Imagine walking into a Mercedes dealership, and on being told a new S550 costs $100,000, you say “but down the street, I can get a used 15-year-old Chevy for $1,000!”
Versions of this happen every day in regards to websites. All websites are not the same any more than all cars are the same.
Here are the major options and an idea of how that affects pricing.
Do-it-yourself Websites: DIY website builders have been around for a long time. Typically you get the choice of a theme, possibly ability to change colors, you can drop in photos, add all your own content, contact forms, and so on.
Advantages: These sites are inexpensive (typically a small monthly fee that includes hosting), and are able to be deployed (or launched) very quickly. These days you can build a pretty decent looking website yourself with some DIY tools. The better ones do a fair to good job on mobile devices as well.
Disadvantages: Some are much better than others and it may not be that easy to tell one from another. You don’t really own your site, sometimes it isn’t even possible to make a copy of and move your site elsewhere. Your website is not being done by a professional, despite what the advertising says, the result will be an amateurish website. Additionally, your ability to optimize your website to appear in search engines will be limited.
One-man-band Websites: A large majority of website designers and developers are one-man-bands – a single man or woman, usually operating out of their home, often part-time. These can be full custom design but more often are theme or template (based on an existing design).
Advantages: Inexpensive, as the designer has little overhead and may be only supplementing income from his day job. No bureaucracy – you are talking to the person doing your website.
Disadvantages: Easily overloaded. It is very common for one-person operations to get busy and stop answering the phone or email and possibly take weeks or months to get minor work done. Also, you are asking for a unicorn set of skills. Developing a good website requires marketing know-how, programming skill, and design talent. Basically, no one is first-rate at all of these.
Outsourced Overseas Website Development: Many website design and development companies consist of one person locally selling jobs which are actually done in India or Bulgaria, or are directly being sold and delivered by a foreign company.
Advantages: Relatively inexpensive. The overseas companies doing the work may have a large staff with a variety of skills covering all the skills needed.
Disadvantages: Time zone differences can slow down progress as it can add a full day to a feedback cycle. Language barriers are often a huge problem – even if there is a local person acting as a go-between. Technical skills of those doing the work are often sketchy. There may be no recourse if the work isn’t fully or correctly completed.
Pick a Site Websites: Similar to DIY sites, these are often available for a certain industry from a company that specializes in websites for that industry, such as chiropractors or mortgage brokers. Rather than doing it yourself, you pick the look of the site from a selection and pick content for the site from a list of available articles. You then add in your particular content which typically is very limited.
Advantages: There is often a lot of good content available. The company specializing in the industry may have a good formula for a successful site in this industry (that is not guaranteed). Price may be (but isn’t always) modest.
Disadvantages: You don’t own the content and if you ever want to move your site you will not be able to take the content with you. The site is personalized for your business to a very limited degree. Even though the company specializes in your industry, they may not actually know how to make the Internet work for your industry. They may overcharge based on their supposed expertise in your industry. Limited ability to show up in search engines.
Website Development Companies, Theme or Template Website: Websites developed by an actual company with multiple staff, based on a pre-existing design.
Advantages: A fully professional website can be completed quickly and at moderate cost.
Disadvantages: Customization and personalization are limited. While you should end up with a very serviceable website, it is not going to win any awards or stop the show.
Website Development Companies, Custom Design Website: These are websites developed by an actual company with several staff, having different skill sets that work on different aspects of the project.
Advantages: A fully professional website that is highly personalized and appropriate to your business. Sky is the limit on search engine potential. You’ll end up with a website that will make a real difference in your marketing.
Disadvantages: More expensive solution. May take longer than other solutions (though one-man-band websites often take longer). You are usually dealing with multiple staff and a more formal process where you can’t just sit down with the designer when you want to.