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Understanding the Costs of Starting Your Website
It can be a daunting process to start a web site from scratch. It can appear a complicated process with many foreign terms. This page gives you a break-down of the types of costs that should be planned for when getting your website off the ground. These include costs of domain name, hosting, design and development, and maintenance. Each is described below.
Domain Name Costs
Every site needs a name. It is your unique identifying address on the web, much like the address of the house you live in. You must register your domain name in year-long increments with a registry company.
- Currently domain name registration for 1 year costs between $7 - $10.
Domain Registration is sometimes confused with Web Hosting by new web site owners. These services are completely different, and though some companies provide both services (registration and hosting), and might even attempt to obscure the distinction, one can equally well register a domain with one company and host with another.
Web Hosting Costs
To access your website through a web browser, it must reside on a machine (a server) that has an extremely reliable permanent connection to the internet. It should also have hefty security, and be configured well for internet traffic. Since most people can't do this at home, they purchase "space" on a server from someone who can. These people are called "Web Hosts". Hosting can be purchased in monthly or yearly increments, and depends on the company you choose.
- Current monthly Hosting costs range between $7 - $300, depending on your needs
- Services to consider: disk space, server-side scripting, database availability, SSL (secure transfer) compatibility, data transfer allowance, email allowance, quality of tech support, etc...
Design and Development Costs
Who will design and develop your website? The costs associated with building web pages, scripting database interaction, and user interface design fall in the 'development' category.
Myth: Anyone can build a website. Truth: Anyone can build a bad website. Website development is a profession. Like dentistry or engineering, it requires training and a wide array of specialized skills to be effective. Serious organizations always use an experienced professional to develop and maintain their web sites. Their image, productivity and success depend on it. Current web development fees vary widely.
There are two main types of payment systems:
- Project based: a fixed fee for a pre-determined number of pages, images, audio, videos, etc...
- Hourly based: a fixed hourly rate for all design work. Current hourly rates in the field are between $40/hr - $80+/hr
There are 6 main entities that organizations may use to have a website built:
- Yourself - For the enterprising and adventurous type with lots of free time. Quality is low. Speed is low. Satisfaction is low. Price is low.
- The Friend/Relative - Wanting to do you a favor, they work on your project in their spare time. Experience level varies. Quality is unpredictable. Speed is low. Satisfaction is unpredictable. Price is low.
- The Freelancing Phoney - Survives by convincing people they have skill that they don't. May not even know what he/she doesn't know. Re-design and re-development are inevitable. Quality is low. Speed is low. Satisfaction is low. Price is medium.
- Staff Member Adventurous creative type without much experience or training. Quality is low. Speed is low. Satisfaction is low-medium. Price is low.
- The Experienced Freelancer - Highly skilled in many areas. Gives personal attention and customization to every project. Accumulates institutional memory. Quality is high. Speed is medium. Satisfaction is high. Price is medium.
- The Development Firm - A group of (5-30) specialists overseen by administrators. High turnover rate as developers leave to become freelancers. Quality is high. Speed is high. Satisfaction is high. Price is high.
Once your site is complete, how will you make changes when the need arises? This essential question should be answered before the design process starts, as it affects EVERYTHING about how the site is designed. The more complex the web site, the less likely it will be that the average intern, secretary or company manager will be able to make changes to the site themselves. There are a few options:
- Maintenance agreement with the original developer/designer
A third-party or in-company programmer
- Advantages: Reduced hourly rates, pre-arranged, no learning curve, understands site well, can make large-scale changes easily
Make changes yourself
- Advantages: This can be cost-effective in the right situation.
- Disadvantage: For each successive third-party there is a time-consuming learning curve. May not understand the site well, which may damage to site which the original developer would have to repair.
- Advantages: It's Free.
- Disadvantage: With no programming knowledge, piecemeal degradation of the site is guaranteed, and serious, possibly irrecoverable damage to site is possible.