A professionally designed website is one of the most significant investments that a business can make. Whether the business operates online or offline, the website is likely to be the tool that consistently and effectively drives customers to a business, allowing them to purchase products or engage services. The obvious question that any business manager or owner is going to have is “how much do I need to budget for the website?”.
All websites have an establishment cost, and then there are the ongoing costs. A build could be anywhere between $2,000 and $200,000 and ongoing costs could be between $400 and $500,000 per year. So how do you narrow down the cost so that you can work out what budget you are going to need for your business?
Before we provide more detailed costings it is important first to learn a little about the various elements that contribute to the cost of a website.
What Contributes to the Cost of Building Website.
Having a bit of an understanding of the general costs associated with a website will help you to narrow down what you might need for your business. Consider the following:
The Nature of the Business
The Nature of the business provides a broad overview of the business. It encompasses the type of business, the market the business operates in and what the goals are for the website.
Type of Business
While every business will benefit greatly from a website, not all businesses operate in the same way. Businesses, such as online stores, are 100% dependant on the website providing their customers with an intuitive & easy way to purchase products or services. Some small businesses operate primarily offline. They may be a single physical brick and mortar premises that rely on the custom of locals. The way that an online store and a local store are presented online are very different. They will have their own specific requirements that will impact the cost.
The industry that the business operates in is also very important. It informs the kind of design and will likely have a significant influence on the kind of language that the website uses. It may even dictate the kind of marketing approach that the business should adopt.
The Target Market of the Business
The other crucial part of understanding a business is understanding who the customers are. This information is critical to you and your website designer because it will inform the level of information provided on the website and the type of content that should be included. A corporate website is likely to contain a lot of text-based information, reinforced with downloadable documents. Images will be necessary but are unlikely to dominate the site. An e-commerce store in contrast will generally aim to provide only the minimal amount of textual information, letting product photos or videos “do the talking”.
The Purpose of the Website
Knowing the purpose of the website will allow your web agency to recommend the type of technology that needs to be included. Is it an e-commerce store? Does the site need a blog? Is the website an application that requires special functionality for its users?
The technology that drives your website will likely have implications for the type of ongoing hosting and maintenance service that the agency recommends.
The purpose of the website will work hand-in-hand with the type of business and the intended target market, as it aims to identify the goals for the website. Goals can be multiple, so a website may need to do a number of things to serve the business well.
The Size of the Website
We often get people asking the cost of building a website made up of “x” number of pages. While the number of pages is a consideration it is never the only consideration. In fact, dictating the number of pages at the start of the job is likely going to do your business a disservice. A professional web agency will want to have the freedom to make the best website they can. To build the best website they will need some flexibility in how the site is constructed. So a web agency may give you ballpark costings associated within a page number range, but rarely will they commit to an exact number of pages.
The size of the website will also be a determining factor in the hosting cost that the agency recommends for you. Ongoing monthly maintenance should also be included in this cost, and the size of the site can have implications here as well.
Other Costs to Consider
Any Web Agency of worth will cover all aspects of the process of building and launching your website upfront. However, it pays to be armed with a little knowledge. When in doubt always ask. Here are some other things that you should add to your checklist of services that should be included with any website design quote you receive.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEO is a service that should be included with any website, however, there are different levels of what might be included with SEO. On a basic level, the website should be built in a way that the structure of the site and the presentation of all content (text, images, videos etc) are optimised for search engines such as Google to be able to find and start ranking your site.
The second level of SEO is where there are specific keywords that are identified and the content is optimised to ensure that these keywords are included in the correct way that they will be found and processed correctly by search engines. This service is usually an add-on service that needs to be discussed to determine if it should be included. You may need to request this service, however, the web agency should be recommending it as an option.
Copy & Content Development – Your Media Budget
Copywriting refers to the written content on a website. Copywriting is really next-level (third level) SEO. If you engage your agency to write the copy for your website then they should be undertaking the necessary research to ensure targeted keywords are serviced well. Good copy should never be just written for search engines. Of higher importance is that the information on your website is written in an appealing, clear and concise way that addresses the needs and wants of your customers. In many cases, good copywriting archives the former, simply by delivering on customers expectations while on your website.
Copywriting is always an extra cost. You should make sure that you are very clear about this. If there is no copywriting arrangement included, then the presumption will be that the business owner will be providing the content. This can be a great way to keep costs low, especially if you have the time to research keywords and have the writing skills. However, this is often not the case and copywriting is more often than not going to be needed. Even if you do engage the agency to write your copy, you will still need to be prepared to put some effort in. You are going to have to help the copywriter understand your business and the products and services you provide.
Additional content to be considered is to do with images, videos and any other types of media that might need to go on the site. While quick snaps and phone videos are often OK for your Social Media channels, the website is going to need professional content. This means hiring photographers and or videographers -particularly if your products or services are unique. The alternative is to use stock photos and videos. This is likely to be cheaper, but it isn’t always the best option. For example, if your business provides accommodation, then professional-quality photos of the premises are essential. Sometimes the best solution may involve hiring a professional in addition to using stock imagery.
Responsive Design is ensuring that your website functions equally well on all common screen sizes and devices and web browsers. Most often this means ensuring that the site reconfigures the layout as it adapts to different screens. However, sometimes a completely different page may be displayed for mobile phone users than those viewing the site on a desktop screen. This happens less frequently but is more common in large web applications that may need to deliver a simplified version of the application for the smaller screens.
In most cases, Responsive Design should not even have to be a consideration as all web designers should be providing this as a core service. The truth is that most do, but you will often see it listed as an additional cost all the same.
Why is this? Well, we think it is partially a residual of the era when responsive design first became an option. Back then it was a common add-on service that experienced designers used to differentiate their services from others. Some designers may still make a point of highlighting it because it helps to emphasise that responsive design is still a time-consuming activity. Not only does the agency need to build the website responsively, but they need to test it on different devices and browsers to ensure the website behaves as expected.
So even though the need for responsive design is a core requirement you may see it listed as an item in your quote, to help you appreciate the work involved. If it isn’t listed then don’t presume it is not included, but you should ask the question anyway – just to be sure.
Every website has ongoing costs. A successful website that generates a lot of business is likely to have significantly higher ongoing costs.
Hosting, SSL & Maintenance
All websites need hosting, and the cost of hosting will often grow according to the size of the site and any specific technology requirements. Most websites are built with a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress. These require ongoing maintenance via a Managed Plan. A hosting and maintenance contract will cost anywhere between $400 and in excess of $100K+ per year. Higher-end hosting plans usually require more space and resources which is usually determined by the number of users and traffic the website receives. This scalability should be proportional to your own businesses scalability so that it continues to provide a return on investment.
Your hosting should also include an optional free SSL certificate. These are adequate for most websites, however, a paid SSL can offer higher levels of encryption, as well as financial protection against security breaches. You can purchase a domain validated SSL which improves the reputation of your brand, creating a higher level of trust for your clients when they deal with your website.
Paid SSL certificates will usually range from $50 through to around $1000 per year.
Domains are very cheap and average around $15 – $25 per year. A small website will only need a single domain, but as a website grows it may require multiple domains for landing pages or different sub-sites that branch off from the main website. The cost impact of domain names is always likely to be very minimal in relation to your overall ongoing costs.
Something to be wary of are domain providers who charge extra for facilities that every domain should have. You may be asked to pay extra for what is called “DNS record management” when all but the simplest of setups is going to need this service. ID protection is something you are going to want if registering a “.com”, “.net”, “.org” domain. When you register a domain, your name & email address is visible to anyone online. ID protection hides this information. This will dramatically reduce the amount of phoney correspondence and outright scams that you will receive. You should always make sure that you have DNS record management & ID protection (where applicable) active on your domains, and incorporate this cost into your domain budget.
Marketing your website is likely going to be your most significant ongoing cost, however, it does depend on the nature of the website. A site focusing specifically on a local market will likely have a smaller online marketing budget than a major brand or e-commerce store that wants to market its products or services nationally or even globally.
In our estimates below we have included ongoing costs for marketing. Please remember these are ongoing costs based on averages. In reality, high-end brands can be spending millions of dollars on online marketing per year. Inversely an e-commerce store with only a very small number of products may not need to spend $60,000 per year on advertising. Every business and marketing campaign is unique. Different types of industry sectors require different strategies. For example, Business to Business (B2B) may not need to spend as much on advertising as a Business to Consumer (B2C) business of a similar scale.
For some small businesses – particularly local ones. They may choose not to actively market online and may still prefer traditional advertising mediums. This will be determined by the target audience, although we do feel that continued online marketing of some form is always necessary. However, in our ongoing cost estimates for marketing below, we have indicated the bottom end of the range for marketing can be $0. This acknowledges that for some businesses it is optional, but for others, it is absolutely essential.
Calculating the Cost of a Business Website
Considering all of the above, the table below should help you with an estimate and prepare you for the budget allocation you are likely to need. The totals presume that copywriting is required and there has been an allocation of a media budget. A web Agency may only quote on the inclusion of the complete package ie. Design & Development, Copywriting and a Media budget, but you should always seek that clarification.
Website Build Costs
The information above is only a guide and should not be deemed as a quote. It isn’t until your designer has discussed your business with you and identified the job’s specifics that they can provide more accurate costs. We recommend you use this guide to ascertain a budget range that you find acceptable and openly communicate this with your designer.
Is There a Way to Reduce Cost ?
It is possible to have a business website that ends up costing much lower than the prices quoted above. You can opt to take the “D.I.Y” road and sign up for a web-building service like Wix or Squarespace. These services allow you to select a template and simply edit the contents of the template. We can’t recommend this option. While it is possible to create a passable information-based website, the time investment involved in learning how to use the page-builder is time you or your employees could be spending elsewhere on your business. A lot of what a web designer will do happens in the background. By building the site yourself, you miss out on benefiting from using a professional who has devoted their career to understanding website design, technology and marketing.
The choice is a simple one. You can reduce costs by not employing a professional. However, if you rely on the website to generate leads or direct income, then you are taking a great risk. By not employing the services of a professional, you are potentially damaging the success of your business.
Where to Go From Here.
If this article has done its job, it should have provided you with some broad cost estimates on what kind of budget you should expect when requesting a Web Agency of Professional services. The next step is to talk to someone about the specific requirements for your business. At Unbranded Space, we welcome you to get in touch and look forward to learning about your business and discussing your specific needs.