Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What does a Best of the Web website cost?

The Rochester Business Journal holds a Best of the Web competition each year.  OS-Cubed is proud to have developed sites that have qualified in the past as a finalist - though this year none of our clients submitted an entry.  The RBJ's competition looks at websites in a variety of categories including Not for Profit cultural, Not for profit human services, Banking and Finance, Education, Business and professional services, Government and Community, Health care, Legal Services, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Retail and Tourism.  In short, a vast cross section of the web services industry.

One of the more interesting questions they ask (and not everyone answers this) is the cost to build the site and the annual cost to maintain it.  Note that the interpretation of these amounts is left up to the submitter of the site and (for instance) may not include internal development costs, volunteer costs (on the part of Not for Profit companies) and other non-accounted for expenses.  Nonetheless, the study offers a nice cross section of the community and what it costs to build and maintain an award winning quality website.

If we look at the data gathered from the information provided, the initial cost of development of an award winning site is roughly $40,000 on average with a range of $325,000 to $2500.  The cost of yearly improvements, upkeep and maintenance arrives at around $6700/year or around 17% of the total cost of the initial site and varies between a few hundred and tens of thousands. 

Award winning sites are typically redesigned every 3 years or so, the cost of which isn't surveyed, but we can expect the cost to be somewhere around 1/4 to 1/2 the initial design cost for a content managed site, and as much as the total design cost for a "built from scratch" site.

So what does this mean for the average company looking to build a site?  Budgets in the over $10,000 range should not be surprising to you.  Depending on features and functions (retail, real estate and banking sites probably cost much more than not for profit or information only sites) you could be anywhere along a continuum of a few thousand dollars all the way to hundreds of thousands.  You also should be expecting to expend somewhere in the 15-20% range to maintain, update and improve your site each year.  As new browsers come out (is your site compatible with IE10 for instance?) sites may well need tweaks and updates to function properly.  Security updates need to be applied, and content needs to be changed and updated frequently.

None of these budgets included demand generation activities including SEO, direct marketing, social media, pay for click or other marketing costs.

Of course you could also opt to build a site for much less than that and not go for a "best of the web" site.  Why you would want to do that when there are competing sites that are better than yours is an exercise I'll leave up to your Marketing manager.  Good luck with that discussion :)

With budgets in that range though, you will want to carefully pick a developer and designer for the long haul - one that has your best interests at heart, and will help save you from costly mistakes - as well as recognize when an investment is worth it.