Sorry, The Internet Is Not Free! And Neither Is a Website That Actually Supports Your Business! - Setting Realistic Web Design Costs

Sorry, The Internet Is Not Free! And Neither Is a Website That Actually Supports Your Business!

Understanding Mobile-First Web Design Costs

It is 2018, and modern businesses know that they can’t function without an online presence. But actually getting a business website is a very daunting and confusing project for many business owners. Understanding all the different options, and setting realistic expectations for web design costs, can be especially challenging.

And as a professional with over 20 years of experience in building online presences for brands and businesses around the world I am always amazed at the expectations some of our clients have at the onset of their project. Some of them expect a fully functioning e-commerce presence, for $ 500.00! At the other end of the spectrum are clients who only need a small basic site, and come with a $ 50,000.00 budget!

When you evaluate web design costs you should consider the many different cost factors that determine the price of the overall project. Having a website built can be confusing and you may not know where to start, how much it should cost, or even what type of website best suits your needs. Different web designers and agencies will have varying rates. It is definitely a good idea to become familiar with the various stages of website design and the associated web design costs.

Don’t Try This on Your Own

Of course, the cheapest option for building and maintaining a website is DIY. Free templates for websites are available. But these tend to be very basic and lack any individuality. Generally you can’t count on any support, and options are extremely limited. But you can purchase a simple website template for about $60-100.00, which may include a basic online shop.

However, there are a number of reasons why we don’t recommend building your own business website. Especially for more complex or unique websites many use a professional web designer or web design agency to build and maintain their site. It may cost more up front, but you will safe time and money, not to mention your sanity, in the end.

Following are the different web design costs you need to consider. To make this as easy as possible we broke them down into initial costs, different levels of web design and development, and even include some options that you may not have considered yet.


S5i Initial Web Design Costs


Initial Web Design Costs

Domain Name

Domain names must be unique, as no two brands can share the same domain name. A .co or .biz are the cheapest options costing around $5.00 – 10.00 a year, while the more popular .com domain cost around $12.00 – 15.00 a year. There are many other options available these days. Some of them allow you to be very creative with your domain URL. However, non-traditional TLDs are usually more expensive, so expect to pay around $35.00+ per year. And always avoid cute spellings and special characters; Google and humans hate them!

Domain registrars like GoDaddy have occasional sales and discounts. If you are not in a big rush you can cut your initial web design costs a little right there. However, domain names that are more popular will cost more due to the greater demand that comes with their associated popularity. If you are keen on a specific name that is already taken, you could potentially apply to buy it from whoever already owns it, but this can be very costly.

Web Hosting

There are many different kinds of business website hosting available. Hosting on a web server containing other sites usually costs around $10.00 – $15.00 a month. To have your own server is much more expensive with costs averaging around $100 a month and up.

Beware of extremely low-cost web hosting packages. You can sometimes see them as low as $0.99 a month. Always remember that you get what you pay for. At that cost the service provider has no intention or ability to provide you with support if something goes wrong!

And you may want to consider the benefits of a website maintenance plan. Some service providers offer them as part of their website hosting services. Especially for larger websites and e-commerce sites that require more upkeep and maintenance this is a very affordable option for you to keep your web design costs down.

The Actual Web Design Costs

S5i Web Design Costs - Starter Business Website

Web Design Costs: Starter Business Website

A first or starter website is usually made up of between one and 10 pages. This is a great option for start-ups or small businesses. When purchasing a starter business website you should consider how you will update and maintain it, and how to expanded in the future once your business grows, or when you want to add other services or products.

Another factor of web design costs is who will build your first starter website? Choices include North American and European-based agencies that can charge between $75.00 – $175.00 per hour, freelancer web developers that charge anywhere from $30.00 – $75.00 per hour depending on their experience, or offshore options that are usually the cheapest option at $5.00 – $15.00 per hour. But keep in mind that each option has its own pros and cons:

Web Design Agency:

Disciplined and reliable but potentially slower to respond to requests.

Freelance Web Developer

More personalized service, but might lack the wide range of skills possessed by an agency.

Offshore Web Company

Definitely the cheapest, but a lot less reliable than the other two options. Always be wary of offers that sound too good, or cheap, to be true. Plus many of them are not located where you are, and their designs may not work for your audience!

When working out your web design costs make sure you are quoted the total cost and that there are no hidden extras. A business website is a large project and will take time to perfect, so you don’t want to be caught up paying an expensive hourly rate as this will quickly spiral during edits and amendments.

You should think about what exactly you need and want from your website and then look at what is part of the package offered. Here are some basic questions your web designer will ask to determine exactly what he or she needs to do to build the perfect website for you.

You should also consider the following when researching your first website:

  • How easy is it to reach and communicate with the designer?
  • How is your website protected should something go wrong?
  • To what degree does your designer understand what you are trying to achieve?


The cost of a starter business website is roughly:

Domain Name / Hosting – $50.00 – $100.00
Web design – $1,500 – $3,000
Ongoing costs – $0 – $100.00 per month

Overall cost – $1,600 – $4,500

Of course these prices depend on the size and complexity of your site, as well as the number of revisions and edits that are required. If your site is for e-commerce or for a dedicated online business, then prices can increase due to the cost of the software required.


S5i Web Design Costs - Small Business Website


Web Design Costs: Small Business Website

The usual progression from a starter website is a small business website, which is usually between 10-20 pages, has limited functionality and needs very few, if any, plugins. This type of website is suitable for those wishing to redesign or refresh a first website, or are ready to develop a dedicated online presence or e-commerce shop. For online stores, platforms like WordPress or Shopify are recommended.

We recommend that select an option that allows you to upgrade and add to your business website in the future. By selecting an industry standard development platform and content management system (CMS) you can count on being able to scale your site later. Generally we recommend against custom CMS as that may leave you a hostage to your web designer or agency.

For a small business website you should write down all of your requirements to ensure that your designer can deliver the site you want and need. Consider the following:

  • How many pages or sections do you need?
  • What functionality do you need – image or product gallery? E-commerce?
  • What is the scope for future development?
  • What graphics or stock images do you need?
  • Who will provide the content (text and images)?


The cost of a small business website is roughly:

Domain Name / Hosting – $50.00 – $100.00
Web Design – $2,500 – $5,000
Web Development – $1,000 – $2,500
Ongoing Costs – $0 – $100.00 per month

Overall cost – $3,500 – $7,500

Expect your web design costs to range from $3,5,000 to $5,000 for a basic package. More advanced configurations will add to the overall cost. If you are ready for this level of commitment we also recommend setting a budget for monthly marketing campaigns that will keep traffic coming to your site.


S5i Web Design Costs - Medium Business Website


Web Design Costs: Medium-Sized Business Website

This type of business website is mainly for e-commerce businesses or companies with a wider range of products or services. If you have more web traffic, more information to present or require additional functionality this type of site is a great option. This could also be a refresher or upgrade website for a brand that is ready for something larger and more dynamic.

Designing and developing sites at this level and beyond requires a much broader skill set than building a small business website. The larger the project the more likely design and development challenges will increase as well.

Therefore, unless you have a strong relationship with a talented freelancer, we would definitely recommend looking for a professional web design agency to work with when moving onto medium and large-sized websites. This ensures you are getting the best possible service and that they understand your business and what you are trying to achieve.

Larger Sites Take Longer to Build

There may be unforeseen problems that are encountered along the way so this is not something that you should expect to be finished in a rush. Larger web design projects can easily take 2-3 months or longer. For this reason it is a good idea to set a fee for the project up front, with a payment schedule covering the length of the project.

Don’t forget that you will need to provide content such as text, images, logos, etc. for your new website. Some web designers can design the most awesome looking websites, but will insist that the content is provided. Other designers require content before they can envision the required design. Therefore it is advisable to plan additional time for content sourcing and creation.

The cost of a medium-sized business website is roughly:

Domain Name / Hosting – $50.00 – $100.00
Web Design – $2,500 – $5,000
Content Creation (In-House or Freelance) – $1,000 – $3,000+
Web Development – $1,000 – $5,000
Ongoing Costs – $0 – $500.00 per month

Overall cost – $5,000 – $12,500

Once you move up to this level of web design and development, you have to expect to pay over $5,000 regardless of size, requirements, functionality, etc. Basic web design costs will increase due to the additional work that goes into building a large and fairly complex business website.


S5i Web Design Costs - Large Business Website


Web Design Costs: Large-Sized / Enterprise Website

All web design costs increase considerably as you move up in scale. With multiple sections, 50 to 100+ pages and lots of functionality this type of site is generally referred to as a large-scale or enterprise level business website. Large websites are ideal for big companies or established online brands, but they are definitely not for most small to mid-size businesses.

A larger business website can offer greater flexibility and functionality, especially for e-commerce business using Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento. But once again, you need to be aware that it can take a lot of time and effort to build such a large website. And costs will go up considerably as well.

Planning Ahead Saves Web Design Costs Later

If you are looking to develop a larger website, or redesign a smaller existing business website, you will definitely need to select a reliable and scalable content management system (CMS). This allows you or someone on your team to make regular updates to the site. The design and development of such a theme and database can be both time-consuming and expensive, but once in place you will have a great launching pad to grow your online presence.

You also need to carefully consider who will host your site. Especially for e-commerce sites you want to make sure there is no limit to the numbers of items you can sell per month. Some hosted solutions may charge higher fees the more transactions you process. And larger websites have increased performance requirements. Most low-cost hosting providers have a hard time accommodating that.

You can basically choose between a third-party website host, or your own internal server. Having your own server can be expensive, but it does add a level of performance and security that you can rely upon. Third-party hosting site is usually cheaper. But if they go down so will your website. So it pays to do your research and select the best possible cost and performance option for your needs.

The cost of a large-sized business website is roughly:

Domain Name / Hosting – $50.00 – $100.00
Web Design – $2,500 – $5,000
Content Creation (In-House or Freelance) – $2,000 – $5,000+
Web Development – $3,000 – $8,000
Ongoing Costs – $0 – $1,000.00 per month

Overall cost – $7,500 – $25,000+


S5i Other Web Design Costs, Features and Considerations


Other Web Design Costs, Features and Components

As well as domain, hosting and build costs, you may also have to factor in the cost of content creation, future requirements, or external plugins:

Content Strategy and Creation

Cost varies depending on size of site, how much content you need, what the content is and whether you use an agency or a freelancer. Hourly rates can vary from $50.00 to $175.00 per hour.

E-Commerce Functionality

There are many platforms and software available, and you can expect to pay between $300 and $2,000+.

License/Cost of Third-Party Plugins

This depends upon the individual app or software development costs, or if built from scratch, the rate charged by a freelancer or agency can vary by experience. Plugins can include: news feeds, photo galleries, contact forms and surveys, social login, store locators, etc.

On-Going Maintenance

This will usually be a monthly cost and depend on the size of your site and whether an agency or freelancer is being used. Check to see if this is included as part of your initial build package. Some web design agencies offer ongoing maintenance and support as part of their hosting services.

Website Images (Stock Photos)

Unless you are a photographer and have your own images, you will need to hire a professional photographer to help you create the best possible images for your business website. If that is not an option you can purchase stock pictures and graphics from sites like Adobe Stock, iStock Photo and Fotalia. For those of you with more limited budgets you can find FREE stock images on sites such as Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.

Marketing / SEO

No matter what kind of business or business website you have you need search traffic to find it. Some companies charge a low monthly fee for refining your content, to make it more search-friendly and help drive traffic to your site. Be cautious if the offer seems too cheap or unrealistic. For best results you should work with a dedicated SEO/Marketing agency. Depending on your specific needs you can spend upward of $ 3,000 per month.


S5i Important Web Design Cost Considerations


Important Web Design Cost Considerations

Web Design is a Service, Not a Product

Looking at your business website design as a service will help you understand why it is difficult to put a single price to it.

There is a Lot of Planning and Detail Involved

Price will depend on the level of detail and time spent on various features.

Estimates are Subjective

You could potentially receive estimates from $5,000 all the way up to $50,000 for the same project specifications.

You can Pay for Your Website in More Than One Way

For example, you can go with a fixed bid or hourly payments. With fixed bid, you might pay a one-off price of $6,000. With hourly payments, you could pay someone $100 an hour while they work on your website.

Standards Vary from Agency to Agency

Companies differ in the way they go about building your website, and how they bill for their services. The absence of uniformity in standards will affect pricing.


S5i Web Design Costs - Your Next Steps


Web Design Costs – Your Next Steps

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of business websites and related requirements and options you can take the next steps. Here are our recommendations to help you keep your web design costs down:

  • Select the minimum viable website you need right now. You can always add to it later.
  • Don’t do everything at once. That just increases stress and costs. Upgrading to the next level is much easier on nerves and budgets than jumping ahead.
  • Realistically assess the amount of content you need. If you can’t provide it yourself you will need the services of a content strategist and copywriter, as well as a professional photographer.
  • Make sure you have an effective brand and brand logo. If not have a graphic or brand designer help you create one for your new website.
  • Pick a professional web designer or agency to help you. Here are some warnings signs of a bad web design agency you should watch for.
  • Be ready to answer the most common questions your web designer will ask.
  • Ask for a written estimate and contract and review it. It will protect both you and your web designer if things don’t go as planned.
  • Allow enough time to commit to your project. Once you select professionals to help you they will be ready to move fast. Don’t keep them waiting.
  • Have an adequate budget, and allow a cushion for unforeseen expenses.
  • View your website as an ongoing project. There will always be things you will want to add to it, and that is OK! Any Questions?


Need Some Web Design Help?

Here at, we offer a full range of business website consulting and design services, including brand strategy and design, content strategy and creation, mobile-first website design and development, commercial photography services, search engine optimization, social media integration and business website hosting.


Feel free reach out to us and learn more about our business website design services. Our team can help you determine exactly what type of business website and content you really need, and help you keep your web design costs as low as possible. All you have to do is click the button below. The highly caffeinated team is here to help!

Do you have anything to add to our list of web design costs? Do you have any experiences of your own you can share? Please leave your comments below so our audience can benefit as well, and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And help other business owners get a better business website by sharing our web design costs and tips with them!

Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!

By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / Digital Barista







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