How much does a website cost
Occasionally a prospective client is more anxious to buy a website from me that I am to sell him one. He doesn't care about the abysmal weather, his artheritis, the fact that his customers are deserting him in droves because of the government's smoking ban, he does not want to tell me about his business concerns, about his overdrafts, about the grant or the free marketing advice that may be available, he does not care about his wife who is giving him ear ache, or his mother-in-law who is throwing her weight around, all he wants to know is how much is the website going to cost him.
He thinks the price is the same no matter how many pictures he wants on his site, no matter how many pages, no matter whether he wants e-commerce or not, no matter how many hours we have to spend arguing with him about the contents or the text on his website.
No, a website is a website, the only difference is from whom he buys it, and if I don't give him a simple answer to his simple question 'How much do you charge for a website?', it is obvious to him that I want to take him for a ride, and he is too smart to let me do that.
If I ask him questions about his business, how well he is doing, what his problems are, if any, what his plans are for the next year or two, he thinks I am prevaricating.
When I met such a person for the fourth time, I thought I had better send him a letter to clarify the situation once and for all, and here it is.
Dear Mr Nazruddin,
A simple answer to your simple question
I am writing to apologise for having driven you to exasperation during our phone conversation today, by refusing to give a simple answer to what you rightly said was a simple question, namely: 'How much do you charge for a website?'
I regret this even more because I know that you are battling at several fronts at the moment (stagnant business, mother-in-law threatening to come for a 6-month visit, and rheumatoid arthrities). You can do without a recalcitrant web developer at a time like this.
I appreciate, of course, that your primary concern right now must be the total amount of cash you will have to spend for your website project.
So, to start with, as a sign of my goodwill and co-operation, let me do exactly as you asked and give you my simple answer to your simple question: 'How much do you charge for a website?'
Answer: 'We can do you a simple website for £501 plus VAT, and we will throw in one year's hosting and a domain name and e-mail service for nothing.'
You can't say no fairer than that - but will that money be well spent?
If we give you such a site, we will not advertise the fact that we
have done this for you, for the following reasons:
- this is not really the way we work,
- this is far below our normal standards of service,
- it is far less beneficial for your business than if you went along with our normal client-centred approach, even though it may differ somewhat from what you are used to from other web design companies.
Having given you now the simple answer you demanded, let me explain why decisions based on that question and that answer cannot really give you best value for your business. So please bear with me for a few more paragraphs.
Borat in Germany
In a modern German fairytale (some people call it an urban myth) a customer comes into a transportation show room where they sell Ferraris, Fords, Volkswagens, tractors, jeeps, golf buggies, and helicopters.
A refugee from Kazakhstan named Borat, who does not know German well, comes into the showroom and asks: 'How much do you charge for a car?'
In his language, all four-wheeled vehicles are called 'cars', so the Ferrari and the tractor are in the same category. The salesman, who thinks that Borat in his third-hand raincoat (inherited from Columbo) is as poor as a church mouse and who wants to make a quick sale, quotes him for the cheapest car, the Volkswagen.
Borat, who actually had won the jackpot in the German Klassen-Lotterie last night (and I can swear on my sainted great-auntie's grave that this is true), says: 'That sounds very reasonable, very cheap in fact, is that the fastest car you have got?'
'No, that would be a Ferrari.'
The salesman quotes him for so and so many euros for a Ferrari. Borat buys and pays cash. On the nail.
A week later he returns and complains:
'That Ferrari of yours is no bloody good. It is stuck in the mud.
I entered for the all-German ploughing competition in Buxtehude. I always used to win with my water buffalo in Kazakhstan, and my nickname there was Michael Schumacher. So I was sure to win having the fastest car in the world. But now I did not only lose the competition, a bloody Fergie beat me to it, but the Ferrari is stuck in a furrow, and I can't get it off the field. See what you have done to me!'
The salesman replied: 'I am ever so sorry to hear that. You should have told me *** exactly *** what you wanted to achieve, what your problems were, what your expectations were, who your competitors were, and I could have advised you better.'
How you can really take advantage
of our skills, commitment and connections
With websites we are in a similar situation.
There is no such thing as 'a website', for which one can give a price. There are any number of variables which affect the price, and I am, in fact, doing you a favour by asking questions about your business and about what you are trying to achieve.
For us, a website is not a product which we deliver, charge for, and then turn our backs on you.
For us, a website is part of a service designed
- to reduce your headaches and worries (virtual paracetamol, patent applied for)
- and to promote your business.
If we realise, as a result of our conversation with you, that our website can not help you to achieve that result or that you are ordering it with the wrong expectation, we will not accept your order.
That's why we have to ask you questions and get to know you and your business before we even give you a quote (whereas you want us to *** start *** by giving a quote).
We have to know about your challenges, your ambitions and objectives, your competitors, other avenues you are exploring, to solve your problem (just in case a useful pattern and combination of services emerges).
Only then can we plan, together with you, the exact content and structure of your website, and only then can we give you a quote.
This approach may take a little more of your valuable time, but the resulting website (and possibly other measures that we may suggest) will be much more beneficial for your business than a website which you can buy straight off the peg 'no questions asked'.
We are not in the website mass market, and we only work with clients with whom we have a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
Part of such a relationship is a frank exchange of information -- we give you ours, and you give us yours. In this letter, I am telling you frankly about our angle and approach to website development.
Special features which will benefit your business
The following special features are part of our package deal:
1 Press publicity
It is part of our standard package for website development that we will send an experienced journalist to write a feature (advertorial) about the launch of your website, and about you and your business, and to submit it to the local, and national newspapers, to any relevant publications of which we are aware, and to any publications about which you might care to tell us. This, if published, will provide much useful publicity for you, and the launch of your new website is an ideal peg for such a feature.
We will make sure that your website is quickly picked up by Google and other search engines and gets a good ranking. (The technical term for this service is SEO = search engine optimisation.)
3 Running a website
We will advise you on *** running *** your website. A successful website must not be static, it has to be actively used as a weapon in your efforts to attract more business and to make sure it retains its ranking in Google.
4 Updating service
All you have to do is to e-mail us any information you want to have put on your website or you want to have deleted, and we will do the work for you, speedily. We charge for updates on a time basis, ie depending on the amount of work you sent us.
You do not have had to get involved in the technicalities. You can concentrate on running your business.
5 Websites which you can update yourself (CMS)
We are working on the assumption that there will be comparatively few updates (this can be handled by a plain HTML site, with us doing the updates). If you envisage making changes more often, e.g. on a weekly or daily basis, then a CMS (content management system) site may be to your advantage. A CMS site enables you to make your own updates. It costs considerably more to construct than a plain HTML site, but is much cheaper to run. A plain HTML site costs less to construct but can cost more to run if there are many updates to make. All depends on the number of updates you are planning to make. If few updates, go for HTML. If many updates, go for CMS.
6 We will arrange the hosting of your website.
During the first year *** we *** will pay the hosting company. That means if there are any teething problems, you can come to us and we will sort them out.
As from Year 2 (when the service of the hosting company has settled in nicely and there are no more teething problems), you will become the direct client of the hosting company, and they will invoice you directly.
Of course, even then, we will intervene on your behalf in the unlikely event of there being any problems which you can not resolve directly. But the advantage of this arrangement for you is that, as from Year 2, you are entirely independent of us. If you are happy with us, you can continue to use our services. If you were unhappy, it would be easy for you to go to any other website creator you like.
7 Our websites are portable.
That means that, if you are not happy with the hosting company, your site can easily be moved to any one of hundreds of other hosting companies up and down the country. The only hold we and the hosting company have over you is your satisfaction with our service. If you are not happy, you can move, and we will not even frown.
There are some Web creation companies, possibly less expensive than us, where your website is not 'portable' in this sense. Your website may be so deeply integrated with their server software that it cannot possibly be moved to another hosting company if you were unhappy with their service. That is the significance of our offer.
8 Referral and testimonial reward
If you give us a testimonial within two weeks of our completing the site and
- either one referral resulting in another website order worth at least £1000
- or two referrals resulting in two websites worth at least £700,
we will give you a discount of £65 on your initial invoice or on your next updating invoice, provided the referrals come within three months of the completion of your website.
In conclusion, let me apologise again for having been so resistant to your entirely reasonable simple question. I assure you that I am anxious to learn in detail about your business concerns and objectives only in order to be able to give you a better service and help you resolve your problems, either directly or with the help of our large network in the business community.
With best wishes,
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(4 Feb 2010)