When you’re looking for an affordable business website it’s important to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO). Unlike some business purchases, such as an office chair where the TCO is generally the same as the sticker price, buying a website generally involves some sort of ongoing cost, such as domain registration, hosting, maintenance as well as content or design changes. In this article, we will consider each of these aspects to help you compare apples with apples when shopping for a business website, and make sure you get the best value for your money.

Not all website prices are created equal

Venturing into the world of business website shopping can be scary, intimidating and confusing – and you thought buying an office laptop was bad enough. Googling “affordable business websites” brings up pages of potential vendors. Where to start? The first results may not always be the best value for your business; they may just have spent more on optimising their website for Google to appear higher in the results. A lot of vendors don’t provide accurate pricing or obscure the pricing by listing a “monthly” price with no upfront costs but expensive long-term contracts.

Other variations with website packages can include optional extras such as content management systems (CMS), interactive forms, custom design, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), logos or email services. And, once again, no prices are listed making comparison extremely difficult. In the end, you may just give up on trying to find a website provider with the help of Google and just end up asking friends or business colleagues for their recommendation.

What are some common website expenses?

To help clear things up here’s a list of the common costs associated with a business website, and some valuable questions to ask when talking to a website supplier.

Hosting – Hosting is needed to make your website live and able to be viewed on the world wide web. All PogoStick websites include free hosting for the first 12 months, and after that there is a $6.50 a month fee, which also includes domain renewal. We don’t put limits on your hosting either, like some providers that restrict your traffic or website size. Using fast, secure US-based servers we can avoid expensive NZ hosting and the potential problems of local hosting (such as the Christchurch earthquake). It is worth checking hosting fees since they can be outrageously expensive!

Email services – When you get a website, normally you will want email services too. No point buying a fancy new domain name if you still have to advertise that unprofessional-looking Hotmail email address. The extra cost can be off-putting however, especially if your budget is limited. At PogoStick, email services are included at no extra cost. We use the flexible, yet powerful, Zoho solution that not only provides you with web-based email (that can be collected using Microsoft Outlook or a mobile app if required) but also offers additional features such as a company intranet and online document storage and collaboration.

Content management – The content of your website is the text that fills in the pages. For your initial setup will you need to write your own content or will they do it? How much will that cost? Will you be able to edit your own web pages? Or will you need to pay for every change? We offer you the choice to do it yourself for free and let us do it for you at a very reasonable hourly rate. The content management system (CMS) that comes free with every PogoStick website is easy to use, and lots of tutorials are available.

Future changes – What options are there for future changes of my website, such as branding updates, new pages, current promotions or new features such as online forms? How much can I do myself (using the CMS)? Is the website platform open or proprietary (meaning that it will be difficult or expensive to transfer to another provider)? We use WordPress, one of the world’s most popular open platforms, which means if you want to switch to another company it’s absolutely free to take your entire website somewhere else, and there are many WordPress developers and trainers to choose from, so there are no risks with a PogoStick website!

Opportunity costs – This is one that’s often overlooked because it’s not a direct expense you “pay” for, however it’s a trap that can seriously cost you. Some places, like Yola, VistaPrint or Wix, offer “free” websites. Supported by ads or URLs that they own the website might be free but it could be costing you in lost sales. These types of websites often present a poor image for your business, and it can scare away potential sales. It’s a cost that you can’t put a number on but it’s worth taking into account. Our website packages offers additional styling and design but even our cheapest package allows a professional look that will send out the right message for your business.

Don’t get stuck with a website your business can’t afford

Recently, talking to a business friend, she told me that she wanted to make some changes to her existing website. I gave her a quote for the changes but, as much as she would have liked to take up the offer, she discovered that she was essentially locked into her current provider and the cost of making the changes was exorbitant. This highlights the potential pitfall of choosing certain providers that will build your website using their own proprietary systems – it means that when it comes to future changes or development you will most likely be stuck with them, unable to choose a different, more reasonably-priced provider.

If you’re buying a website it pays to ask a potential vendor for details of these costs so there are no nasty surprises when it comes to paying both the initial, and any future invoices. That’s one thing you’ll find with our cheap PogoStick websites is our “sticker price” is all inclusive – website build, design, CMS, hosting and email services. The complete package. As for ongoing costs, you’ll only pay $9.90 a month to cover hosting and domain renewal.

So before you sign up for that new business website make sure you understand the TCO, all costs (both short and long term) of owning the website. Don’t get locked in to a website that seemed good to start with but burdens your business with expensive ongoing fees or long term contracts that are either difficult or expensive to change. By doing your homework before committing to that new website you’ll enjoy the best value website for your business without any unnecessary expenses. If there’s anything here you want more detail on, or would like to enquire about one of our website packages, feel free to get in touch.

What’s the real cost of that business website?