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How Much Does a Website Cost?: Understanding All the Variables

If you’ve been searching online for information about how much a website costs, you’ve probably seen answers ranging anywhere from $500 to $500,000. Unfortunately, if you’re a business leader and you’re trying to determine a budget for your website project, this vast range isn’t very helpful.

So, where should your project fall in that spectrum? The true answer is … it depends.

To get a better sense of how much your website should cost, you need to understand the components and variables that impact website project budgets.

To demonstrate why that’s the only answer that makes sense, let’s briefly replace the concept of a “website” with a “building.”

If someone were to ask you how much a building should cost, you’d probably have some questions: What kind of building? Where will it be located? What kind of materials should be used for construction? Does the building need four basic walls and a roof, or will it be a massive skyscraper containing state-of-the-art offices and luxurious apartments? 

Buildings can be constructed in an infinite number of ways, and every decision has an impact on how much it will ultimately cost. 

The same is true of websites. That’s why Google provides such wildly different answers when asked about the average cost of a website. That’s also why you should probably ignore anyone who claims they can give you an estimate without asking for details about your business’s situation and goals.

To get a better sense of how much your website should cost, you need to understand the components and variables that impact website project budgets.

Article Contents

Website Cost Components

On a basic level, total website costs can be broken out into six separate components. The costs associated with each of these components can still vary greatly, however, depending on your business’s needs.

Domain Name Registration

To have a website, you need a domain name. Assuming your preferred domain is available, names typically range from $10-50 per year depending on the registrar and the type of top-level domain (TLD) extension you plan to use. If your preferred domain name isn’t available, you’ll either have to find another name, or you’ll have to negotiate a purchase from the current owner.

To protect your domain and your brand, you should also register other common extensions and variations of your brand name to prevent others from using—or abusing—them.

Website Hosting

You’ll also need a place to host your website. The cost of website hosting varies significantly depending on the provider, the type of hosting (i.e., managed WordPress, VPS, dedicated, or shared hosting), additional services and features, and, potentially, the amount of traffic your website receives.

In general, most businesses should expect to pay $30-150 per month for a reliable, scalable website hosting plan. 

When considering web hosts, though, don’t forget to factor in potential costs associated with your SSL certificate, email hosting, and, potentially, a content delivery network (CDN) that can help optimize site performance.

Website Technology Platforms

Modern websites need modern technology platforms to do their work. These platforms can include content management system (CMS) platforms like WordPress or Drupal; marketing automation platforms like Hubspot or Marketo Engage; e-commerce platforms like Adobe Commerce or Shopify; customer relationship management (CRM) platforms like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365; and website analytics platforms like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics

Modern websites need modern technology platforms to do their work.

Some of these platforms are free to use, but others may have significant ongoing costs—hundreds to thousands of dollars per month—depending on your requirements and level of use. 

In addition to the major platform categories mentioned above, don’t forget about potential costs associated with smaller tools like individual CMS plugins and website tracking platforms—like Hotjar and Leadfeeder—which can provide your marketing team with valuable insights about site visitors.

Website Planning and Production

For most businesses, the work required to build a website consumes the largest chunk of their overall website budget. 

This work encompasses research, website strategy, user experience, search engine optimization, site architecture, content strategy and copywriting, visual design, development, technology integration, and deployment. 

Although these projects may only occur once every few years, comprehensive website projects require a significant investment of time and money to ensure success. 

As we’ve stated previously, though, it’s impossible to determine website costs without digging into the details of your specific project.

Website Maintenance and Support

Launching a new website doesn’t mean the work is over. At a minimum, teams should launch a website maintenance program immediately to make sure the site stays updated, secure, and functioning properly. 

Launching a new website doesn’t mean the work is over.

The costs associated with website maintenance can vary significantly depending on the nature of your website, but, as a general rule, businesses should expect to pay roughly 10-20% of what they paid to redesign and develop their website. So, if you paid $50K for a full website redesign project, you should expect to pay $5-10K for website maintenance services over the course of a year.

If these services expand to include website continuous improvement efforts to optimize UX and SEO, the fees will increase based on the amount of work necessary to achieve your goals.

Digital Marketing Support

Website maintenance and continuous improvement efforts are crucial because they make sure your website is working properly for all inbound website traffic. 

But, where is that traffic coming from? And, how are you going to continue nurturing audiences once they’ve visited your site?

For most businesses, a launch it and leave it strategy simply won’t work.

You need to connect with your audiences and search engines by regularly publishing relevant, high-quality content; you need to engage audiences through email and social media; you need to use strategic digital advertising channels to build awareness and generate leads; and, you need to measure and analyze the performance of all digital marketing efforts to make sure you’re using your investment in the right way.

As with a website project, it’s impossible to provide specific costs for these digital marketing services without knowing more about your business’s goals and situation. To be successful, though, takes work. The more competitive your market, the more you should expect to invest. 

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Website Cost Variables

Although many of the website components we’ve discussed can vary in cost depending on your requirements, the planning and production work involved in a full website redesign project still has the most potential for cost variance. 

Every business has its own situation and goals, and the costs associated with their web design projects will differ based on a number of project variables.

No two website projects are the same. Every business has its own situation and goals, and the costs associated with their web design projects will differ based on a number of project variables. 

To be clear, you probably won’t be able to sift through all of these variables and determine a project cost on your own. 

These variables are intended to reveal the things that make projects more or less expensive. For some, you’ll probably have a strong point of view. For others, you may need an outside expert’s perspective. 

The point is, even if you don’t have absolute clarity about each variable, they should provide you with a directional sense of what your project budget will need to account for.

To take the next step in determining specific costs, you’ll need to work closely with a website partner.

Website Project Foundation Variables

Website Type

What type of website does your business need?

An online store needs a website that perfectly balances user experience with product information and e-commerce technology. A business services company, on the other hand, needs a website that provides informative content and a lead conversion funnel. 

Different website types require their own strategies, technologies, and approach to fulfill their purposes effectively. Unsurprisingly, every variation has different costs, and one website can cost substantially more than another based entirely on its type.

Website Goals

What specific goals does your website need to achieve?

Website redesign strategies should always be developed around website goals, and these goals impact project costs in multiple ways. 

A company that wants to significantly ramp up lead generation efforts will require a content strategy and site infrastructure suited to that goal. A brand that wants to double traffic from search engines will require extensive keyword research and site architecture planning to reach that objective. An organization that wants its website to be fast and accessible will need to develop their site with that in mind, avoiding poorly structured templates and bulky plugins.

Simply put, different goals have different costs. If you’re expecting your website to help your business achieve aggressive growth goals, you should expect your investment to reflect that vision.

Website Team

Who will be doing the website project work?

When it comes to the actual work of a website project, there are a number of different models available to businesses. 

You could conceivably complete a web design project using only your own team members and a DIY website builder; you could hire a freelance web designer to do the work; or, you could seek out an experienced agency partner to manage and execute everything from start to finish.

These options will, obviously, look very different from a cost perspective. Keep in mind, though, that these options will also look very different from a project results perspective. 

Ultimately, you need to choose a website team that you trust and determine a budget that will lead to project success.

Project Approach

Which website project approach makes sense for your situation?

Yes, you can always opt for a traditional website redesign approach, and that often makes the most sense. Depending on your current situation, though, you may want to consider a continuous improvement approach, instead. 

Continuous improvement isn’t necessarily “cheaper” than a full website project, but it is managed and billed in a different way.

By working through updates and improvements of your existing website in agile sprints, a continuous improvement model shifts costs into ongoing monthly payments. These payments can be spread out in a way that best suits your business and your budget.

This approach also has the potential to produce faster results, which should be factored into any cost-benefit analysis.

Brand Condition

Is your brand clearly and accurately defined?

Do you have brand messaging, positioning, and visual identity guidelines that properly reflect your current brand? 

If not, you’ll need to consider how the website project will address these gaps. Will you need a brand strategy phase before kicking off the website project? Will you need additional content strategy sessions with project stakeholders to define messaging themes? Should you bake more design exploration into the approach to shape the new look and feel of your brand identity?

These are all common additions to website projects, but they do add time and cost, so it’s important to understand these needs ahead of time.

Audience Clarity

How well do you know your target audiences?

If you feel like you already have a solid understanding of your target audiences, you probably don’t need to worry about this variable. 

Although audience research will add cost to your project, the cost of not doing this work could be a failed website.

If, on the other hand, you have questions about who your audiences are, what challenges they face, and what compels them to take action, you should consider adding audience research to your project.

Your website needs to connect to audiences to be successful. If you don’t understand your audiences, your site’s content strategy, user experience, and site architecture will all miss the mark, and your website will underperform. 

Although audience research will add cost to your project, the cost of not doing this work could be a failed website.

Internal Stakeholders

How many internal perspectives do you need to include in your website project?

If your business has a large number of internal stakeholders who all want a say in your website project, you may need to plan for the increased costs associated with a longer project. Especially if any of your stakeholders have complicated availability.

Creating a website requires a significant amount of meetings and reviews. More stakeholders often mean more coordination and more feedback. In some cases, it may also mean more revisions stretched out over a longer period of time. 

None of this is a bad, or unexpected, thing. 

Well-run website projects should be able to coordinate with everyone to include their essential perspectives. Coordinating with a large number of in-demand people, though, takes time. And, time can mean added cost.

Website Project Detail Variables

Launch Target

When do you need to launch your new website?

Most website redesign projects take approximately three to six months to complete. Larger, more complex projects, however, can extend well beyond six months. 

If for some reason you need your website to launch faster than that typical timeline, you’ll probably have to come up with a phased approach in order to launch something by your deadline. Or, you’ll have to increase your budget. 

As we’ve discussed, planning and producing a website is a complex process involving many moving parts. Significantly compressing a project timeline puts stress on every aspect of the work. This sometimes creates a situation where team resources must be reassigned or added.

These changes usually result in increased costs.

Website Size

How big is your website?

Unsurprisingly, larger websites usually take longer to build. More pages often mean more page templates, which each require wireframing, page design, development, and CMS integration. Web teams also need to map every one of these pages into an updated site architecture.

Larger websites also require more site migration time. Whether a site is shifting from one domain to another, one CMS to another, or just moving into new templates, the process of moving and conducting quality assurance on a significant amount of pages adds time and cost.

Page Templates

How many page templates will your website need?

We already mentioned the page template count when discussing the impact of website size. In some cases, though, sites need more templates even if a site isn’t that large.

The number of required page templates has more to do with a site’s desired user experience than the actual page count. 

To provide the best possible experience for site users and administrators, some sites will require more templates. The time needed to design and build these templates will add cost to a project.

Content Development

How much new content will your website need?

When businesses decide they need a redesigned website, it’s often because their current site’s content no longer reflects who they are as a company. Brand messaging feels disconnected. Product and service information is outdated. Company culture information is completely absent.

To address these issues, website teams need to write new content. The actual copywriting, though, is just one aspect of this work. 

Content strategy, site architecture, user experience, and search engine optimization all revolve around content. When a site has significant content requirements, the work that goes into each of these elements will increase, which will impact total project costs.

Migration Complexity

How complex is your website migration process going to be?

Every website redesign project includes migration work. Some migrations, however, are more complex than others.

  • Are you merging multiple sites into a single, unified experience?
  • Are you making site structure changes that impact user flows and URLs?
  • Are you changing protocols or domain names?
  • Are you switching to a different content management system?

All of these scenarios impact cost in various ways. For example, if an existing website has a significant amount of legacy content (e.g., blog articles, project pages, resource content, etc.), migrating this content to a new content management system may require substantial page-by-page revisions. This work will add scope to a project. 

Whatever your specific situation may be, you should consider these potential migration issues when thinking about project costs.

Functionality Requirements

What specific functionality will your website need to support?

Certain types of websites usually feature certain functionality. Most B2B websites include a blog and lead forms. An e-commerce site will include product filtering and a shopping cart. A school website will have a staff directory and an event calendar. 

What functionality is necessary for your site to achieve its goals?

These basic functionality requirements for different types of sites are almost a given, but what else needs to be considered? What functionality is necessary for your site to achieve its goals?

Adding functionality increases developer costs, so it’s crucial to evaluate and prioritize functionality wish lists based on need. 

Website Experience

What kind of user experience should your website visitors have?

Users should have an optimal experience when they visit your site. They expect to find the information they’re looking for and complete the actions they want to complete without any issues. This is true whether they’re on a desktop, a tablet, or a mobile device. 

But, what goes beyond those basic user experience expectations? How should users feel when they’re on your site? Should the experience be simplistic? Playful? Cutting edge?

Creating these different experiences may require different navigation systems, animations, or design elements. And, to build these elements into a site without sacrificing usability or performance may increase project complexity and design costs.

Accessibility Requirements

Will your website need to conform to a specific accessibility standard?

A web design and development team following modern best practices should produce a website that addresses most accessibility issues. 

Reaching full WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance, however, requires significant additional work to adhere to all success criteria. 

Accessibility is also an ongoing effort. Websites continually change. If a content manager publishes a new page, or a designer tweaks a template, accessibility can be impacted. As a result, additional updates may be required to once again achieve conformance.

Some organizations are required to maintain a specific level of conformance, but others will need to weigh multiple factors—including costs—when determining their site’s level of accessibility. 

Technology Integrations

Which technology platforms do you need to integrate with your website?

Earlier in this article, we mentioned technology platforms—like Hubspot, Salesforce, Google Analytics, and others—when talking about website cost components. In addition to the costs of the platforms themselves, however, there may be costs associated with integrating these platforms into a website.

Most modern websites need to connect to these types of platforms to serve as a business’s digital marketing centerpiece. In many cases, these integrations are relatively simple.

With that said, depending on the platform, and depending on what a business needs from the platform, the integration process can become much more complex. 

Identifying these technology platform requirements early in a website process will help establish cost expectations from the start.

Visual Asset Requirements

Will your website require new visual assets?

Depending on the nature of your business, your website may benefit greatly from using custom photos, videos, or illustrations. If you don’t have these visual assets, you should plan to have them produced as part of your project scope. 

Other companies may be able to use stock photos and illustrations. It does take time to source and edit stock images, however, so keep this in mind if your site needs a larger number of images than a typical project may require.

Analytics Configuration

Does your website analytics platform need to be set up and configured?

Analyzing site performance is a critical component of ongoing website management. 

Ideally, an analytics platform should be in place on an existing website before a website redesign process even begins. That way, your website team can establish performance benchmarks and set goals to track for the redesign.

If a platform isn’t in place or isn’t configured properly, this work needs to be included in the scope. This work may add a small amount to your costs.

Setting Your Website Up for Success

When website projects fail, it’s often because of a disconnect between a business’s vision and budget. Everyone wants an exceptional website, but people often don’t understand the thinking and work that goes into a successful project. They also often don’t understand how much that work costs.

This leads to confusion when comparing project bids from multiple vendors; it creates uncertainty about what is or isn’t included in a project scope; and, in some cases, it leads to frustration when project leaders realize they haven’t accounted for additional costs that may be critical to a site’s long-term success. 

When website projects fail, it’s often because of a disconnect between a business’s vision and budget.

To avoid these issues, it’s essential to understand the components and variables related to website costs.

With this information, you can ask more questions of potential partners, you can identify the right path for your business, and you can establish accurate expectations about potential project costs.

All of this will help to align your business’s budget and vision, which will set your website up for success.

If you need help sorting through the variables for your own website project, reach out. We’ll be happy to help.

Erik Norsted

Erik has spent his entire career immersed in every aspect of marketing and branding. His expertise around current digital trends, content strategy, and technical best-practices proves invaluable as he guides clients through the dynamic Modern Marketing landscape.