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Website ROI varies as wildly as website prices. And in most cases, the correlation between the two is fairly linear. Individual cases might prove otherwise but the cheaper the site, the smaller the ROI.

You can get a simple website for your business for as little as a few thousand pounds. But you’ll soon find out that this appealing price tag comes with a lot of hidden costs compared to a full-cycle project. Costs that can cause losses way beyond the fee that you’ve paid.

Building a website is more than design and development

It starts with a little cost here and there. If you get a website in the lower range of a few thousand of pounds, it’s more than likely that you are the one responsible for content and imagery. First hidden costs.

Then there’s a chance that your web designer isn’t familiar with modern best practices. The process is lacking wireframes and they complete the design before you provide the content.

The former will cause redundant design iterations. This will either cost you more money, or the designer will rush these changes, affecting the quality of the final product.

The latter will put a constraint on your copywriters. If their content doesn’t fit inside the designed containers, you’re going back to costly iterations or putting imperfect content onto your site.

These will stretch your budget before the website goes live – and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Website lifespan and payback period

A good website will serve you for a few years, ideally upwards of 4 or 5. This is not to say that you can leave it be for 5 years after launching. Your site will require post-launch maintenance and optimisation, which should be included in your ROI calculations – we’ll cover that later.

The 4-5 year period is a rough estimate that takes into the account the technology

On the other hand, a bad website might require a redesign much sooner. And on top of that, you’re likely not getting any maintenance for it. The lack of post-launch support is one of the top complaints our clients have about their previous websites, built on a budget.

That’s not to say that a cheaper website has to be a waste of money. But we also have to consider the payback period. Spending £3,000 and getting it back after two years doesn’t exactly support small business growth. By the time you’re supposed to profit, you might need a full website redesign again.

Refined websites have much shorter payback periods, often in the range of just a few months, depending on the requirements and your business model.

Data-driven websites boost the ROI

As much as you may not like it, the website you’re building isn’t for you. Of course, your team will work on it behind the scenes and there are several website integrations that improve internal workflows. But ultimately, it’s all about converting visitors. Your visitors.

Building a website on a budget will give you a generic product, either reflecting your preferences or the designer’s. Your website will be a blend of features and design choices that work elsewhere. But collectively, they won’t work for you.

Approaching a website without data analysis and a strategy will lead to wrong choices – and there’s simply no room for that in a tight budget. You’ll get “what works best” for others, but not for your business.

Website loading speed

Websites aren’t made equal. There are multiple solutions for every problem but it’s not black-and-white. The same functional feature can cost you £100 and £500. Both will work, but they might not be optimised equally.

Of course, there’s always a chance that the cheaper one will perform better – but most of the time, that’s not the case. And even a fraction of a second of delay causes business websites to lose money.

There’s no ROI without SEO

And like above, there are various SEO approaches. You could achieve similar results using different strategies but to this day we are seeing lots of agencies using “black hat SEO” – outdated techniques which are punished by Google.

Modern SEO has changed drastically. For the first time, SEO professionals don’t see keywords as the number one ranking factor. Google is expecting website owners to produce relevant content and provide visitors with better user experience.

Their sophisticated algorithms can recognise synonyms that you wouldn’t even think of. They can decipher acronyms and abbreviations. If Google sees that this article provides value to you, we could rank for the full “return on investment” term even if we never used it.

But it wouldn’t be natural to see “ROI” all the time. For the first time ever, SEO is about writing for the user, not for robots.

Post-launch maintenance and optimisation

It’s not common to include post-launch maintenance costs in the initial quote. As such, this is an additional cost to consider when calculating your ROI. If your website cost £10,000 to build and the maintenance is £1,800 a year, you’ll be using £11,800 in your as the cost of your investment.

(Un)expected costs

Some website costs are harder to categorise for you as a client.

They aren’t hidden, because it’s not something that’s caused by a faulty process.

They aren’t expected, because you’re not aware of them on the day of launch – and frankly, neither are we.

But they aren’t unexpected either. Our experience shows that many websites require additional work charged separately as early as a month after the launch. With how complex websites are, it’s difficult for companies to anticipate every single aspect.

As a web agency, we’re doing everything to assist you by finding out about your workflows and often suggesting features that our visitors love but they never even crossed their minds. During our projects, we stay around for 2 months after the launch delivering free analysis and optimisation to deliver the best product and iron out any misjudgements.

The new website is a big deal for several departments in your company – most notably marketing and sales. There are things that can’t be predicted before you get familiar with your new tools and incorporate them into your workflows.

These are the (un)expected costs we talk about – you don’t know about them, but we do, from our experience. As a rule of thumb, we suggest assuming that these additional tasks could cost up to 5-10% of the initial website fee.

Buy cheap, buy twice

Websites were never cheaper. In the early days of the Internet, simple sites were going for hundreds of thousands. It was a novelty, and the supply of designers and developers was low.

These days you can learn to create basic, functional sites in a few weeks, or use a website creator with a monthly fee (here’s why you shouldn’t use website builders). The supply is definitely higher than the demand – but it’s also not as straightforward.

Business websites can be much more than just a “website”. They can be your marketing hub, sales platform, customer support tool, and much more. It’s a full-blown investment – and you don’t invest money based on the cost alone.

Your losses are potentially more than just the fee. The £5,000 website can lose you leads worth thousands of dollars over the years, while a £30,000 one could reach a six-digit revenue in its first year. The difference in price might seem huge at first but that’s exactly why we’ve covered this topic.

Businesses often overlook the return on investment when building a website. ROI is at the core of their every action but somehow it slips their mind when it comes to their digital identity.

Originally published Oct 25, 2019 11:55:13 AM, updated December 12 2023.

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