The answer? It depends. Building a website, like a house, is a complex process and the level of complexity depends on your objectives, needs and requirements. For example, when building a house, your objective may be more space to accommodate a growing family, a more modern design to impress your friends and neighbors, or a more age-friendly design to support the inevitable requirements that come along with age like a walk-in shower. Your objectives will determine your needs and requirements and ultimately the cost.
When building or redesigning your website, you must ask yourself the same types of questions in order to determine what building it will cost. In this blog post I will outline the factors that go in to building a website and how the varying levels of complexity will affect your final cost.
No matter the scope of your website project, it is crucial that you and/or your website agency first lay out the objectives and requirements of your website, discuss timelines, determine site architecture and decide your budget. Although there is a cost to this, it will save you time and money in the end, especially for the more complex projects. All this will be done in the planning stage.
If you are building a new website using a templated website, the planning may only take a couple hours and can be completed by filling out a form of predetermined questions that many website agencies will provide their clients. However, planning a custom site will likely require many hours spent in meetings to pinpoint features and requirements. Depending on the number and type of people involved in these meetings, the planning stage for a very complex website may cost thousands of dollars. But the risk of skipping this step would be analogous to a contractor starting to build a house without a blueprint.
A good design will promote your brand as well as give visitors a website that is easy to navigate and use. Your most affordable designs are pre-built templates, typically costing around $50. However, this does not factor in the time and money it takes to install, configure and add content. At a minimum, this will take someone with web experience a few days to get up and running with a basic amount of content. Furthermore, these pre-built websites constrain your website to a predetermined layout and functionality.
On the other end of the spectrum is a custom design. It is tough to estimate the cost of a custom design but the advantages of a custom design is it will allow your website to stand out from the clutter. A professional website design agency will work closely with you to get a deep, intuitive understanding of your brand and your customers. With that knowledge, they will create a website design and layout that speaks to those customers while simultaneously leading site visitors to the information they want. At a minimum, a custom web design is going to cost $4,000.
Development and Features
Development is the stage where you make the design come to life. Again, if you are using a template, your website will come with limited, pre-built functionality. If you have gone the route of a custom design, you will also need custom development. A custom design with basic features such as pages for text and photos, a simple photo gallery, responsive design and a contact form, will start at around $6,000. Adding features such as e-commerce, dynamic page content and myriad other features will add to the cost of the development.
Once you have your design and development, you are well on your way. But without words, images, videos and photography you really only have a well-designed magazine without a message. Creating compelling content requires the right tone and message. At the same time, SEO friendly website copy makes your website easier to find once it’s published. Many times, creating this content is best left to content specialists. Rates for content writers vary but high quality content typically starts at around $75/hour. The cost of professional photography and videography varies greatly depending on your scope.
Before you go live with your website, you should test and retest the features and functionality of your website and get feedback from actual users on how the site works. This can be as simple and inexpensive as buying lunch for some of your colleagues and having them use the site over lunch and provide feedback. Or, you may want to hire professionals to test your site. Check out www.usertesting.com for pricing for this service. You’ll also want to make sure your site is tested on the various browsers and screen sizes common to your consumers.
Maintenance and Hosting
Lastly, you’ll want to think about the costs associated with hosting and maintenance. You can find hosting for your site for a few bucks a month whereas basic maintenance to your site like frequent plug-in updates can start at around $50 per month.
As you can see, figuring out the cost to build your website can be very complex but most business have a lot riding on getting this right. I hope this blog post provides you with the framework to at least have an intelligent conversation with your internal stakeholders or with any website design agency you are considering hiring.
And if you are looking for more tips on your next website redesign, check out our eBook on website redesign.