Often times, we as web developers can lose sight of the fact that our clients do not always understand the basic elements of creating 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 sometimes 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
A domain name is the address that you license for a certain amount of time (i.e.: whitelightconcepts.com). This is done through a web developer, directly with a registrar, or through a hosting company. Be sure that you (or your company) are listed as the Registrant or Owner. Domain names are usually renewed yearly, but can be paid in advance for 5 or even 10 years. 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 (.com, .net, .org) 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 of a free domain. Choose your hosting company on its own merits first and read further below.
Hosting a website is done via very specialized equipment and services connected to the Internet. These 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 website on their own computer. If you enjoy tinkering with hardware, software and security issues, then you might want to look into this. Additionally, if you have very specialized needs it could be worth it to you. Hosting your own website is for IT gurus or hobbyists that really understand all the ins and outs. You must also be willing to drop everything when something goes wrong or have a staff to handle problems. Even if you do need a specialized setup, it still may not be worth it to do your own hosting. This is where dedicated servers at a hosting company come in. 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 found for as little as $1 per month. Be aware that really cheap hosting can often limit the settings to which there is access or how well certain types of websites are hosted. 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
Costs for websites can vary widely, but you can often get a 3 page web site for about $600. Maybe less if you don’t ask the developer to customize anything. Plug and play websites can 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 are placed on a web server at the selected hosting company under the licensed domain.
Once the site is launched, maintenance needs to be considered. A standard 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. Each update to a CMS should be evaluated based on the site’s specific needs 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 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. These sites can take several hours a day of active engagement. If you are not prepared to do this, consider re-evaluating your goals.
This was a very high level overview to help you understand the basic elements of getting a website up and running. There are more details involved in managing each one of these and an experienced website developer should be consulted in order to understand them more completely.
If we can help answer any questions for you, please contact us for a free consultation on your next project.