THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO BUILD A WEBSITE
When it comes to building (or redesigning) a website, one of the first questions people ask is, “How much will it cost me?” Frankly, the answer is, “It depends.” There are a number of variables that have a direct effect on the expense. The cost to build a website can range from as low as $12/month up to $20,000 or more. Whether the website is for personal use, for a small to medium sized business or for a large organization with complex needs, the cost can vary significantly.
So what’s the difference between a $12 website and $20,000 website? The answer largely comes down to your goals (both short and long term), the complexity and scope of the site and the services needed. For example, are you working with a professional or are you a DIY-er? (Learn more about the hidden costs of DIY websites.) Will your website facilitate e-commerce? Will you write the content yourself or will you require the services of a professional copywriter? What are your growth plans? Do you need custom forms? Appointment scheduling? Photography?
Questions like these are just the beginning. And without the guidance of a knowledgeable pro, you are likely to find steps in the process that are both surprising and that may ultimately cause you to spend more than you intended. As a website design agency with over 20 years of experience helping clients transform their website visions into reality, we’ve seen it all. We’d love to share with you what we’ve learned.
Here, we will break it all down, dispel the myths and give you the REAL truth about how much it costs to build a website. Looking for a quick answer? Click here to see the bottom line summary.
Professional Website Designer Costs
Yes, it’s true. Using a professional website designer isn’t cheap. In fact, a basic informational website with just a few navigation tabs typically starts at about $2,500. But much of the cost is front loaded meaning you make the investment once. (Learn more about recurring website costs), In comparison, you will pay monthly (or annually) for a DIY website for as long as you keep your site active. Over time, that can definitely add up.
The advantages of using a professional website designer are vast. The expert knowledge and advice (usually based on years of learning, working with other businesses) add up to a better experience and a better result. In fact, a professional may save you money in the long run by setting you up for growth and helping you avoid costly mistakes.
There are many factors that influence the cost of a professionally designed website. While a simple website build using a predesigned WordPress template may start at $2,500, a custom-built site with tailor-made functionality is more likely to start at $4,500 and a site that facilitates online sales (e-commerce) may start closer to $6,000.
When it comes to cost, there are actually many advantages to using a professional website designer. Here are eight major cost advantages you may not be aware of, as well as few other factors to consider:
Professional Website Designer Cost Advantages
- Design pays. Let’s face it. The main reason to use a professional website designer is because what they are best at is, of course, design! The level of personalization and customization you can get from a skilled designer is worth every penny. You may think you don’t care about fonts and colors, but when you see how subtle changes can convey a completely different look and feel, you will surely change your mind. And the possibilities are endless! A well designed website that reflects your brand’s unique identity and how your customers want to interact with you is priceless.
- Security, security, security. A full-service website designer will not only stand behind their work, but also offer site backups and security services. While all websites are vulnerable to attack, WordPress sites are particularly so. Because WordPress is open source, it offers the advantage of massive, global creative community and all the possibilities that the community offers, but it also means it’s more vulnerable to attack. Things like incorrect file permissions, unprotected access to WordPress Admin, and out-of-date plugins and themes all contribute to this vulnerability. That’s why working with someone knowledgeable on preventing, and if necessary recovering from, a website attack is critical.
- Keeping up with technology. Is your site optimized for mobile devices and tablets? Are you capturing the right data to help you with future marketing decisions? Technology continues to move and change at lightning speed. That’s why it’s more important than ever to work with a professional who not only keeps up with the latest trends, but also anticipates where technology is headed and plans accordingly. A good designer can advise you on new developments that will keep your website running smoothly and efficiently.
- Setting you up for growth. Creating a website is more than just a communication tool. It’s an investment in your business, and your brand, both for today and for the future. This is where a professional website designer really excels. Need to add a blog? Create custom forms? Add online scheduling or event registration? What about a store locator or a chat box? Whatever your future needs, a custom site is just that – customizable.
- Complexity is not complex. For a good designer that is. Let’s say you’re a medical device company with locations in both the U.S. and in Europe. For legal reasons, you need to direct users to different content based on their physical location. And you also need to make sure you adhere to EU laws on data collection. Or maybe you run a business that uses online chat to facilitate customer service. And let’s say you utilize a team of service representatives located in four different cities. For a knowledgeable pro, website development complexities like these are handled with ease. No matter the challenge, they have the solution.
- Unlimited storage. A quality website designer will either offer hosting services, or partner with someone they trust. Whatever your storage needs, there’s a good chance your designer can either handle them in house or refer you to someone who can. This can be especially important for websites that rely heavily on video content and have larger than average storage requirements.
- Design for the content. How you communicate with your current and potential customers is at the very core of your marketing efforts. When it comes to your website, this might be your on page copy, a series of embedded videos or podcasts, a regular blog or newsletter or even product descriptions and support tools. Your content is important, and chances are you’ve invested considerable time into creating it. You definitely don’t want to discover that what you have to say won’t fit into a particular space. The cost of looking unprofessional is well known but hard to quantify. A good website designer can create a beautiful space that showcases what you have to say.
- Build with search engine visibility in mind. There is really no point in having a website if no one can find it. When someone is looking for your product or service in the major search engines like Google or Bing, you want to found. You need to be found. And the way to make that happen is through an ongoing process known as search engine optimization or SEO. Some of the DIY website builders have gotten better at incorporating some SEO best practices, but what they can’t offer is the research and attention required to formulate and implement a successful SEO strategy. Most quality website designers offer SEO services that are tailored to your specific industry and product/service offerings. Statistics show that more than 75% of website clicks occur on the first page of search results. With results like that, you can’t afford NOT to invest in SEO.
Professional Website Cost Factors to Consider
- Time. The old adage that time is money definitely applies to a website. The longer you go without one, the more potential business you are leaving on the table. And typically, the longer it takes to build, the more it is likely to cost. Because working with a website designer will take time than,it is something to consider. If you have an upcoming event or if your services are seasonal, your timeline may not match with your designer’s availability. Also, when working with a professional designer, he or she will want to spend time in the beginning to fully understand your vision and your goals. While you’re not likely to get a professionally designed website in a week, much less an hour, it just might worth the wait.
- Spending more upfront. Whether your designer requires full payment in advance, half in advance and half upon completion, or somewhere in between, it is likely to cost you more up front to have your site professionally created. There’s no getting around the fact that DIY builders cost a fraction of the price on day one (think hundreds of dollars vs. thousands), but be sure to add up your expected costs over time. Short-term decisions might just cost you more in the long term. (Read more about the hidden costs of DIY websites.)
- Recurring costs. In addition to the upfront design costs, there are some recurring website costs to consider. Some of these include maintenance, hosting and domain renewals. (Read on for details on types of recurring costs.) At a minimum, you can count on a few hundred dollars in annual recurring costs
Other Components That Affect Cost
Regardless of whether or not you use a professional website designer, there are other components that can affect the cost of a website, including costs that recur over time.
Template vs. Custom Build
You might choose to go with a pre-designed template (also called theme) rather than a fully custom build,even if you use a professional website designer and especially if your needs are more basic. WordPress templates do have restrictions, but they are more flexible than you might think. (And they are definitely more flexible than those of a DIY website builder.)
There are a number of available plugins that can turn a standard template into something uniquely yours. And there are thousands of templates to choose from, specifically designed for everything from personal blogs to restaurants and financial services companies. Purchasing a template is a one-time fee and prices range from about $15 – $150, with an average cost of about $50.
For a completely distinctive look, perhaps a specific layout not found in a typical WordPress template, or unique functionality, many companies prefer to have their website custom built. With this option you can get whatever you want in terms of both design and usability. When getting a quote for a custom-built website, be sure to ask what additional costs you should expect, specifically when it comes to custom functionality.
Website functionality is defined by the ease with which your viewers can navigate your site, get the information they seek, order a product, get help or request more information. When you want to create/install items that are not included with a standard template – custom functionality – you can expect the base price of your website build to increase. The prices can vary, starting as low as $25 for a plugin, and increasing depending on the level of customization desired. Some examples of custom functionality include:
- Store locator feature
- Online Appointment booking
- Service Chat box
- Event calendar
- Event registration
- Complex forms (How many forms will you use? Are they are conditional, meaning they follow different instructions depending on responses.)
- E-commerce (How many products will you sell? Are there multiple pictures per product? Are there other variables, such as multiple colors selections or sizes?)
Once your website is up and running the costs don’t disappear. There are several recurring costs (either monthly or annually) to consider.
- Domain name. A domain name for your website is a necessity and it will have to be renewed every year. Domain name costs vary by provider, by the popularity of the key words contained within your domain, the extension you choose (for example .com or .org) and your privacy choices (you will pay more to keep the ownership of your domain private.) Generally you can expect to pay between $20-$40 annually for a .com domain. There are many reputable domain providers, but we recommend GoDaddy.[LD1]
- Hosting. Where you choose to have your website live is important. (In case you’re not familiar with hosting, website data must be stored someplace where it can be accessed at anytime from anyplace. This storage is referred to as hosting.) Things to consider are security, support and storage space. There are hosting plans as low as $5/month, but they tend to be very limited and offer little in terms of security and peace of mind. More typical for an average sized website is $40-$50/month. Some hosting companies charge more for premium security options. Many website design agencies also offer hosting or partner with another firm who does.
- SSL certificate. An SSL certificate creates a secure link between a website and it’s visitors’ browsers. It’s important for any website that facilitates the sale of products or services online or collects customer information. Options start at $80/year for an average site. Banks or large financial companies will incur significantly higher costs.
- WordPress maintenance. Keeping all your WordPress plugins and core files up-to-date is critical. Installing the latest updates on a timely basis is your best bet for keeping your website as secure as possible. Prices vary by provider, so be sure to ask your website design agency if this is included.
- Plugins. If your website uses specialty plugins to achieve specific functionality, for example membership registration, there may be a recurring cost. Many plugins are a one-time purchase, but not all. Before you decide to install a plugin, find out if there is an ongoing fee.
- Email. If you want an email account associated with your domain, there is likely to be a recurring charge for that. Email can be as low as $5-$15/month per user, but is very dependent on factors such as your storage requirements.
- Email marketing platform. If you plan to contact your customers via email, such as sending out newsletters or advance notice of special events or sales, you will need to use an email-marketing platform. Prices vary by the size of the contact list, the number of emails you send and more. We recommend MailChimp as our platform of choice. It’s free for the first 2,500 users, and is a great pick for small to medium-sized businesses. Sign up for your free account here.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Costs
A website without search engine visibility is akin to having a store with no signage. How will anyone find you? SEO, the practice of increasing both the quantity and quality of traffic to your website, is an investment worth considering. An SEO expert can help get your site to the top of the search engine results page. Statistics show that the first page of Google captures 71% of all clicks and some reports show that percentage as being even higher. An SEO expert can also help you to attract quality visitors. If Google tells people you are a resource for kids clothes when you actually sell sporting equipment, that is not quality traffic.
So how much can you expect to pay? Prices vary by provider. Our SEO packages start at $349 for a website that includes 6-10 pages of copy.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Website Costs
It’s easy to get dazzled by drag-and-drop website builders that charge low monthly fees. For personal websites and hobbyists, DIY website builders may provide a cost-effective and viable solution, however, there are a myriad of hidden costs lurking behind this seemingly simple solution that businesses should consider before making a commitment.
It’s true that in the short term, the DIY options require a smaller upfront investment, but for most businesses, hiring a professional website designer will likely save time and money in the long term. And for larger organizations and those who require more customization, support or expertise, hiring a WordPress website professional is the smartest choice.
There are many popular DIY website builders, some better than others. At the time of this writing, some of the popular ones include Squarespace, Wix and Weebly. They each offer different bundles of features. But when it comes to cost, they have similar advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few:
DIY Website Cost Advantages
- Simplicity. DIY website builders don’t require you to know or use any code. Most have drag-and-drop features that make creating a website easy and fast. When it comes to creating the site, doing it yourself could save both time and money.
- Low entry costs. Many website builders offer monthly pricing, eliminating the need for a large upfront investment. Some require you to pay annually, but the initial outlay is considerably less than hiring a professional website designer. This can be especially attractive for personal brands or hobbyists..
- Speed. A DIY website can be launched quickly – even in as little as one hour! If getting eyes on your site fast is the goal, perhaps for an upcoming event or product launch, this can be a big advantage.
- Self hosted. Most DIY website builders host their own websites. Most DIY website builders include hosting as a part of their fee, eliminating a separate and perhaps surprising bill.
DIY Website Cost Disadvantages
- Design limitations. Drag-and-drop templates might be easy to use, but there is a big trade off in terms of design. Customization of logos, fonts and color combinations – the elements that make your website a true reflection of your brand – is limited. Do you want your website to look and feel like the corner bakery’s? Or worse, like your competitors’? Consider the opportunity cost of lost sales from a website that is not unique and doesn’t stand out in the crowd.
- Rising storage costs. Cheap monthly plans typically come with storage restrictions, sometimes as low as 500 MB per month. (In case you’re wondering, that’s not very much!) And many plans do not permit video storage. Costs can rise significantly based on storage needs over time. It’s important to understand your storage requirements and the cost to meet them.
- Add ons add up. It pays to spend time determining exactly what your needs are today what you project them to be in the future before deciding on a DIY website builder. Many plans do not include custom domain names, may not permit access to Google Analytics, include blogging features or even facilitate e-commerce. If they’re even available, the features you need may be considered add ons. For example, adding basic ecommerce functions to your site may cost an additional $30/month. And add ons can definitely add up.
- Priority support may cost you. Be sure to ask about support – both customer service and technical support. If your business site is experiencing issues you’ll need help – and fast. Some DIY website builders charge extra for “priority support.” How quickly and efficiently will you be helped when a problem arises? Can you afford to wait 24 hours? Every minute your website is down is potential lost revenue, not to mention the reputation cost of having a site that doesn’t function properly.
- Shared hosting. Most DIY website builders will host your site and include the cost with the monthly fee. But know that you’ll be sharing resources with many other websites. For most small sites, this isn’t a problem. But for larger, more complex sites, the provider may not have enough capacity. Also shared hosting risks slower loading speeds and outages, especially at times when many people are accessing the space at the same time.
- May not own your site. As your business grows you may find that your website needs grow with you – to more than a DIY builder can handle. If you decide to move your site to a different host, or to use a professional designer to add custom features, you are likely find that your site must be rebuilt from scratch because you don’t actually own your site. Using a DIY website builder is more akin to renting. Understanding how your site is both backed up (for easy portability) and owned is critical. Anticipating your future needs from the beginning may actually save you money in the long run.
- Search engine visibility costs. Many DIY website builders do include search engine optimization (SEO) features, (sometimes at an additional cost) but they amount to adding keywords into a plugin, which is only a tiny piece of the SEO puzzle. Quality SEO – the kind that rises your website to the top – requires a much broader view of your entire digital footprint, the ability to modify the structure of your site and specialized knowledge. SEO services are well worth the cost and a reputable website design agency will include them in their service offerings. Consider what it really costs you to not appear in search engine results.
- Content limitations. As any marketer will tell you, content is king. What you say and how you say it is an essential to how your business connects with current and potential customers. With the limited flexibility of drag-and-drop website templates, content must often be adapted to the space rather than the other way around.
- If you want your website to last for many years, it’s not likely to happen with a DIY website builder. Websites are always evolving and adaptability is the key to digital longevity. DIY sites’ limited use of marketing and analytic tools and limited customization of features makes them very short-term solutions.
A $12/month DIY website builder may seem attractive, but be sure to evaluate exactly how you plan to use your website both near and long term. Learn more about the hidden costs of DIY websites and why a do it yourself website costs more than you think.
Creating a website that works for you will pay for itself many times over. Whichever solution works the best for your budget, your needs and your timeframe is the right one for you. But be sure to anticipate your future needs, be prepared to communicate with your website designer and understand exactly what you’ll be getting for your money. Because when it comes to you website, you just might get what you pay for.
Starts at $2,500 – $6,000 depending on functionality and complexity
Ranges from $15 – $150 per template
$20-$40/year for a .com domain
$40-$50/month is typical
Starts at $80/year
Varies by website
Starts at $5-$15 /user per month
Email Marketing Platform
Free up to 2,500 users
Search Engine Optimization
Starts at $1500
There are so many website building choices, it can be overwhelming for even the tech savvy among us. If you’re looking for a new website or to redesign your existing site, give us a call. As professionals with over 20 years of website design experience, we can evaluate your needs and help you make sense of what’s right for you. Contact us at 203.307.5107 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Infinite Web Designs is a full-service web design and development agency also offering digital marketing services that drive traffic to your website, increase sales, generate leads and build brand awareness.
*Prices stated in this article are accurate as of this writing, September 2020.
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