How much should a website cost?

How much should a website cost?

What's the quickest way to create awkwardness, frustration and animosity between clients and web developers? Bring up the price of the project and you will immediately create a volatile situation. In most interactions between clients and web developers, expectations of project costs are dramatically different. So how much should a web site really cost? The answer is more involved than most people assume.

This is a long article, so for those who want a quick answer, here you go: For an interactive web site with custom design and quality coding, I would expect to pay somewhere in the range of $2,000 to $15,000. If you are paying less, you are probably getting an off-the-shelf CMS with a generic design template.

For more complex sites or online applications, expect to pay $10,000+.

Be An Informed Consumer

As a consumer of web site development services it is important that you take some steps to educate yourself about the process. An informed consumer is knowledgeable about what he or she wants to buy and does research on options, availability, and market prices. Here are the basic elements of an average web site project:

  • Hosting
  • Database Design
  • Business Logic Programming
  • Markup, Styling, and Graphic Design
  • Standards-compliance, Accessibility, and Testing
  • Ongoing Maintenance

Make sure that you have an understanding of each before working with a developer. Reading the articles here at Viapp is a good place to start.

Price of Time and Knowledge

Behind every web site is a programmer and a designer. The knowledge that these individuals possess and the time they put into every project is often overlooked and not considered when pricing a project. Sarah Lewis of Blogging Expertise explains this value nicely in A Frank Discussion About Pricing:

  • Details. Professional designers and firms pay particular attention to the details that will make or break your site.
  • Time. Most people who end up using a professional designer or firm understand that their time is worth something, and that spending your time on your core business is one of the best places you can invest your time. Working with web professionals allows you to tap into our experience and knowledge and save hundreds of hours.
  • Experience. A professional designer or design firm isn't just selling you hours on a project; we are selling you years of experience in the dynamic and overwhelming world wide web.
  • Knowledge. When you hire a professional designer or firm, you are also getting access to a wealth of information, experience and knowledge that we've gathered and are happy to share.

Keep in mind that you are not just paying for the developer's time, you are paying for the knowledge and insight they have acquired over many years of experience. You may feel you are paying way too much for the actual time spent, but in reality you are paying for knowledge, not just time.

Price of Quality

As with most things, it comes down to this: You get what you pay for. If you want a successful website that is attractive, exceeds standards, accessible, search engine optimized, stable, and fast, then take the time to find a good developer and designer and be prepared to pay them what they are worth. You will not regret the purchase.

Sure your computer savy nephew knows HTML and could build a web site for just $100. He also knows how to wire a house for electricity. Does this mean he could install a safe, reliable electrical wiring for your house? Probably not, so why take the same risk with your web site, a potentially large value-center for your business?

A good way to gauge what you can afford is to ask designers and developers for their prices and rates. Ask for examples of past projects and how much was charged for each. This will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay. If you can't afford what you originally had in mind, consider scaling back the project and breaking it into smaller tasks that can be completed when you have the budget.

Find Someone You Genuinely Want to Work With

Don't try to juggle a bunch of individuals and firms into a bidding war, for two reasons. First, you are basically saying that you don't care who develops your site as long as it is cheap. If this is the case, you might as well just call up your nephew. Second, this just makes the winning developer bitter because he or she had to bid beneath their regular costs just to get the project. Now you have a bitter developer who is under-paid and trying to make up for the damage by finishing as quickly as possible and moving on. Does this sound like a good plan for you and your business? I don't think so either.

Hosting and Other Costs

Hosting is a topic I am still learning myself and will touch in more detail later. However, for the purposes of this article, it is important that you consider the recurring fees that come with owning a website. There are three (3) recurring web site fees: domain Registration, site hosting, and on-going site maintenance.

  • Domain Registration – Domain registration is simple, I recommend purchasing your domain for as many years as possible (e.g. 10 years.). I buy domains through GoDaddy, you can usually get a discount there by using the coupon code “diggnation“.
  • Web Hosting – There are several different levels of hosting, but to give you an estimation, I would expect to pay anywhere between $15 - $300 per month for hosting. Obviously this is another example of getting what you pay for. At $15/month you will be sharing server space with other websites. At $300/month you will most likely have your own dedicated machine that is managed by an experienced server administrator.
  • On-going Site Maintenance – Site maintenance is typically billed at an hourly rate. For freelance developers this is usually between $40-$100/hour. For emergency, 24/7 maintenance, be prepared to pay $200+/hour.

The bottom line: educate yourself. Not nearly enough businesses understand the value of a well-designed website and suffer because of this ignorance. More and more people are using the Internet to research and purchase goods and services. If your business lacks online presence, you will miss out on a lot of potential business.


J.C. Brilliant
Tue, 11/01/2011 - 16:08

If you don't mind I would like to share this article on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook to my followers...

J.C. Brillant

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 02:49

Hi J.C.,
Yes please, feel free to share. Thank you.

Sat, 06/11/2011 - 14:35

Nice article. Which sites do you recommend to buy hosting? Can you suggest the inexpensive and most reliable ones. Also if you can point to the ones that offer domain + hosting together as a package.

Mon, 06/13/2011 - 03:35

Personally, i purchase all my domains with godaddy and host with several others. The high ranking shared hosting companies i can suggest are bluehost, Hostgator and inMotion hosting - and you can purchase your domain through then as well. Godaddy provides some hosting as well. For dedicated hosting solutions, I have found 1&1 and Rackspace hosting to rank above all others.

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