One of the questions that I get asked most frequently is, “How much does a website cost?”
At that point, I envy someone like a butcher, who when asked how much a steak costs, could tell you that you charge X amount per pound for a NY Strip steak, and Y for a Ribeye, and so on. The answer to the question about what a website costs is usually answered with a very unsatisfying, “that depends”. It’s not that I, or other web designers want to shroud the whole thing in secrecy, but there are way too many variables in that equation to answer that with a number.
So how can I get an estimate of what it will cost me?
Most likely, rather than knowing what it will cost to have your site designed, you want to know what the total cost is going to be. There are several different costs to consider when trying to determine the overall cost of ownership of your website. Let me break it down for you.
One of the simplest thing you need to deal with is domain registration. You want to register a name that will be memorable, and hopefully something that relates to your business name. Domain registration can be very economical. You might be looking at $20-$30/yr for something like a .com domain. Where you can run into problems is if someone has snatched that perfect domain that you can’t live without, and you either have to find an inferior address, or pay them what they want for the domain.
UI/UX (short for user interface and user experience) is the work that a web designer does. They use photos, graphics, fonts, colors, and the like to create the look and feel of your site. The designer may take your content, and build the pages with it (that’s what I do for my clients), or may just give you layouts and expect you to flow in your own content.
When looking at what you will pay for design, you should take into account whether you will be expected to add your own content, or whether that is part of the fee you pay.
Development is the process of taking the UI/UX design and transforming it into a website, either using code or a builder, or a combination of the two. The designer takes care of the creative side of things, and the developer takes care of the technical end of things. If you hire a freelance web designer, or a small company to build your site, it is not uncommon for one person to function as both the designer and developer. It is more efficient to design and build in one step. Larger projects may require more exacting design, and more specialized development skills, in which case the two roles will be split, and may even be accomplished by a team of people.
Depending on what you need your site to do, your developer may also have to write custom code to make those features work, or to get different services you may be using to communicate with each other.
Once your site is built, there may still be some additional services that you need. These are not all applicable for every project, but they can be a significant added expense
If you’re building a six-page website, data entry wouldn’t be a big consideration. If, on the other hand, you have an eCommerce store with hundreds or thousands of products, you can have a significant amount of time invested in actually getting your products onto your site. Sites with a lot of dynamic content (blogs, shops, real estate sites, car dealerships, etc.) Will require a lot of additional labour.
Search Engine Optimization
Any developer worth his or her salt is going to do the basics of SEO when building your site, but you can spend a lot of extra time doing things like keyword research and optimizing each page for specific keywords. Another part of SEO is making the site load as fast as possible. SEO is one of those things that you can always do more of, but past a certain point you may not get return on your investment. If you’re in a competitive market, it may make sense to spend more, and if you’re a small local business, it may not make a lot of financial sense.
You may consider investing money in getting a copywriter to help you polish your content. Along with making sure your copy is free from errors, a copywriter will help you make sure you have a consistent message, and that you stay on point. You may find that it is very hard for your to write in detail about your company or your products and services, or you may find that you end up veering off into the weeds at every turn.
Your company may have an established brand or not. If you’re investing in a website, it may be wise to make sure that you have a consistent visual style defined for your web, marketing campaigns, print design and more. Many designers may offer branding as an addition service. That can be something as simple as designing a logo and defining a color pallet, or it can be a very comprehensive brand book, that lays out how to (and how not to) use the visual elements that define your company’s brand.
In addition to the cost of building your site, you also need to keep in mind the various costs associated with the long-term running of your website.
The files that make up your website live on a web server somewhere. You will need to pay a monthly or yearly fee to have your files hosted and connected to the internet. Depending on the amount of traffic your website brings in, you may need an inexpensive shared hosting server, a Virtual Private Server, or a dedicated server. This can range from a few dollars a month up to hundreds of dollars per month. You want to get something that will do the job securely and reliably, without breaking the bank.
Perhaps you are going to maintain your website yourself, but perhaps you don’t have the time to invest into learning what to do, and you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if something breaks, you can call someone to fix it. You may want to have someone doing routine maintenance tasks and making changes as needed on your site.
Your site may require the use of security services to protect against malware and hackers. Things like SSL certificates and automated malware monitoring and removal can end up being a monthly expense.
An economical alternative to having a lot of custom development done is to use plugins for various features you need in your site. WordPress has thousands of great plugins which are available for free, but some plugins you may find yourself needing will require either a purchase or (especially in the case of eCommerce) a subscription. You can easily end up having to pay several $50-$100 annual license fees in order to keep those features working and secure.
Now that you have an idea of all of the various expenses you may face in owning a website, there are other considerations that will greatly affect how much your website is going to cost.
I think it’s pretty obvious that a website with 6 pages is going to be vastly less expensive than a site with 600 pages. The more content you have on your site, the more expensive it is going to be. Often times the very first thing you will do with a designer who is providing a quote is to figure out how many pages you need for your site.
Your designer/developer needs to earn a living. It’s a lot less expensive to do that areas with lower cost of living. If you’re in an urban area, and you hire a local company, you will pay more than someone in a rural setting will.
Freelancer or Agency
You can expect the cost of a website to change dramatically based on the type of company you hire to complete the project. The level of service and experience will usually be in line with the price. You can hire an inexperienced freelancer for very little money. He or she may be very glad to get the work, so they can have a new site for their portfolio and continue to gain experience. That can be great for the bottom line, but you may run into that freelancer’s limitations, and perhaps he or she will decide the business is not for them, and you may have more difficulty getting support a year or two down the road.
You can hire an agency that takes care of everything. They are usually a one stop shop and will probably be around for the life of your website, but you will pay considerably more for their work product. An agency will have a large team, so if your site goes down, you don’t need to worry about them being on vacation, and they will have people with the specialized skills to make your site work it’s absolute best. All of that expertise comes at a price. You can expect to pay top dollar for work done by large agencies.
hose represent the ends of the spectrum. In the middle you have a range of freelancers to small agencies that have the skills and experience you need to make your project successful. They won’t be as inexpensive as a new freelancer, but they will have the skills you need to make your project successful.
Let’s Talk Numbers
Perhaps by now you’re sorry you asked. But let’s assume a relatively simple brochure site with 6-10 pages, and nothing to complex.
If you find an inexperienced freelancer, or someone who builds site as a side husstle, you might expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 – $3,000 for a site.
If you find a freelancer with more experience, up to a small company, you could expect to pay $2,500 – $6,000
If you just want the very best, you could hire an agency. An agency wouldn’t normally do a small project like this, and so they wouldn’t likely try to be competitive with their quote. You could expect to pay $10,000 to $30,000 or more for the site.
Building a website can be like buying a car. It’s really about figuring out what you need and what you can afford. You need a site that will do the job that you need it to do. You wouldn’t buy a Mini Cooper if you needed to be able to tow a boat. Make sure that whomever is building your site, has the experience and expertise to make your site successful. On the same token, you should stick within your means. If you earn a middleclass wage, you don’t want to let a high pressure salesman talk you into buying a Lamborghini, and if you happen to be a CEO, you’re probably not riding around in a 10 year old Hyundai Elantra.
Ideally, you should have some idea of what you can spend when you solicit quotes for a website, and you should, to the best of your ability, try to define what things you need your website to do, so you can make sure you get what you need for the price you can afford to pay.