If you’re thinking about building a website or web app, one of the first questions that comes up is “How much will it cost?”
If you don’t have a technical background, the choices can seem overwhelming to figure things out. You might approach one software developer who charges $10/hr and another who charges $200+/hr. One company may bid $2000 while another may bid $20,000. What is the difference?
The first thing to be aware of is the different levels of complexity required. There are also tools which will speed up and reduce the cost of the development process for certain types of sites but which are not applicable to other types.
Levels of Websites/Web Applications
These are tools that allow you to create your own website easily. You need to manage everything - picking a template, adding your own images, setting up the content, etc. Wordpress is free. A service like Squarespace starts at $9/month. Weebly is another do-it-yourself website creation tool. Shopify is popular for e-commerce sites and starts at $29/month.
If you run a local business, these tools are generally fine if you don’t want to spend a lot of money up front. It gives your customers a place to visit where you can provide information like your hours of operation, location, etc.
If you’d rather save the time and make an investment into your business, hiring someone to create a website for your business is a good way to go. Generally, for a small business website, you should be expecting to pay in the $1000-5000 range. This should include the design, along with a set number of pages. If you choose to pay the lower end of the scale, you’ll get someone who will set up your website and that’s it. The higher end will generally get you someone that knows a bit about marketing as well. They’ll understand the purpose of your website is to bring in more business. So they’ll be able to optimize your site for keywords relevant to your business so people can find you easily. If you would like a call to action for your visitors, the higher price range should get you someone that can help you design a good flow to the site to encourage more people to contact you. Probably the site will be done in Wordpress or similar Content Management System so you’ll be able to edit pages yourself in the future without relying on a 3rd party. A well-designed website will help you stand out from the competition and increase your revenue so don’t make the mistake of comparing just on price.
A web application is much more complex than a website. A website just provides information or limited actions. For example, an e-commerce website would allow someone to buy your products.
A web application allows users to login and perform actions by themselves. Anytime you have to enter your username or email and password to enter a website, you are probably dealing with a web application. For example, if you run a car dealership, you may have a web application where your sales staff can login and see all the inventory in your system along with what prospects they need to follow up with.
If you want the user to be able to perform more and more actions by themselves, the price goes up. Things get more complicated so it takes a more skilled software engineer to be able to take your business requirements and turn them into a working solution. Unfortunately, it’s at this stage where I’ve heard many stories of people who have tried to build web apps totally fail and lose a lot of money.
The cost for a web application will depend on how much you want the user to be able to do. To build any type of simple web app, you’re probably looking to invest at least $50,000 on the low end. If you need something that will be a vital part of your business, you should be prepared to invest at least $100,000 depending on the features that you require.
Can you get things done cheaper?
Yes, it’s possible. But remember, you can pay for things in either time or money. There is no getting around this. If you’re not paying in money, you’ll have to pay for it in time.
I was brought into a project that should have cost $100,000 to develop and taken maybe 3-4 months. The owner decided to go with a company in India that bid $10,000. Well, 2 years later and after a lot of frustration, the project is still not close to being completed. When you count the value of the time the owner put in plus the lost opportunity cost of not getting to market sooner, the owner probably would have been better off paying the $100,000 to get it done right. As it currently stands, there is no guarantee the team he hired can finish which means he could be out the 10 G’s without anything to show for it.
Unfortunately, this is a common scenario. In this case, he made the mistake of hiring a company that has experience building websites and simple e-commerce sites to develop his web application idea. He didn’t understand that the company was outside its area of expertise and now he has to pay for it.
If you have a web application idea for your business that you want to take forward, email me. I’m available for consulting to help businesses evaluate potential vendors which could save countless hours and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.
Got a story about building your web application? Leave a comment below.