Buying a website for your business nowadays is a no-brainer. Besides being a virtual representation of your company and its values, it can also acts as a storefront and interactive guide to your clients online operating or making money for you even while you sleep.
Now, you are sure buying a website is the way to go to get your business noticed online and as you started to do a little research, you quickly realise a website can cost anywhere between free and a few thousand dollars for a small business website. What’s the catch? You ask yourself. Well, there definitely is a catch and the below are some of the hidden and not so hidden costs of building and owning owning a website.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch
First things first, companies that offers to let you build your website for ‘free’ are either selling you and your clients private information online somewhere or there will be a monthly fee involved. there may also be upgrade modules down the track for your website that will cost you money. Truly free almost always guarantee the website will be hosted overseas with lagging internet access speeds that dampens the user experience. It’s your online reputation were talking about, do you really want to come across as cheap?
Ownership of the Website
Think when you buy a website that you own everything on it? Think again. For ‘free’ and often DIY website makers, you actually don’t own the rights to the website yourself. If in the future, you want to take your website elsewhere either because you’re not satisfied with their services or you want additional functions they don’t offer, you will find you need to pay a hefty ‘leaving’ fee.
The degree a website can be customised is often proportional to the cost of the website. For websites that cost a few hundred dollars, you will find it is usually from a pre-made template. Therefore, there will be many similar sites or even identical websites using the exact design somewhere. If you want your website to have its own identity and stand out from your competitors you will need a website that is is unique and customised to your businesses services and values.
Is your website made from open source software such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal? If it’s not open source, it means the platform that your website is built on is owned by the company that made the website. Before you sign up for a website, ask them what software they build their website on and if it’s open source. If it’s not, chances are they will make it almost impossible for you to switch companies further down the track and will charge you an arm and leg for maintenance and training. We have seen customers overpaying thousands of dollars on a relative simple website because they went with a company that uses proprietary software.
The purpose of a website is to be seen. Without SEO, you might as well advertise on your local newspaper because it will not rank well in search engines. Granted a small business may not have the budget to compete with existing behemoths in the same industry but the most fundamental thing they can do so is to have their website optimised to rank well. For a well known ‘free’ DIY website company, this options can come with a premium later down the track and after you’ve spent hours setting up your website.
Is the website built by CMS? CMS or Content Management System allows the end user i.e you to easily edit the content of the website without previous programming knowledge. If the website is not built on CMS, it will almost always be static or you will need to learn a programming language to actually change the content or pay the provider a fee or recurring fee for changes. Content is still king to having your website rank well so you definitely want to be able to edit content yourself to save money.
Where is the location the server is hosting the website at? Preferably you want the server to be in the same country as you’re operating in for conveniences with support, reliability and speed. Stay away from companies that offer ‘free’ or cheap hosting because not only will they provide sub-par service and connectivity speed but they may also sell your and your clients information to third parties.
Communication and support
Are you and your service provider speaking the same language? What does having someone within the same country or similar timezone mean for your business? If your business is critical and it should be, having someone who can speak the same language as you can make your road easier.
Does your website designer provide adequate maintenance for your website? Security and bugs can cause your business lost opportunities and tarnish your reputation that cannot be easily fixed. This can be a trap for young businesses or self employed because they often think a website will stay the same condition indefinitely. Similar to a car, a website will require maintenance due to emerging threats and newly discovered vulnerabilities in the system.
Make you you are very clear with this with your provider upfront because we have seen clients paying more in maintenance than their actual website per month.
Finally, you need to take into consideration the time it takes for you to set up your website. If you’re going with a DIY plan, it could take you anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple of months to get a decent looking site up not including all the added costs of plugins and monthly maintenance fees. All that time, you could have have spent marketing your brand and bringing in customers to drive your business forward. Quite frankly, if you’re not prepared to spend a few hundreds dollars on a website, you are either not prepared to be in business or you lack confidence in your business plan. In either case, sticking to your day job might be a better option.
What you can do
As you can see from the above, there are many factors affecting the cost of a website and many dangers to look out for. In the end, You really do get what you paid for and ‘free’ is not always free. Dishonest website development companies capitalises on the mums and dads by offering the cheapest option available to lure them in then later reveal the additional costs and premiums they need to pay in order to make a semi-decent website with limited functionality and customisation.
The best way to avoid the hidden costs is to ask your website provider upfront on things you don’t understand and the costs involved outlined in this article. Don’t be afraid to ask the meaning of the jargon they’re using.. Anyone who is too high and mighty to explain to you probably aren’t a good fit for your business anyway.
And finally, Research and read up on the starting a website and the steps involved. Talk to other like minded people.
Do you have other factors we’re not aware of? We’d love to hear it. Please comment below.