“So, how much does a website cost?” I get this question all the time.
It’s a perfectly valid question, but there are many variables which determine the answer to this seemingly simple question. It’s a little like asking: “So, how much does a house cost?”
The difficulty in providing a simple answer to website pricing arises because there are so many elements and factors involved. To give you an idea, I have quickly listed some of these factors here:
- The Client– I’ll be very honest here. The nature of the client will always affect the pricing. The first thing a web developer does is assess the relationship with the client. Is the client picky? Is the client easy to deal with? Does the client make clear decisions or do they hedge? Does the client understand the expertise of the web developer and respect it?The bottom line: Good working relationship with client = lower cost of website
- Scope – What does the client want? What does the client need? These are two very different things, and not all clients realize it.
- Client Technical Knowledge – The more technically aware clients tend to need less hand-holding. Less hand-holding means lower costs. (The exception to this rule is a client who knows just enough to think they are the expert.)
- Hosting – Who is hosting and who is responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting of hosting issues?
These are only some of the relevant factors. They don’t even address the basics like design, functionality, SEO, and workflow.
In my experience, most folks don’t understand how much time it takes to build a well-designed website. So, it’s no wonder why most folks – including small business owners – don’t really know how much it costs to build a website.
There are a number of services that offer “free” websites. Of course, nothing is really free. In most of these cases, you build a “cookie-cutter” website that is surrounded with advertising. For some folks, this may be adequate for a short period. For this type of need, I usually recommend WordPress.com.
The budget-minded business owner may tend to jump at this option. However, I have often observed that those who initially choose this option eventually discover that their website needs have grown beyond it.
Basic Website – $800-$2500
In my experience, the average for a baseline business website is roughly $800 to $2500. I’ve seen it cost much, much more too.
A basic website is essentially a digital brochure for your business. It’s typically about 5 pages:
- Home page – An introduction to your product or service (images are always good)
- Product and/or Service page – Detailed descriptions and explanations of your products and/or services.
- About page –A brief profile of the business owner(s) or business
- Contact page – A page to encourage communication with the reader. This can be simply email, phone, address, Facebook, Twitter, etc. information. Sometimes it also includes an interactive form that is submitted.
- Gallery/Portfolio/Testimonials page – Depending on the type of business product or service, this page is an exhibit of examples or satisfied customers.
These websites are typically built with themes, which are often tweaked, customized and optimized for the needs of the particular business. A basic website is an online sales and marketing tool, working 24/7. These days, having at least a basic website for a business is an essential in much the same way that a business card is essential. There is a level of legitimacy that is provided, even to the smallest of businesses, by having a website.
Custom Website – $3000-$8000
A custom website may or may not start with a theme or template. The difference is that, either way, the website is created for the specialized design needs of the client. The design process with this type of website is where the bulk of the time and money goes. At this price level, the website design is custom-tailored to the client’s specific market needs, usually through custom CSS and HTML5 coding.
It’s important to realize that at this level, the focus is on website design. You will not typically find functional features like reader interactivity, ecommerce, or content management.
Content Management System (CMS) – $3000-$10,000
The average for this type of website is typically around $5000. But this is a broad and deep category of website.
These type of websites will be designed and built with both appearance and functionality in mind. Custom art and photos and mid-level functionality are included. The client will have the ability to manage the content and other data through the CMS interface. Often, these websites include a blog or forum component.
The emphasis with this type of website is on creating an easy and effective way for the client to manage and maintain an active website.
The Deluxe Website – $12,000-$100,000+
These are highly complex, interactive, custom coded and designed websites that typically get very high traffic. Think about websites like Engadget.com on up to Apple.com. Depending on how you figure costs (some of these websites are built in-house by teams of well-paid folks), these websites can cost into the millions of dollars.
What Most Small Businesses Need
I’ve provided a brief overview of a broad range of website pricing. But most small businesses will likely fall into the Basic or Custom website category. Although I’ve separated the CMS website as a distinct category, it is becoming increasingly common to create any new website on a CMS platform, whether or not the client plans to maintain and manage the website in the future.
About 5 years ago, I switched over to creating all websites on the WordPress platform; I do this even for websites that initially have no blog component. I’ve found that in the long run, this is a wise choice for both myself and my clients. For me, it streamlines the design and development process. For my clients, it allows them a level of autonomy (and therefore cost savings) in the management and maintenance of the website.