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

Municipal Government Website RFP

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

­­In our experience, there is no blanket answer. 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 here that should help if you are working on a budget for a city or local government website.

  1. POPULATION

First, the cost of your government website will reflect the size of the population served. If there are more people living in, investing in, and visiting a region, there are more services to provide, more stakeholders to engage, more information to make available, and more website customizations required. All of these add complexity, increasing costs. ­­­

By population, municipal website budgets tend to fall within a typical range:

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. It's important for your provider to understand your unique context, so that 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 will have a big 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?

Of course, 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 costs associated with your new website.

Hosting and security costs vary based on storage needs, geography (local government websites, for example, have 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 keep your new website a useful, up-to-date resource for the communities you serve. For government websites, annual support costs are typically 5% to 15% of the initial project cost.

Licenses are an ongoing cost with a proprietary Content Management System (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 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 in positive user experiences, easy access to information, and showcasing your community in the best light to potential residents, tourists, and investors.

Internal staffing and resources are an often-overlooked cost— 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.  

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 more than 25 custom government websites across Canada. We pride ourselves on serving the citizens of each of these municipalities with easy access to information and great online experiences.

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

By Peter Knapp
CEO & Lead Strategist
November 14th, 2018
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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