Given the fact that I’ve been designing web sites since the late 1990’s, I’ve had this question asked many times with genuinely innocent intentions. Understandably, people want to know, but the question is exactly the same thing as asking how much a car costs.

The real and best answer needs to be, “It had better not cost anything!”

A much better question should be phrased something like this, “How much do I need to invest to get an effective web site?”

With that said, maybe your best strategy as a potential client for a web designer is to ask the question as titled in this post and see how the designer responds. If they start spewing out answers that sound like something you could read off a menu or package options for any given car, then it is advisable you politely excuse yourself and ask that question of other designers.

Although a la carte pricing structures are extremely common in the creative industry, I find them extremely flawed. For example, a fixed “price per word” for writing sounds fine in theory but it fails to address the difference in writing content for something like auto parts versus fine jewelry.

The real questions when considering a web site design should address concerns such as these:

  • Who is this site for?
  • What is important to your target audience?
  • How can you address their needs?
  • How can you differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • What is the lifetime value of each customer or client?
  • How can you use the site to improve customer relations?
  • If sales volume only improves by 1% to 5%, can you justify the investment?
  • What is the cost of failure or loss of opportunity?

That last question is a paramount concern that is easily overlooked. If you’re marketing a $10 widget, the loss of opportunity is only $10 for each sale you fail to get. However, even then an accumulation of lost opportunity can add up significantly. But if you’re seeking something like kitchen remodeling opportunities with price tags averaging tens of thousands of dollars, then failure to make a stellar impression that moves you to the list of potential candidates for the project can have devastating consequences.

When you’re questioning a web designer about prices, make sure they’re asking the right questions too.

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