If you really want to annoy a web developer, just ask them how much a website costs, without giving them any more detail.
The reality is that that question is like asking “how much does a car cost?” The runner that (just about) gets you from A to B costs much less than a new Range Rover!
With that in mind, what you need to do is ascertain exactly what you need (and DON’T need) for your business. This article will help you work that out.
An Important Point
The world of websites is a complicated one. But the reality is that most websites these days have a lot in common. Many are built around a simple model of an “off the shelf” theme sitting on top of the WordPress content management system (more on that later).
However, that doesn’t mean that people all pay a similar price. Far from it, in fact. The reality is that two websites that are fundamentally the same can cost a vastly different amount, depending on the choices you make and the companies you use.
Let’s start with the basics.
The Key Types of Website
There’s a considerable amount of crossover in modern websites. A small business site may have a blog, and a bespoke website may have some eCommerce functionality. However, it helps to broadly understand the key types of website:
Small Business (Brochure) Websites
Brochure websites are basic sites intended to give a business a presence on the web. In reality, they often only exist so that a company has something online to direct people to.
Typically these sites have a handful of basic pages: an about page, some pages describing products and services, and a contact page.
Ecommerce websites are for people who actually do business online, either solely or as part of their overall model. Typically these will include a catalogue of products and a means for customers to order online and make their payment.
Establishing an eCommerce website is easier than you might expect. Platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce are simple to use, yet surprisingly scalable. The initial investment in an eCommerce website is now substantially less than it was in the not-too-distant past.
Before content management systems like WordPress went mainstream, many people opted to have their sites built from scratch. This meant designed from scratch and coded from scratch.
This isn’t really the case anymore. Off the shelf platforms and themes are so capable and versatile that paying for something fully bespoke has more drawbacks than benefits, for most people.
However, there are notable exceptions. Online businesses needing complex functionality may find it easier to build “from the ground up” than to cobble something together from off-the-shelf software. Similarly, when lightning-fast speed is a priority, this can prove easier to achieve with a bespoke site.
Ultimately a blog is just a type of website. However, to understand specifically the term’s meaning, it helps to look at how blogs were originally intended.
Blogs started out as online diaries, typically delivering posts in reverse chronological order. Some personal blogs still work like this, but increasingly the boundaries are blurring, with many bloggers creating “evergreen” content and moving far from that original “diary” format.
Nowadays, a blog may just be a blog, but a “blog” could also refer to a separate section on a company website. Most frequently, a blog is a site discussing a particular topic or niche, usually whilst attempting to make some money from advertising, affiliate marketing or selling related products.
Whatever type of website you need, there are some up-front costs you will need to cover before you even think about the design. These are small costs, and don’t really differ whether you’re creating a small brochure site or something much more ambitious.
It’s worth noting that some of these up-front costs go on to be ongoing costs that you have to pay each year.
Domain Name Registration
Domain name registration is all about securing the domain(s) you want for your site. It’s technically an ongoing cost as well as an up-front cost, because you register a domain for one or more years at a time.
COSTS: The typical cost of domain registration is in the region of £9.99 per year for each .co.uk domain, and £14.99 for a .com. You can usually pay for multiple years at a time.
When you research domain registration costs, you will usually find plenty of offers for the first year. Lots of web companies offer the first year of registration for 99p or even for free, but that’s very rarely representative of the true ongoing cost.
There are also some exceptions where domain registrations cost more, such as .scot domains (for Scotland), at £30-40 per year.
When you register a domain, you provide contact and ownership information, which is listed in the WHOIS database.
As this is publicly accessible, some people prefer to use domain privacy protection to shield the information. With a service like this in place, people searching your record are instead referred to your service provider.
As well as hiding details you may not wish to have made public, using domain protection can save you from lots of sales calls from firms who use these records to find leads!
COSTS: Domain protection is a small investment. It’s usually around £5-10 per year. As with domain registration, there’s often a promotion for the first year.
Once only considered important for sites that handle financial transactions and personal information, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates are now a must for professional business websites.
There are three key reasons for this:
- Firstly, SSL certificates do make sites more secure.
- Secondly, Google now specifically highlights sites without the certificates as “insecure” in its Chrome browser.
- Thirdly, having a secure site is considered a Google ranking factor, so insecure sites can struggle to climb the search rankings.
COSTS: Some web hosting providers offer free SSL certificates. However, for eCommerce websites and beyond, commercial offerings are a better fit. The typical cost is from £40-250 per year, depending on exact requirements.
Once again, first year discounts are very common.
Design and Build Costs
Web Designers vs. DIY Website Builders
The biggest decision you will have to make when building your website is whether to do it yourself, or whether to hire a company or individual to help you.
Even if you’re not particularly technical, it’s far from impossible to completely avoid the cost of setting up a website by using an “off-the-shelf” DIY website builder. However, it’s definitely worth putting a value on your own time, and considering whether your effort would be better expended elsewhere.
While these website builders are intended to be easy to use, there is a learning curve. So, depending on your level of skill and experience, you could find the process frustrating.
Would you rather spend an afternoon working out why you can’t get an image to stay in the right place, or looking for more customers for your business?
Web Designer Costs
As discussed at the start of the article, website design cost can vary massively. An individual offshore freelancer working through a platform like Upwork will invariably charge far less than a slick “digital agency” with plush city offices.
Despite this, you may well find that the work they do and the tech they use is almost identical.
That said, making a decision on price alone is rarely a great idea. The cheap offshore freelancer may be long gone when you need further work doing on the site a year down the line. Extra money may well buy you the reassurance of much better service and support.
Let’s look at the kind of design costs you can expect for the types of websites we ran through above.
INITIAL COST TO BUILD A WEBSITE:
Brochure Sites: From £200 (budget freelancer) to £1200 (high-street agency).
eCommerce Sites: From £800 (budget freelancer) to £2500 (high-street agency).
Bespoke Sites: From £1500 to £10,000+, depending on requirements.
Blog Sites: From £200 (budget freelancer) to £1000 (high-street agency).
DIY Website Builder Costs
Obviously the DIY approach is considerably cheaper. You’re largely paying in effort rather than money.
Platforms like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace usually charge on a monthly basis. You can even get a site established on some of these platforms for free, albeit with a rather unprofessional domain name like yourbusiness.weebly.com.
Thanks to platforms like Shopify and Bigcommerce, you can even set up online stores using the DIY approach.
Brochure Sites: From £3-19 per month. (Based on Weebly / Wix pricing).
eCommerce Sites: From £22-255 per month. (Based on Shopify pricing).
Bespoke Sites: N/A in this context.
Blog Sites: From £3-20 per month. (Based on WordPress.com pricing).
It’s almost inevitable that you will hear WordPress mentioned when you are planning your site. Everybody from individuals to large companies such as Microsoft and Sony use it as a website framework, and there’s a good chance your web designer will plan to use it too.
WordPress itself is FREE to install and use. One small quirk that may cause some confusion is that WordPress.COM is a separate company selling paid packages for bloggers. It could actually be worth a look if a small blog site is what you have in mind.
It’s also worth noting that there are other content management systems out there beyond WordPress. Two that are particularly popular with some developers are Joomla and Drupal.
While both of these have active communities, they’re not as widely known and supported as WordPress. If your developer plans to use them, it worth probing the reasons behind it in detail.
WordPress (and other CMS) systems use themes. These are templates that define how your site looks and feels, where the menus are, and what fonts and icons are utilised.
Designers often use “off the shelf” themes for their sites. These are themes developers have created, with varying levels of customisation available. You can get an idea of the vast range available on a site like ThemeForest.
There’s also the option of a bespoke theme that a developer creates for you. The key benefit of this is that you will get something completely unique to your business. The downside is that if you ever lose contact with the developer, it may become hard to find support for it.
COSTS: From £15-75 (Off-the-shelf). From £150+ (Bespoke). For off the shelf themes, developers often charge in the region of £15-20 per year for ongoing support after the initial purchase.
Plugins are an integral part of WordPress websites. They can do all manner of things, from running periodic site backups to providing an advanced photo gallery or social sharing buttons for your posts.
Almost any functionality can be added to a WordPress site using a plugin. Some are completely free, while others are “commercial” plugins with a one-off or annual cost. Prices are usually fairly minimal.
COSTS: Each commercial plugin tends to cost from £10-50. Some are one-off costs and others are annual subscriptions. The number of plugins you need will depend on your site, but most small business sites end up using two or three commercial plugins.
A website isn’t something you buy and forget about. We’ve already talked about some things that have to be renewed on an annual basis, but there are other ongoing running costs to think about too.
The most significant of these is your monthly website hosting cost.
Web hosting is all about giving your website somewhere to “live” on the internet. This essentially means it’s on a server somewhere, generally in a data centre owned and managed by your chosen web hosting company.
IMPORTANT: People often get web hosting and domain registration confused. They are two distinct things, and while they’re often services people purchase from the same company, this is not always the case.
Types of Hosting
There are various types of web hosting available, ranging from very economical to very expensive. Which you will need will depend on your business requirements.
Shared hosting is what most businesses start out with, and for many it remains perfectly sufficient in the long term.
With shared hosting, your website sits on a server with many others, pooling the server’s resources. If you have a basic brochure site or a blog without too many visitors, it’s an economical option that will do everything you need it to.
COSTS: Shared hosting usually costs from £4-12 per month. Discounts in the first year are extremely common, as are cheaper prices for a commitment of several years.
Managed hosting is an enhancement on shared hosting, aimed at owners of online businesses who want high performance and access to specialised support. It’s available from dedicated companies like WP-Engine, and as a specific service from some general hosting companies too.
Managed hosting is usually notably more expensive than standard shared hosting. For the extra money, you generally get a platform specifically developed for WordPress, often with additional features such as regular snapshot backups. Access to 24/7 help with site migrations and ongoing issues is often thrown in too.
COSTS: Managed WordPress hosting costs from £30-250+ per month. It’s a popular choice for affiliate marketers.
Virtual Private Servers
Virtual private servers are often the next step up for people who need more performance, or for businesses whose websites are getting lots of traffic. For example, a blogger might decide to switch to a VPS if their shared hosting package is struggling with a rising number of visitors.
Virtual Private Servers still involve you sharing hardware with your hosting provider’s other customers, but the resources for your server are ringfenced for you and you only. You are also able to more precisely configure the “server,” and reboot it independently if you wish.
COSTS: VPS costs are usually from £10-80 per month, depending on the resources required.
Cloud-based hosting uses virtual servers too, but usually as part of an infrastructure like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. It’s useful for sites that may experience distinct traffic trends, such as eCommerce sites that go crazy in the holiday season, or web applications with particularly busy periods.
With this type of hosting, you usually pay based on traffic and usage, making costs flexible but variable. This is a type of hosting that you probably already know about if you need it!
COSTS: From £10-350 per month.
A step up from a Virtual Private Server, a dedicated server is a leased server all of your own hosted in your provider’s data centre. An entire hardware server is dedicated to your website(s) and app(s), and you have full control of it.
A dedicated server is ideal for complex sites, busy eCommerce businesses and other purposes where you’re dealing with a lot of traffic. You also have far more control over your configuration, and the ability to use features and options that may not be available with other server types.
COSTS: Typically from £100-300 per month.
The amount of maintenance your website needs will vary hugely depending on the size and scope of it. However, even the most basic of sites will require you to budget for a periodic website maintenance cost to keep things secure and up-to-date.
For basic sites you may be able to do this maintenance yourself, otherwise it’s something you’ll likely pay your web developer to do two to three times each year.
COSTS: Allow £10 per month for a basic site.
Modern websites are rarely static. Most progressive businesses do at least some element of regular content production, even if that only means one or two blog posts each month to keep things fresh.
You have the option of producing content internally, but many small businesses outsource this. The general rule is that “you get what you pay for.” While you can get basic articles written at a low cost, you can expect to pay significantly more for expert knowledge and well-researched articles.
COSTS: Allow from £50-300 per article, depending on length and complexity.
There are plenty of royalty-free images and graphics you can use on your website, which you’ll find on sites like Pexels and Pixabay. However, you can find that these images are overused, and tend to pop up all over the web – simply because they are free.
The alternative is to pay for individual images, or pay for a subscription to a stock photo site such as Shutterstock. This is an unnecessary luxury for a basic site, but may feel like a necessity for a fully-fledged online business.
COSTS: £19-119 per month depending on the number of images required.
SEO and Marketing
It comes as a surprise to many people, but if you launch a website without doing any marketing or search engine optimisation, the chances are few people will see it other than those who specifically seek it out.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to drive traffic from people browsing the web: The first is to pay for adverts using anything from Google Adwords to Facebook Ads. The second is to invest in Search Engine Optimisation, in an attempt to push your site nearer the top of Google’s organic search rankings.
Search Engine Optimisation is a huge topic, and the subject of thousands of dedicated articles. For the purposes of planning costs, however, it’s worth budgeting something if bringing in new customers from the web is part of your business model.
PAID TRAFFIC: Anything from £10+ for each simple social media advert.
SEO: From £200 per month for a basic package.
As you can see “how much does a website cost?” is NOT a simple question. The answer is, quite genuinely, in the range of nothing to tens of thousands of Pounds!
However, the costs provided in this article should help you arrive far closer to the number you need to budget for.