You can’t drive a Ferrari on a Kia budget.

Sometimes pricing a professional business website can be like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. With all the different ways and parameters that go into creating a website, it might seem an impossible task. It’s important to be aware of the factors that play a role in the cost of a website, so that you don’t end up with a mess and a blown budget and unfulfilled expectations on your hands.

Following are some reasons why a one-off website quote is nearly impossible to give, much less adhere to:

1. First, realize that quotes are far too subjective. With myriad technology available to achieve the same results, one provider might quote you a price to cover the cost of his/her ultra-high-end software solution that he uses to meet your website requirement, while another provider can achieve the same results in a more cost-effective fashion, passing the savings on to you. This is one of the reasons why quotes for the same job can range from $10,000 to $100,000 and everywhere in between.

2. Web development is a fairly new industry, with few standards. There are dozens of languages, platforms and systems used to create websites. The picture gets more complex when you factor in the 1,000 different ways in which solutions can be reached. This makes it hard to compare apples to apples when gathering quotes. As the industry matures, more standards will likely emerge, but until then, know that this lack of uniformity plays a role in pricing a website.

3. A complex level of planning is required to build a successful website. Detail is king, and as such, it greatly affects pricing. For every feature you desire on your website, the developer can ask you 50 questions about it to determine whether it will take him one day or 100 hours to complete. Time is money, and pretty soon you find that the free quote is no longer free, as you and the developer hash out every feature and its accompanying set of questions in order to reach a time estimate. An alternative is to have a set budget and objectives, and leave a competent team to decide how to best achieve the results you want as best they can. Think in terms of buying trust, not line items.

4. This brings us to the next point. Website design and development is really a service, not just a product. As companies grow and change, so should their websites. It takes a team of people to put a website together, a team that has a clear idea of your vision and that you trust to maintain it in line with your business goals. Building a website takes continued time and effort, and you might better understand why a one-off price isn’t simple to give when you view the creation of your website as a service instead of a static product.

5. There are two ways to price a website, by the hour (say, $150 an hour) or by the project ($10,000 flat fee). With all the gray area around building a website, it’s usually better to charge by the hour, so that you can get a clear idea of the time, effort, and level of service that goes into building your website. Remember, you’re buying trust, and essentially acquiring a team of dedicated professionals for your business. If you focus too much on the billing component, it’s easy to lose track of the reasons for your website, mainly ROI, reaching and surpassing business goals, and showcasing amazing work.

6. The web development world is full of…opinions. Everybody’s got one. The definition of success for your website will vary from person to person. One developer’s definition of success for you might mean that your website should pride itself on artistic aesthetics, whereas another thinks the power of your website should lie in the greatest and latest code built from scratch. Your marketer thinks simple is best, while you may like a site with a ton of features. Bottom line, the real success of your website comes down to what you want your website to accomplish, and a competent web design company can help you narrow down your vision with laser precision.

By understanding the subjective nature of website design and development, you’ll be better equipped to understand the true value of the quotes you get when you ask, “So, how much will it really cost to build my website?”