WHAT DOES A WEBSITE COST OR WHAT SHOULD A WEBSITE COST?
(A Nashville TN and National analysis of over 500 website proposals in the last 2 years)
Just like a business, websites are not all created equal. Websites serve various purposes, incorporate different website design preferences, feature different technologies and therefore they can vary greatly in cost. Most importantly, a great Nashville web design should lift your business, be easy to manage, scalable, and have great web support. In fact, every customer, partner, or employee goes to your website first, to learn about your business so your website investment is important.
As the level of design work, branding strategy, and functionality become more complex to suit your company’s needs, the more it will cost to develop. It will be important to seek a solution provider that is set up to support you and manage a long term client relationship.
This article is also written for businesses considering a website project and trying to assess the costs. We’ve found that the internet is misleading and confusing about the costs and how to do things right. We have put together and summarized this information from over 50 reputable marketing and web firms to help your business understand the real (real meaning proper costs to do it right) costs to consider for your business.
Make sure you have the following people involved in your project and any decent Internet Marketing or Web Design firm should have these resources for you in their office:
- Creative graphic design and branding staff
- Developers of PHP, HTML, CSS, java, and more
- Marketing Specialists – advertising staff, SEO, and Social staff
- Webmasters – moves, ads, changes or fix problems
- Technical engineers and support staff – infrastructure and parts
SO WHAT DOES A WEBSITE COST?
Ready to find out what YOUR website should cost? Low price, top quality, best customer service!
This is important… and let’s just get this out of the way… your business needs a website. Period! As a business, your website is and should be your #1 sales and advertisement tool. If you are taking this lightly then you are already not taking your business very seriously. It’s better to have no website than to have something bad presented to the world. You truly cannot imagine the bad perceptions and lost business that is occurring by having a bad website design and bad internet marketing. You can research articles we have posted or by reviewing Gartner and Forrester Research (industry market research firms) reports.
A business website should be a great website with a clear, crisp easy to navigate design and branding, with superb usability and functionality. Furthermore, YOU need to be able to easily update and scale that website. It doesn’t matter if you are a national corporate brand, a smaller brick, and mortar with ‘plenty of business’, a brick and mortar with only local business, or an ice cream shop… you still need a website!
Your business can be broad or niche, it can be large or small, and despite what you may believe… you need a website! With a bad website or no website then you will be relying on referrals and cold calling and your competition is thriving by putting their smart dollars into a website and digital marketing.
THE POWER OF THE INTERNET – As a local case study, we worked with a local furniture company that had spent nearly a million dollars renovating their retail space and buying billboards in order to attract new business. It did very little for them. After much frustration, they decided to engage in a website solution that was up to date. They then spent a few thousand dollars and implemented internet marketing with heaving focus on SEO. Within 6 months, they doubled their customer traffic/revenue while spending 1/4th the monthly cost of the billboards. They are out a lot of money but now have things on the right track and business has never been better. An expensive lesson.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OF A WEBSITE?
This is tricky question and it is very elusive online. You will find promotions for a website for $349 or done in two weeks. But, in reality, if you want to create a professionally branded website that drives business, converts customers and is your brand ambassador, then avoid these do it fast for cheap individuals or firms. You should hire a company that has years of experience, comes with great references and has many talented resources inside their company on their payroll. To many companies outsource most of the work or work as freelancers which causes many quality issues and can end up costing you a lot of money or headaches. Or worse, can cause your website to be hacked and banned from Google. This happens more than you kn0w. Because Google punishes rankings for non-mobile-friendly sites, a business can no longer afford to have a website that is not responsive. So work with a company that understands the complexities of mobile responsiveness and also that your website needs to work with many versions of browsers so as many users as possible have a great website experience. In summary, what should come with your price of a website a great company with expert resources and all of the items needed to function online successfully. While the price of a website will vary depending on your needs, here is a breakdown of the items that should come with your website solution but you will most definitely need. We broke down the general costs in case you need to source these items separately.
WEBSITE COST BREAKDOWN
- Domain Name: $5-$100 per year – for new domains. Some old domains can sell for millions..
- Business Email: $6-$15 a month per email – You will need an email that has the same domain as the website.
- Logo Design & Brand: $1,000 – $10,000+ – You will need a great logo for your business to drive your brand and business cards, brochures, etc. There are cheap solutions but do it right because branding matters, period.
- Web Design & Architecture: $2,000 – $100,000+ – This includes the branding/visual design, UX design, imagery collection, styling, sitemap, and page structure generation and coding.
- Add Shopping Cart & Functions: $4,000 – $25,000+ – What kind of functionality do you want on your website? Shopping carts, plugins, and custom feature development can cost extra, but the benefits of a fully customized and unique website can outweigh the costs.
- Website Content Creation: $50-$200 per page, or hourly – You can write your website’s content yourself, outsource it overseas for around $1 per page, or use a content writing firm that will charge around $100-$200 per hour or page. Just like a website design, you get what you pay for when it comes to content creation that will rank your site high in search engines and engage your audience.
- Project Management & Information Gathering: $600-$3,000 – This price includes initial consultations, phone calls, and any time that it takes to organize and oversee the website project.
- Testing & Training: $600-$4,800. While most websites are built on easy-to-use CMS’ nowadays, you will still need to know how to manage the pages. This price point includes the time spent staging & training you how to use your new site, as well and ensuring that everything works properly and giving you the chance to make any necessary changes.
- Hosting: $20-100/month – This depends on the type of hosting you choose (dedicated, shared, free). Additional fees may be required for critical things like site caching, security, backups or static IP Address. A good business website should not be on a public shared cheap platform. Too many risks. A business-class solution with security, backups, maintenance, and support all included is best.
- Website Maintenance Services: $75-$5000+/month – A new business website will need this to maintain active content, security, backup your investment, update software, fix bugs, support you when needed. Maintenance services can include content posting, content maintenance, page creation, product updates, and more.
- Software, security, and plugins/modules: $9.99 – $149/month – Websites can interact with databases and may need advanced security. For example, an E-commerce site will need a merchant interface, an SSL certificate and ongoing maintenance and this will cost $25-$100 monthly. Platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce bundle these things into their website solutions but buyer beware as your costs will be tied to your revenue. MLS interconnection can cost $99 monthly. Booking modules that interact with calendars and set appointments will have monthly costs. Etc.
- Don’t forget, Digital Marketing is a Must: $500 – $10,000+/month – Your first advertising dollars for your business should go into promoting your website and making sure you are found on the Internet. This is your 24/7 sales and marketing person so don’t undervalue its importance. Good businesses get this. If you don’t do SEO or other digital marketing then your website might as well not exist. For a few hundred a month you can drive new business to you every month. Make sure you really understand the value of SEO, AdWords, Pay Per Click Marketing, Social Media Advertising, and more. The big and successful companies all do this, you should too. Frankly, if you are not investing in good digital marketing then you are not taking your business seriously enough.
TYPES OF WEBSITES AND COST
BASIC WEBSITE | FREE – $50/MONTH+ OR $2,000 – $5,000
For Small Businesses and Individuals
DO IT YOURSELF: FREE – $50/MONTH and a lot of time
If you have the time, graphic skills, and know-how then this is an option for a low budget business. However, it’s important to note – these DIY tools are often complicated and our (general) audience is still not comfortable learning and using these tools. They have limited functionality and cannot simply be customized plus they greatly limit your ability to do SEO (rank on the Internet). However, these are excellent resources and I’d recommend these services for any business looking to do it themselves.
There are also templates on the internet that you can buy and setup. There is much risk here as a lot of templates have security holes, load slowly and Google will Index these pages in a negative light. Or, they are coded with limitations so you cannot really get them customized to be branded correctly for you or function the way you wish. Ultimately, this solution is inexpensive but will require a lot of time, design, and some technical skills to set it up correctly and keep it effectively maintained. You will get what you pay for.
HIRE A FREELANCE DEVELOPER or a STARTER SOLUTION FROM A FIRM: $2,000 – $5,000
A basic designed website, acts primarily as an online brochure, establishing a necessary presence online to answer your customers’ questions “do you exist?”, “are you professional?” and “what do you do?”
A basic website can be created in the $2,000 – $5,000 range. This website may or may not allow you to interact in a 2-way conversation with your audience (social networking, blog), transact business directly through your site (e-commerce), or enable you to manipulate and update the pages and content within your site without hiring a web programmer/designer to do it for you (Content Management System does enable this for more $$$).
A basic website will serve to help brand and market your company, showcase your products and services and inspire sales as a lead generating tool. The design of your website will, most likely, be simple at such low costs. These sites should still be responsive using the latest standards to allow your site to look the same on nearly every computer/device and will be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for greater natural search engine ranking success.
BUSINESS/ADVANCED WEBSITE | $7,500 – $50,000
For Businesses – starting, growing, changing
Previously years pricing was in the $5,000- $25,500 – however pricing has since increased as the software gets more complicated, interactive and effective. Depending on the level of aesthetic design and time that is requested as well as additional features Content Management System (CMS) websites run at an average of around $7,500+. These websites are created with both functionality and design in mind, as you will receive both custom art design and the ability to manage and update all content, images, and text contained within the pages of your site (infinite number of pages possible). With a CMS capable website, your site will have endless possibilities. These websites are built with the idea to drive business and that you will have changes, additions or updates to be made to your site in the future. CMS system enables easy basic additions without coding or web designing knowledge. Social interactivity with your site visitors is possible with a site of this caliber, as a BLOG will be present within your site enabling you to place posts of content that you believe is relevant and desired by your audience. Your audience can choose to respond to your blog posts and each other’s comments allowing for 2-dimensional interaction between you, your audience, and within your audience.
Some E-commerce and real estate listing sites can be created within this price range depending upon the level of functionality and design but will usually have an additional cost. Also, sites of this caliber have varying prices with regard to design elements. These sites do have custom design work, but more expensive elements like brand creation, commerce, complex functions, or custom graphics will affect pricing.
CUSTOM MID/LARGE BUSINESS WEBSITE | $25,000 – $100,000+
For large Businesses or businesses that drive business on the web
If you are looking for a site with advanced functionality including but not limited to social networking, blogging, E-commerce, API integration or any other web application topped off with great design and content that speaks to your audience you should expect to pay a bit more than the previous two sections.
Some E-commerce and web applications can be created for less, while most successful ventures are created for much more. There are countless sites that have fallen in this price range include Facebook.com, Orkut.com, and BestBuy.com to name only a few (all GREATLY exceeding 6-figures). A site within this price range will require customization and coordinating various technologies in order to work with your company or infrastructure. A site that falls into this category requires months of planning, research, consulting, database design and implementation, software development and integration, site quality assurance, and testing.
Why are websites in this range so expensive? Here are a few factors to consider, and examples of scenarios we’ve been in throughout the years that change the cost of a website, even when functionality may not necessarily be beyond the ordinary:
- Tighter timelines
- Detailed design and branding
- More meetings, people (and approvals) involved
- More exacting content specifications
- More pages of content to port over or account for
- Additional security concerns
- Governmental or other requirements/regulations must be adhered to (for example 508 compliance is a beautiful and on some projects required element – accounting for this and testing for it takes extra time and money)
None of this is extreme or out-of-the-ordinary, but when needed or required, costs go up.
E-COMMERCE WEBSITES | $10,000 – $30,000+
For businesses that sell multiple products online
E-Commerce Websites are those characterized by the ability to add products and transact business online –accept payment for products, and facility shipping, correspondence with purchasers, etc.
Similar to the above breakdown, E-Commerce sites, in and of themselves have many varying levels of pricing. For example, the absolute simplest “e-commerce” site is either a single PayPal button – or the ability to accept payments/donations online (most often for a non-profit). Even with such a simple starting point, there’s a lot of questions to address – what was the existing site built on? Do you already have an account with PayPal? Do you want to keep people on your website as they make their purchases? And the list goes on. But, at its absolute simplest (the organization has a PayPal account, and just needs a button added) this can generally be done in an hour or so and as such cost anywhere from $50 – $500 depending on the company setting things up or the relationship they have with their web development company.
However, when you start to add products, shipping, transnational email (thank you emails, etc.) things get a bit more complex and the design/development costs will go up and there will likely be monthly fees.
For our basic e-commerce websites, pricing typically starts at $10,000 and quickly scales up from there. Here’s why.
Generally most clients with e-commerce needs, also need guidance, education, and set up with the following:
- Server Setup
- SSL selection, purchase
- Merchant Account Setup
- Payment Processor Setup
- Shipping Setup – Including coordination/setup of accounts
- Tax Setup
- Transactional Email – What does each email your website sends say “thank you for purchasing…”, “thank you for creating an account,” etc.
- API integration into ERPs or other tools
Basically, an eCommerce site is a website, on steroids, and most clients need a knowledgeable and reliable company to not just make the right decisions, but also to guide and hold their hand along the process.
CUSTOM APPLICATION | $2,500 – $10,000+
For businesses that need custom work
Going beyond a custom website, there are custom web applications. These are websites with custom functionality that might not yet be available, or is available, but needs customizing, tweaking, etc to meet the business need. Custom web applications can be large, or small but remember that there will be ongoing update and tweek costs for the life of this software.
WHY ARE SOME WEB DESIGN COMPANIES SO INEXPENSIVE WHILE OTHERS ARE OUTRAGEOUSLY PRICEY?
To wrap – why are prices so wildly different in the web design industry? We had a recent bid on a project where we were smack in the middle. On the low-end, there was a company vying for the project at $5,000. On the high end, $30,000. And then us, smack-dab in the middle. Our future client would go on to ask us – “What gives? Why are you so much more expensive than the low-end companies, and so much less expensive than the high-end companies, and why is there such a massive difference in the first place?” What is with this industry!!!!!
I suppose it works a lot like consulting. On the low-end you have people that frankly, have no idea what they’re doing, don’t have proper resources, didn’t listen enough (or pay attention), and frankly are just throwing number on a wall (Buyer beware). With a proper firm, even with razor-thin margins or outsourcing that $5,000 will only allow for about 50-80 hours worth of time. And it is not possible to get a quality solution you need within 2 weeks-4 weeks’ worth of work. This is cutting corners or its a freelancer and it will end up being a bad decision over time.
We can’t stress this enough, on projects where there is an extremely low budget – elements always get left out, corners are getting cut and future support will be limited or non-existent. Under the hood, things are missing. We have rescued hundreds of companies that had gone with an inexpensive solution or individual and that company or person moved on and had taken their support, website and/or email with them.
The high price firm is likely a company or small team that lives off the next project coming in the door so they need the price high to cover the bills and need that price point to justify their livelihood. The problem here is that these companies will usually outsource the work and will be completely unreachable in the future, because they are off to the next $30,000 project. The way to sniff these firms out is to ask if all the employees and people that will do anything for your project, are in-house W2 employees. IMPORTANT – Ask them if they have a separate project manager, designer, developer, digital marketers, content writers, server engineers on payroll and ask them if they have a team of dedicated support staff (not designers/developers doing support) that only does support. If you want to really challenge them, ask them if the equipment, security, backups and software they are going to use for your website is theirs or are they outsourcing that with a hosting company? You want all of this to be in-house so they can be accountable for you! These two simple questions will tell you if you are talking to the right firm.
Unfortunately, having 17 years under our belts, we continue to hear story after story where companies explain – “our web guy was great, but then he disappeared.” Or, “they promised me everything but just cant seem to deliver as promised…“.
We hope this information is helpful and we would love to talk to you if you have any questions or need help. Give us a call or email us today.