Developing a website is a three stage process:

  1. Plan
  2. Produce
  3. Promote

If you were building a house, you would spend time talking with your architect and builder. Building a website is the same, yet many website owners want to dive straight into the production process without spending the necessary time planning. Website developers need a clear idea of the project requirements otherwise the development will take longer, may cost more and will not achieve the desired results.Failing to plan could be the result of laziness or lack of time but in many cases it’s simply due to a lack of knowledge. There are 6 steps involved:

  1. Choosing a domain name
  2. Keyword research
  3. Choosing a measurable goal
  4. Competitor research, brainstorming and sitemap creation
  5. Understanding page elements
  6. Content development

This article discusses choosing a domain name and the typical costs involved in producing a website. If you are building your first website, there are a couple of concepts that are important to understand. People find houses by looking up street addresses. Similarly, people find websites by looking up web addresses. A web address is called a domain name and you’ll need one for your website. Domain names are available from various organisations and ideally you should pick a domain that is:

  • Short
  • Easy to remember
  • Hard to misspell

That’s easier said than done these days as many of the good domains are already taken. You may want to get the name that is closest to your organization name. That’s fine, but an even better choice is a domain that includes some or all of your desired keywords in it. You can also have more than one domain name pointing to the same website so you could use both your organization name and a memorable domain name.

Depending on the type of domain you buy, you can register it from 1 to 10 years and the fees vary considerably. You should be able to find providers supplying domains for around $10 – $20 per year.

Once built, your website needs to live somewhere on the Internet. Technically you could setup a computer at your home to do this but the vast majority of websites live in data centres managed by web hosting companies. They have the infrastructure and expertise to look after your website to ensure it is visible to the world and protected from intruders. Computers used for websites are called web servers. Large websites require one or more web servers to operate. But smaller sites live on shared web servers. In this case, one web server may contain hundreds of websites. Each site shares the overall computer resources. There are pros and cons to using a dedicated server as opposed to a shared server but the main determining factor is cost. Shared hosting is significantly cheaper than dedicated hosting and most small to medium enterprise sites use a shared server. You’ll find shared hosting from as little as a few dollars a month but it’s best not to buy based on the price as a little more usually results in much better service and more features.

There are two costs to consider with the production of a website. The first is the initial construction which will vary depending on the size of the website and the abilities of the developer. You do not necessarily get what you pay for in this industry so get a few quotes but also speak to the prospective developer’s previous clients. Most web developers will have a portfolio and it is well worth your time to find the phone number of their past clients and ring them to see if they would be happy to give you some feedback.

A typical brochure site – that is a small site that mainly displays text and images – might cost between $500 to $2000. A larger site could be several thousand dollars. An e-commerce site where products or services are sold online is harder to predict as online shops vary significantly in their complexity. You can find packages under one thousand dollars but you could pay several thousand dollars if you have complex requirements for product options, tax or shipping. If your website includes some sort of interactivity, or animation then expect to pay upwards of $3000. Very large sites can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The second production cost to consider is ongoing maintenance. Whenever you need to update your site, you will need to ask your web developer to do this which can quickly become expensive. These days this is unnecessary if your website is built using a content management system (CMS). Even small sites can benefit from a CMS and it doesn’t have to cost any more to use one. Many good ones are free and some cost several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars. A CMS allows you to change content on your site, add pages and other features, all from your web browser.

Once you have built your website you might need to spend some money on promotion. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail about promotion except to point out that a website isn’t a way to instant riches. Many people have unrealistic expectations of what the web can do for a business. The Internet is a medium unlike any other but it still takes effort and some investment to promote your organisation online.