When prospective clients tell me that they are interested in a website, there are two questions that they typically ask:
- "What do you need from me to get started?" (the requirements)
- "How much will it be?" (the cost estimate)
Without exception, I can only provide an accurate cost estimate after I have a full set of requirements. The trouble is, aside from not providing requirements, clients do not always have their content — or even clear outlines — of their potential websites. I've compiled the following questions to help clients with requirements gathering. Answering these questions will result in a better website.
Content, content, content
What specific content do you intend on including? Have you created a hierarchical outline of this content? Will you be adding fresh content on a regular basis, or do you plan on "setting it and forgetting it?"
Do you have any design preferences? How simple or complex do you want the design to be? Do you have a logo and/or branding currently in use? If so, do you want these motifs incorporated into the website?
Your company or organization
What does your company do? What is the size of your company? How far in-depth do you intend for the site to reveal your company? Is this a site for an established business entity or a startup venture? Will the developer (that's me) inherit legacy code, or will he start from scratch?
Purpose and goals
Do you plan on promoting or advertising your site? Do you view this venture more as a necessary expense, or as a potential source of revenue? Will the site be used solely to provide a "web presence" for the company, or will it be geared more toward e-commerce? Who is your intended viewing audience?
After requirements gathering, I am able to provide a more accurate cost estimate.
- Domain name registration. A fixed cost — typically $10 to $15 a year — and paid to a domain name registrar. If a desired domain name is already registered and is for sale, then it must be purchased before it can be registered in your name. Like any asset, the cost of a domain name is usually commiserate with its value.
- Website hosting. Also a fixed cost — typically $100 to $150 a year — and paid to a web hosting company.
Design and development costs
- Initial development phase. This phase begins at the inception of the project, continues through the design and site build-out period, and ends when the site is first approved and published for all the world to see.
- Ongoing maintenance phase. This phase begins after the site is first published and can continue as long as the website exists. Maintenance can consist of any web development task. For example: revising content, adding or removing features, fixing bugs, updating CSS (layout instructions) for new browsers and new technologies, remediating software rot, et cetera.