December 22, 2022
It seems like nowadays everyone and their 12th grade cousin is offering to build you a website. Some of them even do half decent work, but despite how many people claim they can do the work, it’s difficult to find someone who can give you a definitive upfront answer on what it will cost. Frankly, that’s because it is a tough question with no real answer. Each website is unique, and the cost is driven by countless variables that make standard pricing almost impossible. Therefore, you’re not going to find that information in this article. Instead, we wanted to give a better understanding of some of the costs involved in designing, developing, and managing a website. To do that, we wanted to compare exactly what to expect when spending $500, $5,000, or $50,000 on a new website and how those price points all represent vastly different approaches to web development. With that information, you’ll be able to get a rough idea of what pricing segment you fall into and what a website would roughly cost for your particular needs.
One thing to note before digging into the details is that a lot of the costs are driven by how much time you personally have to commit to the project and the degree of quality. There are plenty of opportunities to save money on a new website if you’re willing to put in some work yourself. But if you’re looking to have someone create your new website for you, just remember, like anything else in this world, you get what you pay for.
If you are a new small business or someone who is self-employed, your main concern when shopping around for a website is most likely pricing. This could be your first website, but hopefully not your last. Now, it may come as a surprise to some that you can get a new website for around $500 – you can – but know that your options are going to be limited.
“Do-it-yourself” solutions are most common at the $500 price point; however, there are still some outsourced solutions available to you, but they won’t be “professional.” Someone who is willing to create a website for you for $500 is typically a new small agency or freelancer who is just starting out and looking to build their portfolio. You need to understand that their capabilities, and hence the website that they’ll deliver, will be limited. It’s not reasonable to expect someone will offer a 100% custom website at this price point. We’ll explain a little more later in the article about what we mean by “custom.”
The biggest difference is that you’re unlikely to get an actual web developer to work on your site. Someone at this level might know a little coding but will typically just use drag and drop website builders and out-of-the-box templates where little to no coding is necessary. WordPress, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy Website Builder, and Square Space are all different tools and solutions that someone would likely use to build for you at a $500 price tag. These solutions are also the same ones that you could use to build your own site. Some of these drag and drop tools are surprisingly simple to use and with some YouTube tutorials and trial and error, you can probably launch your own site and save yourself a couple hundred bucks.
The other noticeable differences are the general look and speed of these sites. A $500 website is typically limited to stock photos and amateur graphics, which lack a “professional feel”. Also, a website built with one of the solutions listed above are inherently slower. A website from a cheap service provider will also typically be hosted with low-cost hosting solutions, which will have an effect on page loading speed. Also, in terms of functionality, you’ll be limited to very basic features and any 3rd party plugins that are available. Which means if you need your site to “do” anything other than display information, then you’ll probably have to spend a little more.
As for turnaround times, depending on whether you’re building your own site or are getting someone to do that for you, a project of this size should only take around a week or two. However, if you’re opting to do it yourself, it would be advisable to spend some time researching and learning about the process, so that could add some time to your delivery date.
Also, if your budget is around $500, then eCommerce (selling anything) without doing it yourself is typically out of the question. If anyone says they can build you an eCommerce site for $500, I would be very skeptical. It is possible to create an eCommerce site yourself at this price point, and Shopify would be the suggested platform for this. In fact, if you spend some time learning the platform through tutorials and practice, you can actually build yourself a pretty respectable eCommerce website using Shopify.
A website with a $500 price tag may suffice for a year or two, but it’s not recommended as a long-term solution. For some business, that’s all they need. However, before going out and shopping around for a $500 website provider, you may want to consider the long-term implications of this type of investment on your brand. In many cases, it may make sense to spend an extra couple thousand on a website that is going to better withstand time and deliver a much more professional and reputable image for your business.
If you’re an established business or even a new business with the means to spend on a professional website, this is roughly where you should be. At the $5,000 price, you’ll have a lot more options. With a budget in this range, you can hire a small- to medium-sized agency or a professional freelancer. At this price point, all (or most) of the work will be done by your service provider. However, you may be asked to write/provide content and feedback on designs – but that will be the extent of your involvement.
This the range that we operate in. We get calls on a regular basis asking us “How much does a website cost,” and although we typically try to avoid giving a figure, we typically let people know that it will be roughly around $5,000-$8,000, pending a more in-depth conversation. Although that figure will likely change, it gives our potential clients a vague idea of project cost so that they can shop around if they can plan their budgets
At this price point, you can reasonably expect a custom solution – custom design and custom development. This process is similar to that of constructing a building. First, architectural drawings are designed to the client’s specifications and decisions about how it’s going to look are made. Then, the building is constructed with those drawings and specifications. Custom web development works roughly the same. First, a website is designed (drawings). Then, it’s developed (construction) with code. This is the process that we implement, much like most other agencies that are similar to ours.
When working with an agency or professional, an actual web developer will likely be the person working on your project (along with a web designer and typically a project manager). The benefits of a custom-designed solution is that you can tailor the look and experience to your brand/business, ulike some of the DIY and low-cost options where you’re limited to templates and themes. Also, web designers at this level will incorporate professional graphics and photography into the designs, which is going to give the site a much more professional look. These sites will almost always be coded from scratch so they will perform much better (speed) than those at the $500 price point.
In terms of features and functionality, at $5,000, you are still limited to what the site can do, but you will have way more options with an actual developer working on your project. You won’t be able to get into custom, highly complex features or web applications (you’ll likely need a $15K + budget for that), but an experienced developer at this level can typically create simple features or integrate 3rd party APIs and applications to add additional functionality to your site. The other luxuries at this price point that you can expect that typically aren’t offered at the $500 price point are: high-end hosting, ongoing management, advanced reporting and analytics, and advanced SEO. E-commerce at this price point is possible but limited. For $5,000, you can get a fairly well-built Shopify, WordPress, or Magento store from an experienced agency, but a custom built eCommerce store for $5,000 would be questionable.
As for turnaround time, a custom-designed and developed website with a budget of around $5,000 can typically take three to six weeks but will vary for each project.
Photo Credit: northern.co NOT our project
Northern is a top regional agency specializing in Custom eCommerce Websites starting at $50k
Needless to say, this type of website is generally only necessary for large companies/brands and well-funded startups. For a budget of this size, you can expect to be able to hire a high-end professional agency. However, even at this price point, you’re still not going to get access to the top global agencies. For that, you’ll need a budget of $500K+.
Working with agencies at this price point, everything will be taken care of for you – creative direction, copywriting, design, development, photography, and hosting and management. Visually, the difference between a $50,000 website and $5,000 website is going to be in the graphics, photography, and videography. At this level, you can expect work from highly skilled photographers and designers but the quality isn’t too far off from what you get at the $5,000 mark. The biggest differentiator is going to be in either the functionality and/or the size of the site, as well as performance.
A $50k website might be a $50k website because of sheer size – this could be a site with tens to hundreds of pages. These would be websites with large product catalogues or have lots of content to share. Creating and organizing a large volume of webpages, while maintain a consistent standard and professionalism, is generally what drives the price up.
The price could also be driven by the functionality. At $50,000, you can expect any number of web applications or custom features built and/or integrated. A professional custom-built eCommerce website or a large corporate website will usually fall into this price point as well. Performance at this level should be vastly greater than that of a $500 and $5,000 website. Agencies that operate at this level use enterprise level hosting and web services as well as employ highly skilled developers and engineers who, because of the added budget, are able to spend more time optimizing a website for speed and performance. At this point, you can also expect a lot more time and attention focused on SEO for a project at this level.
Given the size of the project, you shouldn’t expect a website at this level within the month. There is a lot of strategizing, planning, and movement involved in delivering a $50k website from end-to-end. From initial creative direction to fully launching a website, you’ll be looking at around 3 to 6 months, depending on the project.
If you are a large corporation or brand, then there will typically be a lot of industry pressure to spend this much on your organization’s website. However, if you don’t have a lot of content or don’t need a lot of functionality, or if you need to deploy a professional website sooner than 3 to 6 months, then maybe a $50k website isn’t the most appropriate next step. You can likely get away with dropping down into the $5K-$10K range. You’ll just want to make sure that you work with an agency that can give you the same professional look and feel of a $50K website without the volume and all the moving parts.
And that’s all there is to it…
If you came in search of definitive pricing for your next web development project, then you may be disappointed. However, you should now have a better idea of where to start budgeting for a $500, $5,000, or $50,000 expenditure and what to expect from that type of investment.
In theory, what each of these price points represents is the evolution of a business and its needs from a website. In a fairy tale entrepreneurship story, these price points show the journey from a small, independently owned business to a well-established local, medium-sized company to a large, national corporation – levelling up your company’s website along the way. The challenge for you is to determine where you and your company are on the timeline of that narrative and make the decision that will most likely help you get to the next step.