Costing up an ecommerce website development project is difficult because a project of this nature can have so many options and elements that are unique to your business.
Usually when you contact an ecommerce web design agency, they’ll be able to give you a ballpark figure, but it’ll be quite vague at this early stage. Any good company will take you through a series of questions to really drill down into the specifics of your project, in order to give you a detailed, itemised quote.
Think of an ecommerce project like building a new house – you need to specify how big it’s going to be, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like your house to have, what style of kitchen you’d like and all the other finishes and nice to haves.
So how do you get from that ballpark price, to “your ecommerce website development project is going to cost £X”?
1) Determine your needs
The term MVP (minimal viable product) gets used quite a bit, but during the early stages, think about what you absolutely must have to ensure your ecommerce website is a success, versus what you’d ideally like to have. The best way to do this is to fire up Excel and create a simple spreadsheet. If you have a document like this, you can ping it over to a few web design companies and they’ll absolutely love you for it, because it will be a great basis for initial discussions. You might think doing this is more of an exercise for the start-ups out there, but we’d argue even if you’re already established selling online, it’s a good exercise to carry out.
2) An off the shelf or custom approach?
This applies to both design and development and will have big cost implications. Let’s look at design first.
There are ecommerce platforms out there that will let you purchase cheap themes so you can get your ecommerce website up and running quickly. Whilst we aren’t fans of this approach, if you are literally just getting started in the business of selling online, have limited funds, require only that your customers pay using PayPal and don’t have any bespoke functionality requirements, then these solutions can be a good way to test the market in an affordable way. If you are looking to create a serious business that has the foundations in place to grow, or are already established, then we’d always recommend bespoke design when it comes to your ecommerce website. You’ll want the way your website and brand looks to be instantly recognisable and tailored to your values, so you can build a connection with your customers going forward. You can find out more about the value of good design for your business here.
In terms of development – again, if you’re looking for standard ecommerce functionality and you’re happy with a design that’s generic, then an off the shelf theme will be a good option for you. If you have more bespoke requirements and want to link up to an accounting package you’ll likely need to work with a company who can offer bespoke ecommerce design and development. You’ve got to weigh up what’s right for your business and your goals/ambitions.
3) Additional costs to consider
Ecommerce web design is complicated – if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re telling you what you want to hear. There are going to be additional costs that you need to be aware of.
The cost of hosting your ecommerce website will vary depending on the amount of traffic your site receives or that you expect to receive. Most agencies charge for hosting on an annual basis, and as a rough ballpark you could be looking at anything between £150 – £250 per year. If you have a large, established ecommerce website that receives a large volume of traffic, then a dedicated server would be a better option, with these being around £150 per month.
To give confidence to your customers and make your site more secure you’ll need to make sure your website has an SSL certificate. This gives your site the “https” prefix in the address bar and also a padlock icon that helps reassure customers too. When an SSL certificate is used, the information from your website becomes unreadable to everyone, except for the server you are sending the information to. Some web design agencies charge for SSL certificates, but there are great free options available, Cloudflare and LetsEncrypt to name just two.
Maintenance / Bug Fixes / Plugin Updates
You’ll likely also need to factor in something like £20-£40 pounds a month for security and maintenance to your website, as many ecommerce platforms utilise plugins which are continuously being updated and improved. Leaving these plugins out of date can leave your ecommerce website vulnerable, so instructing your web design company to look after this on a monthly basis is a must.
Search engine optimisation
Whilst this should absolutely be discussed and considered in great detail at the start of your project, you’ll want to find out from your ecommerce web design company how much they charge for this on an ongoing basis as SEO is ever changing. You might rank first for your key phrase today, but next week you might drop, so if traffic from Google is going to be the primary way you drive traffic to your website, investing in ongoing SEO services is something you’ll need to budget for.
Have you considered how you are going to work with your new ecommerce website day-to-day once it’s up and running? Chances are you and your staff will need some training and/or some documentation so you can be confident adding new products and editing other content. Some web design companies charge extra for this, so make sure you have a discussion with them about it.
4) Migrating products and customers
If you already sell online, you’ll need to talk about migrating your products and customers from your current website to the new ecommerce website that gets built. This is obviously critical and needs to be done smoothly so it’s a simple process for the most important people of all – your customers. Ensure that you feel confident that the company you choose can do this successfully for you.
5) Improving business processes
When you have your ecommerce website redesigned and redeveloped it can often be a good time to look at ways in which you can streamline your business processes. What accounting package do you use? Xero, QuickBooks? You might be interested in getting a quote for functionality that allows orders from your website and your accounting package to sync up effortlessly. Do you use a CRM system? Or do you do email marketing with MailChimp? This could also be a good time to start improving your business processes and have your ecommerce website sync with these kinds of third-party platforms to cut down on administrative tasks.
Embarking on the creation of an ecommerce website from scratch, or redesigning an existing one is a big undertaking – don’t get fooled by smooth talking salespeople that your new site can be delivered in 2 weeks. Any solution worth its weight will take much longer than that. You’ll want to make sure you have accurate expectations and that the web design company you work with have been honest and upfront with you about when your site can be delivered. We’d say that realistically you’ll be looking at 4-8 weeks depending on how complex and bespoke your requirements are.
How much does an ecommerce website really cost in the UK?
The bespoke ecommerce websites we design and develop are typically between £4,000 and £8,000 – that’s how different each project can be. This goes to show that a lot of discussion and research goes into each ecommerce project, so be honest and open with the web designers you talk to, to ensure you get an accurate price.
Top tips from us?
1) Functionality Documents
Always make sure the web design company you choose to build your new ecommerce website produce a document outlining all the required features and functionality. This way nothing gets forgotten or left to chance – it’s all documented and can be checked off during the project. It will also ensure you don’t get charged extra for anything that was initially agreed upon.
2) Speak to two or three agencies
When you are ready to get things moving make sure you speak to two or three web design agencies to see how they handle your enquiry. During the enquiry process you’ll get a good feel for how thorough they are. whether they proactively pick up the phone to call you and also what questions they ask. Request that they quote up your project and go from there. But…
3) Don’t necessarily pick the cheapest option
By going out to two or three ecommerce web design agencies you will get a range of different prices come back, so don’t pick the cheapest by default. Make your decision based on their past results, whether you feel like you can work successfully alongside them (after all this will be a long term partnership) and make sure each quote is actually like for like.
Would you like some further free advice?
If you still have questions and would like some further free advice then feel free to give us a call and speak to Will on 01747 852298. Whether you are thinking of starting an ecommerce website or already have an established site that you are thinking of redesigning, we’re happy to offer help and advice.
Alternatively download our free ecommerce best practice checklist below to get access to a huge amount of tips that will help you make your ecommerce website a success.
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