The Ultimate Guide to Figuring Out How Much to Pay for a Website
“So, how much will my website cost?”
The most common question I hear, yet it’s the most complicated to answer.
With anything in life, we’d prefer a concrete answer, right?
In the world of websites, a concrete answer for this question….doesn’t exist.
If you were to send your list of website needs to 5 different web designers, I’d almost guarantee you’d come back with 5 different project quotes.
Skip to a Section:
>> What Kind of Website Do You Need?
>> What are the Components of Every Website?
>> What Features Do You Need?
>> How Involved Do You Want to Be?
>> What’s the Skill Set of the Designer?
>> Why Has the Price of a Website Changed?
>> Can’t I Whip Up a Website Myself?
>> What Are the On-Going Costs of a Website?
In a nutshell, what makes up the cost of a website is not only the design of it, or how it looks on the surface, it’s more about what lies underneath that matters.
The cost of a website is mostly dependent on HOW that website works.
….and if you’re not too familiar with the web and how it works, this could end up confusing you about the whole process a million times more.
The internet is kind of a “black hole” idea to a lot of people. Which hell, I can understand that. But me, being in the web industry, it’s my job to educate my clients on best practices and quality so that they can make educated decisions.
Asking “how much will my website cost?” is kind of like asking a person that builds houses, “So, how much is a house going to cost?”
When you’re building a house, you have a TRILLION options. It’s your job to know the overall goal of your house, and your builder’s job to get you there.
Before your house builder even begins the process of planning out your house, he has to know what style of design you want, where he’s building it, how many rooms to add, how the floorplan should be laid out, what your budget is, etc.
Ya know, the typical things.
BUT what about the stuff that’s under the hood? The stuff you don’t see with your eye; the electrical, foundation, water, gas, etc.
What about the actual framework of the house?
A house is a big investment. It’s where you start to build your life. The framework has to be up to standard or that shit will fall apart…..and it’s the same with your website and online presence.
Your website is your online home.
You don’t want it to fall apart.
It’s an essential to the way you do business.
It may even be the only way you do business…
It’s your best employee.
It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.
Even when you’re sleeping, your website is:
- Talking to your customers & promoting your business.
- Giving first impressions about your business & reputation.
- Reaching more people; giving each person one-on-one attention.
- Educating your audience on your products & services.
- Allowing your clients & customers to interact with you virtually.
- Your website has the ability to do several “tasks” at once. (For example: make appointments, give directions, market your products, promote your brand, inform about your services….make you money.)
Alright, alright, let’s get to the factors that affect the cost of your website.
So, I’m going to break it down.
All of it.
What Factors Affect the Cost of a Website?
The Type of Website You Need:
What are you looking to get out of your website?
Why do you need one?
Which website platform do you need?
Here’s a rundown of the 4 most common types of websites:
These kinds of websites are content driven and made to help the blogger connect with an audience and create a following. Blogs are updated frequently with new articles/content and link to social media feeds to help the audience connect with the author and/writer.
If you’re not making money from your blog, I’d go with a free option like WordPress.com BUT, if you’re looking to make money from your blog, you’ll have to invest in it.
The amount that you invest is up to you. You can mess around with a free or cheap template, or you can hire a professional to help you get the perfected look and strategy you want.
It all depends on your end goal.
If you want your audience to see you as a professional, influencer, or an authority in your niche, you gotta talk the talk and walk the walk. When it comes to building trust online, it’s all about the impressions you give your visitors.
Simple Informational or Business Website:
This is the most popular option when it comes to new businesses or people just looking to have information accessible online. It’s a great starting point for a lot of people, in a lot of different industries.
These kinds of websites usually have about 4-6 pages, may or may not incorporate a blog, have a couple social media accounts linked to it, and are pretty basic in design.
This option is perfect if you just need to give people access to information on the internet and provide a way to contact you.
Simple Informational websites are the kinds of websites that you can get away with using a template, theme, or DIY drag and drop builder. They’re commonly created from a design only standpoint and don’t usually focus on strategy since you’re kind of just plugging in content. Using a template or ready-made theme makes for an easier setup but since they’re not unique to the business, they run the risk of looking like everyone else’s website.
If you’re looking for a website that’s created for your business goals and will get you ahead of your competition….a simple website won’t cut it. You’re going to want a more advanced option, which brings me to my next one…
Advanced Informational or Business Website:
This option is popular for business’ that are looking to step up their online presence. A more advanced informational site will be created around driving conversions and getting you the results you want.
The main goal of mid-sized/advanced information websites are to inform, connect, and are usually marketing-focused.
These kinds of websites take more time to plan and create, therefore costing more money than a simple website, but the return on the investment will usually be multiplied.
If you’re deciding between a simple and a more advanced information or business website, it all comes down to what you expect to get out of it. What will your website do for you? Do you want to get more customers and clients from your website? Do you want your website to help your business grow or are you looking for a “plug in my content and get online now” kind of option?
You’ll need an ecommerce option if you plan on selling things on your website. If you need ecommerce functionality you’ll definitely be looking at a higher cost for your website. There are a ton of extra things that an ecommerce website needs in order to run properly when compared to an informational or business website.
The LEVEL of ecommerce typically depends on how many products you have. Some people only have 5 things to sell, while other people have 500+.
If you have a lot more products, you’ll be spending more money on your website….especially if you want it all to flow together nicely and not overwhelm your visitors.
If you already have an ecommerce website, make sure you’re not making any of these ecommerce web design mistakes that could be killing your sales
Regardless of the TYPE of website you need, your design should ALWAYS ALWAYS be mobile responsive. (It’s 2019, most humans check out websites on their mobile devices) If you’re talking to a web designer or professional that doesn’t mention responsive design…..run. for. the. hills.
The Components of Every Website:
Regardless of the TYPE of website you want, there’s a list of things that every website has.
1. Domain Name:
Every website in the history of websites has to pay for a domain name. It’s the unique name that visitors put into the search bar to be taken to your website. It’s kind of like your online fingerprint. It’s totally specific to you.
If you think of your website in terms of a house…..your domain name is your street address. It’s the unique combination that you tell visitors to help direct them to where you live.
Cost: Typically $10 a year….depending on how popular the domain name you want is. If it’s a popular one, it could cost more.
2. Which Platform Do You Prefer?
There are 3 main website platforms that I refer my clients to: Squarespace, WordPress, or Shopify.
Each one has their pros/cons, and each one has things the do better than the others.
Shopify is built ONLY for online stores. Thinking about selling things online? Consider Shopify.
WordPress is hands down the most powerful and flexible platform…but that means there’s a learning curve to using it and there’s definitely some tech involved.
Squarespace is the most user-friendly, with the smallest learning curve, especially if you want to create your website yourself. BUT it’s restrictive. You’re limited to their designs/templates, and they’re built-in functionality.
(People typically always ask me about Wix and Weebly, and the truth is, I never recommend them. I’ve only experienced issues with either platform, and I don’t like how their framework is built from a strategy, development, or stability standpoint.)
3. Hosting Package:
Just like a domain name, every website on the internet has to pay for a hosting package to make their website accessible to other humans on the web.
If you think of your website in terms of a house…your hosting package is the latitude and longitude of where you’re building your home. You buy the space, and pay the taxes on it. So for hosting, they give you room on their servers and you pay monthly (or yearly) for it.
If the server is where my website lives, why do I need a domain name?
When you get space on a server, the URL to that space is not pretty. It’s a bunch of numbers and usually some characters. If you don’t have a domain name, it’s like you not having a street address. You’d be having to tell people you live at 34.9039N, -19.9809W…..and who the hell is going to remember that?
Cost: The cost of a hosting package is a little bit more flexible than the cost of a domain. But this also depends on the website platform that you choose.
If you’re on a platform like Squarespace or Shopify, you pay them monthly for hosting and you’re held to their options.
If you’re on WordPress you have the flexibility of picking which hosting company you’d like to choose. You can get a cheap hosting package on a shared server for about $5 a month, or you can get a better-quality server for about $25 a month.
(Is the price difference for WordPress hosting worth it? Yes. When you invest in a higher quality server for your WordPress website, your website will perform better and the customer service is usually better as well.)
I always recommend my clients to use SiteGround* hosting. Their customer service is the bomb, and I use them for my own website.
When it comes to these next 3 components, you have options.
You can take the DIY approach, which will be the cheapest.
The middle approach, where you do what you can/have time to do and then hire out for the rest. Or the costlier (but totally worth it) approach of hiring out for all of it.
It all depends on which one you have more of; time, money, or skill.
3. Logo + Branding:
Your logo and branding are a MAJOR part of your online strategy. It’s how your business and online presence will be portrayed to your audience.
It’s the visual representation of you, your business, and your mission.
It’s the foundation in which your audience starts to become aware of you.
Regardless of what direction you take your logo and branding in….when it comes to your website, you need them. You need a logo, whether it’s image based or text-based. You also need a color scheme and cohesive fonts to keep your website unified.
Cost: Depends on which route you take to get them; usually ranging from $0 – $1,000.
How many pages is your website going to have?
Who’s going to write the content for those pages?
If you’re going to write the content yourself, please have a few people double check it! You don’t want to launch a website and then realize it’s loaded with grammar mistakes.
If you’re going to hire a copywriter to help you create the content for your website, make sure you chose someone that understands your message, brand, and audience….and if they write SEO-driven content, even better!
Cost: $0 – $500 per page/article
Do you have high-resolution images for your website? If not, ya need em’.
Incorporating the appropriate kinds of images and graphics can make a HUGE difference in the effectiveness of your website AKA they’re important as hell.
Visuals help your website visitors engage and move around your website.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, it depends on what kind of website you need.
If you’re looking for free stock images, you can try websites like Stocksnap, Rawpixel, Pic Jumbo, or Pexels. If you’re looking for paid stock image options, you can try Death to Stock Photo or Shutterstock. If you’re looking for visuals and graphics, you can check out Creative Market or Graphic River.
Or you can hire a local photographer or graphic designer to help you create brand-centered photos/icons/visuals for your website.
(and no, you can’t just steal images from Google Image Search and use them on your website. You don’t own those images and it could open up a huge can of legal fees if you try….I’ve seen it.)
Cost: TOTALLY dependent on what you need. If you snag some royalty free stock images online, you might not have to pay anything, but if you hire a photographer or graphic designer, your price will depend on their rates….along with if you still need paid stock photos to supplement that or not.
What Features Do You Need?
You need a website, but what does your website need to be able to do?
Do people need to be able to make appointments with you from your website?
Should they be able to purchase products?
Do you need a portfolio to showcase some of your past work?
Will the items in your portfolio be a gallery of images or do you want to incorporate text and explain the entire process behind your portfolio items?
Laying out components and features is one of the most commonly overlooked portions of websites. Try not to make any assumptions until you talk to someone about your needs.
Some features of websites look extremely simple to the user but are intricate and complicated to setup…..and vis versa; some things look like a total headache but are pretty straightforward to implement.
To help figure out how much your website is going to cost, you have to be clear on the things you need.
Here are a couple examples that could impact the cost of your website:
- Forms, surveys, questionnaires
- Migrating or manually entering website content
- Selling things online aka ecommerce (as mentioned before)
- Types of content (blog, video, audio, etc)
- Membership areas
- Social Media and how you choose to implement it
- Scheduling functionality
- SEO and how you choose to take advantage of it
- Customized landing pages/sales pages
- Location locators
- Email marketing optins or campaigns
- Almost any kind of database functionality
- Multilanguage capabilities
- Special coding or customized out-of-the-box options
Am I making your brain spin with ideas yet? hahahaha
When it comes to the world-wide-web, the options really are endless. That can be a good thing, or an insanely conflicting thing.
The best way to get clear about what kinds of things your website will need is to just start writing them out.
“I need my clients to be able to access a certain page, by entering a password I give them.” “I need my customers to be able to book a service with me on my online calendar.” “I need my visitors to be able to watch my YouTube videos on my website.”
The clearer you are about this, the easier it will be for you to find a solution, or hire the right person to provide you with the right solution.
Not sure about what components/features your website will need?
Start doing research.
Google your competitors online.
What information are they showing?
What do you like about their website?
What do you not like about it?
Are they solving your ideal audience’s problem?
How can you put your own spin on it and do it better?
or you can check out this free Web Design Inspiration tool that shows you ideas from almost every industry imaginable….warning: you might spend hours looking at these ideas. I know I do.
Need help planning your website? Check out my FREE Website Planning Quick Guide!
How Involved Do You Want to Be?
When it comes to the planning, designing, and development of your website, how hands-on do you want to be?
Do you want to take the full DIY approach?
Do you want to spend some time learning a couple things, then hire out when you need it?
Do you want to hire professionals to turn your vision into a functional website?
Do it Yourself:
If you want to tackle your website on your own, you have to consider the cost of templates or themes that you might use (so you don’t have to learn how to create a website from scratch).
Cost: $0 (if using a free theme) – $100 (for more advanced themes)
Learn + Hire if Needed:
If you want to take some time to learn how to create your own website, you have to consider the cost of those learning resources. Will you invest in an online course or a self-guided ebook? Possibly pay for a 1 on 1 training session? How much time are you willing to put into this?
Cost: $0 (if you use free resources) – $$ (depending on the price of a course or hourly workshop fee)
If you’re looking to hire a professional to create your website, you’ll still have to be involved in the process but you won’t have to handle any of the heavy lifting. You can communicate your ideas/goals, provide feedback when needed, and go back to focusing on whatever it is you do best.
As a professional web designer and developer, I believe it’s our job to educate you on best practices and good decision making when it comes to your website. You might not be familiar with the world wide web and all of it’s components, but we are, and it’s our job to turn your vision into a functioning, pixel-perfect masterpiece that gives you results.
And in a nutshell, that’s what you pay for. Not only the design and the end product of a website, but the skills, expertise, and knowledge that comes along with it.
Cost: Completely dependent on the designer/developer you choose, which leads me to my next point….
What’s the Skill Set of the Designer?
When you’re looking for a web designer or developer to help you carry out your website dreams, you have to pay attention to their skill set and your budget.
Like most things in life, you usually get what you pay for.
Beginner designers that will usually create a website for $0-$500.
We’ve all been there and ya gotta start somewhere. The beginner uses your project to help build their skills, so when you’re the one doing the hiring you have to keep in mind that you’re not going to get the kick-ass quality you may need.
The part-time web designer is a person that does this stuff on the side. They usually have a 9-5 that pays the bills and they use their web design skills to churn up some extra cash.
They typically charge from a couple hundred to around $1000 for a website. Even though these options might fit your budget, they typically don’t have the open availability/time for your project….and their skills can be quite the mystery.
I’ve seen some AMAZING part-time web designers that charge a small amount because it’s not their full-time gig, and I’ve seen poorly executed projects done by part-timers because the knowledge they have is a little outdated from not having to focus on the industry full-time.
These guys are the bread and butter of the web design world. They typically charge $2000-$7000 for a website, depending on the type of website and what it requires.
The skills of a freelancer/solopreneur vary quite drastically. Some of them focus on the design aspect, others focus on the coding aspect, and some team up with other creatives to give you the best of both worlds.
My suggestion when choosing a web designer is to ask around.
Ask your friends, colleagues, and people in your community who they’ve worked with.
Who would they recommend?
If you can’t find a designer from a recommendation make sure you look at their portfolio. Does their style match the style you’re looking for? Reach out to them, communicate with them. A website is an insanely valuable piece of collateral for your business, you want to choose the person that fits what you’re looking for.
Usually, the most expensive option because when you hire them, you’re not getting one professional, you’re getting a whole team of professionals.
The cost of an agency creating your website is typically $5,000 – $20,000. Quite the gap, I know, but they also offer a lot of extra services besides your typical web design project.
The main problem I see with some local “well-known” agencies is that some of them focus on quantity, not quality. They get clients because they’ve had a lot of clients, not so much because their service went above and beyond.
Obviously, they’re not all like that, I’ve also worked with some kick-ass ones….just follow your gut.
Pay attention when you’re chatting with them about the project and make sure they’re listening to the needs of your website and take the time to learn about your business.
When it comes to finding a website solution based on budget, you need to find a balance. Find a person or agency that can help you through the process; provide a good overview of what you’re looking for and ask a lot of questions.
Creating a website is a collaborative process and it’s alllll about communication.
In the end, you might need to reevaluate your list of website-must-haves or increase your budget to allow for all of them.
Why Has the Price of a Website Changed?
I’ve had clients say “Wow, the last time I paid for someone to create my website, it didn’t cost that much.” or “My cousin whipped up my website a few years ago, didn’t seem that hard.”
How long ago was your website built? 2, 3, 4, 5 years ago?
Technology changes constantly.
It’s continuously being updated and expanded upon.
Outdated websites stick out like a sore thumb (in the worst way) not only to me but to visitors too.
A website built 5 years ago doesn’t have the functionality or updated web practices that a website built last week does.
Website’s built now have to be responsive to over 200+ screen sizes. The days of viewing a website on your phone or tablet and having to pinch in and out to read them, are over.
You have to consider how your website will look on mobile, how secure it is, how search engines will pick it up, how to effectively get your information across to your user, efficiently appealing design, turning website user’s into paying customers, how long it takes a website to load, how images show up and how large they are, how to integrate social media, etc.
Another thing to consider is how a new, updated website will affect your business.
You’re trying to STAND out from your competitors and snag more business, in turn making your sales increase.
You can’t do that with a mediocre design and lack of strategy.
The more advanced the internet gets, the more components we have to consider in our web design practices.
All of your competitors are online.
If you had a website 10 years ago, you were ahead of the game. You could get a website made, set it, and forget it. You would show up in Google search results, and you’d get a crazy amount of business just for being online.
“Just being online” won’t cut it anymore. Everyone is online; your competition AND your target audience. You have to stand the hell out, not blend in.
Can’t I Whip Up a Website Myself?
You absolutely can.
The best thing about the internet is that it’s ALWAYS advancing.
You’ve seen the commercials, “Build your website yourself, today!”
There are YouTube videos and tutorials and online courses that walk humans through just about every process they could ever want. It’s amazing.
But by creating your website yourself, without the help of an educated designer or developer, you’re cutting yourself short in a lot of ways.
Having any website and online presence isn’t the same as having a GOOD website and online presence.
And by good, I mean, down to the core good.
You may be able to whip yourself up a great looking website, but like I mentioned in the beginning of this post….how does it WORK?
If you’re not in the web industry, you’re missing a lot of pieces to the puzzle.
It’s up to you, are you willing to sacrifice your visitor’s first (and possibly only) impression of you and your business?
First impressions are everything.
When you’re walking down the street and you see two different restaurants, which one are you going to choose to eat at? The one that’s in a dark alley, that has a small sign flickering with a light bulb about to burst, or the one that created an appealing atmosphere with an eye-catching logo?
As visual human beings, we’re wired to assess the quality of services and products on outside factors, at first. First impressions matter, especially in business, and DOUBLE especially when it comes to business websites.
If a customer or client is hearing about you for the first time, what are they going to do?
Before they reach out to you about your products, services, or offerings, they have to trust you. How the hell can you build trust with someone you don’t know and you’ve never met?
Two words: Strategic design.
According to Instantshift, 94% of people said that design factors into whether they trust certain websites or not.
Cutting corners when it comes to your website can be SOOO tempting, I know. But just like every other industry, ya gotta trust the professionals if you’re looking for good results.
If a pipe were to burst in my house….I could definitely search on YouTube “how to fix a bursted pipe” and probably “fix” it. BUT am I going to be able to fix it with the skill and knowledge that a trusted professional plumber could? Hell to the no. That plumber is educated, trained, and has experience fixing bursted pipes. I might be able to whip out a band-aid solution, but it won’t hold up for the long haul, with the same results as the professional’s solution.
If you want a professional looking website, don’t spend months trying to tweak elements and toss together a decent solution.
You want to be proud of your website and happy with the end result.
You should look at your website and be EXCITED about it…..not only about how it looks on the outside to the eye, but how it was built from the inside.
In a few months, are you going to be nervous updating your themes, plugins, and software?
What about the on-going costs of a website?
The best thing about the internet and the worst thing about the internet are the same thing. It’s ALWAYS advancing.
Technology changes….quick. So quick that it’s actually not uncommon to redesign your website every few years….especially when it can be such a HUGE asset to your business.
It’s the biggest asset if you ask me. (I might be a little biased though).
If you want your website to last longer, you have to take care of it.
It’s like a car.
Your car needs oil changes so that all of the parts continue to work well together, especially for security and safety reasons.
Your website needs maintenance so all of IT’S pieces can continue to work well together, especially for security and safety reasons. (Hackers are relentless)
Besides the cost of your domain and hosting every year, if you’re not comfortable keeping your website updated and backed up yourself (at least monthly) you should outsource this.
You don’t want to regret keeping your website up to date and secure AFTER it’s been hacked and destroyed.
The cost of a website can range from $100 to over $10,000+
In a nutshell, it comes down to four things:
- What kind of website do you need?
- Will you build your website yourself?
- Can you get away with using a template or do you need custom solutions?
- Are you willing to sacrifice quality to stay within a budget?
If you’re having trouble dropping a decent amount of money on a website, consider what your website will do for your business:
- Talking to your customers & promoting your business.
- Marketing your products & services.
- Give directions from your user’s location
- Promoting your brand & business.
- Giving first impressions about your business & reputation.
- Reaching more people; giving each person one-on-one attention.
- Educating your audience on your process and products.
- Allowing your clients & customers to interact with you at any time of day.
If your website doesn’t lead to more business, it’s not because the web doesn’t work, it’s because your website doesn’t…..and that’s the cold hard truth.
If you’re unsure about what direction to take next to improve your website and your online presence, ask a professional…..we’re always looking to improve the world wide web, even if it’s one website at a time.