In order to keep current, most companies perform major updates to their website every three to five years. Such a project can span a huge range in cost, from as little as $10,000 to up to millions of dollars depending on many factors. Any article you find giving dollar amounts in response to this question are likely oversimplifying the question and making assumptions about your project that result in misleading numbers.

Pricing a web redesign project requires a deep dive into many qualifying questions that help define just how big your bread box needs to be.

This post outlines qualifiers to help you prepare for questions that will come up during a pricing exercise, and to understand up-front decisions that will help you control or at least understand the numbers as they come in.

In-House, Outsource, or Agency

Who will plan and build the new site? Answering this question is a first step towards a pricing exercise. You can estimate effort in days and hours for the tasks that make up your project, but whether you’re using sunk-cost internal resources, outsourcing parts of the project, or handing it off altogether to an agency, you will apply substantially different rate multipliers and can have a huge impact on overall cost.

Research

Researching what should go into your site in terms of user experience, functionality, and design considerations requires research into the target audience, how they interact with the current site (if one exists), and insight into both direct and analytic feedback on what would improve their experience on the site.

This research may be done by your marketing team ahead of the project just to justify the expense. But if these questions haven’t been considered, consider who will perform this research. This type of research can easily take multiple resources months to collect.

Bob Ross or Andy Warhol?

Design is one of those “you get what you pay for” commodities. What’s the difference between a designer who charges $50 per hour and one that charges $500 per hour? Their portfolio and resume. If you’re looking at the Apple website and wanting that level of industry leading design vision for your site, ask yourself whether you’re willing to pay what Apple pays their art director and supporting team.

Of course, not every website needs a visionary designer. A more reasonably priced design resource can successfully mimic existing designs, interpreting current design trends for your audience and purpose. Base your design decision on the combination of portfolio and cost.

Design Complexity

Complexity must also be considered in design cost. If your site is fairly simple and will consist of just a few different types of pages, a designer won’t need to spend lots of time working out different layouts and multi-layered navigation schemes (they may even be able to use a template). Requirements leading to design complexity include very large and nested taxonomies, multiple areas with unique design requirements (are you serving a number of different target audiences?) and development of custom artwork and/or photography to support the content will drastically increase the cost of your website.

Reskin or Replatform?

Established businesses can choose whether to simply reskin their existing site or start from scratch. A visual design update with some minor content reorganization on an existing site can be done quite economically. But if the current site isn’t meeting the content management or functionality requirements of your team or is on a platform that is no longer supported, you will need to include the additional cost of rebuilding from scratch.

This increases the development effort of the project and, depending on your selected platform, may add substantial licensing fees.

If you’re talking to agencies, be sure to include one or two that have experience in your current platform. They can advise whether a reskin will save money or not. On the other hand, if you are making huge sweeping changes to content and/or functionality, you may find the cost of a replatform is similar or even less expensive compared to working within your existing site. In that case, using an agency with specific experience in your platform isn’t important unless you are committed to it.

New or Changed Functionality

Functionality on a website includes features like custom quote generators, calculators, faceted search, filtering and sorting large amounts of data. Anything that isn’t a simple page of content a marketer can enter into a CMS requires development time to plan, implement, and test. Taking the time to consider what functionality you’re looking for and defining it as a high level will aid in getting estimates for development. Prioritizing these features can help you right-size your budget once estimates are collected.

Back Office Integrations

If your website requires integration with back-end systems like customer databases, an ERP or vendor integrations, you’ll need to consider how updating your site will impact these. Such systems are typically managed by your internal IT department, and they are the best resource to help you understand the impact of a redesign along with any new or changed functionality that might impact existing integrations. As part of a project, your IT team will work with the team building the site to establish clean boundaries between the website and the back-end systems. Having this information up front will simplify the pricing process.

These are all points to consider in pricing your corporate website project, whether you’ll build it internally or use an agency.