As I’ve met with hundreds of cities over the past few years, I’ve been stunned that so many have paid on average about $15,000 to $20,000 for a website (sometimes way more, and sometimes a little less). True, every city situation is different and some larger cities may need enhanced capabilities that require complex website design and development, but for most small to medium-sized cities it’s safe to say that $15,000 is just too much.
Advances in technology and Internet functionality have lowered the costs of what used to make websites so expensive. Let’s go through each part and piece of a website and see if you’re paying too much. By examining each piece of your website, you might find some opportunities to save significant money.
- Design and Development For very large cities with complicated services and a need to present a high-end public face in front of millions of people, a significant investment in design might be appropriate. But for most small cities, you do not need a high-end custom designed website. Doing that opens up two risks. First, you might be paying way too much, even if the website looks great. Second, if you’re having someone custom design your website because they are the lowest price, you often get what you pay for. We’ve seen many cases where someone with limited skills cobbles together something that ends up embarrassing the city. Instead, there are many customizable and elegant design templates that look great, fit city needs, and—best of all—cost very little.
- Hosting Unless your website has very high demands (like thousands of people per day accessing services) or uses data intensively, your hosting options should run in the hundreds of dollars per month. Hosting fees have come down significantly, and there are many options such as shared hosting (where you share a server with other websites) or the cloud (where world-class vendors will host your website at a low cost) that will bring your costs down. If you’re still maintaining a dedicated website server (or servers) in-house or paying thousands of dollars for data center website hosting, you may want to look at other hosting options.
- Putting Content Onto the Website We cannot emphasize this enough—you should be able to put content onto your own website. For no extra fees. The days of having a webmaster or vendor putting content onto your website are long over. Most modern websites have easy-to-use ways to add, delete, and edit content. If you still have someone doing this for you, or it’s extremely difficult to put content onto your website, then you need to look at some different options.
- Licenses and Upgrades Many vendors want you to believe their website and related services are very special—so special that you need to pay a lot of money for licenses and upgrades. That’s where most website vendors will really eat into your budget. Newer websites are based on a subscription model. After the setup, you should be able to turn on the website and pay a low monthly fee. If you’re paying a large upfront fee and steep annual licensing costs, there are more affordable options you need to look at.
- Bells and Whistles So your website has the capability to share news out to hundreds of social media platforms, magnificent forum features that can handle dozens of discussion groups, and a multimedia section where you can upload videos, podcasts, and photo albums. But...do you really need all of these features? Usually, cities have been sold expensive websites where a lot of features sounded good at the time but later did not meet business needs. If you don’t need it, why pay for it? There are many website options that stick to basics and can be customized or scaled up to meet exactly the needs of your city.
A small- to medium-sized city just doesn’t need excessive website design and development, hosting, or features. You just need a website for a low cost that does what you need. You should only be paying hundreds or low thousands per month. Anything significantly more, and you’re most likely losing money.
If you want to talk about your website needs, please contact us.
Original Date: 1/8/2013