Do Singapore SMEs Overpay Their Web Design Company?

September 15, 2015

Singaporean businesses are paying up to $5000 extra to their web design company. That’s $5000 wasted on things you don’t need.

Now, many of you would ask “How much should I pay for a website?” But perhaps, a more helpful question will be “What should I pay for in a website?”

Think of yourself investing in property or the stock market. What you’re looking for isn’t “Price”, but “Value”. That same concept applies here.

Don’t be afraid of paying more for things that bring you customers. At the same time, don’t be lured into paying extra for unimportant features.

To avoid overpaying for web design, start off by asking yourself what business you run.

There are 4 classifications here:

  1. You sell directly to consumers offline (doctors, ice-cream shops, beauty saloons etc)
  2. You sell directly to other businesses (trading companies, industrial machinery etc)
  3. You sell directly to consumers on the internet (blogshop, online bookshop etc)
  4. You offer your web product as a service (hotel booking service, streetdirectory.com, taxi apps etc)

If your business falls under #1 or #2, you should pay no more than S$7,000 for a good website

If your business falls under #3, budget around S$12,000 to S$15,000

If you’re quoted anything above that and you’re NOT in #4, then, my friend, you just got ripped off. However, if you’re really in #4, my question to you is why you’re even outsourcing your website in the first place.

With this knowledge now, what’s the next step? What exactly do you need?

#1 – Web Design / Web Development / Website

This is the most basic element of all websites. You shouldn’t be paying more than $3,000 for design and development combined (be careful of feature-creep and requesting for more than you need). This is because design and development alone isn’t going to bring you business.

Many companies only offer these 2 things, as they’re already enough to get the website up and running and to make your PIC claims. However, if these 2 are the only things you paid for in your package, you’ve probably just wasted your money on a website that isn’t going to bring you business.

Oh, and Mobile-Responsive designs are the norm these days. You shouldn’t ever be charged for this.

Reasonable Quote: S$3,000 or less

#2 – Web Hosting / Domain Name

This is where most web design companies try to impress you with technical terms. As mentioned earlier, unless your business falls into type #4, you don’t need giant, dedicated servers, auto-scaling architecture and 99.99% uptime. Watch out for web design companies that try to sell you technical specs instead of helping you get more customers.

My previous tech startup gets up to 800,000 visits a day and needed solid servers set up. Most Singaporean SMEs have fewer than 10,000 visits in an entire month. You don’t need to overpay for servers. 99.9% server uptime on basic hosting is more than enough for most businesses.

Reasonable Quote: Usually FREE unless your business is based on generating huge traffic

#3 – User Interface / User Experience (UI/UX)

UI/UX is part of the holy trinity (the other 2 being Strategy and Content) that determine whether your website will succeed. A good UI/UX specialist will make your website easy-to-use and generate more sales for every site visitor.

ui ux in Singapore website

Take note that UI/UX specialists are seldom web designers. Be very alert if your web design company tries to convince you that your web designer is also your UI/UX specialist. Most Singapore-based web design agencies don’t have a UI/UX expert. I STRONGLY recommend looking for a web-design company that does.

Reasonable Quote: $2,000

#4 – Website Content Creation

Content creation is the second part of the holy trinity that determines if your website will be successful. A good content creator will be able to use fewer words, stronger selling points and generally convince your customer into believing you are the best choice.

Content creators are usually a mix of a marketer and a writer. They specialize in writing sales pitches rather than editorial content or information. Good content writers are like rare gems. Look for ones that have held very senior marketing or marcom positions in the corporate world. Pay a premium for an excellent writer if you have to.

Reasonable Quote: Up to $3,000 for 10 pages

#5 – Content Management System (CMS)

I’ve seen many small businesses make the huge mistake of building their own customized CMS. I’d cover more of it in another article but ask yourself this – Which would you rather have?

 Real WorldDigital World
What are you offering?Starbucks coffeeYour product or service
What brings people in?Store location - Orchard RoadYour marketing (SEO, social media, digital ads, web banners etc)
What helps you make the sale?Counter & sales staffYour website

It’s clear if I put it that way, isn’t it? If you opted to go with your own customized CMS, you’re picking Option B. Bad choice.

Reasonable Quote: FREE if you just go with solid systems like Drupal or WordPress.

US President Obama’s White House uses Drupal. What excuse do you have to gamble S$15,000 on a buggy, broken, customized CMS?

#6 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Most web design companies offer free SEO these days. If your website design Singapore came with this, then I’m sorry to tell you, your website isn’t going to get many new visitors with the free SEO. If it was that simple and can be given away free, what do you think would happen to SEO agencies?

The free SEO that is offered is just for basic foundations. You will NOT be top 5 on Google for important keywords that your customers are searching for.

Reasonable Quote: Demand it for FREE, since it won’t give you any major results anyway. Or up to $2,000 per month for proper SEO if you’re serious about it.

#7 – E-Commerce Store

This one is clear-cut. Is your main business selling to consumers online? Is the e-commerce part of your business plan for the upcoming year? Selling online requires a dedicated marketing and action plan.

If it’s a part of your plan, go with simple database setup and e-commerce storefront.

If it’s not a critical part of your plans, you have to decide if it’s worth the extra S$5,000 to $10,000.

Reasonable Quote: Up to $10,000 for a basic e-commerce store.

Don’t have too many custom requests. They aren’t necessary and can increase your costs tremendously. Get advice from your web strategist.


In summary, here’s what the cost breakdown should look like for a small business’ website:

Web Design / Development$3,000
Web HostingFree
User Interface / User Experience$2,000
Content Creation$2,000
Content Management SystemFree
Search Engine Optimization$0 cause it’s not real SEO
E-Commerce StoreMostly unnecessary

Before I close off, some of you sharper readers will be curious. Earlier, I mentioned 3 critical elements to making a website successful: Content Creation, UI/UX and Strategy. How come Strategy isn’t included in any of the costs above?

Well, that’s because every web design Singapore project should be assigned a Strategic Lead in the first place. You shouldn’t even consider a web design project that doesn’t have one. It is the single most important role in the making of a great website.

Hopefully, these tips will help many of you get the most cost-effective website possible. Good luck!

By Nate Wang

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