Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

How Much Does a Website Cost These Days?

3 min read

Launching a new business involves many details, and at some point, you will start to think about your online presence. You need a website, and not just any website, but a fully functional site that includes some form of email capture, and enough branding to tell your story. Accomplishing these goals, however, comes with a price tag, and you may start wondering how much does a website cost these days.

The majority of customers — 61 percent — are researching products online. In fact, 12 billion searches are taking place each month in the United States, making a high-quality website very important. But once you start asking for quotes, you’ll likely discover that they vary greatly. You may receive one quote for $2,000 and another for $20,000.

So what is the difference, and what’s involved in the actual process of building a website?

Breaking Down the Costs

Many web designers will explain that pinpointing the exact cost of a website project is difficult. This is mostly because there are so many different variables involved, with no two projects being identical. For example, what kind of functionality and features do you need? Is it an e-commerce site? Do you need a blog? Do you already have content created, or will you need to have it written during the design process?

You may be figuring out these answers as you go along, which is totally normal, but it’s also helpful to have a nice little starting point to build off of. Getting a general sense of what’s involved in the process, and a ballpark cost for each task, will help you estimate your overall budget and solidify your project requirements. Here’s an average cost breakdown.

Domain name. One of the first tasks on your website development list is purchasing the domain name. Costs vary, but you can expect to spend around $10 annually.

Website hosting. Your website will need to be hosted, which basically involves a company selling you space on its server to store your website data and files. Costs vary, but you are looking at about $10 to $100 annually.

Premium theme. If your developer is building your website in WordPress, you may need to invest in a premium theme. Costs differ based on the specific theme that you select, but you will likely be paying a $50 to $200 one-time fee for a beautiful looking theme that you can change up to fit your specific needs.

Website planning, design and development time. This category is a large chunk of your overall budget, and also where you’ll get the most variation in quotes. A site can take anywhere from 1 to 1,000 hours to complete; and expect to pay anywhere from $25 an hour (professional in developing company) to $150 an hour (or more). Keep in mind that you pay for what you get, but price alone won’t indicate quality. It’s a tricky dance.

Images and graphics. Your website will need graphics to liven up all that white space on the page. Basic stock images cost around $10 each, while higher-end images may cost you hundreds of dollars. While many stock image options have improved, sometimes its best to invest in custom images that fit your unique brand.

Content creation. Will you be writing content for your website, or will you need outside expertise to develop the pages? If so, budget at least $150 per page of new content.

Other Factors That Affect Costs

Sometimes, you just need a basic website to get your business off the ground. Other times, the functionality you need is more advanced, such as e-commerce capabilities or special programming. Here are a few additional costs to factor into your budget.

E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs and payment processing. If you need this functionality, plan to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

Maintenance costs. It’s also important to think about the future of your website. Will you maintain the website in-house or seek outside assistance for maintaining the site?

What happens if the site 404s at 2am, who’s your developer 911? Put aside some budget each month for mainenance — factor it into your costs (maybe anywhere from $250 to infinity).

It’s also important to consider the benefits of a responsive design, which automatically resizes for mobile devices and tablets — an increasingly important feature as more and more people access websites in this way. Also, factor in your needs for multimedia elements. For example, do you plan to feature video on your site? If so, include this requirement when requesting a bid.

Total Cost Ranges

At this point, you may have a general sense of what’s involved in building your website and what pieces need to come together, but what should you budget for total cost? Here are the general price ranges. They are complete estimates that you might just use as a rule of thumb:

Basic website — This level will allow you to brand and market your company, showcase your products and services, and use the site as a lead-generation tool. However, it may not have two-way functionality and features such as a blog or social media tools.

Price range: $2,000-$10,000+

Advanced website — You have all the components of a basic website, but you maybe also have something extra like a super-duper fancy design layout, e-commerce (so that you can sell products), or some optimized conversion considerations (like A/B testing, and deeper analytics for your email capture).

Price range: $7,500-$30,000

Custom website — This is suited for a large business with complex Web development needs, including social networking, blogging, e-commerce and other Web applications.

Price range: $15,000-$100,000

Taking the First Steps

The best way to get started with building a website is to work to define the project scope. List what your website “must have.” What items do you need that are nonnegotiable? Then, list your “nice to have” items. Present these items to developers to get bids on the project, and based on their estimates, you can add in — or take out — some of the nice-to-haves in order to make the project work with your vision and your budget.

By defining specific requirements upfront, and ensuring that you select a developer that is equipped to deliver to those specifications, you’ll ensure that your vision and desired outcome are achieved and there are no surprises along the way.

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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.