Whether your business operates offline or online, it's crucial to build and maintain a website in today's digital world. When looking at building or re-designing a website, it's important to know how much a website will cost, and what you'll get at each price point.
Whether you're looking to launch a brand-new website or redesign your existing site, your business needs to consider some web design and development costs. These costs are often one-time expenses, meaning it costs more to launch a website than maintain one.
A website requires routine maintenance without it, your website will go offline. That's why businesses need to ask not only, “How much does it cost to build a website?” but also, “How much does it cost to maintain a website?”
Keep reading as we explore the different investment levels, as well as the pro's and con's of each.
Free & Cheap Website Design: $1,999 and under
Obviously, the cheapest option is to build your own website. You can create, build, and launch your own website in minutes with a variety of free or affordable applications like Wix, Canva, and Squarespace.
But not everyone has the talent, time, or expertise needed to make a design that works and looks great. Moreover, designing and building a website completely on your own is an extensive process, and most business owners or employees don't have the time to build one themselves.
As an alternative, some businesses in this price range decide to use templates from website builder sites, like Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy, which provide pretty bland, generic website designs with a low degree of customizability. Online template sites like the ones mentioned charge anywhere from $0 to $300 for just the design, as well as a small monthly fee to keep your website hosted.
Their templates are quite generic, and you'll see hundreds or thousands of other companies using the same templates (and your customers will too!).
Your business will not be able to stand out when it looks like everyone else's site.
However, in the upper end of this price range, for likely $1,500 to $1,999, you'll likely be able to find freelancers willing to design and develop your website for you. Freelancers understand design and know how to code, and can likely customize your website to a higher degree, although at its core your website will still be built using a template and site builder.
When should you use these generic templates like Wix and SquareSpace?
You'll be able to find many free or low cost templates from website builders (marketed as "professional") that can build generic websites for you in a matter of minutes. But, online templates are generic and uninspiring designs that will make it nearly impossible for your customers to fall in love with your unique business and recognize your brand.
After all, do you want people to think you're running just another mediocre XYZ service? There is nothing premium, professional, or unique about generic templates.
Sure, you might be able to use a free template and save a few dollars in the short run, but in the long run, it will end up costing you much more when you struggle to build a strong brand or convert visitors into paying customers.
The unfortunate truth is that free or cheap website design is never free or cheap.
Don't fall for statements that you can create a professionally designed free website in minutes — this is nearly impossible. Take a quick look at some of the world's most successful companies' websites. Or even the top-dog in your local industry. We'd be willing to bet that not a single one used a generic template to build their websites.
Generic templates will not leave a lasting impression on your customers or prospective customers, and will not give you a one-of-a-kind, professionally designed identity. Even if you can customize generic templates, you will still, most likely, end up with an uninspiring, bland, generic design.
Intermediate Website Design: $2,000 to $9,999
If you are willing to invest a little more in your website, need a high-quality professional web design, and want to start growing your business online, freelance web designers and local agencies are your best option. Overall, they deliver the best value for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).
Smaller web design agencies, like Carbon Creative, are equipped with talented teams of creative professionals and a network of vetted independent contractors. If you're using an agency for your website design project, they can dedicate a team of creative and marketing experts to design and plan your brand's identity, your website, and your search engine optimization.
Expect to invest between $2,000 to $9,999 for an intermediate website design. Your business will get a well-designed, custom, performance-driven website. It typically includes more powerful features, like a Content Management System (CMS) or high quality, custom copywriting, to meet your company's unique needs. You will also be working with a legitimate, established design firm or an expert freelancer.
If you're a small-to-midsize business or enterprise, an intermediate web design is the ideal solution to help you grow your business, balancing cost with performance.
In summary, at this price point, you are getting a "real" website for a "real" business.
Expensive Website Design: $10,000+
If you have a large budget, and are already a well established, multinational business, or want the 'complete branding and digital marketing package,' then larger, national agencies are going to be your best option. Advanced web design offers a solution that matches your company's size. It also maximizes your conversion rate and return on investment (ROI), which is critical in your competitive market.
Once you have reached the $25k or more range for website design pricing, you are looking to fulfill a very specific need. For example, you may be needing to build a high functioning e-Commerce website, or perhaps a web application with robust back-end functionality, or you might need a very big website with thousands of pages. In all of these examples, you'd most likely be engaging with larger design and development agencies.
E-Commerce Website Design Pricing
If you thought "regular" website design pricing was all over the map, that's nothing compared to pricing out an E-Commerce website.
Since you're dealing with so many additional factors such as payment processing, security, fulfillment, inventory, and inputting a multitude of SKUs, an E-commerce website is typically much more expensive and complicated than a regular, run-of-the-mill website.
If you're looking for an affordable option to having an E-Commerce website, sites such as Shopify offer a turnkey solution for opening a store online. Beware, however, because Shopify falls under the category of "cheap" website builders with bland and boring themes.
Otherwise, if you decide to work with an established design and development agency, be prepared to invest anywhere in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 and above for an E-Commerce website.
The Opportunity Cost
Your website is an investment in your business. You can invest poorly, or you can invest wisely. One of the most important factors a business should consider when designing a new website is opportunity cost.
One of the many keys to making successful business decisions is understanding opportunity cost.
Opportunity cost does not mean "Will I get a good return on my investment?" Rather, it is asking the question: "Of all the things I could do with this money, is this the overall best thing I could do?"
When evaluating website design options, most people ask is "How much does it cost to design a website?" but that's actually not the best question to ask. Rather, you should be asking "Which website is going to produce the most value for my business overall?"
If someone gets a $100 website, they might think they got a better deal than someone who paid $5,000 for their website. And, in the short run, they might have.
However, over time, the $5,000 website might have generated more traffic, more leads and more business than the $100 website. In terms of total dollars, the $100 website might have cost the business $50,000 in lost business it might have otherwise gained had it chosen to invest more in the other site.
In terms of opportunity cost, the $100 website ended up costing the business $50,000, while the $5,000 site most likely already paid for itself 10x or 100x over!
It's rather difficult to have an apples to apple comparison of website pricing, primarily because the quality of what you get is so different from one option to the next. Plus, the needs and wants vary from business to business, and pricing varies from agency to agency. However, most sites tend to follow the basic framework laid out in this article.
When evaluating options for a new website, you must first consider your goals for the project and the value of your time. Second, find out how much you can afford to invest in your website. Third, begin searching for a solution that works with your given budget and goals.
Remember to do your homework before you hire a web designer. Ask questions and do your due diligence.
Carbon Creative is also here to help you design and build a powerful website tailored to your business' brand and goals. Our pricing falls within the intermediate category. Don't hesitate to contact us with any website design questions. If you're ready to start your project, you can contact us here and we'll get you an estimate for the project within 1 to 2 business days.