Business owners and web designers alike struggle with this question because there are so many variables involved, including the fact that many site builder programs are “free.” Of course you and I know that free software does not equate to a free website, but what does it really take to build a website and why are the costs so variable? I have done significant research on this topic and the results are actually more consistent than I initially thought. Here are a few things I’ve discovered.
1. Simple site builders are available for the DIY crowd. These include Wix, Weebly and Square Space. And you can certainly do it yourself with these tools if you are looking for a simple site to get started. But you will likely be disappointed or frustrated as soon as your business starts to grow or you decide you want some special feature that these tools don’t offer. Even something as simple as adding a tracking code to your webpage for advertising purposes like Facebook or AdRoll ads will quickly show you the limitations of these platforms. The initial costs of these platforms are free, but hosting costs for an ad-free site is something you will have to pay for. If a web designer builds a site for you on one of these platforms, expect to pay $1000 to $2500 for the design and $120 per year for hosting. Website maintenance is covered in point #4 below.
2. Using a full blown content management system like Joomla, Drupal, or the internet’s most popular CMS, WordPress, will cost you more. WordPress currently runs almost one-third of the entire internet, so that is what I am going to concentrate on in this article.
Many of the world’s most-recognized companies use WordPress as the foundation for their website. Examples include Target, UPS, Walt Disney, Best Buy, Xerox, NASA, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, Vogue, People magazine, Samsung, Whitehouse.gov, Forbes, General Motors, NFL, Singer, AirStream, Macy’s Toyota, Alaska airlines, and many, many others. In fact, 54 out of the top 100 companies of Inc.5000 are running their website on WordPress! When you choose WordPress as the platform for your website, you are in good company. While popularity is nice, it is really the flexibility of WordPress why you would choose it as the foundation for a business website.
WordPress is “free,” but add-ons such as themes and plugins can run into the thousands of dollars. Plus development costs are more. Certainly the brands above paid more for their websites than just a couple thousand dollars. Prices I’ve seen quoted depend upon features and functionality, as well as who is designing the site, whether it be a freelancer or a web design agency. Here are some examples:
|Simple Site||WooCommerce Site||Custom Site|
|Freelancer||$1,000-$3,000||$5,000-$15,000||$10,000 – $20,000|
|Agency||$5,000 – $10,000||$8,000-$40,000||$15,000 – $100,000|
Of course, not every web designer is going to fit neatly into this matrix, but it is interesting to note that the average cost of a WooCommerce website is $6,361 (according to BizTech). When you start to add in the cost of stock photos, custom photography, graphic design, copywriting, premium plugins, and customizations, you can see how these costs can quickly escalate. These figures do not include hosting, support, and maintenance which must also be budgeted for. And they obviously don’t include any sort of marketing, whether it be digital advertising or SEO, both of which can cost thousands per months.
3. Hosting can cost anywhere from a few dollars per month to over a thousand. I like to compare hosting to airline travel. A shared hosting account is like traveling on a commercial aircraft, where you are sharing the cabin with hundreds of other passengers (or in the case of a website, thousands of other websites). The commercial jet will get you to your destination reasonably fast, but it is possible that one passenger can disrupt all the other passengers, just like a bad website can affect all the other websites on the server. For a typical WordPress website, you can get started for a few dollars per month on the low end, but if you are serious about your business, expect to pay about $40 per month for a quality shared hosting platform like SiteGround.
When your business grows, you can of course opt for a VPS or virtual private server. This is like flying on a private jet, meaning that you can do almost anything you want on the plane without affecting other passengers, and it is likely to get you to your destination even faster. This option of course costs more, in fact, a good hosting company that specializes in WordPress, like Kinsta may cost you $250 per month (and it will be worth every penny!)
4. Support and Maintenance. Sadly, this is one area that many businesses fail to account for, and it is one of the most important. Here is what you need to know: expect to pay as much in maintenance costs for your website each year as what the website cost to develop in the first place. If you paid $6,361 for a typical WooCommerce website, it will cost you $6,361 every year to maintain that site. You can pay an in-house person to maintain your site, or you can pay your web designer, but it WILL cost you this much.Expect to pay as much in maintenance costs for your website each year as what the website cost to develop in the first place. Click To Tweet
A typical web design firm shows these prices for maintenance on their website:
|1 Hour per month|
5 Hours per month
10 Hours per month
20 Hours per month
|5 – 8 day turnaround||3-5 day turn around||3-5 day turnaround||2-3 day turnaround|
In the chart above, hours do NOT carry over. You will also note that it may take you a week simply to get someone to change an image or a typo on a page, much less adding a new page when something interesting is happening with your business. It is my strong belief that business owners need to be able to maintain their own websites. Not because you need to save this money (remember it will cost you this much, its just a question of who you are paying), but because you need to be able to do this when you need it done, not on someone else’s time schedule. That is why I offer my WebStores University courses – so you can take charge of your own website.
A quality high-performing website is definitely not free. It isn’t even cheap. But it can be critical to your business. Most customers will research you before making a buying decision, even if you do not actually sell anything on your site. Budget accordingly and put your best foot forward.
Note: Any of the prices above are gleaned from a number of sources and tend to be industry averages, not prices quoted by WebStores ltd.