WHAT DOES A WEBSITE COST?
The web design and development industry have been around for quite some time now, but we’ve found that pricing in this industry continues to be scattered across the board. When you got to an auto mechanic, for example, you have a ballpark range of what brakes, tires, etc. should cost. But if you’ve spoken to a few web design companies, chances are there has been little consistency in website design and development costs. So, what gives?
Regardless of the industry, you’re in, we’re here to help you navigate and understand the full cost of building a website. At WordPress Maven, we’re transparent with our prospects and clients about what our fees are and we’ve worked with clients in all different industries and of all different sizes in the last 20 years. We have a unique approach to projects, doing the best we can to ensure that projects launch on-time and on-budget. We work with our clients to help them make the best decisions that will help them meet ALL their requirements – not just price. Read on to get your question of “what does a website cost?” answered with some supporting information on how we come up with our own pricing. (And please know that this blog post is meant to be informative and if you’re seriously interested in contacting us about a website, know that our sales process is unique to each prospect and our quotes are not “one-size-fits-all.”)
WHAT KIND OF WEBSITE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
This is a question that we don’t think many other website companies ask. All websites are not created equal and your needs may be significantly different from that of another business. One way to determine how much your website may cost is to narrow down to your industry. Each industry is a bit different and some have stricter requirements than others. For example, if you are an organization that receives government funding, your website is required to be Section 508 ADA Compliant. That alone will have an impact on your web design budget.
To make our information a little easier to digest, we’ve created different sections for small, medium, and large-scale businesses and what their respective website development costs could be.
WHAT IT COSTS TO BUILD A WEBSITE
As mentioned above, all websites are not created equal. Websites serve various purposes, feature different technology, require different functionality, etc., meaning they vary greatly in cost. As the level of design and customization to functionality increases, so too will the cost of your website design project. Our hourly rate here at Atilus is $150 and we quote our projects based on the time we think it will take to complete them.
It’s important to keep in mind that the website is the product (and also kind of service), but all agencies need to account for their team’s communication and project management time. Like any professional service, there is a very high level of communication that will be required from your agency to you (the client) – all of which can and should be billable.
DO YOU NEED A WEBSITE?
This is a very important question and we have the answer: you need a website. Period. Gone are the days a website being optional. If you want to compete in your industry, whatever your industry may be, you need a website.
Needing a website goes beyond just needing a domain name with some pictures and text. Websites now are more sophisticated than ever and the search engines that help you find them are requiring more and more each year. For example, if your website is not responsive (meaning it doesn’t translate to all devices such as phones and tablets), you will be harder to find in Google and Bing. You want to create an online space that is attractive, easy to navigate, and most importantly gives your potential customers an easy way to see that you are the solution to their problem. So, to summarize: no matter what industry you are in, you need a website.
WHAT DOES A WEBSITE COST? A SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN
The following is a list of the most general things we get asked about for each project. In addition to breaking things out based on company type and website “size,” we thought it would be a good idea to spell out some of the specific items involved so you can have a clearer picture on the cumulative price (and nature) of websites.
- DOMAIN NAME
$10-$100 per year – This is the price for new domains. Atilus charges $100/year for domain and DNS management, but you can purchase your own domain at any registrar on the web for around $10/year.
$50 – $1,200/year – This depends on the type of hosting you choose (dedicated, shared, free). Additional fees may be required for additions like SSL (Secure Socket Layer Certificate) or static IP Address.
- CUSTOM DESIGN/INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE
$2,500 – $10,000+ – This includes the visual design, UX design, imagery collection, and sitemap and page structure generation. This is generally a part of a larger website development package. In our experience (and for our process) we generally spend up to 30 hours in this phase. That’s onboarding, initial meetings with our clients’ marketing teams, and our design team’s work internally on the project, including final presentation and approval. That translates to $4,500 retail on even a modest site.
- SHOPPING CART INTEGRATION & PROGRAMMING
$200 – $15,000 – What kind of functionality do you want on your website? Shopping carts, paid plugins, and custom feature development can cost extra, but the benefits of a fully customized and unique website can outweigh the costs.
- WEBSITE CONTENT CREATION
$50-$200 per page, or hourly – You can write your website’s content yourself, outsource it overseas for around $1 per page, or use a content writing firm which will charge around $100-$200 per page. Just like website design, you get what you pay for when it comes to content creation that will rank your site high in search engines and engage your audience.
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT & INFORMATION GATHERING
$600-$3,000 – We want to help you and your website succeed, and that means creating a line of communication between you and your key stakeholders. This price includes initial consultations, phone calls, and any time that it takes to obtain the information we need to get your site going.
- TESTING & TRAINING
$600-$4,800 – While most websites are built on an easy-to-use CMS nowadays, not everyone knows how to get started with them. This price point includes the time spent training you how to use your new site, as well and ensuring that everything works properly and giving you the chance to make any necessary changes.
- LAUNCH & DIGITAL MARKETING SETUP
$600-$4,800 – Having a team that understands digital marketing (particularly SEO) and your website’s role in helping to drive this for your business is vital to success. For every project we work on, we have a 40+ step process to ensure the final site is SEO friendly and communicating to the search engines properly.
- WEBSITE MANAGED SERVICES
$75-$150+/month – Managed services can include blog writing, post-launch testing, and content maintenance. It may also include marketing and advertising services including PPC marketing, ongoing content creation, social media marketing, and more.
WEBSITE PRICING BREAKDOWN
Now that we’ve detailed everything that goes into website development costs, let’s get into the different costs that could be associated with each “kind” of website.
BASIC WEBSITE COST | $50/MONTH + OR $2,000 – $5,000
BEST SUITED FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS
With the latest trends in companies like Wix, Square Space, and others, we thought this section would be best broken down into two parts: the DIY route and the developer route.
DO-IT-YOURSELF WEBSITE COST | FREE – $50/MONTH
The DIY website route is a path many freelancers and small businesses are taking. They’re typically quick, convenient, and most importantly, cheap. We’ve seen some amazing tools over the years and watched them improve; Wix, Square Space, Weebly, etc. all offer some advanced customizations that might be a good fit for someone just starting out.
However, it’s important to note that these tools are often a lot more complicated than they seem and our general audience is not comfortable learning and using these tools. As mentioned above, they offer a lot of customization, but they still require some coding, graphic design, and other knowledge to fully take advantage of their features. If you’re a business or freelancer and you’re okay with working within their templates and not working to configure some more custom options, these DIY tools might be a great fit for you.
PROFESSIONALLY BUILT WEBSITE COST | $2,000 – $5,000
A basic designed website acts primarily as an online brochure, establishing a necessary presence online. Questions your potential customers may seek to answer online are:
- Do you exist?
- Are you professional?
- What do you do?
- Have other people worked with you before?
- Have you worked in my industry?
- Where are you located?
A basic website that can be created in the $2,000 – $5,000 range would typically include up to 10 pages. The content should cover all the information about your business, your team, your services, and most importantly, a way to contact you. If you’re working with a web development agency, this website may also come with the ability to update your website on your own through a content management system (or CMS for short).
This makes things a little more complicated as the complexities of using and designing around a content management system is usually a bit more time-consuming than coding HTML from scratch. There is also the added component of training the end-user (client) and their team on how to use the website, which adds additional time to the budget.
A basic website will serve to help brand and market your company, showcase your products/services, and become a lead generating tool for your company. The design of your website will most likely be a template since these costs fall on the lower end of the cost spectrum. This means that your website will likely look similar to others on the web and if that is okay with you, then it may be the right fit.
TEMPLATE WEBSITE COST | $4,500+
BEST SUITED FOR SMALL TO MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES
Template websites are best suited for businesses that have a smaller web or marketing budget overall and are willing to adhere to the limitations of a WordPress template.
WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the web and over 90% of websites built with a CMS use WordPress as their platform. Over time, developers have created millions of WordPress templates that allow companies to create attractive, user-friendly websites quickly. However, it’s important to note that templates are somewhat strict in their customization capabilities.
With a template, you can easily edit your logo, colors, and the general look, but in order to keep your budget small, you would be confined to the overall structure that a template provides.
Some other web agencies will say that they can implement a WordPress template for as little as $500 – $1,000, but we often find that those companies do a quick and dirty job. Moreover, they don’t consider the time to communicate with you, their client, to see what your needs might be. Our pricing reflects time for planning, communicating with our clients, the actual work, and launch/post-launch support.
We establish our pricing for WordPress templates based on the number of hours it will take. This is not a guesstimate; these are hours that we’ve recorded while working on WordPress template websites in the past with actual clients. One of our most common experiences is that a client is willing to use a WordPress template simply because it costs less than a custom website, but often, clients want to make changes to the template that defeat the purpose of using it. By making additional changes, the end cost (after change-orders) becomes close to the amount it would have taken to build a fully custom website.
This is not to say that we don’t recommend WordPress templates. Sometimes, they are the best fit for a client’s budget, preferences, and goals. If you have a great relationship with a web company that understands the limitations of using a WordPress template and makes you aware of those limitations while working through them with you, developing your website in a WordPress template might just be the best of both worlds.
CUSTOM WEBSITE COST | $15,000+
BEST SUITED FOR MEDIUM TO LARGE-SIZED BUSINESSES
Custom websites are best suited for medium to large-sized businesses that have a larger budget, want full control over the look and feel, and may require a bit more functionality.
You may be thinking: “who knew this could be so expensive?” We are frequently met with this question when explaining our pricing to prospects and we usually tell them to remember that web design is a professional service. Much like any creative endeavor, a new website requires research, planning, consulting, design, implementation/development, and quality assurance/testing. Most clients won’t blink an eye at $50,000 for a well-produced TV commercial that airs on local news stations but will see $15,000 for a website and consider that as “too expensive.”
What you see as a client – a sitemap, wireframes, and designs – are just a sample of what goes on behind-the-scenes. Here at our local web design firm, we employ a full-time team of 8 with each person having his/her expertise in various areas of digital. A custom website build requires input from our technical team (hosting requirements as an example), our designer, and our marketers (for SEO/digital marketing guidance). Every item we present for approvals has been carefully thought through with your goals, preferences, and overall best practices in mind. And this all takes time (and money).
Why are websites in this range so expensive? I touched on it in the above paragraph, but there are other factors that can contribute to the cost as well:
- Tighter timelines
- More meetings
- More people (and approvals) involved
- More pages of content to create
- Additional security concerns related to hosting
- Governmental or other requirements (such as ADA compliance)
None of these above factors are extreme or extraordinary, but when required, the costs will increase.
E-COMMERCE WEBSITE COST | $25,000+
BEST SUITED FOR ONLINE RETAILERS
E-commerce websites are best suited for companies that sell products online. Like the above styles of websites, e-commerce website costs vary. An “e-commerce” website in its simplest form could be a PayPal button that allows users to donate online. We’ve done this for a few nonprofits and that sort of e-commerce is very easy to implement. However, when you get into the territory of selling multiple products – with multiple styles, variants, etc. – that’s where e-commerce website costs increase.
We’ve changed our pricing a lot over the years as e-commerce platforms have become more sophisticated. Now more than ever, online consumers have great expectations: their shopping experience needs to be easy and fast. Building a website that gives consumers the experience they want is just the opposite: complex and slow.
Our e-commerce websites include all the above elements that I mentioned under the Custom Website Costs section: planning, research, consulting, etc. Except for e-commerce websites, this planning intensifies. We ask questions like:
- What is the existing website built on?
- What customer data do we want to track?
- Do you want customers to receive automatic emails as they take actions on the website? (The short answer = yes)
And the list goes on and on.
We’ve established our pricing based on the steps we know must be involved in the planning and development process. Miss one step, and it could cost you the success of your e-commerce website. The saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” rings true when it comes to e-commerce website development.
Our basic e-commerce website pricing starts at $25,000 and here’s why:
- Server setup
- SSL purchase
- Merchant account setup
- Payment processor setup
- Shipping setup
- Transactional emails – thank you emails, etc.
- Ongoing maintenance
Within each of those steps above are probably 10-20 mini-steps that we take internally, hence the reason for our e-commerce website pricing beginning at $25,000.
WEB APPLICATIONS | $2,500 – $10,000 (PLANNING) + $30,000 AND UP FOR DEVELOPMENT
BEST SUITED FOR COMPANIES LOOKING TO CREATE AN ONLINE TOOL OF SOME KIND
This is not to be confused with a mobile app, like the one you purchase on your iPhone or Android. Web apps are software that can be accessed from anywhere through the web.
Custom web applications are a little trickier to price because the needs will be exclusive to the project and how the web app should function. If you’re unsure of what a web application is, consider a tool like Mint.com. Mint is a part of Intuit and allows regular people (not businesses) link to their banking and credit card information to track how they spend their money. It’s quite a simple tool to use, however, it certainly was not a simple tool to build. Mint is a perfect example of a custom web app and one that I can guarantee cost millions of dollars to build and thousands to maintain and update each year.
Custom web application pricing varies greatly because each application need is totally different. If you have an idea you want to bring to life through a web application, there are hundreds of hours required to make that idea turn into a reality.
Custom web applications can be large or small. At Atilus, we prefer to begin with project scope and have set pricing of $4,500 for an initial scope. This time includes discussing the idea in general and helping you connect the dots from a technical perspective. Once a project scope has been defined, more planning takes place, this time related to the look and feel.
To summarize, custom web applications are the hardest to really “price” and require a ton of communication between you, the client, and your web company to ensure that the needs are being met from a design and most importantly, a technical perspective.
WHY ARE WEBSITES SO EXPENSIVE?
AND WHY DO COMPANIES CHARGE SUCH DIFFERENT PRICES?
Most potential clients we speak with have received quotes from other web companies. We’re often met with: “Why are you so expensive compared to XYZ Company? Why are you so much less expensive than ABC Company?”
I can’t really explain why prices are so wildly different in the web design industry, but I think it has something to do with the nature of our industry itself. Even though we’re in a time where EVERYONE uses the web to do daily things: banking, booking appointments, etc., there seems to be this cloud of confusion hovering over the industry and I think it has to do with some web companies’ lack of transparency.
I suppose it works a lot like consulting. On the low-end, you have people that, frankly, have no idea what they’re doing and simply throw a number at you without REALLY considering your needs. This person often “knows somebody” that used to work in web or “built themselves a website back in college.” There are many tools for people to learn web design and development online and there are plenty of capable people out there, but those are the people that are going to charge a lower rate.
On the high-end, you have ad agencies creating digital divisions and agencies that charge simply because they think they can. Traditional ad agencies are beginning to realize that they can no longer rely solely on traditional media. I read an article in Ad Age recently where they say that people are dropping the term “digital marketing” and saying just “marketing.” Digital is no longer a “nice-to-have” in your marketing mix. It’s a requirement. Large-scale, prestigious ad agencies now have a digital division and charge an arm and a leg for a website. Some agencies charge more simply because of their client base (“we’ve worked with companies like Cosmopolitan and can charge this much”). That’s a poor example, but you get the idea.
I had a call recently with a prospect who received a quote for 2 websites and the final cost was $120,000. After learning more about the requirements of those websites, I told her I was quite shocked. We are not the least expensive web company out there, but to charge $60,000 for one website that doesn’t require any fancy functionality was just mind-blowing to me. She thought, too, that the price was too high and that this company is simply taking advantage because they’re in a newly lucrative industry and reached out to us for another quote.
And then you have WordPress Maven. I consider us a medium to high-end firm and we establish our pricing based on the amount of work we think it will take. Period. We need to ensure that we account for our own overhead, make sure our team is taken care of, etc., but the final cost is the amount of time we think it will take multiplied by our hourly rate of $150. We aim to be as transparent as possible to ensure there are no surprises along the way.
To summarize this, the bottom line is that much like in any other professional service area, web design and development is an industry where you get what you pay for.
With Permission: Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus’ Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations.0