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April 6, 2020

Professional Website Design: What it takes to do it right

Lawyer reviews costs for professional website design
Done correctly, a professional website design can be a complex project. However, the results can make it worthwhile.

“How much does a website cost?”

This is one of the most commonly asked questions we get. It makes sense, too; professional website design is a complicated thing, and a lot of the work involved is a mystery to the lay-person. Asking “how much does a website cost?” is a lot like asking, “how much does a house cost?” The answer, naturally, is “it depends.”

Website pricing varies a great deal. There are two significant costs that companies should consider: the up-front cost of creating the website, and the ongoing costs required to maintain it.

According to some reports, the cost to design-and-develop a site can vary between $12,000 and $150,000. Other resources will say the average price of design-and-development will run between $500 and $6,000. Those same experts will estimate that maintenance will cost between $35 to $5,000 per month (or $400 to $60,000) per year.

With ranges like these, these “averages” really do not tell us much of anything. How can a business estimate what it will cost to create and maintain a website?

Going back to our house analogy, it depends on what we put into it. Let’s look at some of the different components and up-front costs involved in creating a professional website.

An accountant discusses the up-front costs of a professional website design.

Professional website design has many components

Design

For most clients, this part of the engagement is the first that comes to mind. What will our new website look like? How will it reflect our brand strategy, and how will it fit in with the other touchpoints of our firm’s brand? Hopefully, we’re looking to use the website to help fulfill some specific business objectives, like driving inquiries and sales.

Graphic design is a significant line item on the estimate. If shortcuts aren’t being employed here (and they shouldn’t be), a substantial amount of time can go into designing the site. It gets more complicated if a clear corporate identity program isn’t in place.

If your firm doesn’t have a robust brand identity system (a set of broad designs that guide the overall aesthetic of an organization), it can leave the website developer struggling to catch up. While novice developers might enjoy the open-ended freedom that it allows, more conscientious designers know that the website is a significant brand touchpoint, and requires some careful consideration.

And there’s much to consider in this part of the project:

  • What does the rest of the brand look like?
  • What is the goal of the site? Inform? Generate sales?
  • What special considerations need to be made for the audience?
  • How will the site look on a small smartphone? A large screen? Everything in-between?
  • How do we make the site stand-out from the competition?

Content Writing

The information that a company has on its website is critical. It is becoming even more so as search engines like Google focus more on content adding value to consumers’ experience rather than merely using the right words to trigger a search.

The problem is, writing compelling and engaging content is hard. Even boring content is tough to write.

Even if you aren’t looking to rank in search engines, you’ll still need something to say. Many businesses opt to create their own content. After all, who knows the business better than the managing partner? The problem is, writing compelling and engaging content is hard. Even boring content is tough to write. Writing the content yourself can be a costly endeavour. Imagine you can create 300 words of good copy in an hour (which would be very fast). The smallest sites will require 3000+ words of text or at least 10 hours of work. How much does it cost to have a senior partner do this work at their hourly rate? Not so cheap.

Content writing pricing varies a great deal. If the firm hires a freelancer to do the work, the company can develop the content at a fraction of a senior partner’s cost. That type of process takes considerable oversight and direction, however. A better choice is to wrap the content creation into a marketing package that the agency provides. The agency should bring the firm polished content without much oversight from the senior partners.

Photography and Artwork

Beyond content, there’s always a need for additional photography and artwork to flush out the site and create a compelling experience that meets the business objectives. Finding stock photography and images that fit a company’s needs can be challenging. Instead, businesses may opt for having a professional photographer take pictures of owners, employees, other team members, or other various aspects of the business.

Like other creative works, photography fees will vary in price. However, you typically get what you pay for, so it’s best not to cut corners on photography. Staff headshots taken on a smartphone aren’t going to suffice. That amateurish approach will get noticed in all the worst ways.

Integration with Social Media and Other Services

Integrating the site with social media platforms can involve many tasks, depending on the platforms used. Some of the things that should be done to integrate with other services include:

  • Linking to social media accounts
  • Adding forms for CRM software
  • Setting up Google Analytics
  • Adding the site to Google Search Console
  • Social media tracking software

Then, there are ongoing costs in the form of maintaining these various online presences on the company’s behalf. Multiple services will automatically post items to social media for the company, but those often come at an added expense.

On-page SEO

Although SEO and content writing often go hand-in-hand, they are not quite the same thing. SEO or Search Engine Optimization ensures that content is designed so that search engines can pick up a website and display it in search results if it fits with a specific search term. The site needs to be built so search engines can read and understand the content, and the site provides all the metadata the search engine looks for.

Legal

There are two legal documents almost every site needs: a Privacy Policy and a Website Terms of Use. The Privacy Policy notifies users what kind of information you collect about them and what you do with it. The Website Terms of Use describes the permitted uses of the site, limits the firm’s liability, asserts copyright and trademarks, etc. Specific legal counsel should be sought when creating these documents.

Website Testing: Mobile, Features, Performance

Testing a website and its various features is an essential finishing step. Companies want to ensure that a client sees what the company wants them to see and that the user’s entire experience is easy to navigate.

A collection of spreadsheets and projections for ongoing website costs.

“So how much does it cost?”

How long is a piece of string?

The answer is still, “it depends.” Each project is going to be unique in its scope, and there’s always an abundance of complexity. But seeing some of the things that go into designing a website should shed some light on the matter.

When it comes to professional website design, half measures don’t account for much.

If you’re looking to get a better idea of what costs would look like to work with us, reach out.