You are looking to buy a website but do not know where to start or what questions to ask?
Well, you are in luck!
One of the main reasons for making this guide is to turn you into an informed buyer and to help you understand what is involved with designing, building, and operating a successful website. This helps to reduce risk and manages expectations on both sides.
It can be difficult to even know what questions to ask when buying a new website. Therefore, how can you make a sound decision on what to buy?
To come up with the right questions, you need to understand the following:
- What types of website builds are there
- The target audience for a website
- The goals and needs of a website
- The investment cost of a website
- The content needed for a website
- Where to find the traffic for your website
- How to find a website designer and developer that fits your website project
Let’s take a look at some of these questions to help you better understand what a website can offer your business and help you find a company that is a good fit for your website project.
Types of Websites
When you are looking to get a website built, you have 2 options. This includes a prebuilt website or a custom website.
Prebuilt websites are sold as a package and are meant to be generic enough that they will somewhat fit with the goals of the business niche it is targeted for. These websites contain a theme (this is what styles the website and pages) along with default data which includes stock pages that have already been designed and includes some default content. While the design of the theme and pages is cohesive, in most cases it will not match the brand or all the goals of your business.
A prebuilt website is meant to be sold to many businesses and requires those businesses to update the pages with their own text copy and media. The developers of these website packages expect the customer to do most of the work to make the website fit their business. This means customers must understand:
- How websites work and the technology behind them
- Website marketing strategies
- Website design
- How and what software tools are needed to make any changes
Figuring this all out is extremely difficult and time consuming for business owners and can result in a website which may hurt the business more than it helps. It takes many years of experience to be able to effectively handle all these tasks.
In most cases a prebuilt website is not ideal. Your online presence is an extremely important investment for your business that you want to make sure you maximize your returns on. If done right, a company’s website usually becomes their number 1 sales person.
Technically you are not buying a custom website but are investing in one to be designed and built which will meet the needs and goals of your business using effective marketing strategies. That is why our Design Inquiry contact form contains so many questions. We want our potential clients to start thinking about these important aspects of their web project. Doing this discovery work up front means less changes down the road saving time and money in the long run.
Designing and building a website is a lot of hard work and requires an experienced freelancer or agency to pull it off successfully. It’s also a lot of work for you the client as well. You know your business and customers best so you will be an integral part of the design process to help determine what pages (and what the goals are, and content is about on these pages) is needed and what is not. You will also have a large role in creating the copy and media for the website as well.
Most businesses have one or more specific markets or audiences they target. Figuring out these potential customers or clients is an important step in creating a website that helps you accomplish your goals.
You need to understand who will be visiting the website, why they are seeking you out, and what they want to accomplish. This is what makes up an Audience User Profile.
By knowing this we can ensure that a marketing strategy, design, and content is developed that helps overcome your Audience User Profiles objections and answers all their questions.
Every business is unique and has specific goals, problems to solve, and requirements for its website. That’s not saying businesses are not similar though. When you figure out your website goals you should also take a look at your competitors’ websites for some ideas on what they are trying to accomplish.
You should also figure out what you like and dislike about these websites. (visually, functionality, etc.)
When you review these websites, you need to make sure you do it from your customers/audience point of view as well. Remember though this isn’t about personal preference but what is best for the business and be most appealing to your customers.
Some common general goals for websites can include one or more of the following:
- Increased online presence
- Increase traffic
- Consistent branding
- Build mailing list
- Improved sales funnel
Specific goals or solutions which can help solve more general goals include features like:
- Inform visitors what our business is about and how to contact us
- Information pages for our services
- Display social proof that shows our customers are satisfied
- A blog or a way to publish content like news, updates, and informative articles
- Ability to publish images or videos to inform our customers and showcase our products or services
- Selling products online (physical, digital, or services) and being able to accept payment
- Listing items in some sort of directory like events, properties, etc…
- Ability for users to login (reasons could include viewing gated content, submitting content, etc..)
- Offering online booking or scheduling
These are just a few examples of goals you may want your website to achieve. When you create a list of your website goals you should separate it into a ‘must have’ and nice to have’ lists as budget and time constraints may mean doing your website in stages. It is always a good idea to let your web designer know all your ideas for your website even if you do not plan to have them implemented right away. In some cases, it is much easier to lay the ground framework for features up front than doing it at a later date.
If you get quotes from multiple web businesses, you will most likely find a wide range in pricing. This is not uncommon in the web industry.
Part of the reason is because there is no standard or governing body. Anyone who has a computer, and a little bit of knowledge may consider themselves a web designer and developer, even if they shouldn’t be. These inexperienced freelancers tend to charge a lot less in part because they do not realize the full scope of work involved or the time required.
In comparison, more experienced freelancers have processes in place to help keep the project on track in terms of time and budget. They are quicker at performing the work thanks to the experience they have. Their projects also tend to cost less to maintain once finished and are more expandable since they understand what needs to be considered when laying the foundation of a project.
Quotes from digital agencies for projects usually come in at the highest cost. The main difference between them and an experienced freelancer is the overhead they have with office space, equipment, and staff. Since agencies are made up of multiple people, one advantage they have is the ability to specialize in more business niches.
To offset costs, some digital agencies and freelancers may sub-contract out work. Since we deal in a digital medium it is much easier for people to work anywhere in the world where internet is accessible. While sub-contracting may help in costs, it does have disadvantages. For those who contract people outside their own country, communication is the big issue where language and cultural differences can make it hard for everyone to understand each other. Being in different time zones also mean everyone is not working at the same time and can lead to delays.
Website costs can be broken down into the initial cost to design and develop, and recurring costs for website maintenance/management, and website marketing.
Leading digital agency WebFX who has done work for such international companies like Subway, Hilton, and Verizon released a study in 2022 about the cost of a website.
In it they list the average prices for different types of websites along with the annual maintenance cost.
|Type||Web Design & Build Cost||Yearly Maintenance Costs|
|Small Business Informational Website|
Up to 16 pages
|$2,000 – $9,000||$800 – $2,000|
Up to 75 pages
|$10,000 – $35,000||$2,000 – $15,000|
100 to 1,000 Products
|$5,000 – $55,000||$15,000 – $30,000|
|Database Driven Website|
20 – 2,000 pages
|$6,000 – $75,000||$30,000 – $60,000|
As you can see the price of a custom website can range anywhere from $2,000 to $75,000 (or more). It is your individual needs and the experience and skills of the developer you choose, which will be the biggest factors in determining your website’s cost.
Annual maintenance and management costs (which are usually paid monthly) range in price from $800 to $60,000. A lot goes into managing and maintaining a website. To better understand the concept of website maintenance, think of a website like a house. If regular maintenance and upkeep is not done things will rather quickly start falling a part. The same can be said for websites. Why risk your invest and future revenue by not maintaining your website?
Typical maintenance care plans include:
- Managed Hosting
- Software Updates
- Scheduled Backups
- Sofware License Fees
The Website Maintenance Guide from our Learning Academy goes into this in a lot more detail and breaks all the maintenance tasks up into Ongoing, Daily, Monthly, Yearly, and as required.
Things maintenance/management service plans do not cover but still need to be paid include domain renewal fees (a domain costs under $20 a year), software licenses not covered by a maintenance plan (there may be some), and third-party software or services your website may rely on (email marketing, donation services, etc.). Please note, never let your web designer pay for or be listed as the owner of your domain. This is a critical part of owning a website and is a part of your business identity that you never want to lose control over.
You can find out more about our pricing for the work we do on our service pages. We go into a bit more detail than the table above to help give you a better idea of the cost of your website project and ongoing preventative maintenance.
For even more insight on the costs with building and owning a website and why a cheap website is not the way to go, you can read: How Much Does a Website Cost
When you are ready to reach out to a web design business, it is helpful to have at least a range of what you expect to spend based on the goals you have listed for your website project. This range will be based on solid information and will help you eliminate companies who may be way out of your price range before you invest too much time and effort.
Most web companies understand that it is difficult for the average business to come up with a budget based on the goals they have. With that in mind, most will effectively use the budget you have and give you reasonable expectations of what they can deliver for you within your range.
The reason why people visit websites is to consume content. They want to learn, be entertained, and find answers to problems they wish to solve. The content a website has and how it is organized makes or breaks the success of the website.
Text copy and images (photos and graphics) are the main content types of a website. Many websites also include videos and documents like PDFs as well.
Content creation ties directly into the strategy of your website, goals, and audience. Always discuss content creation before you start on it with your website developer. They will have already determined certain marketing strategies for the project and will have a specific approach to this process, independent of how the content is created.
When you consider your website’s text content, it usually is handled in one of two ways, the client creates it or a professional copywriter does. Each of these has both pros and cons.
You Provide the Content
This is a more common approach for small businesses with very limited budgets for both text and media.
- Knowledge of Business, Industry, and Audience
You know your audience and business best. No need to try and explain it to someone else.
- Save your Money
Allows you to invest your money somewhere else.
- A lot of Time Required
Writing copy and creating/selecting media takes a huge amount of time. Make sure you have enough time not only to create, but to at least learn the basics how since this is not your expertise.
- Communicating with Humans
You will need to be an effective communicator and be able to put your thoughts into words to get your point across and inspire action.
- Communicating with Bots
You will need to learn and understand the technical aspects of creating content for online consumption. For example, Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- Following Strategies set for Marketing
You will need to learn to stay on scope and follow the marketing strategies decided for not only the overall website but the individual pages as well. Each page will have a layout that needs to be followed so the purpose and goals of the page have a better chance of being reached.
Content is Provided for You
Depending on your website developer and their resources, this can be handled by them internally or by outsourcing to their preferred copywriter.
- Saves Time
Less work for you since you are not creating the content. Gives you more time to better use elsewhere effectively.
- High Quality
The content creator is an expert in their field. They will be an effective communicator to both humans and bots while still understanding and following the overall marketing strategies of the website and individual pages.
Need to have money to invest in the content creators time (copywriter, photographer, etc.)
- Some Time Required
Content creators still will need your involvement. For example you need to make time for an in-depth interview by the copywriter so they can learn about your business, industry, and audience.
- Less Insightful
Content may lose some of its authenticity since the content creator will not be a true expert in your business.
A website that doesn’t receive much traffic most likely will not be as valuable to you, so it is important to take this into consideration.
The internet is very large. Did you know there is over 1.8 billion websites! With so much competition this makes it extremely difficult for your website to stand out without doing at least some marketing.
There are many ways both online and off to generate traffic for your website. The most common ones are:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Usually several strategies with the aim to help your website rank higher organically in the search engines. SEO can take many months to see results but in the long run may be the cheapest way to gain traffic.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Refers to Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. You bid for your ad to display when someone searches for certain keywords. If someone clicks on the ad you pay anywhere from a few cents to as much as a $100 (depends on the keyword and how popular it is). It’s not cheap but does drive traffic right away.
- Content Marketing
When you create relevant content for your target audience. This is usually part of an SEO strategy to rank in search engines.
- Social Media Marketing
Drive traffic to your website by creating an audience on social media. This can be done by sharing advice and content. Does also include paid advertising.
- Print Marketing
Any printed business marketing materials should also advertise your website.
Most online marketing strategies do require ongoing work to keep the traffic flowing. Some methods like SEO, Content Marketing, and even Social Media Marketing (to a point) can be integrated into your website as it is being built. This allows recurring marketing work to be done directly from your website making it quicker and easier to perform. For example, after the website project is complete, you write an informative blog post for your website (content marketing). When you publish the blog post, the website will then ping the search engines that a new article has been posted and then automatically post a summary to your social media accounts.
Digital marketing does require an investment. Small businesses can spend as little as $150 a month and go as high as $12,000 or more. Our friends at WebFX list these as the price ranges:
|SEO||$750 – $2,000 / month|
|SEM||$500 – $10,000 / month|
|Professional Copywriting||$100 – $500 / page|
|Content Marketing||$100 – $10,000 / month|
|Social Media Marketing||$500 – $7,000 / month|
|Email Marketing||$10 – $1,000 / month|
If you would like to learn more about these and other website traffic sources take a look at the How to Market your Website Guide from our Learning Academy.
It is a collaborative effort building a website. Choosing the right website designer and developer can seem like an impossible task for someone new to the experience.
If possible, try to get recommendations from other local businesses. Take some time and find out more about the company by reading their website and reviewing their case studies or portfolio. Reach out via their contact form or give them a call. When you do, give a brief overview of your potential project, and see how they respond. What you want to find out is, if this is a business which has the experience to handle your project and if they have people, you think you can collaborate well with.
When you have done this once, do it one or two more times with other web design companies. After, you should have a much better idea of who the best candidate is.
For all candidates for your website project, you should also check out any social proof they have. This includes perusing their social media like Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles. Reading reviews for the company from Google and Facebook also will give you a good sense of the agency or freelancer.
One thing to consider as well is, often the company who built your website may also be the best one to maintain it. They will know the ins and outs of the website and what the best way to proceed if something needs to be fixed or added. Make sure when you are looking for someone to design or redesign your website, find out what they suggest for maintaining the website once it is complete. Who will be preforming the website maintenance needs to be figured out very early on in the project.
You are now an Informed Website Buyer
We hope this guide has answered many questions you have about the process for buying a website. We hope you also learned about some things that you had not considered before.
A successful website that grows your business requires an investment of time and money. Knowing what questions to ask will reduce the chance of risk to this investment and help you not only define your website project better but also pick the right website designer and developer.
If you have some questions about eSilverStrike Consulting and the services we offer, take a look at our Getting Started Guide. We also have summarized our Web Design Process so clients have a better idea of what to expect in all phases of their web project.
If you have more general questions about designing and building websites, updating an existing website, maintenance, and marketing our Learning Academy is a good place to find information. The Learning Academy is broken into categories which includes a Starter Course for those who wish to become more informed (that includes this guide as well).