Every new website has its own challenges but there are three factors that are part of every web development project and how much it costs.
Complexity – The deeper the functionality, the higher the cost
When I talk about complexity what I mean is it’s really a matter of the different things you need to be able to do with your website. These are features like membership portals, e-commerce functions, online stores, etc.
The more features you need in a website the more complex the design and development needs will be.
Makes sense, right?
Size – The number of pages and page templates needed will affect costs
The number of pages that you need for your site will affect the cost. In most instances this is mitigated by the content management system that you use for the site. However, if you’re using a variety of different page layout templates that can change things.
Think about it this way:
If you need page templates for blog posts, regular content pages, blog posts, product pages, calendar displays, etc. all of those will need to be designed and created.
The good thing is that depending on your design approach, which we’ll talk about below, this doesn’t have to break the bank because of the ability to use displays created by plugins.
Design requirements affect website design costs whether using a pre-built theme or custom design
The government builds lots of really big websites that are often very complex and have deeply customized features. However, I can’t remember any time when someone pointed out to me how impressed they were by the design of a government website.
Great design for your website is a baseline requirement.
How you get that great design in place is the key, and the good news is that you have options here, which we’ll discuss below.
So now that I’ve covered the those three basic items, I’m going to talk to you about how the build gets done.
There are four basic paths you can take to get your website built:
- DIY – Do it yourself
- Use a service
- Hire a freelancer
- Hire an agency
When it comes to figuring out how much a website is going to cost the way you actually get it built can be the biggest expense depending on your approach.
As you’ll see below, each of these options has its own challenges and benefits.
Let’s dig in.
DIY – “Do It Yourself” – Lowest out of pocket cost, but can cost you time
Doing it yourself can be the least expensive way to get started with your website.
There are enough tutorials on YouTube, and enough guides that can teach you all the various steps you need to completely get your new site online if you’re not a web developer.
If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dive deep into the details, you can get it done for whatever your hosting and domain cost you plus the sweat equity you invest in doing it.
Content management platforms like WordPress make this an easy choice for a lot of people. But there are also alternatives to WordPress that will fit your need well.
- Difficulty level – moderate to high (depending on the site you’re trying to build and your level of expertise with web design and development
- The cost associated with the DIY are minimal. Your only hard expenses are your domain name registration, hosting service and any third party or security options you have in place. Usually, you can go the DIY route for less than $100 per year.
- The real challenge is the time it takes. If you’re not a coder, and you’re not comfortable with working with all the various technology pieces, the time cost on this can be significant.
- The benefit is that you keep your expenses down and learn a lot about web development. If you ever end up hiring someone in the future to take over, you’ll know all the things you need to know to ask the right questions and keep growing your site.
Going the DIY route is a great option if you’ve got plenty of time and you have a passion for learning and coding. Due to the time requirements this may not move as quickly as some of the other options, like using a service as mentioned below. But for those who are comfortable working with technology and who know how all the various pieces fit together, this is a great and inexpensive solution.
Use a service – Affordable start-up cost, and professionally done
If you’re just getting started with your website a really cost-effective way to do it is to use a service, like my service, WPLaunch, and have it done for you.
The best thing about a service like this is that it’s designed to be extremely effective and get the site up and running fast, and have everything it needs ready to go.
These kinds of services include the design element by providing a theme of your choosing from their selection, the technical element by getting you going with all the features and functions you need in a starter website, and your hosting as well.
They’re a great one-stop-shop for getting started with a website fast.
- Difficulty level – low – great option for beginners and those who don’t want to be bothered with handling the technical details.
- The cost are really affordable – ~$300 to get everything going. The ongoing expense of keeping up with domain registration is about the only thing you need to worry about and that’s minimal. Hosting, security and support are usually included in this kind of service and are included in your monthly or yearly renewal fee.
- The challenges here are really simple: you have to decide what you want, and really that’s about it. The service you use will usually be more than happy to make recommendations for various parts of the service, like which theme to use for your site, so the road bumps really are minimal.
- The benefits here are huge. Everything is done for you. While you don’t get the benefits of a fully bespoke, custom-tailored web design as you would working with a freelancer or agency, you will get a high-quality professional site that you’ll be proud to call your own. Besides, I almost always recommend against going down the custom design path for beginners and those just getting started with their website, unless there is a clear need otherwise.
The perfect candidate for this approach are those who are new to the web and don’t have the expertise or patience to do it themselves, but really want the job done right. Those who have the technical chops, but would rather focus their energy elsewhere are also the perfect fit for this kind of service.
Hire a freelancer – professional custom website design at a reasonable price
The next option is to hire a freelancer. When you’re ready for a customized solution these providers can build it for you. You can find them on sites like Upwork, and Dribbble and more.
Freelancers can do a great job of working closely with you to create a custom design and build your site.
Freelancers are specialists for the most part and focus in on delivering great work in a fairly defined niche. Different freelancers will have different approaches to design & development.
Freelancers are mostly single-person operations so it can be a little less expensive to work with them.
One of the most important things about working with freelancers is listening to them and letting them advise and give you direction on how to make your web project the best it can be.
- Difficulty level – low to moderate – because the freelancer will be doing the work, but you have to be able to answer the questions that the freelancer is going to have for you, so be prepared.
- The cost – a good freelancer is going to run around $3000+ to do your design and build. Your ongoing upkeep costs are going to be roughly the same as any other level.
- The challenges are really only related to being able to give your freelancer answers to the questions they’re going to have, but if you can do that you’ll be in good shape.
- The benefits here are also substantial. Your freelancer will be able to create for you a custom design that will do a fantastic job of meeting your needs. The unique design and functionality that they’ll put together for you will be the perfect fit.
This is a great fit for small businesses that may be constrained by their budget that would otherwise keep them from working with an agency. Online influencers, subject matter experts, and bloggers who are growing are the perfect candidates for this level of work.
Hire an agency – The top talent working to build your website for big projects with budgets
When you’ve got a project that requires lots of expertise to be done right hiring a web design agency is usually the way to go.
Agencies bring powerful resources to focus on your project and have the ability bring top-level talent to work on your site.
Agencies will be able to provide top-level designers and programmers, along with top-level content and strategy experts to help you maximize the return on your investment.
Hiring an agency to do your website is the most financially expensive of the options we’ve discussed, but it’s one of those times where you get what you pay for really is true. The expertise, and abilities of working with an agency come with a hefty price tag, but they also deliver outstanding results.
- Difficulty level – low. Similar to working with a freelancer, the only real difficulty comes in being able to answer the questions they’re going to have, but this is the ultimate done-for-you service so expect a lot of guidance and input from the agency’s team of experts.
- The cost for working with an agency start around $10,000+ and depending on the complexity and design needs can go to $50,000 or more pretty quickly. This is one of those times you get what you pay for though. The level of expertise and professionalism you get by working with an agency is second to none.
- The challenges that come from working with an agency really are related to the financial resources required. Because otherwise, everything else is done for you, with your input and feedback of course. However, a quick note on that.
- The benefits are enormous. When an agency brings the full force of their expertise to your project it’s really something to behold. The custom design, custom feature development, copy, content, and marketing expertise all come together to form a symphony of awesomeness.
If you’re going to invest this kind of money in to working with an agency to build your web project do yourself the favor of letting them do their job.
How often do you go to a doctor’s office and change their diagnosis? Or, to an accountant and tell them to do it your way rather than the way their training has taught them to do it?
I’m not sure why but in my experience it’s not uncommon for clients to all of the sudden become “experts” on what is appealing to users and what works best when it comes to web design and development. Don’t be that person.
This is definitely a solution for those who have needs that require this kind of horsepower. Think about start-ups, and online influencers as candidates for this level of work.