The cost of creating a website may range from a few to even tens of thousands of zlotys. Depending on whether you need a simple business card, an extensive offer page or an advanced e-commerce system, the range of implementation costs can be very wide. It is likely that your website will be created using one of several popular content management systems – most often WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or in the case of online shops – WooCommerce, PrestaShop or Magento. In the case of cheaper offers, the contractor will probably offer a graphic design and layout based directly on a free or commercially available template. And if your offer is from a higher price point of view, you can expect an individual graphic design and more sophisticated solutions, tailored to your needs.
The multitude of technologies and solutions available on the market, as well as the very large competition, partly explain where the huge difference in service prices comes from. As a person outside the industry, you may feel lost in a jungle of information and technical jargon.
I hope that this text will answer these questions and tell you what to look for by ordering website creation.
With the services of creating or operating websites, it is always the case that there is someone to do it cheaper. Sometimes it will be a freelancer who will take up a job for less money than a creative agency (cheaper, because he works at home and does not pay insurance for employees), another time it will be done by a student based on an oral contract (cheaper, because he does not incur any costs related to running a business), and another time the party will design a cousin or even the owner of the company, using, for example, a website generator provided in the price of the server.
Regardless of who you entrust with the implementation of the website, remember that offers for several hundred zlotys cannot be equivalent to offers for several thousand zlotys. It is true that valuations of agencies offering potentially identical services may differ in price even by several dozen percent, but if the difference in price is based on the order of values, you can be sure that the services being compared will not be identical. However, the question remains – what does a cheaper contractor save on?
Fortunately, you do not always need to have the expertise to differentiate between the offers you receive. You only need to spread them out over a few easy to compare elements based on the points described below:
When ordering a website, pay attention to whether the contractor offers a static website on which you will not be able to easily change or expand the content, or whether it will be an implementation using a content management system, i.e. a program that will enable you or your employees to easily make changes to the website from the level of a web browser.
A CMS is not necessary. In the case of top-down scrolling business card pages, the inclusion of additional software may be an overstatement of the content and will in fact make the site costly to maintain in the future. A content management system is a software that needs to be updated over time – it’s a good idea for an experienced person to take care of it. If you are looking for a simple and inexpensive solution, you may not need to have a CMS.
However, if you decide to offer the software from CMS – remember that such software may be available to the public (free of charge) or proprietary (paid). Each has both advantages and disadvantages. For websites that do not require advanced, individual solutions, such as custom-designed database systems or integration with specialized software used in your company, it is a reasonable choice to develop a website based on a free system. This will not only reduce license costs (as there are no such costs), but will also enable the project to be operated and possibly developed in the future for smaller amounts.
Skills related to the use of proprietary software are often reserved for the employees of the company that wrote the system, which is most often tantamount to the fact that you will be associated with the offer of the contractor for a longer period of time. Don’t be fooled by potentially cheaper offers using proprietary solutions – they usually mean expensive maintenance of the system over time. Most SMEs do not need proprietary software to operate their websites. Due to the architecture of commercial CMSs and their relatively low popularity, it can be very expensive to implement seemingly simple changes or to extend them with new functionalities.
However, a system written by a contractor may be the only solution if your requirements go beyond the capabilities of free content management systems. It is worth considering such a solution, especially if it is based on modules and functionalities unavailable for free systems.
The graphic design of the website can be designed from scratch or a ready-made (free or paid) template can be used. As with the choice of CMS, these two solutions have their advantages and disadvantages.
The main difference is the amount of time needed to develop a working website. In the case of custom-designed graphics, it will be necessary to create graphics in the form of flat images or clickable mock-ups before the programmer can perform his work. This is additional work, which does not need to be spent in the case of implementation based on a ready-made template. However, if you want to build a stable and recognizable brand and the process of creating a website is based on well-thought-out actions focused on the best possible presentation of your product, an investment in an individual project may pay off.
If you decide to pay for a website built on the basis of a template, it is necessary to ask the contractor to what extent he plans to use it. Will it limit itself to its installation and introduction of basic changes (e.g. colours and typefaces), or will it rather speed up implementation works, using it as a universal and extensive content editor? To check this, you can ask to see which templates he has used to design the projects he boasts in his portfolio. If you compare these projects with the pages provided by the authors of the templates and it turns out that the artist has not even changed the photos in the background – you can expect that you will receive the service limited to the installation of the template – often even without basic personalization. It is worth asking the contractor to what extent he intends to use the template and how far he intends to personalise the project within the framework of the offered service.
If you decide on a website built on a content management system, it is necessary to pay attention to whether the contractor offers training in its use at a price, or it is a paid service. Although there is plenty of material on how to use popular CMS on the web, nothing can replace dedicated training that will help you learn how to manage the modules on your website.
A proudly sounding training course can actually consist of a few short narrative films – it doesn’t have to require your presence at the performer’s premises and thus take several hours of valuable time to book. Do not give up training even if you know the basics of the software on the basis of which your website was created – the service may be created e.g. on the popular WordPress CMS, but the content can be formatted using a paid add-on that you have never had to deal with. Why pay for something you can’t use?
Responsive websites are designed using technologies that allow content (text, images, animations, etc.) to change its location, size, and relationship to each other in such a way as to make the most of the space on the screen. Today, this is an unquestionable standard and responsive are even the default, free templates, attached to popular CMSs.
Traffic on mobile devices is growing year by year, and Google is systematically introducing stricter requirements for the speed and ease of use of mobile websites. That is why you should make sure that the person offering the website is serious about optimizing your products. It is worth asking about it and doing some simple tests on the pages that he boasts of in his portfolio. You can use the free tools GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights for this purpose. Simply paste the addresses of several pages from the portfolio of the contractor and check the results – if they are marked in red it is a sign that the pages, although they are responsive, their availability on mobile devices can be much more difficult. Optimization of a website at the stage of its creation is usually much simpler and cheaper than after implementation – it is worth to take this into account when selecting an offer.
A good way to check the quality of the services offered is to write emails or call the three companies whose names can be found in the portfolio or in the references published on the website of the contractor. You can ask about the general course of the cooperation, if there were delays in implementation, if the contact was understandable and at the appropriate level, and if they would use its services again. Answering these questions can be very helpful for decision making.
Hosting is a place where your website is located, where you can park and pay for your domain and maintain e-mails. It is the foundation for your place on the web. It is important that it is reliable, fast, offers access to modern technologies and has a team of administrators offering assistance in its configuration. Installing a website on a good server will allow you to use its full potential.
Saving several dozen zlotys a year on a cheap hosting service can lead to many misunderstandings and disappointments. As a result of using a weak server infrastructure, your website may slow down in key moments (e.g. before Christmas, when many people shop online), or be vulnerable to hacker attacks. Free CMSs, due to their huge popularity, are often the target of automated attacks. Therefore, it is very important that your hosting has both the right security features and optimal performance to protect you from many problems.
If hosting is included in the price of the website, there is a high probability that it is not a service dedicated to you, but rather a place shared within the virtual server, for which the contractor pays. Such a solution is problematic, because a virtual server by definition means that there are many (from several hundred to even tens of thousands) virtual accounts on a single machine. If you choose to host a website under a hosting agreement that you do not own directly (i.e. you do not have your own account for and do not pay the hosting company for), your website will share resources with other websites under your hosting contractor’s account. Depending on your configuration, this may also allow software from the same account to infect your site with malware.
A much better solution is a proprietary hosting account. You will then have unlimited access to your services (pages, domains, mailboxes), and guaranteed resources in the form of data space, bandwidth, speed of processing requests generated by the site, etc.
It is a good idea to ask for a model agreement together with tender materials. If you do not receive the document in response, it is quite likely that the counterparty does not have it. Signing a well-designed contract with a copyright transfer clause guarantees that you will be able to use the product you have paid for after the work has been completed. Please note that copyrights may only be transferred in writing. Payment of an invoice does not mean that you have the right to publish the website.
If you have an internal resistance to creating a detailed contract and you waste time on it, think about it in terms of a list of tasks and a summary of all e-mail and telephone arrangements with the contractor. In addition to purely formal issues, the contract is an excellent tool that can help to clarify what shape and functionality the final product should contain. In case of doubt, it is always worth returning to the terms of the contract, which may turn out to be easier than copying through long e-mail conversions.
The term “website” is problematic – it can hide under one name both an amateur blogger who describes his cycling trips in Europe, a chain of international shops, and the world’s largest social networking portal. Such a large capacity of this significance makes ordering a commercial website design a big challenge for many people.
If we are unable to analyse the merits of competing offers, our decision is based mainly on price. The final amount in the summary is very easy to compare. However, we often do not realise that the products we are comparing can be extremely different solutions. We decide on a cheaper product, hoping that it will not differ in quality and functionality from the more expensive one, or, on the contrary, we invest a lot of money in a product that we will never fully use.
I hope that the knowledge from this article is useful and will save you unnecessary frustration. Share your comments if you find the article helpful. Also let’s know if you think a thread needs to be developed. This is a very broad topic and it is impossible to exhaust it in a single entry.