Web Price Index finds first flat median

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After posting dramatic across-the-board increases entering 1999, the NetMarketing Web Price Index this month finds median prices for Web site creation at their flattest since we began the index three years ago.

The semiannual survey about pricing for complete Web sites found costs for the medium-size, hypothetical Investments 'R' Us posted a relatively small increase of 13%, to $170,000, in this nationwide survey of Web developers. Estimates for the small sites declined by 0.6% to $77,500 and estimates for large sites declined by 8% to $405,000.

The low prices reached new lows of $720, $2,160 and $7,500 for the three sites.

Prices stabilizing

Why are prices stabilizing? Partially because Web site creation has aged to the point where it is less inventing the wheel and more refining existing models. Developers have experience building different kinds of sites, from marketing communications to branding to electronic commerce, and can take that experience and increase it.

Along with that, Web developers have more established processes for project requirements, which make cost estimates more exact. "The work is standardizing at some level," said Debbie Lefkowitz, director of production for vivid studios, San Francisco.

She also sees the maturation of pre-existing Web tools as a factor for the leveling. "Certain pieces of work are commoditizing," she said. "Why would anyone want to build an e-commerce system from scratch?"

Rather, developers spend their time and development dollars on strategy. So instead of spending hours building back-end systems, developers are building integrated business plans and plotting information flow. "Not that it's simple," Ms. Lefkowitz said.

Developers pitch these strengths more instead of technical prowess as what differentiates them from their competition.

"You can build a site that sells nothing for the same price as a site that sells a lot," she said.

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