How Much Does a Website Cost?

Before you start a website, find out what it really costs.

What Goes Into a New Website?

If this the first time you’ve started thinking about building a new website, you might be a little overwhelmed. You probably have questions, like: How much does a website cost? What does it take to create an innovative and compelling online presence? There is a lot that goes into determining what your website will cost, but it may be best to first talk about what goes into creating a new website.

Your Identity, Goals, and Audience

At our agency, every new website starts with a long and detailed series of questions. In fact, we wrote about it in a recent post. In order to be effective, your website must reflect the core identity of your business, it needs to address both your short-term and long-term goals, and it must act as a useful resource for your target audience. If any one of these key components is missing, the project will eventually fail. That is why most successful professional website developers have a detail-oriented and (sometimes) lengthy onboarding process for new projects. Be prepared to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and answer a lot of follow-up questions over the span of a few days. If a client needs help creating goals, building a stronger brand identity, or conducting research on their target audience, those important tasks can be built into a new website project. Ultimately, answering these deceptively simple questions is the first step on the road to launching a successful new website.

Location, Location – Part 1

Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re selecting a brick-and-mortar storefront for an upscale bakery. We want our bakery to be situated in a pedestrian-friendly area with complementary businesses nearby, such as craft shops, clothing stores, or an open-air farmers market that sells fresh produce. The approach to selecting your website’s domain name should be similar. If you’re building a nonprofit website, you might consider a .org or .net address. If you’re building a tech startup website, you might be looking at .com , .io , or .biz. Just like we wouldn’t nestle our upscale bakery between two warehouses in the middle of a dusty industrial park, we don’t want to choose our domain name too hastily. Once you know what “part of town” you want to park your domain in (i.e. .com , .net , etc.), the next step is to choose the domain name that works best for you. If your developer is registering your domain name on your behalf, it is important that you reach an understanding of who owns that important piece of internet real estate.

You wouldn't let someone else sign the papers on your new home. Who owns your domain name? Click To Tweet

If you look, there are some really interesting stories out there surrounding domain names. There are entire businesses built up around the process of buying and selling domain names that they feel might be valuable in the future, also known as “domain prospecting”. If you’re running a successful online business, the last thing you want is to find out that someone else bought the rights to your website’s domain name after you let it expire.

Functional Needs

So far, we’ve covered goals, identity, audience, and location. But, that is just the beginning. A website’s functional needs are the next big hurdle in the process of creating a new website. At the most basic level, we need to determine how many pages are going to be on the new website, what type of content is going to be on those pages, and how those pages will be structured (a.k.a. the sitemap). Perhaps you would also like some lead capture for a newsletter? Would your website benefit from dynamically re-sizable text for the visually impaired? How about a full eCommerce website with multiple products for sale and custom shipping options? Or, is this a members-only website with a simple front page and everything else is password protected and invisible to search engines?

A website is a tool. Ask yourself: What is my website doing for my business RIGHT NOW? Click To Tweet

The examples used above are all from actual websites we have built. As you can see, the functional needs of a website can vary greatly and are tied directly to a business’s identity, its goals, and its target audience.

Content is King

At this point, we have what is referred to as a “wireframe”. The website has taken shape and the moving parts are being put in place. Without compelling content that attracts the right traffic and is useful to your target audience, the website is an empty vessel. Filling the vessel is often the hardest part, as it is the client that usually provides text and pictures to the developer in order to fill out the site. For example, an eCommerce website would need a general description of their company values, product names, product descriptions, and high-resolution pictures of the products from multiple angles — And that’s the absolute minimum. Here is another major risk factor: At the end of the day, who is retaining ownership of all that content that you’re creating for your new website?

Check your website developer's contract: Do you own the rights to your own content, or do they? Click To Tweet

If one of your goals is to increase search engine visibility, the initial content on your website often isn’t enough. Adding content to your website regularly through blogging, video, or other means is the central component of any viable SEO strategy. Luckily, there are those that can help with developing a search engine optimization strategy and can even create content on your behalf.

Website Design

Now we’re getting somewhere! We have our location, we have our functional needs, and we have great text, pictures, video, and more to fill in our new website. Like a gift for a birthday party, we need to package it and wrap it with beautiful wrapping paper. An effective website needs to not only be visually compelling, it also needs to strongly represent your brand or core identity. More established businesses will have a branding guide that establishes standards for color, font, and logo styles for dark backgrounds, light backgrounds, and print/watermark so that their brand is easily recognizable, whether it is on a website or official letterhead.

Another component of design is the user’s experience when browsing your new website. Can they find the information they need easily? Are they going where you want them to go? These are important questions as we’re finalizing and fine-tuning a project.

Maintaining Your Investment

So far, we have reviewed everything that goes into creating an innovative and compelling new website. Now what? Unfortunately, with the ever-shifting and evolving nature of the internet, your new website will need regular check-ups, updates, and adjustments if it’s to stay looking its best. And even with a robust maintenance schedule, with how rapidly new technology is developed and distributed, websites are generally replaced every three to five years.

Website Maintenance: The Car Analogy

Let’s say you purchase a new car. Here it is:


Hopefully, you’re going to drive your car home, where you will park it in a garage. The garage should be secured with a lock, fully enclosed, and hopefully, there aren’t any nearby rodents that will chew the internal wiring. Like your new vehicle, your new website should be housed on a secure server, preferably on its own partition and not on shared hosting.

There’s also the matter of your car’s mechanical components. Over time, it will require an assortment of fluid changes, tire rotations, and other scheduled maintenance tasks every few thousand miles. With a website, regular software updates and adjustments are an inescapable reality. Say we’re irresponsible car owners, and we decide to drive our car 15,000 miles without changing the oil… If it even makes it that long, the engine block will eventually seize up and possibly even fracture from increased stress. We’ll then have to replace the entire engine, which is a far more expensive repair than the 3-to-4 oil changes it would have taken to prevent it. A website that is not regularly maintained will be more susceptible to malicious software, which can paralyze or even permanently damage a website beyond repair.

Would you rather pay $1000.00 on website maintenance, or $5000.00 on website replacement? Click To Tweet

How Much Does a Website Cost, Really?

How much does a website cost? We’ve seen the full gamut, from do-it-yourself subscription services that charge $10 per month and amateur developers that will build anything for $500.00, to agencies with dozens of employees who won’t consider projects under $20,000.00. Websites and the people that need them are equally varied — No two projects are exactly the same. For that reason, your best course of action is to talk to a professional about your needs and budget. Ask to see their portfolio and ask them to show you some examples of previous work that they have done, preferably on projects similar to yours. Think critically. Get multiple opinions, if you feel unsure!

The cheapest website is the one that is done right the first time. Click To Tweet

If you find yourself getting passed over by multiple agencies, it may be time to go back to the drawing board on your budget. Perhaps what you thought was a $1000.00 website, is actually considered to be a $3500.00 website by most professionals. Make sure that you’re not getting swindled, but also make sure that the agency you hire is giving you the right solutions.

Hopefully this has helped to demystify what goes into a new website project and how much websites can cost. What do you think? Is there a question we left unanswered, or a stone we left unturned? Leave your question in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer it!

Thoughts or Questions?

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