The cost of designing a website depends on the size of your project, and whether you hire a web design professional or go DIY
DIY websites cost between $0-$200 per year. Custom features can push costs up to $1,000
Custom websites built by web design agencies can cost as much as $5,000-$50,000+, depending on the scope of your project
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook on a server that cost $85/month.
Can you guess how far $85 gets a medium sized business in 2018?
2004 Cost: $85/month 2018 Cost: $83.75/year
What a time to be online.
Clearly, businesses nowadays don’t need to spend big for deluxe web design. In fact, you can get a website, like the one shown on the right, for under $100.
That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Suppliers’ fees vary more than ever, and ‘costly’ doesn’t even begin to describe some boutique design agencies.
To learn more about the different costs involved in creating and running a website, read on.
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Website Costs at a Glance
Regardless of the type of business you own, all websites involve similar types of costs.
We’ve broken down some typical costs for different types of websites below. Note that web design prices vary, so you should take these figures as guidelines rather than as gospel. For example, if you intend to manage content creation and site maintenance in-house, you can cut your running costs by quite a bit.
|Site Type||Microsites||Small Websites (with very little custom functionality)||Custom-Built Websites|
|Domain||$0.99 - $39.99||$0.99-$39.99||$0.99-$39.99+|
|Content||$0-$20/hour||$25-$50/hour||(often handled by agency)|
The Five Stages of Making a Website
You can split the costs of setting up a website into five parts:
- Part 1: Getting a domain name
- Part 2: Hosting your website
- Part 3: Designing your website
- Part 4: Creating your content
- Part 5: Running your website
You don’t necessarily have to tackle these parts in this order. There’s nothing to stop you, for instance, from choosing a web designer before you’ve bought a domain name, or from writing content for your blog before you’ve bought hosting. Companies like GoDaddy even bundle these services together in order to make creating a website even easier.
If you want to find the very best deals, you need to understand exactly what you’re paying for at each stage.
Part 1: Getting a domain name
When you buy a house, you normally pay a lump sum for the house and the lot.
Not so with building a website. A domain name is like an empty plot - a place where you have to pay extra to build a website. Every website has a domain name, and you should think carefully about yours.
Your domain name is a crucial aspect of your business’s branding. It’s what displays at the top of someone’s web browser every time they visit your site. It’s where business directories like Yelp send people who are likely to be interested in your services. It’s also what customers type when they want to find you online.
You want your domain name to be:
- Relevant to your business
- Memorable for your customer
Domain names with the ‘.com’ extension are the most popular choice. Due to competition between different buyers, this unfortunately means that some .com domains are very expensive. They can range in price from $0.99 per year to thousands of dollars if someone has purchased your domain name before you and is looking for an easy profit.
That’s where domain registrars come in. Domain registrars are companies that compete on price to sell you web domains. Buying from them is simple, and you can make a purchase in a few clicks. A standard purchase agreement is for one or two years with an option to renew.
The cost of a domain name includes a one-off registration fee and a renewal fee at the end of each billing period.
Assuming you want a long-term home for your website, pay close attention to the renewal costs charged by different registrars. Some make money by advertising rock-bottom registration fees, only to sting customers with hefty renewal fees a year later.
We calculated the average combined registration and renewal costs for the three most popular types of domain name (.com, .net, .org) sold by each domain name registrar.
These are the suppliers that came out cheapest overall:
|Registrar||Average cost of registration and renewal after one year|
|Registrar||Average cost of registration and renewal after one year|
|Registrar||Average cost of registration and renewal after one year|
Part 2: Hosting Your Website
Our ‘buying a house’ analogy isn’t perfect. There’s an essential component to building a website that homeowners don’t have to worry about: hosting.
Every time you open a new webpage, your web browser needs to find out what content to load. It does this by communicating with remote servers that store information about different websites. In a nutshell, a web host is a company that manages these servers, letting the public visit your website.
Hosting is important because without it, your website doesn’t exist. That’s why buying a web domain before you’ve sorted out hosting can actually be a bad idea. Anyone trying to visit would see this error message instead of your beautiful homepage:
Luckily, hosting providers make it super easy to link new or existing domain names to their servers during signup. You can also get bargains on some top domain names if you buy them as part of a web hosting package. With suppliers like Web.com, who cover the full range of website creation services, there’s zero chance you’ll get left in the lurch.
A Word on Web Hosting Types
There are three main types of web hosting, each with their own pros and cons. A lot of these relate to bandwidth restrictions - limits on how big your website can be, or on how many people can visit it each month. The best option for your business depends a lot on your size and growth plans.
Your site shares server space and bandwidth with a number of other sites. Since you’re also sharing the cost for that space and bandwidth with other businesses and individuals, this is a cheaper option. However, if you need more space or more speed, it will cost you extra.
Prices start from $10/month.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
This is a hybrid solution between a private server and a shared one. While the mechanics are similar to shared hosting, there’s usually a guarantee of minimum bandwidth allocation that scales to meet unexpected spikes in traffic. VPS arrangements are also more flexible when it comes to software updates. For example, you can install Apache, PHP or MySQL application updates when you like, without affecting anyone else on the server.
Prices start from $39.99/month.
Dedicated Hosting / Managed Hosting
Your business gets its own server. Bandwidth and memory are less restricted than the other two options, there is a higher degree of reliability and flexibility, and common issues — updates, upgrades, security, and maintenance — are handled by the hosting company.
Prices start from $150/month
With any form of web hosting, your business’s success hinges upon your web host. That’s a lot of trust to place in one company. Top of your list of cost considerations should be:
- Server stability: How much of the time is your website live? This is called ‘uptime’, and you want it to be as close to 100% as possible. It’s nemesis, downtime, is a real profit-killer, since any time your website isn’t online is time when customers can’t convert. Ouch.
- Renewal fees: Like domain name registrars, web hosts sell their services on subscription. They like to pull you in with promising prices, but do remember to check the small print.
We estimated the costs of using different suppliers’ shared web hosting solutions for one year, based on guaranteed uptime and renewal fees:
|Cheapest Web Hosting Providers|
|Web host||Cost for first year of most basic shared hosting plan|
Part 3: Designing Your Website
Now that your site has a home and an address, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The web design stage is where the look and feel of your website finally comes into focus. It’s also where costs can spiral out of control, if you’re not careful.
As someone who has tested lots of DIY website building software, I’m confident that there has never been an easier or cheaper time to build a website yourself. By the way, that’s coming from someone who reads code about as well as a stone treads water.
But just because you can design a website cheaply, does that mean you should?
Of all the reasons why you might want to hire a professional web designer, this one stands out. If you’re like most small business owners, you already juggle lots of responsibilities. Adding web design to the mix is probably one ball you could do without. Sourcing professional expertise on the matter frees you up to do what you do best; run your business.
Web Design Considerations
Whether you’re briefing a professional or taking web design into your own hands, you should have a clear picture of the kind of website you’re after. Important considerations include:
☑ Number (and types) of webpages
☑ Type of functionality needed
☑ Ability to change existing content or add new content
☑ Mobile responsiveness
☑ E-commerce functionality
☑ Content creation
☑ Off-the-shelf or custom applications
☑ Integrations of third-party software
Who Should Design My Website?
You have a few options for professional website design:
Web Design Agency
Many hands lighten the load. Good agencies employ graphic designers, programmers, copywriters, and other specialists. Great project managers will keep the design process aligned with your goals every step of the way.
A good web design agency brings a degree of reliability and accountability that you just don’t get with other options.
Freelance Website Designer
Here, you’ll get a more personalized approach than you’d get with an agency. However, many freelancers take on multiple clients, which can lead to projects taking longer than expected. Depending on the type and scope of your project, they may also need to bring in subcontractors to complete certain tasks.
Ensure that you’ve spelled out your needs, budget, and project specs in advance. Believe it or not, edits and alterations are the top source of cost overruns, so be sure to the procedure for them.
Off-Shore/Outsourced Web Design
Given the lower wages commanded overseas, you may be tempted to contract with someone in South Asia, the Philippines, or Eastern Europe. However, the lure of low web design prices may be offset considerably if the work isn’t done quickly or correctly. Or, if language barriers lead to frustration for everyone involved.
Price: Custom websites built by web design agencies can cost as much as $5,000-$50,000+, depending on the scope of your project.
Build Your Own Website
Looking at those figures, responsibilities, and potential complications, you may well be tempted to go the DIY route. There are plenty of options to do just that, but they have as many drawbacks as they do benefits, not least of which are a lack of specialization, a tendency toward sameness, and — most importantly — the fact that correctly building a unique website is a massive time sink, especially if you’re coming to it for the first time. If that sounds like you, it might be time to find a qualified designer!
Price: DIY websites cost between $0-$200 per year. Custom features can push costs up to $1,000.
Which DIY Website Builders Are Best?
If you are dead set on doing it yourself, make sure you choose the right tool for the job. We've ranked the best website building tools that money can buy, using 'Usability' and 'Cost' as key criteria:
How Big Should My Website Be?
Just as businesses take many forms, so too do their websites. Each business faces certain challenges based on their size, the purpose of their site, and the kind of audience they’re trying to reach.
Starter/Small Business Site
Solopreneurs and small businesses can often be served by a site that ranges in size from a single splash page to five pages. Whether you’re building your first site or redesigning your existing one, be sure to choose a designer that understands your niche and takes the time to understand what sets you apart from your competitors.
Medium Business Site
Not only are medium business websites larger — with some containing twenty pages or more — they’re also more complex. Ecommerce functionality, mailing list signups, CMS integrations, applications, and more come into play. This requires a skilled designer or the input of an agency.
Large Business Site
Microsites, subdomains, SEO, product descriptions, blog posts and whitepapers… large businesses carry bigger challenges, but bigger rewards for meeting them head-on. You’ll typically need to wrangle not only a design team, but also several stakeholders within the business, each of whom may have competing ideas and even competing agendas. You'll need highly experienced website designers, a bit of diplomacy and a lot of forethought to keep the project on time and on budget.
Part 4: Creating Your Content
Content is like the furniture that turns a house into a home. Perhaps more so than anything we’ve discussed, quality content is what converts your website’s visitors into customers.
Page copy, product descriptions, social media, blogs… each has its place, and each needs a skilled writer to bring it to life. Freelance copywriters bill on an hourly, per piece, or per word basis.
Typically, copywriting agencies charge according to the type of content being produced.
Contacting agencies for quotes directly is the best way to scope out content costs for your website. But, for a rough idea, check out this list of professional fees for the most popular business copywriting services:
|Copywriting Agency Fees|
|Copywriting Service||Fee Range|
|Site content audit and report||$1,500-$3,000|
|Key message copy platform||$3,000-$4,000|
|Home page content: SEO and Sales-conversion copywriting||$500-$1,000/page|
|Category page update: SEO and sales-conversion copywriting||$500-$1,000/page|
|Product page update: SEO and Sales-conversion copy||$400-$800/page|
|Order page/shopping cart sequence||$400-$800|
|New page: SEO and sales-conversion copy||$700-$1,200/page|
|Banner ad or text ad||$250-$1,000|
|Online sales/landing page for single promotion||$950-$5,000+ (based on length)|
Part 5: Running Your Website
Success! Your site is live, and the volume of traffic you’re getting makes rush hour on the Manhattan Bridge look quiet.
You’re not done yet though. Like a house, your home on the web is going to need some maintenance to be at its best. Here are some key areas you should prioritize:
Particularly for websites with e-commerce portals and membership login areas, you need to be able to update product descriptions and user details with ease. All of this information lives in databases that run behind the scenes of your website, and without a specialist to look after them, they can quickly get messy. Bringing backend web developers on board, either through an agency or in-house, is the simplest way to take care of ongoing database maintenance.
It’s no secret that Google actively penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile users. This is something that your web designer should address up-front, but it also requires periodic checks to ensure compliance with browser updates and new web standards.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of making sure your website is poised to pull visitors from Google.
For smaller websites, it’s easy enough to carry out on-page SEO checks in-house. However, as your site swells in size, a job done properly becomes a job done professionally.
To make sure your site attracts all the visibility it deserves, investing in outside SEO expertise is key. The services of an SEO agency can set you back anywhere between $100-$300 per hour (depending on the scale of the project).
Whatever the size of your business, designing and building your dream website doesn't have to break the bank. Using a less-experienced designer, a do-it-yourself website builder, or per-hour freelancers to set up your website may save money initially.
However, like a house, a website built on solid foundations will only increase in value over time. Long-term, a shoddily-designed shack of a website will sap more of your time, money and sanity than is worth the headache. At some point, you’ll need to bring in someone to clean up the mess(es) left behind by previous hires.
Thankfully, for every overpriced website creation package out there, there are ten brilliant ones that can help build your business’s online profile.
If you’re creating a website and want an idea of the costs involved, your best bet is to get bespoke quotes.
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