How much does a website cost?

The number one question I get when I speak with a prospective client is “How much does a website cost?” Over the past 20+ years, I have crafted the perfect response, “How much does a house cost?” In an instant, a look of shock and confusion and then you see the lights go on and the concept starts to sink in, priceless. Then I hit them with “Are you looking for a studio apartment or a 6 bedroom mansion?” I’m usually met with a little chuckle and then an, “I get it.”

Just answer the question!

I recently read a post from Sage Media that addressed this question but on a broader scale. They polled several hundred design firms, agencies, and freelancers and asked them what they charged for certain design projects. They took the average cost and posted for all to read. Since this article is targeting just website design, I will post just those results here. But if you want a good read and want to know what a logo or brochure costs on average, head on over and check out the full post.

The article revealed the average cost of a website submitted by 274 design professionals with an average of 10 years experience. This includes the presentation of 2 to 3 concepts, art direction and coordination of illustration and/or photography, comprehensive layout, and final art delivered to the client. All of this is a fancy way of saying, “We will build your site how you want it and launch it for…” The average website cost that was calculated was $11,830. That number is an average… which means some companies probably responded with price tags north of $50,000 and some as low as $500.

There is more to a website than the cost…

I understand the importance of price and its role it plays in pretty much everything in life. However, the price is simply 1 of 4 major concepts to consider when it comes to hiring a website designer. When you are looking for a designer for your small business, you should ask them 3 questions and then weigh your decision based on those answers and your gut feeling. Don’t let price alone drive your decision… hiring the wrong designer because they were cheaper can (and usually does) cost a lot more in the long run.

Question #1: How much experience building websites do you have?

There are plenty of people out there who design websites. They range anywhere from firms who do it daily and have designed thousands of websites over the past 20 years all the way down to the guy across the street who built a couple Wix websites for friends and now considers himself a website designer. That last example is VERY real and VERY dangerous to hire, but so many people still hire them. Please, keep doing so, because that’s where I get my bread and butter from… fixing their mistakes!

Question #2: How much knowledge do you have in your industry?

This is closely related to question one because with experience comes knowledge. However, it’s still a good question to ask. Maybe, a designer has been focused on print work for the past 10 years and only has 2-3 websites under their belt. They are creative and make things beautiful, but do they have the know-how to design and build a beautiful and functional website? Will it be responsive and work on all devices? Does it have SEO best practices built in as to allow for search engines to organically rank it properly? Does it have code built-in for Google to be able to index the site properly? These are important things to ask them before you sign on the dotted line.

Question #3: How much will my website cost?

Now you’re at the question you REALLY care about… but you shouldn’t. I know you have a budget to stay within, but we all know that’s simply a guideline. You would like to stick to it or even have money left over.

I would like you to think about heading to a dealership to buy that sensible Ford Fusion for $XX,XXX. Inevitably, the dealer ends up showing you a svelte V8 GT Mustang. He explains it’s just a little bit more, but you get so much more in return. Then, to add insult to injury, the next one he shows you goes a step further and has racing suspension, 20″ wheels, a swanky body kit, and custom exhaust for just a little more on top of that. You start to think and somehow you find a way to justify the extra. You forget the fact that ANY vehicle will be a financial weight around your neck and will simply depreciate in value. It will also suck money from your wallet in upgrades, gas, insurance, speeding tickets, repairs, etc.

Why are you so frugal about your business website then? Why not upgrade to that fancier version with all the bells and whistles? At least your business website will make you money in return!

Question #4: How much risk am I willing to accept?

I know that’s not a question for a designer, but it’s the most important one to ask yourself. Risk and price are a sliding scale and when one goes up, the other (generally) goes down. If you find someone who charges you only $500 for a website, you are (usually) accepting a larger risk hoping the project is completed properly as opposed to someone charging $5,000 for the same website. The higher the investment, the more time, pride, and care a designer will take on your project. Still not convinced? Let me pose an example to you…

Comparing 2 designers side-by-side

Let’s say you have 2 designers bidding for your new website. You’ve taken the time with each of them and explained exactly what your website needs. Designer-A has 2 years of experience building websites and a handful of websites under their belt. Designer-B has 20 years and hundreds of sites over the many years to their name. Both Designer-A and Designer-B will build your website for you, but Designer-B’s quote offers hosting, daily backups, an SSL certificate, monthly support, and a plethora of other options you (think) you don’t need. Designer-A quotes you $750 for their web design services and Designer-B quotes you $2,200. Both designers promise the website done and launched in 4 weeks or less.

Who do you go with?

Obviously, you’re going to hire Designer-A because he’s 1/3 of the price of Designer-B for doing (basically) the same thing. You can’t help but think of all the shiny new things you can buy with that extra money you saved. You call Designer-A to give them the good news! After cutting a check, you sit back and browse the Amazon app to spend that extra cash you saved.

How is that working out for you?

Designer-A is taking longer than you hoped and are missing deadlines. Finally, after 7 weeks, they launch your new website. Breathing a sigh of relief, you are quite pleased with the finished product and are excited to see all the money that will be rolling in from the new website. Taking to social media, you post about your new business and your stunning new website. All your friends tell you how awesome your new website is and comment on what a shrewd shopper you are. You eagerly hand out Designer-A’s contact info to all your friends with your official stamp of approval!

Then, after a couple weeks, you begin to wonder why you’re not getting increased traffic as promised by Designer-A. You call Designer-A and he says you just need to wait longer, the business will come with time. So, you accept that answer and wait. Now, a few months post-launch, you log into your dashboard to see if your forms are even working and notice multiple messages. Your plugins aren’t updated and there is even a new version of WordPress that addresses numerous security holes found in the previous version. Scared about what that even means, you call Designer-A and ask for help. Since they’ve already collected their money from you, they respond back a few days later and luckily tell you how to perform the update.

After what looks like a successful update, you check your website and are met with a blank white screen where your beautiful website used to be. In a panic, you call Designer-A back and beg them to fix it. Unfortunately, they have no clue how because this has never happened to them before. They spend a little time trying to figure out what happened and simply can’t fix it. You keep calling them and calling them because you’re convinced you’re losing money hand over fist while your website is down, but now they are ducking your calls completely.

Oh crap, now what?

You place a call to Designer-B and politely ask them to fix Designer-A’s mistakes. Designer-B now has to go in and dig through the other designer’s work in order to troubleshoot the problem. At a rate of $100/hr, you are really regretting that new watch and designer jeans you purchased on Amazon.

You find out that the crash was caused by some of the free plugins Designer-A used to build your website. When updated, they caused conflicts with code in the new WordPress installation and with each other and ended up crashing the website.

To get it working again, Designer-B now has to redo your pages to utilize better-supported plugins. He also explains the reason your website isn’t being found is that Designer-A never built any basic SEO into the site. Designer-B now has to go page-by-page and build the SEO info into each page, image, and link, costing several hundred dollars more. You’re now up to a couple thousand dollars invested, way more than if you hired Designer-B in the first place. You’ve not only lost a lot of money but precious time.

Now everything is OK, right?

Fast forward a few months later and now you want to update your website. You haven’t the slightest clue how to do it and call Designer-B back. You explain how you would like to add some new products, a few new client testimonials, and a couple of new photo galleries. At $100/hr, you agree, because your website must be updated. All the while, kicking yourself for not hiring Designer-B in the first place.

If you had, you:

  • Would’ve launched on time
  • Would’ve had SEO best practices built in from the start and customers would’ve been able to find you on Google, Yelp!, Angie’s List, etc.
  • You wouldn’t have ever had to perform any WordPress Core or plugin updates on your own because it comes standard in Designer-B’s website plans. And if for some reason the website did crash, Designer-B would’ve fixed it or used one of the nightly backups to restore the website to working order.
  • And lastly, when it came time to add extra content to the website, you wouldn’t have to pay $100/hr because that’s also included in Designer-B’s website plans.

So, did this person really save any money by hiring Designer-A? I hear about these types of situations all the time! Just an FYI, this was not a story, it is an actual account of a past quote who hired Designer-A instead and (as you can see) after all sorts of unfortunate events and spending thousands extra, ended up back in our care anyway.


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Camarillo, CA


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