“How much does a website cost?”
It is the most confusing question for a client about web design, but ultimately one that everyone considering a website will eventually ask. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: It’s a confusing question for web designers, too.
There isn’t just one type of website. I like to compare the question above to “How much does a car cost?” Websites come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of functionality. Simple, small, informational websites will naturally cost less than a new implementation of Facebook; more complex equals more expensive.
Quotes can vary greatly between designers. Ask three different web designers, and you are likely to get three (possibly drastically different) quotes. It might have to do with how comfortable the designer is fulfilling the goals you have for your website, or simply how busy the designer is.
Is the quote per hour, or for the entire project? Depending on the designer, they might give you a quote based on the entire project, or an hourly rate until the project is complete. While you might not flinch at paying a website designer $100 per hour, without knowing how many hours it takes to design a website, that number is really meaningless.
I know what you’re saying: You still haven’t told me how much a website costs. I’m getting there, I promise. Now that we have some general topics under our belts, let’s consider different options that you might want incorporated into your website. Whenever you are looking to have someone design you a website, these are usually some of the first things they consider before giving you a quote.
Who is going to register the domain name and set up the hosting? You have the option of registering the domain name and setting up hosting yourself to save yourself some money. Typically, domains cost somewhere in the range of $10 to $20 per year. Hosting costs start from $5 per month for bargain basement hosting, which is usually enough for most small businesses. As your website traffic grows, you might find out you need more later. You don’t have to be technologically savvy to set up your domain and hosting; most hosting companies are glad to set it up for you over the phone, provided the designer gives you the specifications your website will need, and usually the only important variable is “Linux or Windows.”
Who is going to manage the email? Just like with the domain name and hosting, if you want to have email added to your package, there will be more charge. If you are the only person in the business, this is one you can probably tackle on your own. If you have hundreds of employees that need to be set up, it might be best to leave it to the designer.
What do you want your website to be? You might just want a five-page informational site that will only need updated every year. You might want the next Google. Technically, both qualify as websites, but the former can be completed over the course of a week, while the latter takes a team of designers working full-time just to stay ahead of the competition. Each page you add, each custom-built form or application, each anything you add, the longer it will take, and the more the price goes up.
Who is going to provide the website’s content? A beautiful website won’t get you anything if there isn’t information on it. Providing the web designer with the website’s content will lower the price, while asking the designer to provide the copy will make the cost go up. Even more complicated are the images for the website. Providing your own images to the designer is the cheapest option, but depending on the quality, might not look as good on your website. Most designers will capture or create images for you, or can provide stock photography, but it usually starts around $3 to $5 even for the cheapest images.
Does the site come optimized for search engine indexing? Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is something that’s pretty easy to define, but can be tricky to understand; simply, it’s making the website look attractive to web crawlers owned by search engines like Google and Bing. All sorts of things go into SEO, so it’s usually best left to a web designer. Money spent on SEO is usually money that doesn’t have to be spent later on pay-per-click marketing.
What type of maintenance comes with the design? Most all websites need periodic maintenance, be it updating information, adding new content, or (worst case scenario) recovering from a defacing or some other type of security intrusion. It’s important for you to know what all you are getting with the deal, as hourly maintenance cost can grow quickly, and recovering from an attack can cost be even more costly.
How will the website’s content be managed? Once the maintenance agreement runs out, how easily can you make simple updates to the website’s content? If there is no Content Management System (CMS) in place, it makes it less expensive, but more challenging to update. With a CMS in place, most anyone can make routine changes to the website’s content.
Will the website be marketed, and how will the site’s usage be tracked? Do you want there to be some sort of pay-per-click marketing, email marketing, social network marketing, and if so, how much of each? You can spend about as much as you want advertising online, but having the designer do it for you will result it at least a small markup. And without some sort of tracking mechanism, you’ll have no way of knowing how successful your website is. While most designers will install some sort of tracking for every website they design, but it’s still good to ask.
I know. We’re almost 1,000 words into an article about how much a website costs, and I haven’t given you a figure yet, but the wait is almost over. It’s important to have some sort of basis before I start spitting numbers out at you. So, in general, here are some rough estimates of how much a variety of websites would cost.
Basic Website: $1,500 – $2,500
So, this would be your basic, informational only, five to seven page website. As mentioned before, who is managing the domain name, hosting, and email will cause the price to alter. Expect the design to be either relatively simple, or a template that may be used for other clients. The content would be almost completely provided by you, although a few stock images would usually be included. There wouldn’t be much in the way of long-term maintenance, probably little or no search engine optimization, and no content management system. There will be no marketing done by the designer, but they will usually install some sort of usage tracking.
Custom Designed Website: $2,500 – $7,000
The biggest difference between this price range and the basic price range is design. At this price level, you should expect a design that has been created just for you and your business; the more intricate the design, the higher the cost. Expect the designer to set up the domain name, hosting, and email for you, and expect them to allow you to have more pages, most likely up to the range of 20 or so. Again, the text content will mostly be provided by you, but the designer may be willing to provide some copy on the upper end of the price range; you should expect the designer to provide any stock images that they need for a complete design. There will still probably not be much long-term maintenance, but you should expect somewhere in the range of three to six months. There will be no content management system or marketing, but you should expect the website to be search engine optimized.
Content Management System: $3,000 – $9,000
Speaking honestly, this should really be the price range that most businesses should be in. You’re still going to get a non-template, custom designed layout, with most of the price difference again coming from the intricacy of the design. The rest of the price difference comes from if you want a custom-built CMS, which will drive the price up; most people will be more than satisfied with an out of the box CMS like WordPress. Your going to get everything from the custom designed website from above, but the maintenance term will usually be longer for routine updates, because a CMS makes updates simpler. Page restrictions are usually relaxed even more, due to the CMS making them easier to produce. Best of all, a well designed CMS will allow you to make routine changes yourself even after the maintenance agreement ends, should you choose to, or make the cost of long-term maintenance cheaper. Content management systems also allow you to ‘blog,’ or post news updates, and most any designer will integrate these to your social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, as well.
Custom Application Development: $15,000+
If you are looking for e-commerce, custom designed application builds, or intricate programming, expect to be in this price range. Simple e-commerce can usually be done for the starting point, but larger, enterprise type shopping sites can easily grow to a cost of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Expect at least a year, and possibly multiple years, of maintenance to be included. Also, expect the designer to take care of all hosting and domain requirements. While not always included, this will often come with some sort of marketing plan, as well.
So, there you go. That’s a rough outline of how much a website costs. As you can see, it can be a challenging question to answer. If you would like an estimate on a project, feel free to contact us and we can give you better estimate.
I often tell my clients that one of the worst things you can do to an existing website is not keep it current. In many ways, an out of date website is worse than no website at all.
One of the first items on my checklist when I analyze someone’s site is to look for a ‘last updated’ tag, because it says a lot about the information there. Believe it or not, ‘Last updated January, 24th, 2004’ doesn’t build a website visitor’s confidence.
A website that is out of date suggests to visitors that the site has been abandoned. With the rise of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the length of time between ‘fresh’ and ‘out of date’ is getting shorter and shorter. It can be challenging to keep your website fresh without becoming a professional writer, especially if you are part of a sector or business that simply doesn’t change all that much.
The solution can depend a bit on how much time you have. If you can invest a couple hours a week, including a blog on your website can be a great way to keep people interested, and it has the nice side effect of proving that you are an expert in what you do. However, this can be daunting if you’re not comfortable writing.
If you are a little tighter on time, consider including your Facebook Page’s feed (or Twitter feed) on your website. That way, you can make quick posts here and there throughout the day, or pass on industry news and notes. This can also be a good option if writing isn’t for you, as the post will be shorter and visitors are more likely to forgive spelling and grammatical errors on social networking sites.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) rewrite you website every week, but a little new content here and there will let your visitors know there is still someone on the other end of the Internet interested in hearing from them.