How much does a website actually cost?
This is a question I am often asked, and in this article, I will try to shed light on the various parameters that are at play when we at Twentyfour price a website – in fact, any digital project. But before I dive into the specifics of pricing, I want to take a moment to review the golden project management triangle that you can apply in any project when it comes to price, time and quality.
Three aspects you cannot avoid: time, quality and resources
These three aspects are interdependent and influence each other in regards to projects and pricing. The aspects must be well-balanced in order to be successful with your project. The prioritization of time, quality and resources must most often be decided in the initial project, and often before the project team has the necessary insight to make a long-term sustainable decision. Therefore, it is crucial that you set time aside for a clarification phase, and make sure to spend some time on this. Ultimately, it is the success of the project that depends on these initial decisions.
“The prioritization of time, quality and resources must most often be decided in the initial project, and often before the project team has the necessary insight to make a long-term sustainable decision. But the success of your project depends on these decisions. ”
When compromise is a premise
Exaggeration somewhat, this means in practice, that it is not possible to deliver a project without compromising. There is rarely, I would even venture to say never, unimaginable time and resources available in a project, and quality is often the most important aspects for the customer.
If you imagine a triangle where time and resources are scarce, but the expectation of quality is high, you will then be left with a skewed triangle with two very small angles and a huge angle, completely out of balance.
To restore balance, and the project’s likelihood of success, you need to tweak or modify the expectations for quality and content or adjust upwards on the two aspects of time and resources.
In essence, the project management triangle is beneficial to apply throughout the project as a benchmark when the project team, customer or other stakeholders challenge the project on time, content or budget.
It’s all about being able to say ‘no’
“Being able to set boundaries for yourself and towards others is important”. This is how Svend Brinkmann writes in his book “No”, in which he proclaims that only programmed robots always say yes. And that, I think, there is a certain truth to.
It is important to embrace projects with an open mind and see opportunities instead of limitations. But the limitations of a project are often just as important to understand and recognize as the possibilities. Only when you know your opt-outs, and the reason for these, can you focus 100% on your options and do this properly.
The danger of saying yes to everything in a project is that the probability of exceeding the budget, delaying the project or simply keeping a too poor quality in the project is high.
Therefore, I believe that our most important role as advisors is to be professionally well-founded in order to advise the client in making the right choices. And, throughout the project, keep asking the project team as well as the customer the questions why, what and to whom (Read more on strategic advice in this article.)
Tell me, what’s the point?
No website without a strategy. The initial dialogue, strategy and direction is an absolutely crucial part of the solution and pricing. This is where we ask the customer all the in-depth questions. Also the silly or basic ones. This is where we, for example, ask the customer: Why do you need a website at all? In the clarification phase, it is important to identify who the customer’s target group is and where they are located.
Likewise, it is important to look at the customer’s other system landscapes, to ensure that manual processes and future scalability are considered in the solution from the start.
For me, as a strategic advisor, it is important that we, together with the customer, are completely aligned on where we are going, why we are going there, and how we are going to get there. I would actually say it is a basic premise when doing a project together.
Once we have this clarification in place and we know where we are going, we can start looking at the timeframe, what the budget is, what resources are available in the project, etc. Here the work with the project triangle starts in earnest, and this is where the customer is put to the test and must start to find possible compromises in the solution.
So – how much is it?
Down below, I describe four different setups in relation to website solutions and the price range in Twentyfour within each of these. We also hosted a webinar on the subject, which you can watch here in Danish if you prefer to listen and watch my explanation.
From template to a comprehensive custom-designed solution
1) Do it yourself (DIY) solution
In a DIY website project, you only use your own resources. This relates to both the development and design process. Your own developers build the solution from scratch, and all content is created by yourself or your employees. With this solution, there is no to either templates or consultants. The expense lies solely in the time of your employees.
As most people are aware, time is also money, so be aware of the cost of such a website project when you assess your employees’ hours spent on the website, vesus the quality of the solution and the actual value it creates.
It can be healthy to look into which other tasks your employees could solve within the same timeframe – to assess if the investment makes sense.
2) Off- the-shelf-product
In our view, an off-the-shelf product is a solution where you buy a website template and build the structure of your sites and the content from scratch.
It is a simple solution, which can be called an “off-the-shelf-product” as the frame and the functions of the various elements have already been built and tested. Several things apply in the solution with an off-the-shelf product: the price can be kept down, the template is ready for use, and the structure of the various elements is already well-functioning and tested.
On the other hand, you are easily held back by the limited functions available on the template as well as limited design options. The price ranges from DKK 500-1000 and upwards, plus the time your employees need to build the structure on your sites and subsequently create the content from scratch.
Again, depending on how extensive your site should be, this solution may take a long time to build from scratch even if you use a template.
If you just need a small business card website, where customers can easily find your services and contact information, this solution can be quite nice and relatively inexpensive, as there are no costs for consultants or developers.
3) Custom-designed solution
In the custom-designed solution, there are unlimited opportunities. This solution is without a doubt the most expensive one as it is time-consuming.
When developing a solution that is tailored to the customer’s needs, we include e.g. designers who will help create the right look & feel in accordance with the customer’s design profile (digital CVI). All the different elements that have to have their own little custom touch, have to go through a creative process and technical development, and it takes time.
I want to stress the aspect of time here, because a customer at Twentyfour, of course, pays for the time we spend building the project. We always want to deliver a high-quality solution and create value for every penny the customer spends on the project, but it takes time and becomes a more expensive solution with a custom-designed website.
The price can vary widely according to the scope of the website, this is where a dialogue with the customer about the budget is really important so that we get to build a website that creates the greatest value, within the framework that is available. Then you can always add other aspects to the website later on.
4) The COMBI solution
The advantage of this solution is that in consultation with the customer we can dive into different elements on the website and have a look at the already existing solutions that can be used.
In many projects, it makes sense that we apply elements that have already been made. We can customize the solution by making a more inviting layout and adapting the solution to the customer’s expressions, needs and requirements.
In general, it does not make sense for us to try to invent the wheel when already existing functions work well and are relatively easy to implement and design for the customer’s solution.
So, when it comes to a more affordable solution, it is cheaper to develop and continue the work on already developed frameworks and functions, but still with the opportunity to use its own design, expressions, and functions in a COMBI solution. The price of this type of digital solution differs, like the custom-designed solution above.
The COMBI solution is usually cheaper than the 100% custom-designed and developed solution, but again the clarification phase with the customer is also of great importance because this is where we uncover what value the site should perform and how we deliver it best.
There is no reason to build everything from scratch if you can take it off the shelf and build on it from a good foundation, and if the customer is comfortable with what is being built is not necessarily completely tailored to just them.
A visual example of how quality costs time:
Can a digital project be organic?
Yes! In a digital project, there are different phases to go through with the customer. It is rare that customers can afford to buy the most optimal solution at once, and moreover it is not necessarily the best way to do it.
During our projects, we use the phases to stop and assess whether what we are working on still makes sense. In some cases, we get the confirmation that we are on the right track, and in other cases, we find that we can actually elevate the solution as new opportunities might have emerged in the process. For us, it is important to see the project as organic as modifications in requirements or needs may occur further into the project.
Keeping the triangle in mind
A website project is always an investment. The investment can be small, medium or large, but it is always an investment and not just an expense. The value that the website creates must be visible on the bottom line.
Another example could be that you spend 1 million DKK on building a new website, which will be integrated with 5 systems. With an investment of this size, I can almost guarantee that in the long run, you will save a lot of time spent on manual processes. Time is an important factor here because you can optimize your work areas and allocate your employees to more important tasks than doing manual processes.
If there is an opportunity, with a comprehensive solution to optimize some of your business processes, well, then it is an investment and it can save you time.
“The calculation is different from project to project but – if it costs you 1 million DKK, and the total digitization of the solution earns you 3 million DKK a year, then the first million is your best investment!”
The calculation is different from project to project, but – if it costs you 1 million DKK, and the total gain from the solution in the future earns you 3 million DKK a year or more, then the first million is your best investment! It is also important for me to mention that the order of magnitude of our customers’ investment in e.g. a website, is not decisive for how important a customer you are for us.
For us, the most important thing is that you as a customer achieve the desired value with your digital project through our work and that your investment pays off.
Important takeaways you should keep in mind
Below, I will summarize and introduce with a few concluding questions that I think are worth asking yourself and your company before embarking on your next digital project:
1. Keep track of your priorities:
Time – how much time do we have for the project, is there a deadline? Is this fixed or flexible, can we compromise?
Resources – do we have internal forces that can either code, set up the website, design or create content for our website? should we consider having done it all with one supplier? What budget is our budget? can we compromise on price or on our resources?
Quality and content – what solution do we expect in the end? can we compromise on the overall solution and prepare it in, for example, different stages? Which parts of the solution are must-haves and which are nice to have?
2 Custom-designed solution or template?
Be aware of all the great website solutions available on the market today. Do thorough research to find out which setup and templates already exist that your website can draw inspiration from. Also, pay attention to the foundation on which you build your website in relation to it being sufficiently scalable and thus future-proof. Ask yourself why you need the website, what exact value it should generate and how, and then build it accordingly.
3. Your digital system landscape
Give it a check, it might be here your biggest profits are hidden. How are your daily and manual processes today? Can you use your employees’ or your own time for more value-creating tasks than entering and maintaining? What opportunities are there in the market to tie your system landscape together and create a seamless process?
4. Freelancer or agency?
There are several different types of providers within digital solutions. A freelancer is often far cheaper than agencies. On the other hand, you achieve a greater emphasis on business logic, know-how and most importantly, security (agencies have a large crowd of employees, which is why there is always a guarantee of delivery even in case of unforeseen challenges in the form of illness, etc.), if you choose a digital agency to handle your task. But it is a trade-off that you should consider every time you are faced with a given project that needs to be solved.
5) Keep in mind that sometimes it costs money to make money, and it costs money when investing in sub-optimizing.
If my article leads to any questions or you just want to leave a comment you are more than welcome to send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are also most welcome to give me a call on +45 42 41 61 60 for a casual chat, a virtual cup of coffee or a walk & talk if you would like to hear more or want to discuss a digital project you are working on.