So Where do I start?

So as the business owner you contact three developers to submit proposals to design your company website.

Each developers is offered the same “parameters” that specifies your goals and proposed functioning.

Each of the three web developers offers you a detail with their estimates.

The first one had priced the project at $2,000, the second had priced it at $10,000 and the final web developer estimated the project at $30,000.

Now, you as the client needs to figure out how these estimates are so hugely different, which one is the most realistic and reasonable to fit a budget for your needs.

I have heard many stories like this. Unfortunately, most business owners have no way of knowing which bids are unrealistically low, which are outrageously inflated and which are in the right ballpark.

Please note: When I say “small business website” I am talking about an informational type website (approximately 10-20 pages) with some basic content management and social media linking options.

Basic Website Components and Costs

The following average figures can be applied to estimating the cost of a small business/non-profit website (if you’d like a custom estimate for your website, contact us):

  • Domain Name – $8-10/year
  • Hosting – $10-100 a year (depending on traffic and hosting services)
  • Web Planning, Design and Development Time – 40 hours and up
  • Continued Website Maintenance – $500 a year and up (depending on number/type of updates required)
  • Marketing Your Website Online – $750 a month and up (paid key words, etc.)

Guide to "Important Factors that Contribute to Website Cost"

When preparing to budget web design costs, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a brand new site or a redesign of an existing site?
  • How prepared are you to ask for bids? Have you prepared a detailed requirements document?
  • Do you need a blog or a content management system (CMS)?
  • Have graphics already been created for the site?
  • Do you want the site to automatically resize for mobile and tablets?
  • Do you need multimedia elements (Flash, video, etc.) on the site?
  • How much content do you currently have and how much will need to be created?
  • Do you need other special features such as social media channels, SEO (search engine optimization) or ecommerce?
  • Who is going to maintain the site after it has been launched?

Here are some additional details to provide an estimate of how much you should budget for each. The prices listed are estimates based on experience designing and building small business/non-profit websites. Note - Prices will vary depending on your specific requirements. Be sure to contact me for an estimate.

New Sites Often Cost More Than Redesigns

Remember, when you’re starting a new website from scratch, I am too as your web designer. With no existing elements to work from, I generally am unable to look at an existing site and study your current online "brand" nor can I examine the features and functionality that will be carried over to the new website and improved upon.

Discovery and Documentation

For the best outcome, all new websites projects should begin with a required “discovery and documentation” process.  This process helps define three important elements:

  1. Online brand
  2. Website structure
  3. Website functionality

I feel this process is "critical" because it helps set expectations on all sides and reduces potential frustrations. Simple business/non-profit websites - those in which my client has a solid idea of what he or she wants — can get by on a minimal amount of discovery and documentation, amounting to perhaps one day’s worth of effort.  BUT… more complex websites may require weeks of meetings plus the creation of many detailed documents to fully define the project.

Interface Design

Interface design — also referred to as visual design or the site’s “look-and-feel” — incorporates your "branding", all your photos and images, even your page layouts. Don’t assume that if you already have a pre-made site you will not need images or layouts "re-done". Interface design is usually an interative process, meaning that the designer will show you several options and then modify them based on your feedback to arrive at an approved design. For a small business/non-profit website, budget $1,200 to $3,500 to get you from concept through to the final design that will be handed off to the developers for programming. Don’t skimp on the interface design; if you do, today’s sophisticated visitors will not give your website a second glance.

Images and Graphics

Budgeting your website graphics can be tricky because images can range from less than $10 each for cheap stock images to hundreds of dollars each for custom or high-end stock images.  Incorporating "compelling" and "appropriate" graphics can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your website. On the low-end, budget at least $100 for stock images if needed.  Remember that a good designer can make a cheap image look like a custom one.

But that’s not all. You will also need stock icons and buttons to compliment your design. Add up to $50 to the budget for these graphic elements.

Mobile or Responsive Design 

Mobile devices have become critical to online success therefore your design should be at the very least mobile-friendly. The best designs are “responsive,” meaning designed to automatically adjust their layout to look good and function easily on multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. Creating a responsive design can cost up to 30% more than a site designed solely for a desktop web browser (figure the price of progress). This additional cost can be attributed to the extra development effort made by designing the site’s appearance and function on the various devices, which in turn will have to be defined. Lastly, more testing is required before the site is ready to launch.

Content Creation and Insertion Costs

The least expensive option for owners is to create all the content on their end and insert it into the site via a content management system (CMS).  Most designers have no problem delivering a blank design template that the client would populate with text and images. If you would like content and adjust the layout of the text, you should budget $100 to $120 per page.

Programming Special "Features" Often Cost Extra

Many extra features are available that can be integrate into your site for improved business. These extras can add up costs too. Some features may be “included” with your website framework – but beware, just because they are “included” doesn’t mean that they look or work the way you might want. My estimates reflect the general requirements, however, many factors can push these costs even higher. If you don’t see your add-on here, I still might be able to provide an estimate.

  • Custom Content Management Systems — For clients who want to manage their own content the web designer can integrate and customize content management systems (CMS). I try to work with PHP-based open-source CMS solutions. Costs for integrating and customizing a CMS can range from $2,000 to $20,000.
  • Training and Documentation – You will need a set of instructions and documentation explaining how to maintain and edit site content. Depending on how extensive the material is, expect to pay from $200-1,000.
  • Blog – Many clients request a blog within their website, generally they need to be customized to reflect their business "branding" and design. Adding a blog can add up to $1,500.
  • For E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs, and payment processing add $1,500 to $3000 or more depending on requirements.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns – Clients that want to gather emails and send out branded email blasts for announcements or newsletters require an email management tool. I can integrate third-party tools along with an email "blast" template design. I can even manage your email blasts. $420 and up.
  • Branding/Identity Development – I am on occasion asked to design logos. On the low-end, I start with an eight-hour process that generates about six rough logo concepts. If one of these is chosen, I go through several rounds of edits to arrive at a final version. $200 -1,500.
  • Style Guides – An online style guide establishes brand consistency and provides for compliance across all print collateral and online marketing messaging. Basic style guide: $1,440.
  • Targeted Landing – Landing pages are pages that promote a specific product or service. They are usually part of an email, social media, or banner ad campaign. I can design and create these pages starting at $150.
  • News feeds of both your content (outgoing) and adding content to the site (incoming): $400
  • Contact forms and surveys: $300 and up
  • Newsletters: $400 to $900
  • Advertising integration (Google AdWords): $200+
  • Photo gallery: $250 to $500
  • Metrics (Google analytics, custom reports, etc.): $200+
  • SEO (on-page optimization, off-page optimization submission to search engines, etc.): $500 to $4000
  • Social media — Create and manage social media network profile (Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.): $500 to $2000

So How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?

The majority small business websites that we design, develop and launch range from $3,000 to $10,000. Using the a la carte estimates above you can see how quickly elements and functionality add up. Another way to break the budget down is to assume:

  • 15% Planning
  • 25% Interface design
  • 40% Programming
  • 20% Project Management

And Don’t Forget the Maintenance Cost

Websites don’t just maintain themselves! The best websites change all the time as their strategy is tweaked and updated. Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget, often because they think that they can do it themselves. But the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose eight hours of sales while you’re trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract. I offer post-launch maintenance to accommodate small requests.

Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending upon what you expect. You should budget a minimum of $200 per month to have a developer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. If you expect additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, etc., expect the price to go up.  

A Final Note

If your website will be a significant part of your business DON’T SKIMP on design and development. If you would expect to pay $100,000 for a brick and mortar retail shop (inventory, interior design, furniture, rent, utilities, staff, equipment, insurance, etc.), then don’t balk at paying reasonable rates for the creation of your online business.

So, how much does a website cost?

For a small business website you can spend as little as $3,000 or as much as $10,000 or more.  Your budget should be based on the strategic needs of your business.

If you’ve read this far, you must be serious about your web business. The next step is to make contact!