How building a website is like building a home

How building a website is like building a home

Photo by Richard Kirby

How much does a house cost?

It is a simple question without a simple answer, because so many variables are involved. Where will the house be located? What kind of house will you build? How many rooms will there be? The questions go on and on, and the answer to each will affect the cost.

This question came to mind recently after I spent a pleasant morning at a local business networking event. I was mingling with some of the attendees following the meeting when one of the members pulled me aside.

“Richard,” he said, “I have a friend who is starting her own business, and she needs a website. Can you give me a ballpark figure what a basic website would cost?”

“How much does a website cost” is a common question for me and everyone else who designs and develops websites for a living. I have yet to come up with a concise answer other than “it depends,” and such a brief response rarely lands a new client.

“Well,” I started, “it depends… on a lot of different factors: the type of site the client needs; how large it will be; what kinds of bells and whistles they want…”

And then the answer came to me, in the form of the opening question.

“It’s a lot like building a house,” I said, “so, how much does a house cost?”

In many ways, building a website for a client is much like building a house. The same types of cost considerations you have to keep in mind when building the home of your dreams are similar to what you need to consider when building a website.

To make the analogy, let’s look at the basic steps that you use whether you are building a home or creating a site. These are: LocationFoundationArchitectureFunctionality; and the Contractor.

Location

Location is everything in real estate. It is not quite as true in website building, but it is still an integral function. You need property on which to build a house, and every website must have its own type of “land”: a host on which to reside.

There are hundreds of web hosting companies from which to choose, and most small businesses can get away with smaller hosting plans. We use HostGator for our own sites as well as for our clients who contract with us to manage their hosting. We have been quite pleased with their uptime, customer service, and technical support.

Foundation

Here’s another area that neither a house nor a website can exist without: The foundation. Like a slab, crawlspace, or basement in a house, a website needs a platform on which to build. Essentially, your website platform, like a house’s foundation, is the basic building block for your website.

The platform we use most often, and absolutely love, is WordPress. There are many others out there, but we believe WordPress offers significant advantages to both the client and the developer. It is a stable and secure platform (like the foundation of a house should be), it is easy to use for the end-user, and does a great job as a content-management system.

Architecture

Once you have located the site for your foundation, it’s time to start building. Just like in building a home, this is where the big questions start — and the money starts to add up. How big will the house be? How many rooms? Will it be a prefab, custom built, or just a trailer?

Your website will also have a structure. You will have to decide what you want to build: Will it be a do-it-yourself site with a package from a hosting provider, or will you have a professional create a design and develop the site for you?

For most small businesses, a site created by a professional designer is the best option, and can be quite cost-effective. Your business is your lifeblood, and your website must reflect the importance you place on your business.

Functionality

In your home, you want to be able to do different things in different rooms: Bathrooms should have working toilets and running water, a kitchen will need a stove and refrigerator. A home without any functionality is just a collection of empty spaces.

You will need to decide what kind of functionality you want to build into your website, whether it is something as simple as including a form for people to contact you, or a complicated e-commerce system.

The Contractor

Of course, one of the major considerations in building a home is choosing the right team to handle the actual building. You want someone who is hard-working, knowledgeable, honest, and who can stay on budget.

“Do it yourself” may be great for a weekend project in the garden, but would you try to build an entire house by yourself? With a little knowledge, you could try, but the time and effort involved would likely have you soon reconsidering your decision. Perhaps you have a nephew who spent a summer hanging sheetrock; would you have him design and build your home? Of course not. Think of all the time and money you would have to spend repairing the things that went wrong during construction, not to matter the family issues that would result after you blew your top at the kid.

The same goes for building websites. A trained professional will do a better job of building a site than most people can do for themselves, or that a neighbor or family member could do.

When it comes to building websites, remember the house-building analogy before you begin. Using a professional web designer will make the process go much more smoothly, and you will end up with a site you will be proud of.

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