Why do website prices vary so much?

In the first installment of this series, we talked about value and the fact that a website is a website is a website no matter what the cost to create it is.  In this article we will talk about why there is such a discrepancy in pricing between what is essentially the same product.
Even though we have a hard time remembering the world without the internet on our phones and every other screen we come into contact with these days, the world wide web is still pretty new.  I mean the last time the Cowboys won a Superbowl they did not have a website to announce it on so... the Cowboys need to win another Superbowl, but also the internet is still very new.

Many make the joke that the WWW does not stand for World Wide Web, but rather Wild Wild West and that is not a bad analogy.  There are no industry standards, no big name go-to companies, no laws governing practices or who can call themselves a webmaster or web designer, there is not even much case law of things that have been resolved in court when it comes to the web design industry.  It is buyer beware to the nth degree and that includes the price of a website which varies greatly.

Because of that lack of standards, there is also a lack of consistency.  Not only is consistency lacking in the quality of the product between different developers/designers, but there is no consistency in the pricing either.  The same site some boutique firm in Deep Ellum charges eight thousand dollars for, a kid going to UTA can create for you and it'll only cost you pizza money and a case of beer.  In the same way that the value of the product depends on what someone is willing to pay, the value of the work is subject to what the designer/developer thinks it is worth.  So what is the difference, why do website prices vary so much?  In this web-guy's humble opinion there are a couple of things that separate providers in the web design space and they all contribute to the variation in website pricing:

  1. Overhead
    I don't care how many awards for creative web design the firm has or how posh and tragically hip their offices are, if they are spending so much time being creative then they have waaayy too much overhead.  Creativity takes time, time costs money, and money is passed along to the consumer.  Those hip and trendy offices don't help you or your company achieve your online goals.  Those awards don't make your phone ring or your sales pipeline any more full.
  2. Customer service
    However, too little overhead is not a good thing either.  Even though the college kid can make a site just as good as the one for eight grand, he definitely does not have the ability to take care of you in a timely manor.  One of the biggest complaints about the web design industry is the lack of communication.  There are so many horror stories out there about tons of money going down a black hole of non-communication.

So, it is a balancing act.  You want a company that is big enough to take care of you, but not so big as to be paying for posh to coin a phrase.  Problem is that even within the "balanced" web design firms who dont sacrifice customer service for overhead or vice versa, there is still a huge variance in prices between them.  That brings us to the final piece of the puzzle which will answer the question of what should a website cost and how to choose the best web designer...

  1. Process
    Just like any company you could name from McDonalds to Ford, the process is what makes the real difference.  If the process is sound then the customer service and the overhead will follow accordingly.

The web design companies who charge a ton of money, even if they have good customer service and low overhead, are ones who have no process.  They do everything from scratch.  Sometimes the process does not help because it is so convoluted as to be another contributor to the cost.  You want a process that is well defined and has deadlines on it.  Dont forget, it needs to cover what you need to do and by what date to stay on schedule too.

So that is why web design prices vary so greatly even though what is being produced is basically the same.  Now we still need to answer the question in the first article of what should you pay for a website.  I still have an answer for you, but I need to tease you with one more article before I give it to you just to make sure it is understandable and perfectly clear in your mind.  I promise there will be an honest straight forward answer to this and another very important question.

Tune in next week for the conclusion in: "How to choose the best web design company"

 

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