By far, the most common question web development firms receive from first-time clients is “How much does a website cost?”
Buying a website is a lot like buying a car. A Lamborghini will cost a lot more than a used Honda Civic. Each car has a specific purpose and price point; websites are the same way.
There are a variety of factors that influence how much a website costs:
- Business Logic
- Data, Reporting, and Analytics
- Unexpected Changes
Everyone wants a website that looks good. If your site needs to be mobile responsive and have complex animations, you can expect to spend several thousand dollars. If your site has more basic design qualifications, then you might spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a good design. Many reputable web development firms will have some type of design process. This could include a design questionnaire, design mockups, and multiple rounds of design revisions.
While the design may seem like a trivial issue, many businesses do not realize how the design and mockups can affect the usability and quality of the end product. Do not neglect this step. The time and money spent on design can have major payoffs later.
Business logic is what makes your website function. A blog has much easier logic than an Amazon clone. A blog is relatively simple, while an e-commerce solution will have a shopping cart and advanced e-commerce functionality. With a blog, you may be able to use an existing product like WordPress to reduce the price of the project instead of developing a custom blog system from scratch.
A simple WordPress site built by a web development firm could cost as little as $500 to as much as $10,000.
Some WordPress sites can also use custom plugins to increase functionality; however, these plugins add additional cost to the site. Logic-heavy applications like e-commerce websites and CRM’s could cost millions of dollars depending on the complexity of the business logic and integrations with other platforms.
Shop around and ask different web development firms for an estimate. You will need to provide them a complete list of features, and you may need to meet with them a few times to iron out the details of your application before they can give an estimate. When discussing features, be as specific as you can. Think through the process and consider providing mock-ups of crucial workflows in the application.
Data, Reporting, and Analytics
Almost every website has some kind of data storage. If your application is very data-heavy, that can add to the price. Also, if you need specialized reporting and specific export formats, tell your developer at the beginning of the project so they can factor those needs into their estimate. Make sure that they can support your data needs. Depending on the site, data and analytics could cost nothing or it could be thousands of dollars. If the reports are driving up the cost of your application, consider using a product like Metabase. It is free and can connect to your website’s database. It provides a simple interface to help you understand your site’s data.
Almost every website will have unexpected changes at some point. Smaller changes may be made for little or no cost by your developer. Large changes could have a major impact on the price of your website. If you have any major changes that need to be made to your website, talk to your developer as early as possible. The earlier that they can make changes, the lower the cost will be. You may have to re-negotiate the price of the site if you have already signed a contract with a specific set of features.
Pro tip: If you plan to add features to your site for several months or years, give the developer a roadmap of features that you would like to see in the next two years of development. This can help them plan for future functionality and reduce the cost of additional features or updates.
Another website cost that is often overlooked is maintenance. Plan to spend about $200-$500 upfront on your website. That will buy hosting, a domain name, and cover any other expenses like email, setup fees, etc. After that, depending on where your application is hosted, plan to spend anywhere between $5 to $200 per month. There are a number of factors that can affect hosting costs, and some sites cost much more than $200 per month, especially if there is a lot of media being hosted on the site. Ask your developer to recommend a few different hosting options and estimate the cost for each one. As your website gains more visitors, you may need to upgrade your hosting to support more traffic on your site.
In conclusion, a website is an investment in your business. Your website is often a customer’s first impression of your business, and that impression is critical to gaining new customers. Plan to spend a significant amount of time, money, and energy into the web development process so that you can build the website that is appropriate for your needs. Make sure to allocate enough time and money to the project to ensure you will have a quality product at the end of development.