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How much does it cost to build a brown house?

By Dawn Sailors   •   8 March, 2011



How much does it cost to build a brown house?

In Web Design by Dawn Sailors     Comment Bubble  Leave a Comment      Like

At Iridian Group, and we get asked “How much does it cost to build a website?” all the time.  The person asking it typically wants us to throw out a nice, round number.

Instead, we often counter with “How much does it cost to build a brown house?”

It’s an analogy we use all the time to kind of put things into perspective.  A brown house can be anything – from a one-bedroom shack with no plumbing and a dirt floor to a multi-bedroom mansion with state of the art security system and a robot butler.  Websites are no different – and it’s difficult to quote price when you don’t know what “features” need to be built in.

Another example of a question that we get as it relates to website costs is “I need a five page website. How much will it cost to build that?” The challenge is the same – you can have a static five page website with just content on it, or you could have a five page website with streaming video, shopping carts, Flash animation and dynamic content that’s tied to an internal database.  Those are completely different rooms and there are different costs attached.

Well, great, you’re probably thinking.  So how do you get to the point of price, guys?

We start with a map.  Just like when you build a house and need a blueprint, when you build a website, you need a map.  We work with each client to map out their website bringing in stakeholders from every area that may be affected by the website.  Once we get them in the room, we talk about a number of things, including:

• What the goals for the site and overall marketing goals for the company are, and how the website can assist with meeting those goals.
• How the client currently communicates with customers, and whether or not we can improve some labor-intensive processes with electronic communications.
• What information they want to put on the site – and we view it with an outsider’s perspective that can say whether more or less information is needed.
• Company structure, and how it may relate to what content goes on a website (especially any internal databases) and how the website needs to be structured.
• Who will help the company keep their site information current.

During these meetings, we usually aren’t talking about graphics or the visuals of the website.  The is about organization and laying the ground work for the structure of the site. Look and feel is another thing entirely, and comes after finalizing the mapping process.   It is at this time, too, that we can price the website for the client.  While we do charge for the mapping process – it is a lot of time and expertise – if the client does go on to develop the website with us, we deduct the cost of the mapping from the final cost of the website.  If a client is interested in seeing what other people would charge to build a website from our blueprint, they are welcome to pass on our map of their “brown house” to compare costs.

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