This is a question that I get asked every day.
As a business owner looking for information on the cost of developing your own website (either using a service, or hiring a developer) you need to understand the many levels of answers that can come from such a broad question. It’s important to remember that although a website is a “digitized” item, a website is still a product, but it’s also a service.
Before we get to the pricing, I want to ask you… do you think you need a website?
This is important. My answer is yes! You need a website. Period.
And not just any ol’ website, but a great website with a clear, crisp easy to navigate design, with superb usability and functionality. Furthermore, you need to be able to easily update that website. It doesn’t matter if you are a national corporate brand, a smaller brick and mortar with ‘plenty of business’, a brick and mortar with only local business, or an ice cream shop that only sells to people during the summer months, on Saturdays, before 3 pm… you still need a website! Your business can be broad or niche, it can be large or small, and despite what you may have heard… you need a website!
Recently a local furniture company spent nearly $150,000 renovating their retail space in order to attract new business. But an investment in a great website and internet marketing plan would have cost a tiny fraction, and have brought in more business.
There’s a whole relationship (between you and the company you hire to do your website) that crops up through the process of web development, and this relationship, as well as the ongoing support that continues AFTER the site has launched, is what separates this “product” from others.
If I had to make a comparison, I’d say pricing (and building) a website is a lot like pricing (and building) a new home.
Whether you buy a home from a home building company, or have one custom built, the process is very much like (and sometimes as complicated) as building a home.
Many people hire contractors to build a house. When you meet with the contractor, do you ask, “How much does a house cost?” No, that would be an un-answerable question. First you need to know how big the house is, how many bedrooms, how many baths. You need to know if the kitchen has appliances, if the countertops are laminate or granite. Does it come with landscaping? What kind of floors? There are a hundred questions to answer before you can find out how much it costs to build a house.
The same applies to building a website. There are small websites and big websites. There are websites with fancy graphics. Websites with special features. Interactive websites. Websites with photo galleries and blogs and products for sale.
So before we can discuss how much a website costs, first I need to know what your website needs. Big? Small? Features? Graphics? I have lots of questions. This is why you can’t find pricing on my website. I wish it was a one size fits all, but it definitely is not. Some sites require more time and resources than others, so we need to plan appropriately before giving you a quote. I want you to pay for what you need, and not for things you don’t.
Website Pricing & Cost
The reason it’s so hard to simply give a price for a website is there are so many factors involved – even outside of the technology.
Here’s a short list:
- Client Server/Hosting Requirements – Who is hosting? Will there be email? Who is setting that up? What if something happens to email? What kind of server will it be hosted on? Does the developer have access? Do YOU have access? Hosting problems alone take 2 – 10 hours initially to address on EVERY project – and problems account for about 10 – 20 hours of support during any given year for a client.
- Scope – What do you want? What do you NEED? Two very different things.
- Who are you? Are you picky? Are you easy to deal with? A good web development company will do one of two things – either read you well, or structure their contract for it not to matter (ie hourly). However, in either case the easier you make it to work with you, the less expensive a site will tend to be.
- Client’s Technical Knowledge – While I am happy to help you understand how everything works with your website, including creating content, using search engines, understanding computer terminology, emails, etc, it does take more time, therefore increasing the overall cost of the training part of your project.
These are just a few items that impact the overall cost, and they don’t even begin to touch upon budget, or the design back & forth. Websites, be it coding, or communicating, take time.
Which btw – I have a quick side story. A highly technical friend of mine, studied and literally took 6 weeks straight to build his companies website (he was managing the company at the time and has since graduated to president).
At the time, he was paid $25/hour. Factor in ALL of his time and he spent nearly $6000 of his company’s time. All for a static site that wasn’t even search engine optimized and frankly, didn’t look very good.
Point is, it almost never pays to have someone “figure out” how to build a website within a company. It doesn’t make time, or financial sense. – Now learning how to edit/update a CMS on the other hand – does – and I’ll get back to this in a moment.
And then there’s everything that comes AFTER a website is launched,THE MARKETING!
A responsible developer will evaluate the best ways to market your website, once you’ve launched. If they design a website that doesn’t get found, then you will not appreciate the fact that they charged you ANYTHING to build their site.
Real World Website Pricing Breakdown
First, there are services. There are a ton of services out there that can get you up and running quickly, easily, and in some cases freely. I’m a huge fan of “WordPress.com” for anyone looking to simply build a blog and get their voice on the web. Although the sites are not customized, and never really fit your end goal, it can be a great way to get something.
Okay, here we are.
Basic Website: $1,500 – $3,500
After spending a significant amount of time, I’ve determined that the market average for a baseline website is $1,500 – $3,500. I’ve seen much, much higher. And, I don’t recommend going with anyone who charges less because the quality of the work will negatively (and directly) correlate with the price decrease.
With a basic website, you’ll have a simple online brochure made out of a boilerplate template (or format) where your customers and clients can review your products and services. The basic website may be your best salesperson, working 24 hours a day by just showing up. It’s your marketing tool to get your message out to the world. It provides a digital launch pad, where you can showcase your products or services.
Custom Website: $3,000-$6,500
If you can think it, it can be designed in this price range. They may not be packed full of animations and interactivity, but they will be beautiful. At this spending level, you will find a website that is custom-tailored to meet your specific market needs.
At this price point, you can expect the beginning of the “wow-factor” from your web designer. You will not typically find features of audience interactivity, ecommerce, or high-end programming functionality.
As with the Basic Website, the website pricing is calculated at the same rate. These websites take much more time to build since they will include custom CSS and XHTML coding so that the website will show up the same on virtually every interface. Again these websites will be optimized for Google, Yahoo, and Bing so that they will rank better in organic keyword searches.
Content Management System (CMS): $3,000- $9,500
A website designed and built with full CMS integration will typically run from $3,000 to $9,500 with an average of $5,500, depending on your specific needs and the extent of the customization requested. These websites will be designed with both functionality and appearance in mind. Custom art design and mid-level functionality will be included. You will be able to manage and update all of your content through the installed CMS interface. You can have an infinite number of pages (depending on the amount you want to spend for the time it takes to create them). With CMS you can manipulate, upload and change the pictures, content, and blog all day long. (You’ll soon discover, if you don’t already know, that updating your website can quickly become consuming).
This is the most popular product package at Lime.
By enabling a CMS interface, these websites are designed to be user-friendly (as user-friendly as possible for a non-tech inspired individual). You won’t be billed for the time that it takes to make the minor changes and small adjustments that may become costly.
These sites will be laced with the ability to get “social”. You will be able to build a reputation through your BLOG. Depending upon the specifics of the agreement, you should be able to expect some keyword research to help you get started.
Aside from high end functionality creation, these sites will remain in the ballpark I’ve outlined above. And, as always, you can expect SEO and Analytics Tracking for these types of web properties.
The Grand Slam Package: $15,000- $100,000+
Highly complex websites can be very expensive to create. Social Networking, Advanced Blogging, and Web Application Development will raise the price tag. There are a limited number of companies that can perform well in this arena, and most of them will charge you a consulting fee.
These websites aren’t some of the really good sites I’ve visited. Falling in this price range are sites like Facebook.com, Orkut.com, and BestBuy.com. These sites will have been coded from scratch, along with the applicable application programming. Websites in this price range require an extreme investment in time to research, develop and implement the software necessary to integrate the entire website in one seamless design.
It’s more expensive to build a website when you consider the actual cost in terms of hours. There is a distinct difference between amateur websites and the work of a professional development team. While it may cost more money to build the website in the first place, by hiring a professional you will realize a return on your investment.
A lot of people have no idea what a website costs. While every project is different, hopefully this article gave you some indication or rough idea of development costs. To some people, it may seem like a low price, to others to may seem very high. Let me respond to the latter by saying the following:
If you run a brick and mortar business, you likely have a monthly rent or mortgage that falls within the first two website pricing packages. I will also guess that your brick and mortar store is only open so many hours a day, and maybe only so many days a week.
On average, you digital store (website) will receive 3-4 times more traffic than your brick and mortar store. Your digital store will also work 24 hours a day/7 days a week for you. When you compare this to a rent or mortgage, there is great value from a properly designed and developed website. Some could argue that a website, which sees more traffic, is less expensive than running a physical store – or other types of advertising for that matter.
Websites are the modern day business card. It is merely my opinion, but every business owner needs one.
So What Do I Do Next
A good plan makes a world of difference. Just like how you would take blueprints to a potential home builder if you were hiring them to build you a house, a web developer also requires a set of blueprints. Just something to help them get a rough idea of what they are going to build. Drawing up a rough blueprint is the single most helpful thing you can do to get a project up and running as it eliminates the step of the developer having to learn about your company through asking questions.
If you do not want, or need, to plan the project yourself, I am happy to do it for you/work with you. This approach usually generates a better overall project (because who knows more than an actual developer) but will increase the overall project cost.
Ideas to Consider for your Blueprint
Writing content is often the most difficult part about planning your website. Many people know what they want to say just not how to say it, while others may consider themselves great writers but do not know what they want to say. This section is designed to help you figure out what your content should consist of. Once you have the details worked out, you can submit your ideas to us.
LANDING PAGE (Home Page)
- Do you have a slogan?
- Do you have a logo?
- Do you have any specials or advertising?
- What does your business do? What is your website about?
- Do you have any photographs/images you want to display?
- Do you want any animations?
- Do you want a changing banner?
- Do you want to highlight specific sections of your website?
- Do you have a video to display?
- Explain who you are.
- What do you do?
- What do you offer?
- What are some general products/services you offer?
- What are your interests/goals?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many people work there?
- Do you want to include employee profiles/write-ups?
- Who are you associated with?
- What are you credentials?
- Have you been publicly recognized or won awards?
- What does you company/website do/specialize in?
- What makes you better than the competition?
- Is there any one/company you want to thank or recognize?
- How many products/services do you offer?
- Do you want paragraphs or lists?
- Do you want to display everything you offer or just select items?
- Do you want to show brand names?
- Do you want to display prices?
- Do you want an online store?
- Do you want any text or just images?
- Do you want to have captions underneath with each image?
- Do you want to include client names?
- Do you want to include links to other websites?
- Do you want to display your phone number, address, postal code, etc?
- Do you want to display a map showing where you are located?
- Do you want a photo of your business?
- Do you want to display your email address for visitors to contact you directly?
- Do you want your visitors to fill out an online form to contact you so your email address remains private?
- Is there any specific message you want to communicate?
- Is there any special products/services you want to showcase?
- Are there any special requirement the designer should know about?
- Do you want any special features built into the website?
- Do you want to use any special animations?
- Is there anything specific you do not want published online?
- Are there any documents, pdf’s, etc you want your visitors to be able to download?
- Do you have any existing price lists, pamphlets, letterhead, business cards, etc you want to incorporate?
This article is a revised version of “What Does A Website Cost?” seen on Atilus.com