If you've been in the web developing business for a decent amount of time, then you know this scenario all too well: You're sitting there talking with a friend or a potential client. The two of you start talking websites and all that they can do. Then they ask that inevitably vague questions, "How much does a website cost, anyway?"
That is possibly the most asked question I receive from friends, family, and especially potential clients. Those of us in the web industry almost shun trying to answer this question. Already we're dealing with a different mindset.
Before you answer quickly with a smart reply and lose a potential sale or embarrass anyone, realize that not everyone is a computer nerd like you. To most people a website means you have a dotcom and people can find you on the web. One method I have found useful in dealing with this question is I ask the potential client, "How much does a car cost?"
They usually reply with, "Well, that depends on the car."
This is the answer you want to get them to. From there you can explain that a website is similar to a car. The make, model, and accessories of one car to the next can vary drastically, and the price depends on all of these variables. Do you want the affordable Neon or do you want the super-sexy Porsche? Or how about a Sports Utility? Are you looking for a car just to get you to and from work? Or do you need a truck that can handle off-road excursions?
Then there's always the option of how many people you are going to be driving around. Do you need a minivan? A bus? A whole fleet of company vehicles?
And let us not forget those extras: 6 Disc CD changer, air condition, automatic windows, leather seats, hydraulics, and the list goes on and on.
Using this analogy can help anyone get a better understanding of web development. Once you and the client have discussed cars, you can easily transition into web talk. Do they need a site just to put their picture on with a phone number? Or are they trying to create the next Amazon.com? These have very specific requirements and will take different amounts of time and resources to complete, thus they will have very different prices.
This leads into the second most asked question of web developers, "How long does a website take to make?"
You get the idea.
The next time you are faced with the vague question of pricing a website, use it as an opportunity to educate, not insult, the questioner. That way you both can benefit from the opportunity.
If you are looking for some useful tools to help with estimating site costs, check out Proposal Kit's Estimation Pack.
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