The short answer is it all boils down to how much work is involved.
Specifically, the 2 factors that determine how much work will be involved are the size and complexity of your site.
That means a nice-looking, professional 10-page informational website with minimal customization is going to cost less to build than a highly customized 50-page website with all the bells and whistles.
In terms of actual dollars, the cost to build a website could be less than $1,000 or as much as tens of thousands of dollars.
Obviously that’s a pretty big price range. So let me break things down so you can zero in on a realistic estimate for what it might cost to design and develop your website.
The 2 Options (With Pricing) For Designing And Developing A Small Business Website
OPTION 1: Hire A Professional
If you’re super busy running your business and/or you’re just not a “tech” person, then you’ll need to hire someone to build your site for you. It’s just that simple.
However, if you’ve looked around online for a good web developer, you’ve probably experienced 2 frustrating things:
- No prices listed at all.
- Prices all over the map, from super cheap to super expensive.
So we rolled up our sleeves and did some research for you regarding what it costs to build a small business website here in 2017.
For web developers that did list their prices, we found that the going rate for a modern, stylish small business website was typically $3,000-$6,000 but could be as much as $20,000 depending on the number of pages on the site and the amount of customization required.
These prices are in line with what we charge, so I’m confident our research results are accurate.
Now that you have a ballpark idea of what things cost, let’s take a closer look at the specific factors affecting the price of building a small business website:
- Page volume. Let’s say a web development firm offers a package for a 10-page small business website for $3,750. But let’s say you need a 25-page site. A good rule of thumb is to add about $100/page for each page over and above what’s included in their standard website package. So in this example, the 15 additional pages you need would be $1,500. Add this amount to the original base price of $3,750 and your new total is $5,250. Obviously every situation will vary, but at least this gives you a reasonable cost estimate based on common pricing in the industry.
- Custom site layout. Every website starts out with a theme or template that needs to be customized so it looks how you want it to. Obviously the more customization required, in terms of volume and complexity, the greater the cost.
- Custom images & graphics. Fancy images and graphics can really give your site a one-of-a-kind look, but it comes at a price. In addition, sophisticated visual effects often require special software and/or the services of a graphic design specialist.
- Custom programming (i.e. site functionality or 3rd-party integration). Sometimes you can get a plug-and-play application that will provide the functionality you want right out of the box. Other times, getting your site to do what you want requires a large amount of trial/error and testing. In the real world things are often messy and take time to figure out. Unfortunately there is no big, red “easy” button like you see on TV.
- Number of design revisions. With most website development projects, it’s pretty standard to have either 1 or 2 design revisions before your site actually gets built. I’ve seen some developers offer as many 3-5 design revisions. But keep in mind each iteration comes at a price, which adds to the overall cost of your project.
- Content creation. Solid, thoughtful content is the foundation of any great website. If you’re launching a new site but don’t have any content yet, it’ll need to be developed. If you have an existing site but the content is weak, stale or outdated, it’ll need to be redeveloped and enhanced. Depending on how much information you have, you might need to publish just 5 pages or it could take more than 50 pages.
PRO TIP: If you want to hire a professional to help you with your site but don’t feel like you can afford the investment, see if they offer financing. We’ve been offering payment plans for a few years now and it’s been a win-win situation both for us and our clients.
OPTION 2: Attempt To Do It Yourself (DIY)
If you have a basic understanding of web technology and you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work, you can totally build your own website.
The raw materials you’ll need aren’t horribly expensive:
- Domain name: $10-$12/year to register a domain. There are a zillion registrars to choose from. I prefer NameCheap.com.
- Website hosting: Costs range from about $100/year for standard web hosting from companies like BlueHost or HostGator to $300-$500+/year from companies like WPengine or SiteGround (which you really won’t need until your site is getting gobs of traffic, at which time you could upgrade to a web server with more horsepower).
- Premium Website Theme. $100-$150. There are hundreds if not thousands of themes to choose from. Some free, some paid. I urge you to spend a few bucks and get a quality theme. Don’t skimp here. You’ll thank me later. We’ve experimented with many website themes over the years and the ones we now use exclusively to develop clients’ sites are from StudioPress.
- Premium Plugins. $100-$200. As with website themes, you usually get what you pay for. Do yourself a favor and invest a few dollars to get quality plugins. For example, two premium plugins we use on nearly every site we build are Gravity Forms and Envira Gallery.
- Education. $25-$300. Unless you do web development every day, you’re probably going to have to buy a few books or take an online course or two to learn Photoshop, HTML/CSS coding language, etc. to get yourself up to speed in one or more areas of web development.
In total, you’re realistically looking at about $300-$600 in expenses.
Obviously the main cost with the DIY option is your time.
Even for a “simple” site, don’t be surprised if it takes you 20-40 hours to produce something of decent quality you can be proud of. And that’s assuming you’re already somewhat familiar with how to build a website. If you’re totally new to this, multiply that time estimate by 2x or 3x. (Not exaggerating.)
Building a modern, well-engineered website is way more time-consuming than most people realize. But if you have more time than money right now and you don’t get overwhelmed by web technology, the DIY approach is a perfectly viable option.
Then when you have sufficient funds, you can always hire an experienced web developer to upgrade/modernize your site down the road if you wish.
New Site Construction vs. Website Redesign Costs
If you want a new website and don’t currently have one, obviously you’ll be building a brand new site from scratch. (Duh, of course.)
However, if you have an existing site that you want to upgrade or modernize, you’ll have to decide if it’s going to be less expensive in terms of time, money and effort to …
- Improve what you have, or
- Tear it all down and start all over.
Think of it like buying a fixer-upper house.
When you factor in the cost of a new roof, new plumbing, new electrical, not to mention an outdated floor plan or outdated landscaping, you might just be better off gutting (or bulldozing) everything and starting over with a clean slate.
Then again, the existing structure might be just fine and all you need is a new coat of paint, new carpeting and a new mailbox and you’re good to go — at much less expense than starting over from scratch.
Website redesigns are the same way.
It just depends on what you want your new site to look like and what you’d like it to do.
Don’t Forget About Updates, Maintenance & Licenses
Continuing on with the homeowner analogy, once you sign the papers and get the keys to your house it doesn’t end there. There are ongoing expenses.
As mentioned above, you’re going to have annual website hosting expenses ranging from $100-$500/yr.
Your site will also require routine maintenance to promptly install updates and security patches to WordPress core files and WordPress plugins to protect your site from being hacked. Yes, even small business sites are now targets for hackers.
If you’re comfortable doing these updates yourself, fine. But you need to be aware that sometimes updates cause your site to break (or totally crash) and you need to know what to do if/when that happens. For example, are you prepared to deal with this …
You’re also going to need an offsite backup system so your website can quickly be restored in the event that a catastrophic hardware failure, software failure or user error crashes your site. Not trying to scare you, but these things really do happen from time to time.
If you’d prefer not to burden yourself with all the behind-the-scenes technical upkeep of your site, there are companies that offer website maintenance plans ranging from $40-$300/month depending on the services you need.
Next are annual licensing fees. Although the WordPress platform is a free open-source content management system (CMS), some popular WordPress plugins such as Backup Buddy or Gravity Forms and 3rd-party services like Aweber or TimeTrade require yearly fees. Depending on what you use, annual fees might run $100-$400/year or more.
PRO TIP: You can avoid some annual licensing fees if you work with a web developer that maintains a “developer’s license” for premium WordPress plugins that might be used on your site. In other words, their developer’s license covers your annual licensing fees.
Another website operating expense you might have is for adding new content and functionality to your site as it matures and evolves. For example, after producing a bunch of how-to videos you might want to add a video library to your site. Or maybe as your business grows you might choose to integrate a marketing automation system. There are many things you could do.
If you can handle all your site’s technical upgrades yourself, great. Otherwise you’ll need to hire a specialist to do this for you. Going rates in 2017 for a competent, experienced web developer are $100-$125/hour.
The amount of website technical upgrades varies greatly from business to business. We have clients that only need $300-$500 worth of technical assistance per year, while others spend $5,000-$10,000 per year.
Avoid These Costly Mistakes
Since building my first website back in 1999, I’ve wasted a ton of time and money I wish I could get back. No need for you to do the same. In no particular order, here’s what I would watch out for:
- Bad technology. The theme and plugins you use to build your site matter. There is a lot of shoddy coding out there that can result in security risks, software incompatibilities and site instability. Stick with proven, name brands that have been around a while, have been thoroughly tested and are continually supported. Otherwise you might be forced to rebuild some or all of your site.
- Incompetent idiots. Beware of knuckleheads that know just enough to make them dangerous. A few years ago I hired a subcontractor to assist with some custom programming on a large project. A few weeks into the project it became clear he didn’t know what he was doing. So I fired him and cut my losses. But only after he wasted precious time and money on a project with a deadline. It’s impossible to get it right every time, but do your best to vet people carefully before you hire them.
- Bad advice. This is what has cost me more time and money than anything. Tens of thousands of dollars and years of my life I will never get back. The bad advice wasn’t directly about website design and development, but instead ancillary topics like SEO, PPC advertising, content marketing, etc. Bottom line, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Regardless of what magic beans the hucksters are selling at any given point in time, success takes time and effort. Period. (OMG, I’m starting to sound like my grandpa, “If I knew then, what I know now … “)
The Shortcut To Building A Great Website
If you can afford it, pay an experienced web developer to build your site for you. I assure you it’ll be money well spent.
I’m not saying this in a self-serving way either. I’m saying it because I’ve been developing websites for nearly 20 years and I know that building a modern, professional website is way more difficult and way more time consuming than most people realize.
Once upon a time I would change my own engine oil and put on new brake pads. I could install a fan belt or a new water pump. Heck, in high school my dad helped me put a new clutch in my Mustang.
But with today’s cars, forget it. I pop the hood and I have a panic attack. If my car needs service, I just take it to the dealership or a qualified mechanic. No questions asked. It’s just not worth my time to fool with it.
Like cars, websites used to be much simpler. Today’s web technology is much more sophisticated and complicated than it was even just 5 years ago.
If you don’t have the money right now to hire a web development pro, I totally understand. Do what you can to get a basic site up and running, then bring in a pro to help you upgrade when funds are available.
In most cases you’ll get your best ROI by focusing on what you do best, and letting others assist you with the messy (but necessary) tech stuff regarding your website.
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