What’s the right budget for a municipal government website?

Downtown city intersection

 

We are often asked by municipalities about how to budget accurately for a new website.

First of all, a caveat: there is no blanket answer in our experience. Every community is unique, and the cost of a municipal website redesign depends on your starting place and the complexity of your goals.

That said, we can provide some ballpark direction that will help if you are creating a budget for your city or municipal government website.
 

  1. POPULATION

First, the cost of your government website will reflect the size of the population served. Typically, we find that if there are more people living in, investing in, and visiting a region, there are more services to provide, more stakeholders to engage, and more information to make available. This means more website customizations are required. And of course, adding complexity increases project costs. ­­­

By population, municipal website budgets tend to fall within the following ranges:

Population Served Website Design & Development Budget
8,000 to 20,000 $25,000 to $75,000
20,000 to 50,000 $50,000 to $120,000
50,000 to 100,000 $75,000 to $150,000
100,000 to 500,000 $125,000 to $400,000
500,000 or more $250,000 to $1,000,000

 

For populations smaller than 8,000 people, a typical range is hard to pinpoint. Your budget might be $10,000 for a template-based solution, or up to $75,000 (and beyond) for a site serving multiple audiences, including tourists. It's important for your provider to understand your unique context, so project scope and cost are a true reflection of your needs.

  1. DESIRED OUTCOMES

If it’s your job to budget for a new website design and build, you might look at the table above and wonder— what determines whether a project comes in at the low- or high-end of a typical range? Your project process and desired outcomes have a major effect on cost. To decide a budget for your website project, it’s important to answer questions like:

  • What kinds of application integrations, data presentment and login portals are needed?
  • Are recreation venues and programs part of the website?
  • Is the site architecture and content already done and ready for the new website?
  • How much community input and engagement would you like in the website design and development?
  • How many design options do you want to see, and how many rounds of revisions to your chosen design?

The more back-end complexity, content requirements and changes, user experience testing, and creative work involved, the higher your project budget needs to be.

  1. ASSOCIATED COSTS

Beyond design and development, an accurate budget takes into account other one-time and ongoing costs associated with your new website.

Hosting and security costs vary based on storage needs, geography (government websites need to be hosted in Canada), and whether you choose to host your site through a third-party provider or internally, through infrastructure maintained by your IT department. Best practices for security, failovers, and backups should be included in these costs.

Technical support and maintenance services keep your new website useful and up-to-date for the communities you serve. For government websites, we find annual support costs are typically 5% to 15% of the initial project cost.

Licences are an ongoing cost with proprietary Content Management Systems (CMS), if you choose to go that route. Our team prefers customizing municipal websites with Drupal – a flexible, open-source CMS – so there are no ongoing fees. There may also be licensing costs for third-party applications you want integrated with your new website (like program registration, bill payments, job boards or engagement tools).

Content for your new website can be created internally by your staff, externally by professional content strategists, or a combination of both (as is most often the case). Effective writing and high-quality photography or videography can require an upfront investment. This initial cost pays off through positive user experiences and easy-to-access information, as well as showcasing your community in the best light to potential residents, tourists, and investors.

Internal staffing and resources are a cost often overlooked by municipalities— especially when it comes to content creation, editing, and website updates. Your staff’s ongoing work is important for a successful web presence that makes the most of your investment going forward.  

Finally, if you’re wondering what all of this means for your municipality, we can help. Our team builds award-winning web solutions and we have a track record of happy clients for custom government websites across Canada. We pride ourselves on serving the citizens of each of these municipalities with great online experiences and easy access to information.

Have questions about your municipal website budget? Get in touch— we are happy to help you out.

By Peter Knapp
CEO & Lead Strategist
July 8th, 2019
Disclaimer: Our team members contribute to this blog in their own voices. As such, opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily shared by Upanup. If you are curious or concerned, please contact us.
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