Skyway Consulting: your home- and e-business support team


What It Really Take$ to Run a Website

A question many ask is "Roughly how much is a website going to cost me?" There's just no fast answer; it depends on what you want your website to do for you. Here are some things to consider in order to refine that question into something that actually can be answered.

Remember, though: a website isn't a goal in itself. Your website is a tool that can help you accomplish one or more goals. If it doesn't do the job you want done, then it's not the right tool for this circumstance.

A website that functions merely as an online business card can be quite low-cost. A website supporting your blog or a flip-through gallery of photos requires more extensive technology, meaning higher setup (and often maintenance) costs. Costs for an e-commerce website can run quite a bit higher still.

The Basics

A domain name such as "" You can do your own research at provider sites (look up "getting a domain name" in your favorite browser). This usually is an annual fee and can range from quite low (and often transient) special offers to perhaps $35 per year.

Website hosting on a server (look up "website hosting"). Hosting is what makes it possible for someone to actually see "" over the Internet. The files have to be held somewhere (a server) that can make them available to the public. Estimate about $30 per month for this.

A design that presents your content in an agreeable, user-friendly package. We can provide design, if you like, but if you like you also could do it yourself through any of several hosting companies that offer customizable templates. (Such businesses often handle several of these items in a "bundled" pricing arrangement.)

Content. This is the material that your customers can read on your site. You can create it yourself or have us create it for you. Remember, though, that it's a rare website indeed that you can set up and then never revisit. Most websites need, at minimum, occasional housecleaning and updating to avoid becoming stale. Therefore:

Website maintainance is something to factor in. This includes those content updates you don't want or are not technically set up to do yourself. A website that is published and then sits quietly, an unchanging monolith, for years can both look and feel "stale." The impression of staleness can influence the perception of potential customers who first encounter you online.

The care and feeding of a webmaster

Can you run your own website? Notwithstanding the technical challenges, do you have enough spare time to capture, polish, and integrate your marketing strategy into your website so that your online customers can find your great products and services? If not, you might want to consider hiring a webmaster to manage both your website and its content.

Engaging a webmaster, though, doesn't mean you never have to think about it again. In most cases there's a nearly constant demand for new material---from you, the website owner: the source of all business and marketing decisions---in order to keep the website fresh and appealing to your customers.

It's a process that cannot happen in a vacuum, yet it's something people rarely talk about when thinking about what a website costs. It costs time, at an hourly rate.

Hire a webmaster and you're engaging in a long-term collaboration with another person over the health and wellbeing of your website. Don't hire one, and you commit to handling it yourself. We can work with either option. You have to decide what's right for you.

What about e-commerce?

To participate in full-on e-commerce, you used to need:

Shopping cart technology (look up—wait for it—"shopping cart technology"). This is what displays the items from your online store so that users can order. Your shopping cart also collects the user's information on payment and shipping.

A merchant account. This is an account with a bank or other financial institution that makes it possible for you to accept credit card payments.

A payment gateway and virtual terminal. This is the connection between your shopping cart and your merchant account. It's like an electronic cash register and records keeper in one, and is what lets you view transactions, manage orders, and issue refunds.

A secure site certificate. Having a secure site means that the information moving between your customer's computer and your website is encrypted, and secure from theft.

Unless you had some unusual way to handle these items, each involves monthly or annual fees.

There are, however, easier-on-the-pocketbook alternatives to a full e-commerce setup. (Consider obtaining the book Beyond Amazon, eBay, and Etsy: free and low-cost alternative marketplaces, shopping cart solutions and e-commerce storefronts by Hillary DePiano, latest edition 2013.)

Regardless of the type of site you want, you may want professional placement and search engine optimization (SEO) to bring your website to the attention of people doing searches for certain keywords. If this is of interest to you, look up "search engine optimization" or "search marketing."

Again, you have to decide what's right for you. Feel free to contact us for a consultation.