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Calculating Online Investment and Profit for an eCommerce Business Website

Right now, it seems that every man, woman and pet monkey wants to jump into eCommerce with an eCommerce Business Website and get their business online. And why not? Many of the changes caused by the Covid pandemic will be permanent. Are you ready for the challenge?

A Typical Business Moving Online

We have built online properties of various types, including eCommerce Business Websites for a range of companies. But we can't write an article about them all, so in this article, we'll focus on one type of company , and refer to others as helpfully as we can. We'll doubtless write full articles on other types of business soon.

Welcome To Julie's Home Jewelry

Julie lives in Sydney. She's been  retailing and making beautiful home-crafted jewelry for a few years and selling through local stores and a network of friends.  In particular, her moonstone bracelets are selling well. She wants to grow her business without the expense of opening her own store and to take a greater profit than she does from local stores. She has a reliable supplier  and wants to increase sales - the capacity exists but the sales channels are not sufficient.

The latter point is important -

 "...if you are selling product and do not have the capacity to supply more, then there's really no point in moving online, unless it will make a substantial difference to your profits - and it's the journey to profitability we are discussing today." - Keith Rowley

First Considerations for an eCommerce Business Website

Current Business Summary


Selling Price

Cost price

Gross Margin

Average product

$45

$10

$35

Let's say that July is selling 50 of these moonstone bracelets per month, and has the capacity to supply another 150/month. This seems like a good opportunity. But is it? At those prices, she stands to gross an additional $5,250/month (Gross Profit before advertising costs) if she can sell all of them. Let's take a closer look at this.

What Julia wants to Sell Online

Julia is selling a Moonstone Bracelet as shown here:

moonstone bracelet on an eCommerce Business Website

Image belongs to WISH - Follow link to buy! (We do NOT own this image or product)

Goals for Julia's eCommerce Business Website

  1. 1
    To sell 150 Moonstone Bracelets per month
  2. 2
    To plan and achieve a net profit of $20 per item minimum (allowing $15 per item for advertising costs)
  3. 3
    To sell the bracelets nationally across Australia, not just locally as she is currently doing.

Getting Business Started Online : The First Mistakes

This is where 99% of business people make a huge mistake and immediately lunge to buy an eCommerce Business Website. Then they make the second mistake and immediately search for the cheapest supplier.

"Do NOT Assume You Need an eCommerce Business Website - Do the Numbers First" - Keith Rowley

Things to Consider before an eCommerce Business Website

The only objective of a eCommerce Business Website is to get your product in front of customers. No matter which method you choose, you will face competition. Here are some methods of presenting your products online along with the main methods you can use to promote them. As you will see, we do NOT recommend all the options in the table, but they are there so that we can explain.

Online Sales Platforms and Promotion Methods

Sales Platform

Promotion Method 1

Promotion Method 2

promotion Method 3

eCommerce Business Website

Facebook Ads

Shopify Store

SEO

Google Ads

Facebook Ads

Amazon Store

Amazon Ads

SEO

Google Ads

Facebook Store

Facebook Ads

SEO

Google Ads

The Facebook Store

Here are the key points for selling products on Facebook:

"To sell products on Facebook, you first need a dedicated Facebook page for your business (not your personal page). Next, either connect your ecommerce platform to Facebook or upload your product category manually. Then, you’ll have to market your products and your Facebook Shop through ads, contests, and boosted posts."  - Fitsmallbusiness.com

So it's clear that you need an eCommerce platform (eCommerce Business Website or other options as noted below) to enable setting up a Facebook shop. We therefore consider that a Facebook shop is a great place to expand your shopping efforts to, but is not your first point of call to establish online sales. However, unless you live in the USA, you cannot accept payments on a Facebook shop, so even with a Facebook  shop, you need another platform. 

A Shopify Store Platform

This is a popular way to set up a eCommerce Business Website. We won't go into the technicalities here as our focus is on cost, save to say that we think that most people who are comfortable with computers should be able to set up a basic store without help.

The basic costs US$30 per month (AU$43/month). However, that is basic and as soon as you learn about other features needed to make your store more attractive and improve conversion, you start paying for plugins' that charge a monthly fee. We found that our monthly bill easily increased to around AU$75/month which is A$900 per annum.

Of course, there are other eCommerce  Business Websites stores like Shopify you can use, but for cost illustration purposes, we'll stop at that and move on. The key point is that Shopify will cost you around A$900 per annum - forever!

Selling on Amazon FBA and Self-Fulfillment

Selling on Amazon is a journey and requires considerable time to learn how to get products into the store, price them properly and advertise. A professional Amazon account costs US$40 or A$57 monthly - but that's just an admin fee so we need to take a closer look and at the FBA program and seller-fulfillment in particular.

The Amazon FBA Program means 'Fulfilled by Amazon' which means that once your items have been received into Amazon's warehouses, Amazon takes it from there and takes orders, delivers and so on. With 'Your Fulfillment' you sell on Amazon but ship yourself. 

However, Amazon also provides refunds to customers at the drop of a hat, and you have to factor in such losses. Here is a Amazon FBA and 'Your Fulfillment' calculation. The cost of the product to Julie is shown as $10 - the rest is self explanatory.

fba calculator

On the surface this looks great, either with or without FBA but here are the problems we found when selling on Amazon instead of of selling on our own eCommerce Business Website.:

  • The downward price pressure on Amazon from other sellers is relentless - absolutely relentless. You need really unique products to avoid this.
  • Amazon advertising costs are not  shown. They are not cheap and they eat into your profit. Looking at the calculation above, after paying Amazon, you have between $23 and $26 left to pay for advertising and make a profit, depending on which way you fulfil the order.
  • If your product is not in the 'Buy Box' then people won't see it let alone buy it - thus the Amazon Ads costs are inevitable.
  • Amazon has a 'no quibble refunds policy' that heavily favors customers over buyers.
  • There is no guarantee that if your product really takes off, that Amazon won't simply copy it and sell it under their own brand - although Amazon denies this very strongly. For very small sellers this is no issue. 
  • Amazon can disallow or restrict your product at any time and simply stop you selling. You then have to pay for the removal and/or disposal of your inventory. 

Amazon Ad Costs

The key point to note in this example is that net profit is now around $23 - $26 per item depending on FBS or non FBA sales. The profit target that Julie has is $20 per item, and before advertising, she meets this. But she will certainly NOT meet this target when Amazon advertising costs are added.

In this project, Julie wants to sell 150 items per month.  Let's assume that that's 5 per day. At five per day, and $20 profit each we see $100 per day total profit after Amazon costs. Our experience shows us that we would need to spend at least $50.  Here are some independent numbers from another cool site, shoppingfeed (converted to A$):

  • Average Cost Per Click: $1.38 (For a High Volume Seller - So real costs will be higher) 
  • ACOS - Average Advertising Cost of Sales: 34%

Those figures are critical. A click does not mean a sale. Let's say you get 10% conversion from clicks to sales (which is very good), then each sale will be costing you $13.80. Julies's net profit has now dropped to $6.20. If the conversion rate is 5% (which we think is normal for most products) then Julie is running at a loss.

We've been through this with a $10k branded product investment and despite working the numbers quite assiduously, we lost money.

The Upside of Amazon vs an eCommerce Business Website

  • You don't need a website
  • You don't need SEO
  • Every person on Amazon is there to buy - not to get information or anything else - just to buy
  • FBA takes all the delivery tasks off your hands at a fair cost and frees you to look after your business
  • The communications with sellers is excellent - they will always let you know what's going on and the records of stock and sales is superb.
  • Once you are used to it, selling on Amazon is fun!

The Downside of Amazon

Amazon vs eCommerce Business W
  • Intensely price competitive - many vendors have auto-software that will undercut your prices automatically. Many don't mind making a loss for a while just  to get rid of competition.
  • You can be banned at any time
  • All the fees together + advertising costs make it tough to make a profit
  • You must budget for customer returns beyond what you might expect. Amazon tries to be fair but their customer comes first always. 
  • If you are very successful, some people have claimed that Amazon cloned their product - we do not know if this is true and Amazon denies it. Do your research.
  • You will need to learn how to get stock into Amazon's warehouse. The system is actually excellent so this is not really a down-point - just learning. 
  • If your stock does not sell fast enough, Amazon will charge you storage fees.

On our first attempt at selling a branded product from China, we invested around $10k and lost about 25%. We were novices and we could have done better. We also entered the most competitive niche on the whole site - Essential Oils and Diffusers.  Try it with a slow start if you go this route! We suggest an initial investment no greater than $500 for newbies - and write that off as school fees just in case!

Your Own eCommerce Business Website

This is often, and quite naturally, the first port of call for those starting off their eCommerce adventure.  We're going to start by referring you to our article on what an eCommerce Business Website is so that we don't repeat ourselves here. Just click on the image to catch up if you need to:

ecommerce Business website

A PAGE FROM OUR ECOMMERCE SITE MYSTICAL BREATH

eCommerce Business Website Cost

A competently built eCommerce Business Website will cost around $4000 from most reputable and capable design houses.  This is a capital cost that you can write off against taxes over three years. The design house may include hosting, logo design and support or may not - be sure so that you don't have unbudgeted costs. Here's a list of factors that will determine costs:

  • Number of products to be listed
  • Number of product images needed
  • Type of payment mechanism
  • Level of SEO on-site implementation
  • Logo design if required - Budget around $250
  • Hosting (good hosting essential  (budget around $20/month including basic support)

So you have your website up, and the running costs are known. What are the other expenses and how do you make a profit? These tables will help and should be  self-explanatory. First though, some typical data if we advertise on Facebook:

  1. 1
    Facebook Ad Cost per Thousand Views (CPM): $25 (which is reasonable for a good ad despite what others say - we've been running ads for years. our ads usually start at a CPM of up to $80 which decreases over a couple of days for our best ads.)
  2. 2
    Facebook Ad Clicks per Thousand Views at 5% Click Through Rate (CTR) - this is good. The average CTR for all industries is 0.9% 
  3. 3
    Daily Ads Budget $50 (work up to this and more after finding an ad that works. In general start on $10/day)
  4. 4
    For our daily budget, we get 2000 views per day and 100 Clicks 

So we have purchased 100 clicks per day to our product on out website. But what is our website conversion from visitors to purchasers?  Across industries, the average landing page conversion rate was 2.35%, yet the top 25% are converting at 5.31% or higher (Wordstream). We'll work on 2.0% for convenience. 

This gives us 2.0 sales for our $50 daily budget. At a pre-advertising GP   of $35 per product we have a profit of $70-$50 = $20. 

The important thing about this result is that you have an ad that is at least profitable and as such it can be scaled up. A good Ad with lots of comments and likes will drop the CPM a lot - maybe down as low as $8 when it really gets going. 

Free Ads Profit Calculator (Use for Facebook or Similar CPM Ad Platform)

This should be useful for you. Just enter data as you would for any calculator - it's live and it works.

So let's see where we are with Julie now and enter the following numbers into the calculator above:

  • Gross profit on product $35 (selling price - cost price)
  • Ad Cost CPM $25
  • Ad Click Through Rate 5(%)
  • Website Conversion Rate 2.5 (%)
  • Daily Budget: $20

Done it? What the numbers show is that at these performance levels, Julie is selling one product a day at a cost of $20 in advertising.  So her net profit is now $15 reduced from $35 and she's only selling one per day.

Reducing the Ad CPM and Increasing the Budget

Now let's assume the ad gets better and better over a few days and the algorithm learns, and keep the budget the same but drop the CPM cost to $15.

What we now see is that sales are two per day, with a net profit each of $26.75 or $53 per day.

Your eCommerce Business Website profitability is hugely dependent on the quality of your ads and the resultant CPM on Facebook!

But Julie needs to sell 5 per day, so we need to increase the advertising budget - now that we know the ad is profitable - not before!  Using the calculator with the  daily budget set to $50/day.

We now see the following:

  • Daily Sales: 5.2 Units
  • Net profit Daily $132 or $25 per item

NOTE: IF YOU USE FACEBOK ADS ONLY INCREASE THE DAILY AD BUDGET ON AN AD THAT PEFFROMS WELL BY ABOUT 10% - 15% PER DAY. IF YOU INCREASE TOO MUCH TOO SOON, THE AD WILL START IT LEARNING PHASE ALL OVER AGAIN AND SALES WILL DROP - ANFD MAYBE NOT RECOVER.

That's enough on Facebook!

Using SEO Profitably on an eCommerce Business Website

SEO profitability calculations are a bit more involved but still essentially simple. We use arithmetic not mathematics! Here is the starting sequence of activities before Julie or you should spend anything at all. bear in mind that SEO campaigns take 2 to 3 months to show results - just the first movements in your ranking.

  • Decide on local SEO or National SEO
  • Determine the keywords that people are searching for using search volume and intent to purchase as the key factors 
  • Determine how competitive those keywords are
  • Calculate how many visitors a month you need to create the volume of sales you need for the conversion rates to expect. 
  • Look for your competitors and analyze their websites - how authoritative, location of business, links etc. Benchmark your own website and see where you stand in the search engine rankings 
  • Look for low-hanging fruit in the keywords
  • Decide if this is for you! If you are not confident or do not intend to be in the business in a year's time then rather use advertising than SEO. You may wish to use advertising anyway at the beginning until you are getting enough organic traffic from your SEO efforts.

Let's look at some examples.

Example SEO Calculations for Profitability on an eCommerce Business Website

Keyword

Search Volume (Semrush)

Difficulty/

Competition

Cost Per Click A$ (Google Ads)

Moonstone Bracelet

210

High (82%)

0.45

Georg Jensen Moonstone Bracelet

90

medium (50%)

0.0

Moonstone Engagement Ring

50

High (80%)

0.0

What we have here is a very competitive, very low volume keyword. It's competitive because it's a definite product that people search for and it has no geographical anchor for the seller, so the competition is nation-wide. Furthermore, the search results page are an absolute nightmare for a seller using normal SEO. look at this:

Australian Search results

The whole top of the page is dominated by ADS. After that, the top ranking site is etsy -  a major player that's very, very hard to beat - and simply not worth the effort with this product. 

In a nutshell, this product will simply not make money from SEO investment and it's hard to see how the advertised products do either! Remember - those search numbers are monthly nationwide for Australia!

What Should Julia Invest her SEO Spend in then?

Unless she has a highly profitable product with high search volumes, Julia needs to go both local and generic. She should not be spending money on SEO for this product, but rather using advertising to profit from impulse buyers. If she wants to benefit from SEO she needs to define:

  • A Niche in the jewelry  market with multiple products e.g. Christian Jewelry, Indigenous Jewelry etc
  • Keywords for the national market - volumes, competition
  • A 'expert niche' blog so that she can gain Google's trust as an expert in the niche and provide customers with background information on products

Having done these things, Julie should plan an initial six month SEO exercise, using the methods shown above, planning costs and profit every month. 

Conclusions

Never 'jump' into an eCommerce adventure without a full-on business plan that includes investigation into the sales channels available. It's that simple - and that hard. Have fun.

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Flat Design or Skeuomorphic Design? Strategies for Business Websites

Flat Design or Skeuomorphic Design for Business Websites - The Choice is Yours

Flat vs skeuomorphic design

Flat vs skeuomorphic design - Credit Thrive Themes

What is Flat Design?

Flat Design is the technique used to design  websites and their image artifacts without trying to make them look as though they come from the real world.  You can see in the image above that the Flat Design on the right hand side literally does look flat. The original design (on the left)  is a beautiful 3D skeuomorphic construct with color gradients that looks like a porcelain ball. Which do you prefer? Which ones will impress your customers more? What would the adoption of this technique mean for your business website?

What are the features of a Flat Website Design?

flat design example

FLAT DESIGN EX

The above image shows a quintessential example of flat or minimalistic website design (Please take a look - it has many interesting features). These are the key features:

  • The only 3D or Shadowed elements are the buttons
  • All the images are simple, flat PNG files
  • The carefully selected colors (see below) have no gradients applied
  • There are no 'background images' (such as we have on our own landing page

What are the benefits of Flat Website Design?

Speed

The biggest single benefit of Flat Website Design has to be speed. The simplified construction contains a lot less information than complex pages, but of course there is a price to pay (see below).

Simplicity

A Flat website design website is much easier to maintain and change than a normal/complex/realistic skeuomorphic design.  It has strong appeal to people who enjoy minimalism.

What is the Downside of Flat or Minimalistic Website Design?

These designs, if not precisely crafted with attention to detail, color choices and User Interface (UI) can look amateurish, old-fashioned and cheap. they have limited applications in websites that sell products, but can still be used to good effect with a balanced approach.

Taking a Balanced Design Approach to Business Websites

When our customer decides to use this specifically minimalist website design approach, we do the following:

  • Select a color scheme that matches the brand - use complimentary colors (see below)
  • Design all user interactive artifacts such as buttons with shadow and other features to make the stand off the page
  • Match the color scheme to the logo
  • Use the same flat, minimalistic design throughout the website, but compromise where real images are needed - this will make them stand out beautifully. 

The Role of Color in Website Design

Color is always important in web design, but in flat design, it's downright critical! That's because the low complexity of flat design focuses the mind on color as a key factor:

"One benefit of using complementary colors is that the opposing color naturally draws the viewer's eye. So, if you want to really make a CTA (Call to Action) pop and capture the reader's attention, you should use the opposite color on the color wheel for the CTA. " - Brand Dignity

Color Wheel

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. You can learn more about the use of colors on this cool site.

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Sixteen Questions to Ask A Website Designer – Before You Buy

16 Questions to ask a website developer

Most people don’t know what questions to ask a website designer before they commit to an expensive purchase. This article will definitely help you.

Here at Sydney Business Web, even though we have our own technology supplier, we get inundated with offers for website building, SEO and so much more.

We like to keep our eyes open for new developments and trends, so occasionally we ask to see samples of work - and that's where the fun begins. We can see clearly why so many small businesses and individuals end up with unusable websites.

Slow Websites Kill Business

Recently, we were contacted by a company who claimed great things in the field of website building and who sent us examples. They shall remain nameless! We quickly ran one of their websites through GTMetrix to get a speed measurement for desktop. The result over two tests was 10s to load - which is dreadful.

Most people will simply move on after waiting more than 4s. So then we thought, maybe that was a bad example, and we tested another of their sites. This time it took 20s to load on desktop with a broadband network.

Questions to ask a website designer - how fast will my website be?

Questions to Ask Your Website Designer - How Fast Will it Be? - This one is awful!

Bad website designers blame the customer

We told this company about our results, and this is what they said: 

"...just so you know, there are many factors affecting web speed like server, scripts, site features. We always try to optimize the speed, but clients who don't have enough knowledge about web speed will upload images/videos that are not optimized before on the site. So, it can make the site slower ... and some of our clients even didn't require us to optimize the speed so that they can save some money..." - COMPANY REP

So there you have it. They build websites that do not perform and blame the customer. If you think the point about customer uploads is valid, it's not. A properly built website will optimize images when they are uploaded. Videos are almost never hosted on a website - they are hosted somewhere like YouTube and played on the site through a special technique.  And as for paying more money to speed up your website - that's a truly appalling statement. 

So when you choose a website supplier, make sure you know what you are getting. Make sure you know which questions to ask a website developer before you buy.

Questions to ask a website designer

Question 1:  How fast will the website load on desktop with a broadband network?

Although around half of website queries are now on mobile, the desktop is still hugely important. The speed measurement is much less demanding than it is on a mobile, so if it’s slow on a desktop, it’s going to be unusable on a mobile. We specify a broadband network to be fair – website speed is after all limited by network speed and broadband is widely available.

How fast should a website load on a desktop computer?  To be fair, we don’t specify the completely loaded figure but the time it takes for a visitor to get a full picture of the page.

Desktop Computer Website Speed:  We usually aim for the ‘OnLoad’ time – which means that the processing of the page is complete and all the resources on the page (images, CSS, etc.) have finished downloading.  Our experience shows that around 3s is acceptable for this performance figure. You can make your own measurements at GTMetrix here

Note  On Website Speed Measurement:  The measurements will vary a little and you should make three measurements to have confidence.

Question 2:  How fast will the website load on a mobile?

Our experience shows around 2.5s to be acceptable to reach the ‘First meaningful paint’ – the primary page content is visible, hooking the visitor but not fully loaded ‘behind the scenes’. You can make mobile measurements on Google’s PageSpeed tool here.

questions to ask a web developer
Question 3: Will images be optimized on the site?

We recently encountered a website brought to us by a customer who had gone the ‘cheap route’ before he came to us. The landing page was 15Mbyte and took 60s to load (minimum). The long load time was due to a combination of factors, but the image size was a significant factor. We optimized the images and reduced the page size from 15Mbyte to 1.8Mbyte!!!

Unfortunately, the website was still not salvageable despite our best efforts and we had to refer the person concerned to another designer because we were overloaded at the time.

Question 4:  Will the website be SEO optimized? if so, around which keywords and do you show Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) where they will show up on mobile at the top of the display?

Before your website can be found on the web, it requires at least on-site SEO.  For instance, if you are a website designer in Port Hacking Sydney, your website must make that very clear in a way that is seen prominently on mobile and desktop. Some businesses such as electricians and other service providers need their NAP to appear right at the top of their landing page with clickable phone links.

In addition., if you are an expert, your website needs to identify you as such and any articles and posts you have must be optimized around keywords that will bring in business. Your website designer should be a part of this effort right at the start!

Question 5:  Are phone numbers and email links clickable?

Your visitors can become very irritated when they make a decision – ‘yes! – I’ll contact them!’ - only to find that there are no links on the phone numbers and emails. This can lose business for you.

Questions to ask website designers - phone links
Clickable phone number

Question 6:  Are you installing cache software? (for speed)

Asking this question will show the designer that you have done your research and know what’s – what! A cache is essential to optimizing website speed and should always be a standard installation at no extra charge.

Question 7:  Are you enabling browser cache? (for speed)

Browser cache is enabled with a server tool called ‘GZIP and is also essential for optimizing website speed. It must be a standard installation at no extra charge.

Question 8:  Are you installing SSL (Secure Socket Layer) 

An eCommerce website will not work without this, but even without eCommerce, it’s essential - - without an SSL certificate, Google will flag your website as unsafe)

Question 9) When I upload images, will they be optimized on the site automatically?

All websites require updating from time to time with new articles and images. A properly built website will process new images as they are installed so that your website speed is not degraded.

Question 10:  Do you give a warranty for technical defect after acceptance of the website?

Some faults may only show up under specific circumstances and a warranty is essential. A warranty should be for at least 30 days and we prefer 90 – at no extra charge.  Don’t be caught with charges for extra work because a website was not built properly. Be fair to the designer though and bear in mind that a warranty is for remedy of defect and not for design changes.

Question 11:  Do you provide maintenance plans after the warranty has expired? 

All websites need maintenance. With WordPress it's pretty easy and with a little training you can do it yourself. If a company does it for you, then for a fee of no more than $20-40 / month for a  small, or modestly sized website, you should have a useful support package. For small websites we include this service free when you host your website with us.

Question 12: Do you provide training on website maintenance (if you want to do it yourself)

Maintaining a WordPress website is fairly easy, and you can be trained in the basics in an hour or two. However, if/when things go wrong e.g. your website crashes or performance drops badly, then you will usually need support. Also, you may not even wish to upload new content yourself, so make sure your developer can help you as needed at a reasonable price.

Question 13:  Do you transfer ownership of the domain to me? (If you buy a domain from your supplier)

One of our recent customers experienced great difficulty because she could no longer contact the developer of her website and that developer had purchased the domain for her. Retrieving a domain under these circumstances is time-consuming and exceedingly difficult.  Make sure that you at least have access to the domain you have paid for at the registrar.Enter your text here...

Question 14:  Will I get full access to the WordPress back-end? 

This is Essential for website maintenance and also for adding new facilities and moving the website to a new host if you so wish. Make sure you have access as an administrator.

Question 15:  Will I get full access to cPanel?

This is the back end of the website at the host and gives you access to every file on the website, server settings and so on. If you need to change your website support company at some time in the future, you will need this. This is where you go when your website hangs up, but some competence is needed. Often, you end up conversing with very technical people at the hosting company and for that, a support contract is advisable. 

Questions to ask a website designer - typical c-panel

Questions to ask a Website Designer - Typical C-Panel

Question 16:  Will you install security software?

This software should protect your website against hackers. Installation and configuration should be standard – i.e. no extra charge.

Note on website speed

With question 1 and 2 , it's possible an incompetent or careless designer will blame the hosting company for slow website speed, so make sure that you cannot be bamboozled - choose a good hosting company - we'll write another article on choosing a host as soon as we can.

I hope this helps you to choose a website supplier for your business.  NEVER be shy to ask deep questions before you choose a website designer. You can print out the pdf copy of  'Questions to ask a Website Designer' below and keep it with you as a reference. Take your time - it will be worth it.

Download this article for your own use

To download this article,  click on the link below to visit our download page. The download link is at the bottom of the document page.

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So you need a new business website

 So you need a new website for your business – and that’s exciting! But do you know what to ask of your web developer? Do you know what facilities are available for your website that can grow your business? All websites are not born equal and not all websites are the same!

A Diversity of technologies

Websites are diverse, with a variety of technologies and modules available for every type of business. And that’s why some cost more that others. It’s not just a case of ‘more pages’, and ‘lowest price’. You can buy many commodity items on that basis, but a business website is your place of business - your store, consulting office and booking agency rolled into one.

Specify your Business Website Correctly

When you start discussion with your website designer, make sure you have this information available:

1) What stage is your business at (number of years in operation or 'startup'). This will give the designer  a reference frame at the outset by helping him/her  to advise you on various aspects of content, SEO and more.

2) Are you a local physically located business (e.g. doctor, restaurant, etc). This will help to determine the top-page of your mobile site and how the contact data is presented.

3) Do customers visit your premises? This will determine whether your website needs a Google Map for people to find you easily.

4) Does your business  sell products or services on site and if so:

  i) To where do you ship them?

  ii) How do you charge for shipping - calculated or fixed?

  iii) How many products do you want to list and how many variations are there of each?

  iv) If you are a hotel or rental business, do you need an online booking and payment facility?

5) Do you already have a social media presence (Facebook etc) for the developer to link to?

6) Does your business already have a Google My Business account? (This can be really important for a local business and although not a part of your website, it is somewhere the designer can look to find your reputation, reviews etc).

7) Are the images and text for your site ready? Some designers will offer stock photo - make sure they are good ones and that they are legal.

8) Do you already have a domain? Be careful in your domain choice. If you already have an established domain and maybe an old site, it is important to preserve the power of existing links.

9) Do you already have a logo?

10) Do you want a blog and/or a blog management services? Not many business owners seem to understand the value of a blog for ranking over time.

11) When do you need your website?

Keep that list and see if your designer asks those questions – which will be a very good indication of whether he/she is providing something your business needs, or cut & paste set of pretty pictures. And be double careful that you don’t accept a quotation assuming that you are getting everything you need and then end up with price inflation.

Technical questions you must ask Designers – and the answers for your business website!

Don’t be shy about asking technical questions about your  business website - and don’t let yourself be bamboozled. I’ve been designing complex electronics for much of my life and if such things can be presented to a financial review board in plain English, then there’s no reason that your web designer cannot also speak to you in plain English! Here are the questions you should ask along with some basic helpful answers.

  1. How many seconds will my business website take to load?
  2. What will my website score on GTMetrix tests?
  3. What will my business website score on Google PageSpeed tests?
  4.  How will my website be optimized internally for SEO?
  5. Will my website images be correctly sized for browsers?
  6. Will my images be compressed and if so what method do you use?
  7. Will you be implementing a cache and if so what do you use?
  8. Ask your designer if  GZIP compression will be implemented.

These are the answers you should require:

Pagespeed test for new business website
  1. Your business website should load in 2s to 4s on desktop. After that, people increasingly move on. On mobile, the best measure is ‘first meaningful paint’ on Google PageSpeed and this should be less than 4s. Although a page is not interactive in that time, seeing the content is enough to get a visitor to stay.
  2. The first result ‘PageSpeed’ should be better than 90%. The second score, YSlow we will not discuss here. (Call us if you need to know more).
  3. Google PageSpeed for mobiles is a tough customer. It’s also where the ‘time to first paint’ comes from. In general, you want 90% or better, but achieving this can require extra effort – which is a great investment for eCommerce websites where every millisecond counts.
  4. The designer must tell you which keywords the website will be based on, but please also ask him/her which SEO plugin is being used. Our preference is Yoast SEO and Yoast SEO local and Yoast SEO for eCommerce. Finally ask that all images have Alt-Tags (the text that comes up when you hover over an image). There’s more, but that’s the very basic stuff your designer should know about and implement.
  5. If your designer uses a huge image (say 2000 pixels across) and it’s being displayed at say 250 or 640 pixels across, then your website is being badly slowed down. All image must be sized at least approximately correctly.  
  6. Your designer should tell you that he/she is using optimized JPG or JPEG mages, or possibly Web-P images. Most of us use Photoshop to get this right.
  7. Caching is critical to speed. Just ask the designer which cache technology or plugin is being used – there are a variety such as WP Rocket, SP Supercache and many more.
  8. GZip is a compression method used to compress whole pages before they are delivered on the web – and it’s critical. It requires access to a file on the server called HTACCESS, which usually means talking to the host, or having competence in file management on the CPanel of the website. Your website will not score well on speed measurements without this.

Conclusion

A business website can look very nice and yet be worse than useless if it has not been well designed technically. Asking the questions above and probing your design company to see what they know before  you commit to purchase is essential.  We hope this article will help you.

There are some eCommerce focused questions on this site that you can also read.

 Please feel free to call us if you need more information on any aspect of how  a website is constructed for business. It cannot all be covered in such a  brief article as this. 

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How much does a website cost?

How much does a website cost?  The reason I'm writing this post , is that in our business we deal with a wide variety of people, many of whom labor under a whole range of misconceptions. Of course, there are also some very well informed clients, but these are a minority. I hope I can hold your attention all the way to the end, and that you will comment on what I've written. This article is not  being written as a selling tool, so every reader should get something out of it.

Misconceptions of how much a Website Costs

There are many complicated factors in quoting for a website. A genuine high quality supplier will be aware of them and protect you from cost-escalation. Here are a few of the most critical factors:

Quoting for a website is an imperfect Process

When we are asked for a website quote, we never quote immediately; - we ask questions so that we can quote properly - not under, not over. It's truly surprising how many potential customers walk away without providing any of the required answers. We'll explain why we think this happens later. Here are our standard questions as recently sent to our potential clients:

Questions we ask before quoting for a website

  1. 1
    What is your business (brief description)
  2. 2
    What are your objectives for the website
  3. 3
    Do customers visit your premises (i.e. will we provide a Google map and special website structure for such a business)
  4. 4
    What stage is your business at (number of years in operation or 'startup')
  5. 5
    Do customers visit your premises (i.e. will we provide a Google map and special website structure for such a business)
  6. 6
    Do you sell products or services on site and if so: a) To where do you ship them  b) How do you charge for shipping - calculated or fixed?   c) How many products and variants do you want to list  d) Do you have all the required product photographs, product descriptions and prices?
  7. 7
    If you are a hotel or rental business, do you need an online booking and payment facility?
  8. 8
    Do you already have a social media presence (Facebook etc) for us to link?
  9. 9
    Do you already have  a Google My Business account?
  10. 10
    Do you have images and text for your site ready?  (not just product images) (We can provide stock images)
  11. 11
    Do you already have a domain? 
  12. 12
     Do you already have a logo?
  13. 13
    When do you need your website?

Why we ask these questions before we determine  how much a website costs

If you know the answer to this question, then please proceed to the next section of this article. If you are interested in our answer anyway - read on!

When we have answers to the above questions, we are able to determine what goes into our quotation. This means that you will only be paying for what you need, and that you can avoid additional charges down the line. Most importantly though, it means that your website will fulfill its function for your business.

If you pay for a website that is not properly designed for your business, then you may end up feeling like the new owner of these beautiful hiking boots!

 Let's see how we choose a website package for you that meets the real needs of your business. 

What does a website cost

How much does a website cost  for Startups and Micro Enterprises

This advice and price benchmark applies to all business categories  from A to Z, and they all have the same concerns:

1. They are swamped with offers from Hyderabad to Ontario as soon as they express an interest. Scores of people are trying to jump into their wallets, some offering perfect sites for almost nothing and others asking for ten times more - apparently for the same things.

2. They often haven't thought enough about what their business needs from a website and can't find a knowledgeable and credible person to talk to, so they are in the position of hearing information they do not understand given by many people who just want to 'sell a website' and who have (usually) very little interest in their business success.

Managing the Risk and Getting Results: Starting Small

We often advise people in this customer category that they can manage the risk by buying a small 'starter' website and then assess its value over the coming months, as well as the support they are given. So here's our first PRICE GUIDE: 

A Micro-Enterprise in any business category  on a limited budget should pay between $500 and $1000 for a business website that includes highly visible NAP structure (Name, Address, Phone), services outline, contact form, Google Map (option), testimonials and stock photos. The website  must be fast, mobile compatible and SEO designed.  As examples, you can look here.

Other questions for your website designer before buying

Try also to negotiate free hosting for a year and a decent warranty of at least 60 days. Even more importantly ask about:

  • How much to add another page if you need it
  • What happens if the website goes down
  • How much to make corrections after the warranty has expired and how long it will take to implement them
  • Is there any training on website maintenance so that you can do it yourself
  • Can the website be upgraded later and if so, how much will it cost
  • If you want to move the website to someone else, can you?
  • After the warranty has expired, does the designer keep the website software or plugins updated? This is very important. In the case of WordPress (which we use), not a week goes by without us having to update plugins on our websites and our customer website.
  • Will you install a free SSL certificate? THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Don't worry about writing those down - we're busy making a PDF you can download at the end of this article.

Are One Page Websites Any Use and How Much Do they Cost?

If you are just starting out, a one-page website will provide everything you need - contact details, reputation indicators, service descriptions and so forth. But the website must be expandable and that means a good Content management System - or you might lose your whole investment later on. How people find your website is a much more important question when you start off than SEO performance is because ranking with SEO takes time whereas you probably need business NOW. More of that later. A professional  ONE PAGE WEBSITE should cost around $400 to $800 depending on the skill of the designer, the content and the support offered. 

How Much Does a Website Cost for Medium to Large Established Businesses?

A medium to large business needs to seriously think not only about professional appearance online but also about organic ranking through on-site SEO including blog articles that display real expertise and experience. Larger businesses also tend to need multiple pages to introduce skills, products and services and often, multi-region representation for search engines. The analysis required to build these sites is significant. but without the analysis and the vetting and correction of articles for SEO, significant benefits can be lost.  We've broken down this category as follows:

Professional and trade Business- No Ecommerce / Online Selling B2C (Business to Customer, / Public)

In this category we have a host of businesses such as 

  • Established electricians, plumbers, auto repair shops and more
  • Established Hairdressers and personal grooming specialists
  • Established and larger cleaning companies
  • Established lawyers, accountants and general financial companies
  • Restaurants and cafes

These companies need to think of spending between $2000 and $5000 on their business website. Why the wide spread? Because some of them require very specialized booking facilities and advanced website search facilities as well as advanced multiple galleries. social media integration, Google Maps integration, multiple location SEO facilities, and keyword management of existing articles and posts and industry focused keyword research. 

Key Reasons for Differences in how much a website costs larger companies compared to micro enterprises and startups

It's not always easy to see how effective websites in this category differ from cheaper implementations. Here are the key differences:

a) Effective back-end SEO that will mean the site is ready to rank. This includes the multi-region aspect for ranking in Google local searches.

b) Advanced galleries, menus

c) Higher grade tuning for speed including image optimization, advanced cache and gzip

d) Top grade back-end SEO software such as Yoast

e) Additional pages with customer content as appropriate to the business.

f) Special upload facilities and forms for customers

g) Superior security software

h) Google pixel and Facebook Pixels

i) Possibly a unique IP - we are currently reviewing this as Google seems to have changed its approach.

How Much does a Website Cost for eCommerce?

The cost of a website for eCommerce is wide, because of the variety and relative complexity. We will cover the main types.

eCommerce Websites for Selling Products

Basically, if you want to sell products online, you need a specialized website that offers:

  • A Shop with categories and then products and their variants
  • Photo galleries for products
  • SEO for products
  • A shipping calculator where needed
  • Credit card payment facilities along with other gateways such as PayPal, Stripe etc
  • Smooth use experience from browse to pay
  • Options for single page checkouts, related products display, bulk discounts, product comments, Sale prices, 'out of stock' option, customer CRM, membership system options, newsletter options, abandoned cart facilities, customer reminder messages, pop up messages, subscriptions and more. 

The most basic eCommerce store with ten products should cost you $2,500 including a year of hosting, a blog and contact page. With all the facilities about and for up to 100 products loaded for you, you can expect to pay up to $15,000.0 from a good supplier.

eCommerce Websites for Hotels and Lease Businesses

Depending on the range of facilities, rooms and galleries needed, these websites cost between $3,500 and $15,000.0

Additional Costs You can Expect for a Professional Business Website

You may have the world's most beautiful website, but unless it turns up when someone is searching for the goods and services it offers, it will remain a secret oasis that no one ever visits. Onsite SEO and great content gets your website ready to rank, and that's not enough by itself. You should plan for significant expenditure promoting your website and business using the following:

  • Off-site SEO
  • Google My Business presence (Local Business)
  • Social Media presence and management
  • Reputation management
  • Regular blog updates

What this costs you depends very much on how fast you want to move. Always speak with at least three 'experts' before you spend your money and make sure the agency you choose is there for a long term relationship and mutual success.

Further reading on how much  website costs

Finally

This article is a draft as of 23 January 2020. I've had no time to review and update yet, so do drop in occasionally and see what's happening.

CONTACT SYDNEY BUSINESS WEB NOW!

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