Website cost – the cost of creating and maintaining a website – is an important question for South African small business owners. To a large extent, it’s like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” The answer is, of course, “It depends.”
There are a number of factors that influence the cost of a website. Prices range all the way from “Free” to “a couple of million rand.”
If you are prepared to do the work yourself, you can build a website at no cost, or at very little cost.
Let’s look at how that would work.
The first thing you would need is a domain name. This is the name people use to find and connect to your website.
Domain names have to be unique, so that when someone types in your domain name, they get connected to your website and not someone else’s.
Every domain name has to be registered, and a fee is charged for the registration, as well as an annual renewal fee.
Every domain name has an extension, which tells the user what kind of website they are about to visit. Initially, these were limited to a few, like .COM, .ORG and .NET.
Country code extensions, like .UK, .ZA and .AU were soon added, and recently a plethora of generic extensions have become available, like .AGENCY, .PLUMBING and .ACCOUNTANT.
In addition there are a number of geographic extensions available, like .LONDON and .JOBURG.
Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of domain extensions here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains
The registration fee for a domain name varies depending on the perceived value of the extension. There are five extensions which can be registered for free – .TK, .GA, .CF, .ML and .GQ.
If you really want to build your website for free, perhaps just to learn more, you can choose one of the 5 free extensions. However, they don’t project a very professional image, and because they’re free, they tend to be used by spammers, scammers and other nefarious people.
Every website has to be hosted somewhere. That somewhere is known as a web server, because it ‘serves’ web pages to visitors. A web server is really just a computer which is connected to the Internet. If you had the skills and knowledge, you could host your website on your home computer.
Hosting companies provide a stable platform for hosting multiple websites, usually in a data centre. Their hosting servers need to be protected from power outages, temperature fluctuations and security breaches.
There are a number of hosting companies which provide free hosting. All of these have limitations such as poor uptime and restrictions on storage space and bandwidth. Here’s a good review of some of the free hosting services: https://hostingfacts.com/free-web-hosting-sites/
Free Website Builders
There are a number of services which offer free websites – popular ones are Wix, Yola and Weebly. All of these display an ad for their services on their free sites.
You can get rid of the ad by paying a monthly fee – but then it’s not free any more, is it?
Wix, for example, charges $8.50 (around R140.00) a month to remove their ad from your site.
These sites are very popular with scouting groups, academics and start-up businesses. However, if you want your business to be taken seriously, they are not really an option unless you are prepared to spend some money.
Go With A Pro
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to learn how to build your own website, the alternative is to find a professional web designer to do it for you. This is often the most cost-effective solution, and it makes sense for most small businesses.
Realistically, there are three main factors that affect the price of a website.
1. How complicated is the website?
The simpler a website is, the cheaper it’s likely to be.
Websites with lots of “bells and whistles” tend to require more expertise and take longer to build and test.
This would include elements like a shopping cart, a booking calendar, a newsletter, a photo gallery and other custom features.
They may require the use of specialist programmers or paid plugins.
2. The Design
There are three basic approaches to web design:
- You can have a designer build your website from scratch. This is more expensive, but you should end up with something unique.
- Your designer can modify an existing template to make it suit your needs. This is cheaper.
- Your designer can work with a page builder to create a custom website using standard building blocks.
Unless you want to be brave and build something completely original, most business websites are built using similar and familiar elements.
The home page may have a menu at the top of the page or down the side, a large featured “hero” image, a headline, some body text, perhaps with images incorporated and a footer.
The advantage of sticking to a tried and tested formula is that it’s easy for visitors to work out what to do – where to click, how to find what they’re looking for.
Providing a valuable User Experience (“UX”) should be a priority. You and your designer should have a thorough understanding your potential users, including their needs and desires and what they find valuable.
In addition to the overall design, you will need someone to write the text that goes on the website. Ideally, you should be looking at a copy writer. However, you are probably the person who has the most knowledge about your product and company, and you should certainly write the basic content yourself. You can always get a professional copywriter to rework your writing before you go “live”.
Something else to consider is the images for your website. Do you have a logo? Do you have high-quality, preferably professional, photographs to use on the website? You will probably need photos of your products, your services, your premises, staff and vehicles. You may need to pay someone to take these pictures. An alternative is to use stock photographs. There are a number of sites which provide free stock images. You will need to choose them carefully to avoid images which look posed or fake.
3. The Amount of Traffic You Get
The more traffic a website gets, the more expensive it becomes to run.
If you get a few thousand visitors a month, your hosting account will probably be able to handle the traffic easily.
Ramp that up to a few hundred thousand visitors a month, and you’ll need to upgrade your hosting plan.
Sites with massive amounts of traffic, like Facebook and Google, need to deploy data centres on a global scale to handle the bandwidth.
Issues of security become paramount.
The complexity of your site also plays a part here. If your home page is large and feature-rich, it will need more server resources than a simple page.
Google’s home page is minimalistic because every additional character costs them real money.
So How Much Does A Website Cost?
You should set a budget and try to get your website to fit.
For most business sites, R100 a month is realistic. You can always upscale your hosting if you start getting tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Although most hosting providers offer a free SSL certificate, if you plan to accept credit card payments on your site you may need an Extended Validation certificate, which would cost from R1,600 a year.
From R79 a year for a .co.za domain name.
This could be included in your hosting or web design package, but will need to be renewed annually.
From R1000 up.
The design cost depends on the complexity of the website, and the design brief.
Most small business websites cost between R3000 and R50000.
Website copy – From free to R10,000 (or more)
Website images – From free (stock images)
Custom Development Work
If you need something out of the ordinary, you can expect to have to pay for it.
- Domain and hosting renewal
- Theme and plugin renewal for support/updates
- Monitoring, updates, backups