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June 27, 2008

What Should You Pay For Website/Blog Design with Support and Hosting Package?

http://www.bloggingtricks.com/uploaded_images/iStock_000001627298Small-737898.jpgThis post idea has been percolating in my mind for a while because of client questions about what is a fair cost for the complete construction of a website/blog which includes quality design, security, support, education and monthly carrying costs for hosting, customer support and education.  This post was still languishing until I received a phone call from someone telling me an absolutely outrageous quote he was given at a 'conference.'  I nearly fell off my chair...except it has side arms and prevented this :-)

So, I'm going to share with you what I have learned over the past two years as well as my opinions.  But, remember, they remain my opinions but they are some of the very same opinions I share with my clients.

If you choose to hire an 'expert' to design your web presence on a blogging platform which can include multiple static pages with other types of functionality, you should anticipate paying between $1,500 - $3,000 for the site alone.  (This is in contrast to a Typepad, Terapad, Blogger or Wordpress with pre-designed templates)

The price range noted turns on the components: the number of landing pages such as your "About" "Practice Areas" "Contact", and all the 'moving parts' you require to make the site a valuable go-to resource for potential clients and current clients.  It is an attraction marketing tool and needs to be substantial enough to present the necessary attractors to give clients what they need to make a decision about hiring you.  You are paying for their time to do this, not necessarily for the software as if a company is well established they have long since paid for basic templates which they design off of or are using free blogging software platforms.  Remember, you are buying their time. (You are lawyers..you get that, right?)

After your up front costs for creation and production, there is generally a carrying cost which includes hosting of the site, security, backups, customer support and education.  Based upon feedback from across the profession, and my personal investigation of numerous services, in my opinion, this should not cost you more than $50.00 per month.  For someone to host your site is literally pennies per month.  So, the bulk of the monthly cost is projected for the occasional technical support and early education. Since you won't need this every month averaging it out to $50.00 per month is not unreasonable. You shouldn't begrudge any company these fees if you are comfortable and happy with what you will be provided for this fee and the company delivers in a customer-friendly way.  In some ways, the monthly carrying cost serves as an insurance policy for your very important marketing presence.

However, some people still choose to move their newly designed webpresence to their own host because maybe they are more tech savvy and don't want the monthly carrying cost because for them it doesn't provide value.  And this is okay, too.  The option should always be yours once the website has been produced and the company should allow for this in their contract.

So, let me tell you the story which had me outraged.  I received a phone call on this very subject from someone who had been in attendance at a well-promoted seminar weekend on growing your legal practice.  As makes good sense, vendors were selected to be present to provide a complete solution for the needs of the attendees.  These attendees were presented with a vendor who would provide a website with a blog component for...are you sitting down....$16,000!  THAT'S INSANE! It should be considered a felony.  What's worse, is by having this vendor in attendance, the host of the seminar was endorsing the vendor and the prices.  (I won't go any further on this.)

And do not let others sell you their overpriced product by drawing comparison to other marketing tools.  If you currently spend outrageous sums on yellow pages and want to switch over to an internet presence do not look at what you will save compared to yellow page advertising.  That creates a false economy and you will be inclined to overpay for a web presence.  It's a great sales tactic.  But you should be smarter than that. Compare apples and apples; not apples and gorillas.

Now, lawyers have a reputation for spending because they can if they think they are going to get something no one else has.  So, here's my proposal to you: If you've got $13,000 extra dollars to throw away on a product which you shouldn't pay more than $3,000 for at the high end...please donate it to Solo Practice University so we can set up a couple of new solos in their own practices from soup to nuts, instead.  You'll certainly feel better for it, I promise. 

Related Links:  What I've Learned About Blogging These Past 18 Months

                       Free Blogs at Solo Practice University

                       If You're Serious About Marketing,,,,,,,,,,,,,


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James Chartrand - Men with Pens

I am cheering for you. So many people are being taken advantage of left, right and center, and this is one of the main reasons that Harry and I chose to offer our blog setup and design services at an affordable rate.

We *fully* believe that people should not have to pay through the nose simply because they need or want something. There is something seriously wrong with that.

In fact, we blogged about the problem of high rates and how we felt about them here:

Is Charging More the Right Thing to Do?

I'm going to tel you that to design a rocking banner full of branding, to install a blog, set it up, add pages that you need and fully customize it to your specs, to make sure all the plugins and user-friendly features are there...

In short, we give you everything for less than....?

Even better?

We'll write the content you need to set yourselves apart and stand out from the suits.

Susan Cartier Liebel

For those who are asking, "didn't Susan just write the last blog post saying she doesn't like blatant promotion in her comments?"

James Chartrand, based out of Canada, is a frequent guest blogger at BSP on the topic of branding. And, maybe he didn't get the memo. So, he gets in under the wire :-)

Julian Dymos

I just found your blog when searching for help with Terapad. What i found interesting was the idea of trying to put a price on Education.

I have produced (what i think is ) a great website. Terapad produced a custom design for me using their request a template feature - $400 and i pay $5 a year for a domain name - Email is free with my domain name with Google Apps - and Terapad charge $15 a month (although I could use their free website version with ads).

Total Cost to me $400 set up plus $185 a year.

I think that is pretty good especially when you look at all the features I get with the package.

But ...

Whilst it is very easy to update my own content, I have had to teach myself quite a lot. Terapad provide how to guides and help files, but for a complete Internet Novice I have found it hard going. I still have a long way to go, although I have recently learnt the secrets of embedding Javascript and Flash into Terapad.

It would be great if I could get Terapad training, but I arrange I.T. training at the company I work for and I know how much it costs. I could easily see how I could spend $10000 on training, even though the website is only $180 a year!

Whats ironic is that when I get stuck, by best source of tech support is my Son who is only 16. He seems to understand it fluently. Maybe the myspace generation will make use of free website creation tools like Terapad and, and that will be the last you will hear from Web Design Companies charging astonomical figures.

Anyway, i think you make a good point :-)

James Chartrand - Men with Pens

That Canadian postal service is really slow. My fax is broken, too. I have my phone's ringer off. Gmail isn't working well this morning. And Twitter? Well, hell, forget THAT.


Steve Matthews

I actually don't consider 16k to be an outrageous cost for a website & blog combined - depending on how detailed the site specs & more important - how original the look of the site needed to be. If you don't want the site to look like a cookie cutter template, a good quality graphic designer alone will drive up the cost.

I don't have a problem with & understand about cribbing off the last guy, and still getting a reasonably professional looking product. But if we're talking about creating an *original* look & feel, quality still costs.

The cost of blog production is also a lot less expensive than other websites. Any CMS based website will also be that way. Unfortunately many traditional websites are often still hand-coded; which really drive up labour costs.

I could also give a hundred examples of where a site was template driven, and someone has come along and demanded an entirely new design for each section of the website. Which means starting from scratch for each of those sections.

My point being, a 5-pg + blog non-original template designed website... sure 1.5-3k. But a custom designed 55 page site with separate a vendor login area, built in wikis for each event, custom calendar, etc., and the organization has no logo or business image to start with? Things could get quickly out of hand and the developer could lose money at $16k.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Julian - Terapad is a good platform. But as you noted, once you start trying to get educated and trained the costs can shoot right up. Then factor in lost time and the accompanying revenues which is why you need to do a serious cost benefit analysis and make your decision accordingly.

@Steve - There is a right product and service for every market. If I was a mega firm building pages for every practice area and every attorney, etc...then the product and price would be commensurate with the labor.

This seminar was for solos. My site is for solos. They do not need to charter and pay for a boeing 787 to travel around town. It is disproportionately expensive and terribly inefficient for their application. They need a clean, sleek, highly functional blogging platform at a reasonable price to move, quickly, effectively and with precision through their stated territory and in the style they desire.

Corinne A. Tampas

I am going through this right now. I have a wonderful website designer (graphic artist) and a wonderful web builder, but the web builder did not want to build a blog from scratch which is understandable. If you look at the custom blogs, all of them are built upon a platform such as WordPress, Moveable Type, etc.

My website designer provided me a design for a blog. I decided to go with a blog using WordPress as a platform. I picked out a template that was similar but needed a color change, my logo added, and a few other personal stuff incorporated. There would be no "About Me" page as that only required a link back to my website.

Long story short, bids ranged from $185 to $4,000. The people who bid the high bid told me it was ONLY $4,000 since most of the work had been done, i.e., the design and the choosing of a template.

I went back to my website designer and told her that she was missing the boat by not designing blogs using templates as a platform. I even found a software plugin to Dreamweaver called ThemeDreamer which is suppose to make the process easier if you use WordPress as the platform. Using my lawyering skills, I told her that more and more lawyers are simply dropping their websites, or not creating one at all, in favor of blogs. ..... She is going to do it for me!

R Ramcharan

The argument for spending lots of money on a flashy web site is, "If this guy can't even show us a decent web site, he must be a bozo."
On the other hand, paying (insert outlandish dollar amount here) for web design services sort of defeats the purpose of being a solo practitioner with no physical office location in the first place.
Many people respond to the Wal-Mart model of not spending a lot of money on office decor so as to keep costs down. One of the main selling points in this market segment is, "My low overhead gives you the best value in legal services today." You negate that pitch if you operate out of a flashy office in the high-rent district, whether it's an office downtown or a web site. Moreover, if business slows down (which of course, it never will, yes?), paying $x a month for hosting services and site maintenance will put you out of business a lot more slowly than spending $10x.
I set up my site using the design tools on Yahoo! for free. Granted, it lacks animations, blogs, links to everywhere and annoying music clips (all of which take forever to load), but I'm hoping that potential clients are looking for a lawyer, not somebody who knows how to hire a web designer.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@R I don't take issue with your thinking but the idea behind your web presence is its ability to attract the client you are seeking. Your web presence isn't about 'saving' money as much as it is about 'spending your money wisely.' Your current site is static. It doesn't engage the client and limits the education you provide, something a blogging platform would give you and which I encourage you to do.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to create a more dynamic presence and it will not spell ivory tower at all. The continuum stretches wide between a street corner banjo player and a full scale KISS concert.

Ryan Roberts

Web designers have been ripping off unknowing businesses for years.

The good thing for us solo lawyers is that it is becoming increasingly easier to create and manage your own online presence.

Sure, it does take some time to learn how to manipulate blog templates, but the ROI is incredible. I can now develop a new website (e.g., for a specific practice area) for the cash outlay of a domain name and have it up and running in one weekend.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Ryan - I will say your sites are very sharp and the designs fit your image and your practice area.

But you see, you clearly enjoy it and have a knack for doing it, not just the mechanics but an eye for designing off of the very popular Revolution theme by Wordpress. Many solos just don't so this is an expense they must budget for to get what the quality and ROI you have more than easily provided for yourself.

Thanks for joining the conversation and hope to see you here often.

Ryan Roberts

@ Susan - Thanks for the compliments. (and also thanks for this site)

I do agree with you--web design, no matter how user friendly it gets, won't be for everyone. In fact, there are many days I don't "enjoy" it. :)

But hopefully things like blog templates reduce the cost for solos (and other small business) to get their sites developed by a 3rd party for a reasonable fee, considering we really don't need all the bells and whistles that might go into an enterprise site.

Jay Fleischman

The problem is that lawyers often think bigger is better. Some will throw money at a problem thinking it will be solved with enough cash to plug the holes; others believe that if it's more expensive then it's more qualified. On the flip side, however, it's important to remember that scraping the bottom of the barrel when hiring a professional.

The solution? Unfortunately, caveat emptor. If you are looking to get a site designed and don't know what is involved, you're going to get ripped off. Much like when my mom takes the car into the shop and the mechanic grunts and scratches his head before saying, "Wow, this is a huge problem. The whoohazzatiki needs to be replaced. That's gonna set you back $500 plus parts." Does mom know what he's talking about? Nope, but when dad goes back he knows enough about cars to realize he's being bamboozled and the only thing that needs replacing is an oil filter.

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