Three website development companies were asked by a business owner to submit a proposal to design his company website. He provided the developers with the same specifications or ‘requirements document’, which listed the website goals and functions. A week later the three web developers came back with their estimates.

The first one had priced the project at $2,800, the second had priced it at $5,500 and the final web developer estimated the project at $13,000.

If you’re waiting for the punch line… well, there isn’t one. That’s because the joke is on the client who now needs to figure out which of these estimates is the most reasonable and why.

We started developing websites and Internet applications in 2003, and we have often heard stories like this. We are often asked to explain the differences in our pricing compared to others. Unfortunately, most business owners have no way of knowing which bids are unrealistically low, which are outrageously inflated and which are in the right ballpark.

Below are a few approaches to determine how much a small business website should really cost by factoring in advances in technology and the current costs associated with designing, developing and building a website. Please note that when we say “small business” we are talking about an informational website consisting of approximately 10 – 20 pages with some basic content management and social media widgets.

So, I bet your next question is "how much does a website cost?"

Basic Website Components and Costs

On average, the following figures can be applied to estimating the cost of a small business web site (if you’d like a custom estimate for your website call us at 440-247-4998):

  • "Managed" Domain Name – $35/year - See
  • "Managed" Hosting – $35 to $200 a year (depending on traffic & hosting services) - See
  • Web planning, design, and site development time – 30 hours and up.
  • "Managed" security & website maintenance – $720 a year and up (depending on number/type of updates required) - See Security & Maintenance.
  • Marketing your website online – $450 a month and up - See Marketing.

Important Factors that Contribute to Website Cost

When trying to budget web design costs there are a number of factors to consider:

  • Is this a brand new site or a redesign?
  • How prepared are you – do you have a detailed requirements document?
  • Do you need a blog or content management functionality (CMS)?
  • Do you have graphics already created for the site?
  • Do you want the site to automatically resize for mobile and tablets? (Called "Responsive design".)
  • Do you need multimedia (Flash, video, etc.) on the site?
  • How much content do you have and how much do you need to be created?
  • Do you need other special features like social media channels, SEO, e-commerce, or something else?
  • Who is going to maintain the site after it has been launched?

Below we go into greater detail regarding these items and an estimate of how much you should budget for them. The prices listed are based on many years of experience. Prices will most probably be higher or lower depending on your specific requirements. Be sure to contact us for an estimate.

New Sites Often Cost More Than Redesigns

When you’re starting from scratch, so is the web designer. If they have nothing to work from, they can’t look at your existing site and get an idea of your online brand or features and functionality requirements. All new sites really should require a “discovery and documentation” process. This process will help define the online brand, website structure, and functionality. We think this process is critical because it helps set expectations on all sides and reduce potential frustrations. Simple business websites, where the client has a solid idea of what they want, can
get by with a minimal amount of discovery and documentation, perhaps one day’s worth of effort. But more complex websites may require weeks of meetings and the creation of many detailed documents to fully define the project.

Interface Design

Interface design is also referred to as the look-and-feel or visual design. The interface design will incorporate your branding, all your photos, and images, even your page layouts. Don’t assume that if you’ve already got a pre-made template you won’t need any images or layouts re-done. Interface design is usually an iterative process. This means that the designer will show you several options and then modify those based on your feedback to arrive at an approved design. For a small business website, budget $1,200 – $3,500 to get you from concept through to the final design that will be handed off to the developers for programming. Don’t skimp on the interface design or visitors won’t give your website a second glance.

Images and Graphics

Website graphics are tricky because they can range from $10 each for cheap stock images to $100′s of dollars each for custom or high-end stock images. Compelling and appropriate graphics can make a huge huge difference in the effectiveness of your website. On the low-end, budget at least $100 for stock images. If you have a good designer they can make a cheap image look like a custom one.

But that’s not all. You will probably also need stock icons and buttons to compliment your design. Budget $50 for them as well.

Mobile and Responsive Design Cost

Mobile devices are swiftly becoming critical to online success and your design should at least be mobile-friendly. The best designs are “responsive“, designed to automatically adjust their layout to look good on multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. Creating a responsive design can cost 20% – 30% more than a site for a desktop web browser (the price of progress). This cost is because the interface designer needs to design how the site will look on the various devices, the programmer will need to program the designs and finally, more testing is required before the site is ready to launch. Almost all our projects these days include responsive programming.

Costs for Content Creation and Insertion

The least expensive way to go is to create all the content yourself and insert it into the site yourself. Most designers have no problem delivering a blank design template that you populate with text and images. But if you want the design firm to add your content and adjust the layout of the text, you should budget $100 – $150 per page.

Programming Special Features Often Cost Extra

There are a ton of extra features that web developers can integrate that will improve your business but can also up the price. Sometimes these features are “included” in your website framework – but beware, just because they are “included” doesn’t mean that they look or work the way you want. The estimates below reflect the general requirements we have seen, however, there are many factors that can push these costs higher. If you don’t see your add-on here just give us a call and we can provide an estimate.

Custom Content Management Systems- for clients who want to manage their own content we integrate and customize content management systems (CMS). We have worked with PHP-based open-source CMS solutions like Drupal and WordPress, but prefer compiled, closed-source solutions on the more secure Microsoft-based platform, such as Orchard. Costs for integrating and customizing a CMS can range from $2,000 to $20,000.

  • Training and documentation – You will probably need some instructions and documentation on how to maintain and edit site content. Depending on how extensive this is, expect to pay from $400 – $1,500
  • Blog- Many clients want a WordPress or similar blog within their website, customized to their website branding and design. This ranges from $1,000 – $2,500.
  • E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs, payment processing $1,500–$5000 or more depending on requirements.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns- Clients that want to gather emails and send out branded email blasts for announcements or newsletters require an Email management tool. We integrate 3rd-party tools (graphicmail, Mailchimp, constant contact, etc.) and create an email blast template design, we can even manage your email blasts. $720 and up.
  • Branding/Identity Development- Logo design is something we are often asked to do. On the low-end, we start with an 8-hour process that generates about 6 rough logo concepts. If one of these is chosen we go through several rounds of edits to arrive at a final version. $900 – $3,500
  • Style Guides- An online style guide is important because it establishes brand consistency and provides a guide for all your print collateral and online marketing. Basic style guide $1,440.
  • Targeted Landing Pages- Landing pages are pages that promote a specific product or service. They are usually part of an email, social media, or banner ad campaign. We can design and create these pages starting at $450.
  • Newsfeeds of both your content (outgoing) and adding content to the site (incoming) $400
  • Contact forms and surveys $300 and up
  • Newsletters $400 – $900
  • Advertising integration (Google AdWords) $200
  • Photo gallery $250 – $500
  • Metrics: Google analytics, custom reports, etc. $200–$2000
  • SEO: on-page optimization, off-page optimization submission to search engines, etc. $500–$4000
  • Social media: Create and manage social media network profile such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. $500–$2000

So How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?

The majority of small business websites we design, develop and launch range from $6,000 – $20,000. Using the a la carte estimates above you can see how they can add up quickly. Another way to break the budget down is to assume:

  • 15% Planning
  • 25% Interface design
  • 40% Programming
  • 20% Project Management
  • And Don’t Forget the Maintenance Cost

Websites don’t just maintain themselves, and the best is changing all the time. Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget or think that they can do it themselves. But the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose 8 hours of sales trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract. Make sure your web developer offers post-launch maintenance, many don’t because they can’t be bothered by clients calling with small requests.

Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending on what you expect from the firm. You should budget a minimum of $250 per month to have a designer/developer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. And if you expect them to do additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, etc. expect the price will go up. Executionists offers customized full-service maintenance plans.

Final Note

A final note: If this website will be a significant part of your business PLEASE DON’T SKIMP on the design and development. If you’d expect to pay $100,000 for a brick and mortar retail shop (inventory, interior design, furniture, rent, utilities, staff, equipment, insurance, etc) – then don’t balk at paying reasonable rates for the creation of your online business. So, for a small business website, you can spend as little as $6,000 or as much as $20,000 or more. Your budget should be based on what your business needs.