Often times, we as web developers can lose sight of the fact that our clients do not always understand the basic elements of a website. And for that, I do apologize. We take these things for granted as they are a part of our every day lives and our process, so they become ‘invisible’ to us. This article will help you understand the basic components of website development and the charges associated with them.

Domain Name Registration

Domain names are the address that you will license for a certain amount of time, like whitelightconcepts.com. This can be done through a web developer, directly with a registrar, or through a hosting company. However it is done, just be sure that you are listed as the Registrant or Owner. Domain names are renewed yearly unless you have paid for more than a year at a time. The organization responsible for the overall coordination and maintenance of these domain names is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Without a domain name, you cannot use a friendly address to get people to see your website. Once you have registered a domain name, you (or your developer) will direct it to your website hosting company’s server. More information about domain names can be found in this article.

Standard domain names can be anywhere from free (usually only for the first year) to about $35 per year. Be careful not to get sucked into a hosting company just because they offer you a free domain. Choose your hosting company on its own merits first and read further below.

Hosting

Hosting your website is done via very specialized equipment and services connected to the Internet. Hosting companies invest in special hardware and software to keep your website secure and available to the rest of the world.

Many times people have asked me why they cannot host their own website on their own computer. If you enjoy tinkering with hardware, software and security issues, or if you have very specialized needs and are a large company, then you might want to look into this. It could be worth it to you. However, hosting your own website is really only for the IT gurus or hobbyists that really understand all the ins and outs and are willing to drop everything when something goes wrong or someone hacks into their web server. Even if you do need a specialized setup, it may still not be worth it to do your own hosting. The small to medium business generally does not need to do this and will be very happy with the average hosting in a shared or cloud environment. For the little bit hosting costs, it saves a lot of time and effort to just have the pros do it. Take a look at this article for more information.

Hosting costs can vary widely, but can be had for as little as $1 per month. But be aware that paying for really cheap hosting can often limit what settings you have access to or even how well they host certain types of websites. Average, quality hosting in the US for a starter website is more in the $150-200/year range. This would be with technical support that you can call on the phone and talk to in English. The extra cost over the $1 per month offer is well worth it the very first time you have to get technical support.

Design & Development

Website design and development is the actual creation of the website pages themselves. This is usually the largest cost. It will include things like design (the look and user interface design), user interaction points, content creation (copywriting, editing, videos, animations), coding (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and programming (PHP, ASP, or other languages that connect to a database of information) and database setup and logic. You can find more detail in this article.

Costs for websites can vary, but you can usually get a 3 page web site for about $600. Less if you don’t ask the developer to customize anything too much. Plug and play websites can often work well for some people and many hosting companies offer ‘do-it-yourself’ websites. But, like hosting your own, do you really want to have to deal with the details of creating something like that yourself? Or do you have enough to do with running your business? You may want to read our article Should I Create My Own Web Site?

Once everything is completed, the final files will be placed on a web server at your selected hosting company under the domain you licensed.

Maintenance

Once your site is launched, you will need to consider maintenance. A custom website generally has little maintenance costs unless there is a major software upgrade on the server or you want to add new functionality. A web site that is using a CMS (Content Management System like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal) may have several updates a year and those will need to be evaluated for your site each time. Each update to a CMS should be evaluated based on your site’s specific details and the extent of the new features. If they are heavily security related, be sure to have them applied. This also goes for any plug-ins or other third-party software as well.

Marketing

Marketing your website can take many forms. The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are long gone. You must actively work at bringing people to your site and building relationships with them. This may be through social media, advertising and direct mail (online or more traditional), press releases, search engine optimization, etc. This is particularly important if your website is a social platform, an online store or membership site as these sites can take several hours a day of active engagement. If you are not prepared to do this, you should re-evaluate your goals.

In Summary

This was a very high level overview to help you understand the basic pieces of getting a website up and running. There are more details involved in managing each one of these and you should look to your website developer to understand each more completely.

If we can help answer any questions for you, please contact us for a free consultation on your next project.