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How Much Should a Website Really Cost?

February 5, 2016

3:26 pm

As a business owner, you’ve probably needed to build a website at some point or another. The vast amount of options and prices when it comes to designing a website can leave many entrepreneurs completely baffled. You can choose to work with a professional web design agency, an experienced freelancer, or just make one yourself using a simple website builder. With so many options available, what’s a busy entrepreneur to choose?

As a manager at a web design company, the first question new clients usually ask me is “how much does a website cost?” which is basically like asking how much does a car cost. There is no one single answer: you might want a Ford, a Mercedes, or a Lamborghini. The cost of a website depends on your specific business goals. No two sites are the same.

Although generally, the cost of a website is difficult to approximate, understanding what your business needs are can better help you decide how much you need to invest on your next website project. Here are a few different types of websites as well as their associated costs and features:

Brochure or Portfolio Website ($0-$5,000)

If all your looking for is a basic website with your business information and maybe a small portfolio to showcase your services to customers, then a simple brochure or portfolio website should be more than enough. Many freelancers including photographers, writers, and plumbers simply need a basic site they can showcase their work and contact information to clients. The good news is if you don’t have a couple thousand dollars to blow on a high-end site, there are plenty of low cost solutions including do-it-yourself online site builders and drag-and-drop templates. A few popular web companies that offer this include Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace.

You can also choose to hire a local freelance web designer or developer for a few thousand dollars and get a much more professional result.

Lead-Generating CMS Website ($5,000-$10,000+)

A lead-generating website does it exactly what it says: it generates new customer leads online. One of the biggest priorities most businesses share is trying to attract new customers. People are constantly searching for services and products on the web.

If designed properly, this type of website can be a highly effective marketing tool for attracting new customers online. According to a survey by Strong View, marketing channels that showed the highest return on investment (ROI) were all related to online and digital.

In general, lead websites take a significant amount of planning, design, and development to properly build. Many of these sites are dynamic, meaning they incorporate content management systems (CMS) that update and organize web content seamlessly. Most also include blogs, newsletter signups, contact forms, engaging copywriting, custom design, search optimization, and mobile-friendliness.

Higher-end web design and marketing agencies will also analyze your company’s industry, competitors, and consumer demand metrics to develop an effective online marketing strategy for your website. Not to mention taking the time to learn your company’s identity and culture to build a custom web site that fits your brand. No free website builder or template can ever replace that.

eCommerce-Based Website ($10,000-$25,000+)

You might be wondering, why does an ecommerce website start at a whopping $10,000! Why so much? It is true, you can find a freelancer developer or company whom will it do it for much less using pre-made templates. The difference, of course, is the result.

Internet Retailer analyzed four studies on ecommerce sites to conclude that there were around 12-24 million ecommerce websites currently on the web, with only 650,000 of those sites generating more than a $1,000 annually. That means only approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of ecommerce sites on the Internet make over $1,000 in annual sales, the rest of the 90 percent to 95 percent generate almost nothing.

The reason why over 90 percent of ecommerce sites are left on the sidelines is just the level of competition in the ecommerce space. Your site needs to be perfect on every dimension to be profitable: including design, usability, mobile-friendliness, branding, marketing, conversions, products, and the list goes on. Hiring the right professional ecommerce agency makes the difference.

Take yourself for instance. The last time you searched for a product on Google and clicked on a web store to find it looking very small, cheap, and shady. You probably just clicked back to look for another site of better quality, or in other words more trustworthy.

 Just like any brick & mortar store takes a considerable amount of planning and investment to build so does an ecommerce store. If your not willing to put in the effort and capital into your ecommerce store, then don’t expect it to become very profitable any time soon.

Database-Driven Website ($25,000-$100,000+)

Database-driven websites can be found all over the web. Basically, any website that uses secure login pages for users can be a categorized as a database website. Ecommerce sites are also database sites, however most already have pre-built frameworks with the majority of back-end web development already included.

What makes these sites most expensive by far is the level of customizability, especially when it comes to back-end development. If you’re a start-up company with a totally new service or product, your probably going to need custom code written on your website. Online dating site eHarmony and social media network Facebook are examples of sites that are almost fully custom built with web development teams north of 100 engineers and more.

Most small companies cannot afford to spend 6 to 7 figures, or $2 billion like in the case of the ObamaCare website. Fortunately, many websites can be customized within pre-built frameworks such as WordPress, Magento, or Drupal for far less, however some sites are just so overly complex and unique that they have to be built from scratch. In general, the more custom the website is the higher the price will be.

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Entrepreneur and manager at advertising agency Toggle Web Media. I advise growing startups and established companies in the digital marketing space.

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