"Is the expense worth it?" The answer: "It depends". I believe most small businesses can benefit in some way from having a Web site presence. For you specifically, the benefits to be gained, both tangible and intangible, should outweigh these costs in order for you to move in that direction.
Regardless of whether or not you do it yourself, these costs will remain the same:
Your domain name (yourcompany.com): $20.00 a year.
- Web hosting: Minimum of $10/mth with a typical $50 initial set-up fee.
- Add your domain name and Web hosting, not including Web site development
costs, our totals so far are at $325/year.
Some people include the cost of your Internet dial-up account as a cost of having a Web site. It is true that it is most helpful to have for transferring files, looking at your site, and/or maintaining your Web host account. But you most likely have dial-up access already so it's not a differential cost needed as part of your decision-making.
Free!? Can't I Get a Web Site for Free?
Okay, it's true that you can have a Web site for free, but you get what you pay for. There are sites that do allow you to make Web pages, supposedly easily on their site. (I have heard it's not easy, but I've never tried) They'll then host your site at an address like www.theircompany'sname.com/09848389yourcompany'sname. Try telling one of your customer's to remember that one. Plus you'll be required to accept whatever advertising they decide to put on there. Imagine the nightmare when your family-owned business's Web site has a banner ad saying "Click here for pictures of beautiful women". Just don't do it unless you really want to lessen your credibility.
One major factor is whether or not you are going to do it yourself. There are a number of good products out there that offers a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) way of building your site without knowing programming such as frontpage.
Probably, the most popular program is Microsoft FrontPage. It will run you $100 to $125 dollars. It will take a while to learn if you don't know much about Web page building. Plus, it is very weak on incorporating the graphics that you need to give your site an eye-pleasing look. For that, you'll have to buy a graphics program and learn that as well; another $100 minimum and another steep learning curve. Total cost of building your Web site yourself is around $200, not including your time. If you've got the time to learn both and do it yourself, then this is a viable alternative.
Of course, if you are a small business owner, decision-maker, and/or you have a family, Your time is extremely valuable. My advice is to hire a professional to do it and save yourself both the time and the hassle.
Adding the basic costs for hosting and domain registration, we come to $525 in the first year for the do-it-yourselfer.
Hiring a Professional
The costs for a professional can vary a great deal. Some designers charge by the page and some charge by the hour. Per page costs average about $132 per page in Phoenix and some will charge less for additional pages over a certain number. The designers I researched fall between those that know "just enough to be dangerous" and those who really know what they are doing.
Most charge by the hour, about $75.00 to 150.00/hr. I charge $50/hr. or $95.00 per page for basic Web design. I have provided some pre priced packaged plans to give you an idea of what to expect.
Taking a 5-page site with mostly text and a few graphics as an example, you can figure to spend a minimum $660 initially considering any of these pricing policies (I really do mean "minimum" here). The average small site nationally is about $12,000 and prices in Phoenix are generally less than that. Adding the basic costs for hosting and domain registration, we come to the cost for an initial Web site to start at a minimum of about $985.
The Big Decision
Regardless of what you do, the costs are typically minimal relative to other media. And also, most Web site designers will offer you a free initial consultation. Use this to have your questions answered that will help you make your decision.