Man shrugging his shoulders with www in the background.All web designers are faced with this question and it’s one that can gain a customer or turn one away.  It’s a loaded question because it is dependent on many factors. So, I’ve broken this article up into two parts.  Part 1 will cover the low cost options and Part 2 will cover the costlier ones.

Our goal is to provide a bit of information to those seeking web design services so they understand what drives the cost of a website.

A Very Brief Flashback

I’ve been involved with web site design since 1995.  I created my first web page as part of an assignment for an Internet course I was taking.  It was a website about fishing, called Andy’s Fish Hut.  I didn’t get rich off of it.  I got an A-.

At this time websites were popping up all over the place and they were all basic HTML websites.  Pages devoted to providing information about the companies, their services and products.  That’s it. You could not buy online.  No user reviews, pop-up photo galleries, chat boxes, or any of the features we find on the most basic online stores today.  Remember, we were dialing-up on 28.8, 33.6 and for the rich, 56K modems at this time.

Companies were paying HUGE bucks for websites.  Why?  Because it was the future of the Internet and not too many people out there knew HTML.  I’m talking $10,000 – $15,000 for 10 to 15 pages of static information!  Who reads 10-15 pages from a business website today anyways?

As web technology developed and the marketplace began to saturate with web designers and developers, the costs started dropping.  By 2000-2004, the same websites in 1995 could be had for $2,500 to $5,000.   Today the pricing isn’t that far off ranging from $1,200 to $4,000 for the same type of site.

Today…

A lot of things have changed. Not just technologically but legalities, regulations, and policies also affect the costs of web design. Things like copyrights, privacy protection, data encryption, process compliance and so on.

Websites of the past were nowhere near the complexity of today’s most popular websites in e-commerce, news, entertainment, blogs, social networks and so on. They may seem simple to use in front of your computer, but behind those fancy graphics are complex codes, development processes, project management, legal teams, marketing, infrastructure, and big budgets.  Really big budgets.

What does this mean to the small to medium sized business like yours?

You can take advantage of the same technologies on a smaller scale and at a much lower cost.  Your costs will be directly related to the technologies you use and the skill of the designer and developers you choose.

There isn’t a magical formula that is used to calculate a cost, even in today’s marketplace of web designers ranging from beginner freelancers to large corporate sized firms.

Don’t be shocked, but you can have a website site for FREE all the way up to millions of dollars.  A personal blog site can be had for FREE but a website such as an airline will easily fetch 7 figures or more, not including the ongoing costs to keep a monster like that operating.

Important factors that affect website pricing include:

  • Online business needs
  • Size of your business
  • Website features
  • Web hosting, maintenance and support services
  • Aesthetic qualities and features
  • Graphic requirements such as stock photos or custom designs
  • Internet marketing services
  • Advanced development requirements
  • The design firm, agency or freelancer developing the website
  • Billing rates: per page, per hour, per project

Based on our experience and the markets we have work in, we can provide a rough guide to some web design and development pricing we have seen and have provided ourselves.

FREE… YAY!

We all love free things, don’t we.  In the case of free websites you’re typically signing up with a company that is providing a limited amount of service.  They provide easy tools to design your website, but they usually provide you a choice of template, color combination and ability to upload a logo.  You may not be able to use your own domain name (eg. www.mybusinessname.com).  It will likely be a subdomain or a folder (eg. mybusinessname.free-websites.com or www.free-websites.com/mybusinessname).  Not too professional for emails and business cards.

An indirect cost to you is that they will have their logo somewhere on your website too, and they might even have sponsor ads on your website.  Not very professional for a business to have other people’s advertisements on their website!

Pros & Cons

Pros
FREE!
User friendly tools to design and update your website yourself
FREE!

Cons
May not be able to have a custom domain name
Sponsor advertisements on your website
Limited space  and functionalities… you won’t be selling on your FREE website
Often these are slow loading sites

Budget Friendly $400 to $1500

A typical small business website consisting of 4 to 10 pages can range from $400 to $3000 or a bit more depending on the designer and aesthetic requirements.  These are typically brochure type websites which provide customers important information about your business and the products you sell.  The most advanced function of the website may be a contact form.  They generally do not provide any interactivity with visitors.  Maintenance is performed by the designing company with predetermined maintenance contracts, schedules and fees.  You can relate this type of site to the first round of HTML pages from 1995.

Pros:
Low initial cost as pricing is typically a package or per-page rate
Ideal for the business or organization requiring minimal updates
Quick turnaround times
Great way to get online economically

Cons:
Minimal to no elements of interactivity with customers or visitors
Requires webmaster skills (or services) to modify the website
As frequency of updates increase, it may exceed the terms in maintenance and update contracts and updates begin to get costly

In Part 2 I’ll talk about custom developed sites, online stores, content management, and multi-media websites and the factors that drive the costs of those types of websites.