I’ve been asked this question a couple of times so I figured I’d share my answer to it. Unlike hiring a contractor to build a house, where there is a large materials cost, web design fees are almost exclusively based on hours required to complete the task. So you would think the estimates would all be the same.
So why then, do some companies charge double or even three times as much as other web design companies?
You can get a bad contractor but for the most part they all do a reasonable job. Web design on the other hand can vary greatly in both the quality of the design and the markup used to create the website.
An experienced web design who is known for producing great work, is going to charge a lot more than someone just starting out, so their estimates are going to be noticeably higher. Just like a painting from the guy on the street corner is $25 bucks but one from a renowned painter may be priceless. Some of it is hype, but most of it is years of experience and a lot of skill at their craft.
Estimated Hours to Complete the Website
Another factor is how many hours the design or web firm believes the project will take. Some designers spend a lot more time making a quality product, while other pump out work as quick as they can.
If they don’t give it, ask for their hourly rate.
Also, if you are asking for something special that the designer/company is not that familiar with, they may increase the estimate to compensate for the time spent learning how to do what you need.
You may have talked about different thing when talking to different web designers. To one designer it could have sounded like a huge project. To another is sounded like it was quite simple. Estimates are guesses after all, and sometimes we get them wrong.
Be as precise with your needs as possible. For example: “I need a website with a blog, with 10-15 static pages, and a dynamic news section on the homepage.”
Often beginners in the field do not know how to charge appropriately or really need the work, so they will try to undercut to get the job.
Web designers in India and other places often work for much cheap than those you can find the US.
So How to Choose
Price is actually not how you should pick who builds your website. Take a look at the work of each designer or company and see if it meets your standard of quality. Can you see your brand in the work that they do? If the company does work that looks nothing like what you want, chances are you won’t be happy with the outcome.
So rate each of the companies you received estimates from. Throw out the ones that don’t do work you like. Then you can make a decision based on price after that.
Also, remember you can ask more questions of the designer. There may be ways of reducing the price by excluding some features you really don’t need. Or if you really like one person’s work but cannot afford the estimate they provided, tell them your budget and see if they can do anything with it. Maybe they can’t but possibly they can do something a little simpler that you both can live with.
I wrote another post about choosing a web designer, if you need more help there.
Ultimately you want to go with a designer who will produce work that meets your expectations. Price is an important factor to you but ultimately your best option may not be the cheapest one. If you really like the work of one designer or firm in particular, don’t go cheap just to save a little money, your website is important.