a CMS such as WordPress should make up your mind in it’s favour. If you want to shop around (bad pun) for ecommerce platforms there are several free ones in use, the most popular being Magento but some older programmers using OSCommerce or Zencart. I recommend you stay away from these last two as they are nothing but trouble.
Sites which perform a complex action or have a purpose other than to show of your hobby/business or sell your products might be classed as a bespoke build. The above comments can mostly be thrown out in this case as each project is different and therefore each cost is going to be different. Either way it won’t hurt talking to someone with contacts and to help you flesh out your ideas.
Shameless self promotion
What sort of businessman would I be without the obligatory contact form at the bottom. You can get in touch using this form and I shall normally reply within a few hours if only to acknowledge receipt of your contact. I do not charge for quoting people and will be able to give a ballpark figure for some work based on a short conversation.