Owning and operating a business is a huge task. Keeping it current and competitive in an ever-changing marketplace is even more challenging.
And regardless of the products or services you offer, there is one thing all businesses must have to keep up in today’s ultra plugged-in world:
If you want to engage with customers, you need to be where they are, and that means being online.
Here are a few internet statistics to drive home the facts:
- The number of internet users worldwide is around 3.5 billion
- The number of people on Facebook is around 2.2 billion
- According to Pew Research, as of the end of 2015, approximately eight out of every ten Americans shopped online.
Staggering numbers, to say the least.
As a business owner, you need your website to both promote your products and services, while also engaging people to want to come back to your business, again and again.
But how much does a website cost?
Let’s explore the options available and the costs involved in creating the website that’s right for you and your business.
How Much a Website Costs
The cost of a website these days dramatically depends on what you need it to do and who you choose to build and maintain it:
- A small, do-it-yourself site using a drag-and-drop website builder? You’re looking at maybe $100 to $200 per year. Potentially even less.
- A fully functional ecommerce store with 1,000s of products, elaborate integrations, top-tier design, with a third-party web company doing all the work for you? Including design and ongoing management, costs can easily top $10,000.
You probably think that’s a ridiculously wide range.
Yes. Yes, it is.
Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of websites. There’s no single right or wrong way to build one. Just the way that best suits you and your specific needs.
So how do you figure out what your specific needs are?
We’ll cover that in a minute, but let’s quickly go over the two ways that websites are developed, built, and managed: Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional.
Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?
When you’re thinking about your website needs and how much you’re willing to pay, start with this one simple question: Should I do it myself or pay someone to do it for me?
We all love the idea of taking complete ownership of a project. Going it alone has a tremendous appeal, and it’s certainly a noble adventure. But at the same time, it can also be an enormous drain on your time and resources.
As an entrepreneur, you probably have a thousand-and-one things to deal with at any moment. You’ll need to decide if a website build is something worth taking on. If you do it yourself, you certainly can save yourself a lot of money. However, be prepared to spend a lot of time on it.
If you’re less concerned with money and your time is more valuable, farming out the development of your website is probably the way to go (ask these questions when you hire a web designer).
As you’ll see, you can also potentially mix and match these methods of website building if that fits your overall plan better.
NOTE: Do-It-Yourself options are quite popular in the under $5,000 bracket, but are non-existent when looking at website needs above that number. Here’s why:
If maintaining the cost and control of your online presence in-house is doable, then you’re probably not ready to spend five figures on a website yet.
If your business has already moved beyond in-house website management, then you probably have a large enough budget to have someone do it for you.
Now let’s look a bit more closely at the costs involved with each.
What To Expect With Websites Under $5,000
As mentioned earlier, the gap between a small, inexpensive website and a pricier, more robust version is massive. The large price range is mainly because there are so many ways you can create and manage a site.
First, we’re going to tackle the most affordable options.
But don’t confuse affordable with low quality.
There are plenty of low-cost options, both by doing it yourself and hiring a professional, that can make a huge impact on your business.
These options should run you less than $5,000 overall (most of the DIY options are far less), with ongoing costs well under $500 per year.
You can also expect to find cost-effective options with development times that take a few days or weeks versus a few months (we’ll cover large-scale options a bit later).
Overall, there are six key areas involved in building a website, with specific cost considerations for each. They are:
- Domain Name, Web Hosting, and SSL Certificate
- Software To Build Your Website
- Ongoing Content Management
The pricing of each item can range from insignificant to substantial. And you’ll find that the costs can vary based on how much or how little you need or want to do.
1. Domain Names, Web Hosting and SSL Certificate
Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve with your site, a domain name, web hosting and SSL certificate are three things you absolutely must have.
These can be purchased separately or together, but I’d suggest purchasing them together to bundle and save on costs.
When calculated separately, a domain name can run you from about $5 up to $15 a year. Web hosting and an SSL certificate will come in at around $5 to $10 per month.
If you bundle these items together when you buy, you’ll end up paying a fraction of the total cost.
There are many reputable companies that provide all of these items. Start out by choosing your web hosting option first, as many providers give you a free domain if you start with your hosting plan.
I recommend Bluehost, as it’s beginner-friendly and has quality customer support, but other quality options include:
2. Software To Build Your Website
Ever hear that saying about how the simpler something seems on the surface, the more complicated it is underneath?
For websites, this hits the nail on the head.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a web development expert to make your website.
You can thank Content Management Systems (CMS) for that. A CMS takes out a lot of the “development”, and streamlines the work you need to do to get your website up and running.
If you go the DIY route, you’ll most likely use some sort of CMS to create your website. And ultimately, it will make building your website in-house a breeze.
There are dozens of options to choose from, and it’s a bit overwhelming. For 60% of websites that use a CMS, they use WordPress. This includes big companies like NASA, MTV, Sony and more. It’s hard to go wrong with WordPress.
Learn about the three major CMS’s, which are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. If you’re like 60% of CMS users using WordPress, consider reading up on the two types of WordPress choices, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. In addition, if you’re making an ecommerce store with WordPress, read how to do that with WordPress and WooCommerce.
If the thought of building a website with a CMS gives you the cold sweats, don’t panic. You have plenty of other options that are even more beginner-friendly. Namely, website builders.
I’ve compared ALL of the top website builders, but if you just want the highlights, here are some of the most popular website builder options:
- WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org)
- And many, many more
For eCommerce stores, you’ll be looking for a reliable shopping cart function and functionality that makes shipping and returns easy to manage.
At the lower price point (under $5,000), if you opt to pay someone to create your site, they’ll most likely use one of the services listed above. This is normal, but if you’re paying them to do the work for you, keep it in mind.
When you work with a designer, it’s important to set some goals and have a budget in mind. The more complicated the design, the more it’s going to cost.
Consider working with a firm that specializes in the type of website you want. If you’re making a real estate company website, that designer who works on bodybuilding designs might not be the best fit for you. But as with most things in design, it depends on the scenario.
Generally speaking, the scope of your website’s design can fall into one of four categories:
One Page Design
This type of website consists of a single page, usually a long scroll. This type of site is not too typical or an effective option for most businesses.
This will be from two to five pages. A standard website or blog will fall into at least this range.
These are the norm. These websites will have anywhere from six to 15 pages. Usually, this is where you see most eCommerce or small business websites.
These will be more than 15 pages and work best for larger eCommerce sites and mid-size businesses on up.
When considering the design of your website, it’s critical to understand your exact needs to avoid overdevelopment and overpaying.
Regardless of your goals, you will want a Home page, About page and Contact page, but from there it’s about what you and your business need.
An eCommerce site selling t-shirts might need a new products page, or coupon page, whereas a site that deals with only downloaded services may go for an FAQ or How-To page. And both may want to add a page of testimonials.
The point is to key in on what you need to get started. You can always expand later if necessary.
Do you want a website that has all the bells and whistles?
Or one that’s highly stylized and unique within your niche?
Specific modifications can drive the price of your website upwards when a designer or developer is completing the build. If you’re hiring out all of your customization, the sky really is the limit.
A basic site should be built to work seamlessly on all platforms; desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, known as responsive design. Your website should also have social media capabilities to build your social network followings, and be optimized for search engines (SEO) to ensure the highest visibility possible.
Beyond that though, expect a la carte pricing, with most firms ready to build custom priced packages based on what you need.
The core feature of any website is its content. Pictures. Words. Videos. What you say and show your website visitors is typically the difference between whether they spend a few minutes or a few hours perusing what you have to offer online.
Given its importance, this is another area where pricing can vary depending on your approach.
- Will you supply everything yourself?
- Have someone within your team do it?
- Or wrap it in your build contract and have your designer do that too?
With visuals, this is mainly a question of personal preference. Providing your own custom pictures is a good option, but any web designer worth their salt should have reasonable image packages. Other designers include this for free with their package.
With copy, like blog posts and videos, it’s a different story.
Not all web designers and developers are created equal, and some are certainly better than others at handling the content side of the equation.
It’s a good idea to determine your needs for written content first and then dole it out as necessary from there.
If you have a few static pages with basic info, a designer can probably handle that with ease. Are your pages a bit more specific? Keep those in-house and provide the designer with the appropriate copy.
And if you want your website to have a blog, it’s always a best practice to handle the blog yourself or hire a professional writer to draft your posts for you.
In most cases, this will save you considerable content creation cost and make sure that whatever you say is compelling.
6. Ongoing Content Management
Finally, when sizing up a website design firm and weighing the final costs, understand what ongoing fees may be involved.
Plenty of design companies use their own internal CMS systems to manage the websites they design for clients. Other don’t mind building on your CMS or website builder.
Be sure to understand how your website firm handles ongoing content management, as it varies by firm to firm. There are big cost differences between you having some level of control over updates or if every change needs to pass through your web designer or developer.
What To Expect With Websites Over $5,000
I know what some of you are probably thinking. Okay, that’s great, and all, but my small business is ready to take that next step and spend the money necessary to do it.
I know where you’re coming from and this section is specifically for you.
Chances are, your company already has a website (potentially starting out as one of the affordable options mentioned above), and up to this point, it’s been sufficient for your goals.
But now you need more.
There’s no handling it all in-house anymore, and you are years removed from the DIY method. How much can you expect to pay for a website that’s going to skyrocket your business to that next level?
Before breaking down specific costs, let’s review a few factors involved in determining your site’s final bill.
If your current website has been effective for you, then simply expanding it may be a smart, cost savings move.
A competent design firm can upgrade a site that began as a DIY job and improve it to match your organization’s current business goals. The upgraded design includes your branding, strategy, and content, among other things, but at least you’re starting from a baseline and not square one.
Just because something is brand new, doesn’t always mean it’s going to be better. If you take this route, expect your website build costs to be reduced by as much as 25%, sometimes even more.
New Branding, New Strategies
If you find your company in a place where its time to move on from your old branding and marketing strategies, then your website development costs will naturally be higher.
New logo, new scheme, new marketing tactics; it can add up quickly.
Essentially, what functionality does your website need:
- Is it an eCommerce site?
- Do you need to actively engage with customers through features like live chat?
- Is the site going to be a living, breathing extension of your company or something more static?
Programming costs can account for up to half of your website budget. Even if you’re not all that tech-savvy, it’s important to understand the dollars that go into this part of your site. In some cases, an add-on and extra features may seem cool, but they may drive up your website redesign price and be unnecessary for your goals.
Ask about the development side of things.
Don’t just assume that programming is going to be expensive. In a lot of cases, web designers and builders have nailed the process down to a science and their actual costs are a bit lower than you might think.
Ongoing Maintenance and Marketing
As your company has grown, the monthly costs have probably ballooned too. This will hold true for your upgraded website, as well.
A more substantial site (and overall higher profile for your company) comes with more updates, more backups and more upgrades.
Granted, most of the pages on your site will remain static and unchanged. Your specific business and industry will likely determine how much maintenance you’ll need, but updates can include:
- Crisp photos and fresh copy
- If yours is a ecommerce site – updated products, new offerings, holiday deals
- Killer blog posts
On top of the regular updating of the website, further monthly costs occur indirectly.
These include online advertising, developing more robust marketing partnerships, and getting your brand out in the sphere of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.).
You should anticipate a monthly spend in the neighborhood of $500 to $1,000 on average to cover both maintenance and marketing of your website.
If your plans call for something more aggressive, a 30-day spend of $2,000+ is not out of the question. As you grow, so will your month ad spend.
Adding It All Up
Yes, there are a lot of costs to add up.
It can take a lot to build an online presence, but it’s vital to the health of your business to keep at it.
So what exactly should you budget for your website be? Let’s add it all up.
Small to Medium Size Single Landing Page
As mentioned earlier, this type of site is highly specialized and not standard or practical for most businesses.
After all, these are one page websites.
Usually, there’s a specific action these websites want a visitor to take, like complete a contact form or make a phone call. There isn’t that much that goes into building these websites. But to be effective, they can require a lot of upfront planning to achieve the intended message and goals.
If done well, there is a cool factor associated with a web page of this nature, but again, it lacks broad appeal for a reason.
A single landing page can cost anywhere from $300 – $1500 to create. This will definitely be cheaper than a large-scale websites, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to more than $15,000. If you’d rather do it yourself, your easiest choice is using a website builder or creating your own WordPress website.
Small Business Standard Website
A small business standard website is what you’ll see most local businesses have.
Think of your local pizzeria’s website, or that local nail salon you always pass by on your way home. These types of websites are information-based, and usually are built to promote a business and its services.
Usually 15 to 20 pages deep, this type of website contains essential information like a Homepage, About Us, Services, and a Contact Us page. Some typical functionality these websites have includes a coupon or reservation pages, email subscriber integration, or a contact form to request more information.
A small business standard website will likely cost between $3,000 to $6,000, depending on your website needs. However, costs can be between $6,000 to $15,000 if you require additional customization, content creation and ongoing management. Here’s the step-by-step guide to make your own website, if you prefer the DIY option.
Small Business eCommerce Website
This variation of the standard website mentioned above adds an online shopping component. A small-scale apparel company or local store with in-line offerings would fit well within this segment.
The product line and shipping requirements are simple as is the customer engagement. Additional functions may include testimonial pages or a blog to further promote products that are for sale on the site.
Depending on the scope, you can have this type of website developed for as low as $5,000. Increased marketing and functionality can see this overall pricing top out anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000. You can also opt for the DIY method, typically using Shopify or WooCommerce.
Medium Business Standard Website
For medium-sized businesses, there’s a wider scope of goods or services that need to be showcased. These kinds of websites can easily top 25 to 50 pages or more.
Perhaps you have a sizable management roster with bios you want to promote.
Or numerous sign up forms you need to have customers fill out.
Or you have a complex database of information that members or returning customers can regularly access, which integrates with your company CRM.
For this category, think about a regional car dealership or regional real estate property management group. Think about all of the complexities involved in their customer engagement, retention and growth.
A medium business standard website designed and developed to meet a complex, regionally-minded business can cost between $15,000 to $30,000. This is typically more advanced than companies are willing to do in-house. If that rings true, consider hiring a web development firm or freelancer. You can find freelancers on platforms like Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr. Make sure you ask the top questions when hiring a web designer or developer.
Medium Business eCommerce Website
When you’re at this size, you’ve already grown your business into a complex mix of products and customer engagement. You need detailed and robust accounting, fulfillment, and shipping functions and these all need to be user-friendly.
A regional online retailer is a prime example of this kind of web presence.
To maintain a competitive advantage, this website build will likely require a massive marketing commitment.
A medium business ecommerce website can have overall costs easily starting at $20,000 and working upwards from there. As with other medium sized websites, this is usually more advanced than companies are willing to do in-house. If that’s the case, consider hiring a web development firm or freelancer. You can find freelancers on platforms like Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr. Make sure you ask the top questions when hiring a web designer or developer.
I know we just covered a ton of information, with lots of numbers to make sense of.
Let’s do a quick recap of each major price point, so you have a better idea of what you can and can’t do at each level:
Websites Under $5,000
These can be done either in-house or contracted out with custom domain names and web hosting, either free website design services or ones that are a nominal cost, and can also include eCommerce options and functionality.
Ongoing or monthly maintenance and marketing costs will often be low in this price range but can increase based on how aggressive the website will need to be marketed.
Websites Over $5,000
With the very rare exception, these websites will always be contracted out and designed, developed and managed by a third-party. Your options are only limited by your budget, with full customization available at every step.
Due to the scope of this website type, monthly costs are the norm to ensure content and marketability remains current and updated.
For simple sites, you can opt for the DIY method. The easiest choice is using a website builder or creating your own WordPress website. If you’re making an ecommerce store, read up on the two largest options: Shopify and WooCommerce. If you’re considering hiring a web development firm or freelancer, you can connect with freelancers on platforms like Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr. Make sure you ask the top questions when hiring a web designer or developer.
Do Your Homework
As you can see, website costs are all over the place. Even though there is a bit of an assembly line feel to the manner in which sites get built and marketed, do not overlook their uniqueness.
And what is that, you ask?
It’s what you and your company bring to the process.
Whether your aim to build or upgrade your businesses website for less than $5,000 or have it done for more, here are a few vital points you’ll need to consider.
Know What You Want to Achieve
You don’t need to have every single goal figured out yet. But when you’re investing in your website, have an idea of what you want it to do before you start.
Are you telling your company’s story, hoping more people will choose you over a competitor?
Are you aiming to increase your product offering and in turn offer your customers greater flexibility in the ordering process?
Are you expanding into new markets and need your online presence to reach new consumers in those areas?
Small, large, or somewhere in between, make sure your objectives are in line with the website you want promoting your business.
Have a Budget
It doesn’t matter if you’re spending $500 or $50,000 on a website, you need to know where that money is going in order to maximize your investment.
Do you need less programming and more marketing?
Or are the needs opposite of that?
You will need to know how your dollars can best be spent to get the most out of each area of your website.
In addition, don’t forget to include ongoing costs as part of your due diligence. A website built for an initial investment of $5,000 will cost you an additional $6,000 a year if your monthly management of that site runs $500 per month.
Weighing your options is a good idea, whether you take the do-it-yourself route or have a web company design and build your site for you.
When looking at the affordable options, which services get you the features you want at a reasonable price?
Are you purchasing web hosting or development services that are highly regarded and live up to their promises?
With a freelance developer or company, the costs may increase, but the principles are very much the same.
Scope and bid out your project with multiple groups.
Contact the references they give you, but don’t be afraid to dig a bit deeper and call upon ones they don’t. Ask them questions to see if they actually know what they’re talking about.
It’s your money and building a website is a considerable investment. Make sure you trust the group that you are tasking with your company’s online image.
With the many ways a website can be designed and developed, it’s no wonder the associated costs run from the extremely low to the incredibly high.
From creating your company’s first site to expanding it for the umpteenth time, your website is the window for the online world to see you and your organization.
By understanding the costs and options involved, you’ll get the most out of your investment and ensure that your window is the one that everybody wants to look through.
Whether you do-it-yourself or hire an outside web firm, go build the site of your dreams!