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You Want How Much??? What's Wrong With Web Development Rates in Canada.

Web development is a professional, specific skill that is worth paying for, but it's not rocket science (most of the time).
If you're like a lot of small business people, you know that you need to be on the internet (or you at least want to give it a whirl). The day has come and you intrepidly sit down at your computer and start to search for a web development company in your home town. Before it's time for your second cup of coffee your head is spinning, you have a million bookmarked sites and a pile of sticky notes and a calculator beside you as you try to make sense of the pricing structures you have seen.
You probably thought that this would be an easy job: you know what you want so you went out to get quote. Sounds easy and if you were buying anything but web development it would be. Hosting packages, domain name registration, prices based on the number of pages you need and the number of links you's enough to make anyone give up and go play golf for the day. To top it off, when you actually do find an hourly rate on a site, it's more than your mechanic and accountant make combined!
I have been in the web development business for 7 years and even I'm not sure exactly when the industry went wrong or if it was ever right to begin with. I'm going to attempt to clear up the mystery in this article and hopefully give you the basic tools you need to get on the web.
Web development is a professional, specific skill that is worth paying for, but it's not rocket science (most of the time). To take you from a web-less business to a fully internet enabled e-commerce business takes three basic things: a domain name a hosting package the actual web site development
The domain name and hosting package:
This dynamic duo operate much like your telephone service. To have telephone service you need two things; a phone and the service that gives you a phone number so people can phone you. The domain name is your phone. You have to buy one ( so your customers can easily remember how to find you.
The hosting package is the service that 'serves' your website to people who want it. Most web development companies will offer both of these services, but not neccesarily. Those that offer both of these services together will probably charge a little more because there is a bit of set up involved and you may find it a little intimidating to do yourself. However, there is nothing stopping you from registering your own domain name and buying your own hosting package and then farming out only the actual web development.
Your hosting package should offer you much more than just a place to park your domain name. You should be able to have emails under your domain name ( and access to several scripting languages to enable your web developer to make a nice dynamic site for you. I would put the price tag for a nice, middle of the road hosting package with lots of power and room to grow around the $150 - $200 a year range. Of course this is based on your specific needs, but most of us need the same type of things so I feel safe with that price range.
The actual web development:
This is where the pricing goes haywire and the details become overwhelming. In my opinion, a good web developer will charge a straight hourly rate for all web development work whether it is complicated coding or simple HTML layout. The harder the stuff he or she is doing the more hours they will bill you for. If it's easy stuff they are doing, the less they will bill you. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? More money for harder work, less money for easier work?
Steer clear of companies who want you to 'fit' your business into one of their development plans. If you are looking at a plan that tells you how many pages you can have, how many links you can have or how many images you can have; go somewhere else. Consider buying a car: you buy the car you want, not the one the car salesman wants you to buy. Why should web development be any different? In addition; how are you supposed to know how many pages, links and images you want? Isn't that the web developer's job to figure that out?
Now let's talk about the hourly rates. I would never assert that anyone can go out and buy FrontPage or HomeSite and whip themselves up a web site. That's much like printing your own business cards; sure you can print your own but they look unprofessional and cheap. You want to pay for a professional looking web site - don't take chances with your business image. On the flip-side; unless you have very specific or specialized needs I don't see any reason why a web developer should charge more than $60(cdn) per hour. Anything more than that and I would want to know what extras I'm getting over and above my web site.
Packaged Deals:
If you are looking at a packaged deal, find out exactly what you are getting. Many web developers offer packaged deals to make the leap easier for their clients that aren't on the web yet or are using another developer or host. The idea being, of course, that they will recoup their initial loss on the packaged deal by gaining your loyalty (and billable hours) later on. Many of these packages truly are very good deals and you should check out any offers to see if they meet your needs.
The bottom line is: don't get snowed. If you are having trouble figuring out why someone is so expensive then ask them to specifically tell you what they are offering you in terms that you can understand. Most developers are happy to 'tone the tech down' a bit in order to help their clients understand what they need. If they expect you to understand why PHP is better than VBScript ASP (see what I mean?); then go somewhere else.
If I have been unclear on something or you have any questions on topics not covered in this article, feel free to click on my name below and send me an email.
Happy Building!
About the Author
Jon Watson is a computer information systems professional with over seven years experience in the web development field. Jon is a professional web developer, world traveller and all around nice guy.