How Much Does a Website Cost?
If you are in the market for a website and you haven’t worked with a web designer or developer before, I can imagine that your first question might be, “how much does a website cost?”
My response to that would likely start with a quote from one of the funniest people on the internet, Elyse Myers, “That’s a great question, I’d love to tell you.” Then, I’d add to it: “how much time do you have? It’s not a simple answer.”
This extremely common initial question about web design costs is similar to asking:
- How much does a shirt cost?
- How much does a house cost?
- How much does a car cost?
- How much does food cost?
And to all of those I say: that’s a great question, I’d love to tell you. But first…what brand and style of shirt? How big of a house and where do you want to live? Are we talking about a small Ford or a Lamborghini? Do you want rice and beans or exotic sushi?
Do you get my drift? There are so many variables to consider. Every person, business, and website will have different needs, goals, and budgets. Therefore, even the most simple, basic website cannot be quoted or completed without asking you at least a few questions. And in many cases, a full discovery process will be needed in order to provide the most accurate cost and timing estimate.
If you get frustrated with all the questions a web designer will have in response to your “how much does a website cost” question, you can certainly go the DIY route. But, are you ready to sort through the plethora of options out there and/or watch endless YouTube videos? Will the website accomplish all of your goals? Will it look great on all screens and devices? Are you aiming for a quick fix now and then you’ll invest in something more professional later, which may end up meaning you’ll be starting from scratch (again)?
I could go off on a big ol’ tangent about DIY-ing your website and all of the essential pages and features that I believe must be included in a professional website to ensure you are set up for success. For now, though, I’ll stick to the burning question: how much does a website cost?
The answer is…it depends on a lot of different factors. Here’s a not-so-fun fact about the web design (the visual layout) and development (the construction of the website) industry: there are absolutely no standards when it comes to the cost of web design and development. Costs literally range from $0 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The variables include the experience of the web developer, the software being used, and/or the number and types of pages and features included in the project. Furthermore, one developer might consider something a standard feature while another might consider it an add-on feature. Some designers offer design days or VIP days where they will dedicate an entire day or two to your project, but typically for a premium because they are setting aside everything else to focus 100% on your project for an entire day or two.
When you ask the “how much does a website cost” question and follow it up with, “I don’t need anything fancy” or “I just need something simple” or you begin your search in a Facebook group by proclaiming that you are looking for “an affordable web designer,” that makes answering your question or recommending someone even more difficult. Fancy vs. basic, simple vs. advanced, and affordable vs. expensive are all relative and subjective. Everyone has a completely different perspective of what they consider fancy or simple or affordable, so without providing detailed information, how is someone supposed to help you find a designer or give you a price?
Quoting a Website Project
Here are a few questions I would likely ask in order to give you a ballpark quote for your website project. Keep in mind, however, that in order to give you a truly accurate quote, I’d ask you to sign on for discovery.
- Are you looking for a custom website (a design no one has ever seen before) or a customized template (a design that already exists and will be customized with your branding and content)?
- How many pages do you think you’ll need? The basics (home, about, services, blog, contact) or more (services sub-pages, testimonials, FAQs, resources, staff bios, sales pages, etc.)?
- How many forms do you think you’ll need? Only a contact form or a contact form, donation form(s), job application form, feedback form, etc.?
- What’s your timeline? Are you looking for a rush-job or do you have time to work together strategically?
- Do you have your content written? If not, do you have a plan for your content (i.e. will someone in-house write it, will you hire a copywriter, have you already started writing, etc.)?
- Do you have professional photos (of you, your team, your products, your services, etc.)?
- Do you plan to have an email opt-in form on your site? If so, will you be offering a lead magnet? If so, is the lead magnet ready or does it need to be created?
- Is SEO important to you?
- Are you looking for a one-stop shop to handle all of your needs, including branding, website, SEO, social media marketing and more, or would you be willing to work with a few different service providers who aren’t all under one roof?
Hopefully the questions above provided enough proof that it is difficult to quote a website project without asking a fair amount of questions. But I wouldn’t leave you hanging without telling you what the answers to those questions mean in terms of pricing your project.
Custom Website vs. Customized Template:
A custom website will cost more because the site is being designed from scratch and then built out per the approved design. Think of it as a custom home vs. a tract home. A custom home is created just for you. A tract home is like many other homes, but you can specify the paint, fixtures, appliances and decor to make it your own. The price of a smaller custom site may end up being the same as a larger template site due to the similar amount of time involved in each scenario.
Standard Pages and Features vs. Extra Pages and Features:
A custom website with standard pages might cost $3,500, but when you start adding more pages and extra features (i.e. membership, ecommerce, advanced coding of standard features), the cost increases. Some designers may charge a per page fee for all additional pages beyond the pages included in their base package, with heavily designed pages costing more than pages that follow the same template as other pages on your site.
If you need a standard contact form, that’s typically included in the cost of your website project. However, if you need to add additional forms, the developer may charge per form, with the price dependent on how long and detailed the forms need to be.
If you are in a hurry and the designer needs to drop everything to work on your project, you’ll likely pay a rush fee. Think of it as wanting a package delivered faster. You’re going to pay more to get it shipped ASAP.
A website cannot be designed or built without content. Content drives design and design drives development. If you need to hire a copywriter, plan on spending between $100-$500+ per page. If you can draft your own content (which is ideal since you know your business better than anyone else does), some web developers (like yours truly) offer proofreading and editing as an add-on service.
A website without photos or graphics would be pretty boring. You’ll want to break up text and sections with photos or graphics to give the reader’s eyes a break and draw their attention to specific areas of your site. Some web designers work with photographers and can build it into the cost of the project. Whether you hire your own photographer or go through your web designer, expect to add on a few hundred or possibly thousands for high quality, professional photos. You can also use stock photos for all photos other than your own headshots. There are numerous free and premium stock photo websites, so you can spend anywhere from $0 to hundreds or thousands on quality stock photos.
Email marketing has a few costs associated with it. First, there’s the cost of the email marketing software, such as Mailchimp, Flodesk or ConvertKit. Then, there’s the cost of adding the email opt-in form to your website and customizing your email marketing software to match your brand. This is an example of something one designer might consider a standard feature in their web design package while another may consider it an add-on. Finally, there’s the cost of your lead magnet, if you’re offering one. If you are giving away a PDF, e-course, coupon, or video training, it needs to be created and implemented into your email marketing flow.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
If you want to have an SEO consultant perform keyword research, competitive analysis, and/or a site audit, you will want to factor in at least $500+. If you’re looking for ongoing SEO work, the cost can be anywhere from $1,000-$4,000/month.
Boutique Company vs. Large Agency:
The beauty of working with small boutique companies like Exhale Design Co is that you aren’t paying for a bunch of overhead like office space, salaries of staff members who aren’t specifically working on your project, or coffee for the break room. You’re paying for the professional(s) and the deliverables. Period. This may mean that the designer and developer will handle one aspect of your project, she will work with an SEO consultant to handle the SEO portion of the project, and she’ll work with a Facebook ads specialist if that’s something you need. We may not all be under the same roof, but you’re going to get excellent service without having to pay a premium for stuff that isn’t directly related to your project.
Whew…did I answer the question? After all of that, I hope I at least provided information to help you understand some of the costs of web design and development or, at minimum, why it’s not such a simple question with a simple answer. Let me know in the comments below if you found this helpful, and get in touch when you’re ready to embark on the exciting adventure of creating or revamping your online presence.