Cheap Websites - Are website costs clear enough?

Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?

How much does a website really cost?

How much does a website really cost?

Why do the costs of some websites seem too good to bo true? Are you getting value, or are too many corners being cut?

Why do the costs of some websites seem too good to bo true?

Cheap Websites - Are website costs clear enough?

Why do website costs vary so much?

Have you noticed that the price of building a website can vary greatly, ranging from a few hundred pounds to several thousand pounds? So why is there such a wide range? Are the higher-priced developers ripping you off, or are the cheaper ones simply not skilled enough and cutting corners?

You get what you pay for (or at least you should!)

You get what you pay for

While there may be some poor examples on both ends of the spectrum, in most cases, you tend to get what you pay for. It's important to understand where some of the costs are allocated and why selecting a web designer solely based on price can be risky.

Let's put it another way... If you opt for a cheap website and later realise that it's severely limiting your online presence, you might complain to your web designer that the website doesn't meet your expectations.

How much? I can get it done for half that!

However, you might discover that they lack the time, expertise, or motivation to provide the additional services you require, especially when they're trying to compete on price and hear I can get it done for half that far too often when providing realistic quotes for web design and the associated work involved.

Start off by being clear in what you need

When asking for a quote for a new website, be as clear as possible what it is you need. Also expect to be asked questions about your business, goals and objectives, details on the products or services you sell, and the typical type of customer you're trying to reach.

What are your expectations?

You'd be right to expect your web designer to not only produce you a website, but also one which is adaptable so it can be viewed on mobile phones over 3G and 4G networks without taking ages to load.

Your website will need to be hosted, and you're also likely to want your web designer to do what's necessary to reach out to those customers, but that can take a lot of time and depend on the competition you and your website are up against.

Getting found on Google

If you're a plumber or electrician in Leicester, your marketing budget is likely to be far less than the budget of a main car dealer.

But as a plumber or electrician, the amount of effort needed to get your website onto page 1 of Google will be FAR greater than the website for the Leicester Porsche dealer. And the Porsche dealer is not only more likely to be listed on page 1, but right at the top of the page for not only Leicester, but all of Leicestershire.

Yes, that might sound obvious, but if you're trying to get someone to build you a website as cheaply as possible, could you also reasonably expect to your web designer to carry out the SEO work so your website gets found?

This could include:

  • keyword analysis,
  • competitor analysis,
  • content and image optimisation,
  • meta tag updates,
  • Schema markup,
  • and so on...

Then they would need to periodically monitor the pages that Google (and other search engines) have indexed, check to see how they're performing against your competition, make necessary tweaks and adjustment, re-submit and repeat the process again periodically.

That's a lot of work, and it might need to be spread over several months, because SEO doesn't happen overnight.

Who will be creating the website content?

Also be clear whether you'll be writing your website content and supplying it, along with images, logo, etc., to your web designer, or are you expecting your web designer to write your content and source suitable images for you? Of course that is bound to increase the cost.

Remember who the expert is!

When it comes to writing website content, remember that that YOU are the expert in your field, and the web designer is the expert in THEIR field. So in most cases it makes sense for YOU to provide the content, at least initially if you are not confident in writing suitable content.

Others, including AI, can write your content for you, but you should always review and approve (or sign off) any content before it is published.

Are you're likely to need frequent updates to your website, and will you want to be able to make your own updates or would you want your web designer to do it for you? The answer to that could determine which platform your website gets built on, and have an impact on not only the build cost, but also maintenance costs.

Be clear to avoid disappointment and nasty surprises

Be clear to avoid nasty surprises

As long as you and your web designer have a clear understanding of the requirements and what will be included in the price, everything should be fine.

But if the web designer feels that the only way they can get business is by being the cheapest, (a) it reflects a lack of experience and confidence on their part, and (b) you'll probably need to adjust your expectations somewhat or be prepared to pay for some add-ons at some point!

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Pricing Transparency: Clear pricing policies

I worked in various roles in eCommerce for a multinational company for over 20 years. We operated in markets around the globe, and part of my role was to ensure that our websites complied with UK and international rules, including clear pricing (also often referred to as price transparency or pricing clarity).

Some of these rules were set by the EU (European Union), the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), and also regulatory bodies in the US, Canada and Australia. Not all countries have the same laws, and culturally the requirement and expectations of people in different countries vary, besides which side of the road they drive on.

Cheap Websites - Are website costs clear enough?

One key principle we had to follow was to be up front about pricing. We were obliged to communicate the final price to the customer as early in the buying process as possible. And rightly so, although we realised that those competitors who did not comply with the regulations appeared to be far cheaper to begin with. It was for this reason that even some broker websites who offered our cars for rental via their web platform appeared to be cheaper than when booking directly with us!

Historically the booking of flights online faced similar challenges. I’m sure than many of us have seen the kind of adverts for cheap flights for £29, but by the time you reached the checkout page you’re asked to pay much more due to taxes, airport fees, and surcharges for a whole bunch of mandatory items which could have been communicated right much earlier in the process.

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What is Drip Pricing?

Grabbing people's attention with cheap pricing and drawing them in is a very effective way to attract potential customers, but it should be done fairly.

The practice of drip pricing goes on to gain a potential consumer's interest with a misleadingly low headline price, but without the actual price being revealed until the customer has already invested time and effort in the buying process.

Admittedly this can also distort competition by making it difficult for businesses with more transparent up front pricing to compete on a level playing field with companies who prefer to tempt you with a low price, and then add to it the further through the buying process you go.

That's drip pricing

Some real life of examples of Drip Pricing

Examples of this are common in the car rental industry, where I worked for many years.

When you need to rent a car and want to compare prices, you can go to the websites of a number of car rental companies and select where and when you want to pick up and return the hire car. You should then see a selection of vehicles and their prices based on the location, dates and times you selected.

If your car rental is from an airport, there may be additional mandatory costs such as airport location fees and taxes. If you are going to be obliged to pay those charges as part of the overall rental cost, it would make sense and (arguably) be more ethical to show the prices of the available cars inclusive of those costs at the point of selection.

Typically this would be at the 2nd stage of the buying process.

Let's go compare...

If you were to reach that part of the process for a number of car rental companies and compare the prices of similar vehicles for the same location, dates and times, any company not displaying prices inclusive of taxes and other mandatory charges are likely to appear cheaper.

You might therefore be tempted to discard the other companies based on their prices at this early stage of the buying process, even though they might have turned out to be cheaper at the end of the process. And you might not realise it because some deceptively lower prices made you decide to drop some of their competition.

They've got you!

Likewise, if you want to add things to your car rental such as a child seat, media entertainment package or additional insurance options, if those are also subject to mandatory fees and taxes, it would make sense to show their prices inclusive of those costs at the point of selection.

But it doesn't always happen that way...

If you have selected a vehicle at £200 for a 3 day rental, then add a child seat priced at £75, you would expect that by adding that child seat the cost of your rental has risen by £75 to £295. Next time you rent, try it, as in some cases the overall cost may have actually risen to far more than you would expect without you realising it!

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So what about cheap web design?

Well if the price you see IS going to be the price you pay, and for that cost you know what will be included and not included in the price, then I have no argument with that. That's fair, and you can make a choice based on those facts.

But what really does concern me are those companies who I keep seeing pop up on social media with attention grabbing promotions such as Let us build, host and manage your website or ecommerce store for you for just... and then there will be an unsustainably low price displayed.

In reality you might find it difficult to get a professional graphic designer to produce you a logo for such low costs, but apparently you can get a complete website for less than the cost of a quarter page advertisement for one week in a local newspaper!


Misleading prices

When I investigated one of these companies further, on their website I found monthly pricing for a range of tiered services to manage your website, which at time of writing was £429 per annum, which made the cost of having a website built by them far more than their headline price.

If that isn't misleading enough, the company I have just referred to also claims on their website: The average cost of having someone build a basic small business website for you is between £2,000-£8,000 ... Really?

Wrong, but they've got you before you realise!

Furthermore, with that particular company the website never actually becomes yours. So in the future, if you want to grow and develop your website or if you're unhappy with the current level of service for any reason and want to change where it's hosted and who handles future management of the website, you will have to pay someone else to build you a new website from scratch!

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Daron Harvey

I'm Daron Harvey, founder of Targa Web Solutions, specialising in AI chatbot implementation, website testing, auditing & consultancy. I am now in my 28th year of professional website production, testing and eCommerce best practices, and excited about the opportunities that AI chatbots and digital assistants can bring to ourselves, our customers, and our customer's customers.
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