How much does it cost to build a website? One of the most asked questions from organizations of all sizes. It seems to be a mystery to many, with prices varying wildly depending on numerous factors.
Some of these factors include the type of website you intend to build. For instance, eCommerce websites usually cost more money to build than brochureware websites. A simple website will typically cost less than a website needing advanced functionality.
The costs for building a website can also vary based on other parameters, including size, complexity, and features. Furthermore, you are likely to find differences in overall website cost when you compare agencies vs freelancers or based on your location, New York City vs Topeka, Kansas, for example.
Regardless of how your journey to building a website for your business starts, you will want to identify all the costs you will incur to design, develop, and have the site up and running.
Determining the costs before you start building the site will help set expectations for what type of website you will get and what features might need to wait until a later version.
In this article, we’ll break down the cost of building a website from start to finish. We will also estimate how much it should cost to maintain and update your site annually.
Let’s dive in.
What is entailed in building a website?
What options do you have, and what determines which option you should go with?
There are several things that you will need to build a functional website. You have options within each to help control short- and long-term costs. Below are some of the must-haves for building a functional website.
Your website’s domain name is like your physical address on the web. Your target customers or users will use it to find your website. Domain names usually have extensions such as .com, .org, .co, and many more that you can choose from depending on the kind of business you intend to do and the domain’s availability.
For example, a website for a non-profit organization should ideally have a .org extension instead of something like .tech. The idea is to use an extension that makes sense based on the objective of the website you are building.
For most small businesses, the “.com” extension will be fine if it is still available for the name you intend to use. The .com gTLD is still the most valuable and sought-after domain extension, so scooping it up once you have your business name is critical.
It’s a good practice to use a domain name that contains the name of your business to avoid confusing your customers. For instance, if your business is called Clean Gadgets Hub, using a domain like cleangadgetshub.com will make it much easier for your customers to find you through search engines or by directly inputting the domain name into their browser.
Your domain should also match your social media profiles to ensure consistency. When you choose a domain name, ensure you also grab all the social media handles related to it, or they may be taken before you get a chance.
It should also be noted that these domain names are not free, and the price usually depends on the extension you choose. The more popular the extension, the more it costs. The shorter the domain name, the more it typically costs, with a few exceptions.
A hosting provider is simply a company or organization that enables businesses and individuals to have their websites visible on the web. It is the hosting provider that will provide storage space for your website’s files and the servers (remote computers) that will power the different functionalities of your site.
For the best performance and reliability, you should choose a web hosting provider with powerful servers and an uptime of at least 99.98%. This will ensure that your site is up and running at all times and with good load speeds.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of web hosting companies to help power your website. Not all hosting companies are good at providing what you need: speed/performance, security, uptime, and reasonable hosting costs.
Additionally, there are multiple different hosting options that you’ll see when you research, including shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, VPS, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting. They all have their own merits and associated costs.
We’ve compiled our recommendations within each category to make your selection easier. This is based on quality, security, performance, and cost based on value.
- Best Shared Hosting – Bluehost or FastComet
- Best Managed WordPress Hosting – Kinsta or Flywheel
- Best Cloud Hosting – Cloudways
- Best VPS Hosting – Hostinger or A2 Hosting
- Best Dedicated Hosting – InMotion or Bluehost
Content management system (CMS)
A content management system is simply software that enables users to create, edit, and manage a website on the Internet. Some common CMSs today include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and more. The choice of which CMS to use usually depends on your expertise, costs, and the type of website you intend to create.
However, most of you reading this article will be good with WordPress and other out-of-the-box platforms such as Strikingly, Ucraft, or Weebly. These platforms make it possible for people without coding skills to build any website. The different CMS platforms have strengths and weaknesses you need to know before choosing which one to use for your next website project.
Some of these platforms also have built-in page builders that are important for creating and editing web pages. However, if you choose an open-source platform like WordPress, you might choose to install/purchase a page builder like Elementor or Beaver Builder because the built-in page builder, Gutenberg, is somewhat limited.
If you don’t plan to code your website from scratch, you will need a template/theme that you can edit to create the kind of website that suits the needs of your small business well. This is another critical area you need to look at while choosing a CMS for your website because they have different theme options.
While choosing a template, it is always best to choose one with a design that resembles the website you intend to build. This will reduce the work you must do while editing your site.
Assuming you build a WordPress site, there are many excellent themes to choose from. Some of the best options are Astra, Ocean, Zakra, and Generate Press. Read our Free WordPress Themes post to learn more.
Plugins and integrations
To further boost the functionality of your site, you will need to install extensions and third-party plugins. Some popular categories of extensions/third-party tools you need to install include analytics, email marketing, social media, security, SEO, performance, and more. Of course, the number of extensions you will need varies based on your chosen CMS platform.
It should also be noted that most of these tools are not free. Some have free versions that usually give you access to a limited number of features with the option of upgrading to the premium version if you need to use all the features they come with.
Read our must-have plugins post to get a more comprehensive list of the plugins a WordPress website will need to be successful. You may have others you rely on, but if you’re starting from scratch, these free plugins are some of the best options.
Types of websites and estimated costs
One of the things that you need to decide before you start building any website is the type you want to build. And, of course, the type you choose will depend on the website’s primary objective.
This section will outline some types of websites you can build and an estimate of the total amount you will incur to build each. Here are the common types of websites and their cost estimates (without developer charges).
Personal websites (Estimated costs: $300 to $1,000 per year)
A personal website refers to the type of website built to describe an individual’s professional or social life. The depth of the content you put on this type of website usually depends on the site’s intention.
The essentials will be a few pages to outline who is operating the website, a way to contact the site, and a blog and homepage. This is a basic website and doesn’t have bells and whistles. Free plugins should be used to keep costs in check.
Personal websites are usually simple to build and don’t require a lot of technical expertise. The costs usually involved in building such a website include web hosting, domain name, buying a template/theme, and plugins/extensions.
These can cost about $300 to $1,000. Hiring a developer to create your personal website could cost you over $1000, depending on the number of pages you want the site to have. But you can build a personal website using WordPress or a website builder for less than $1,000.
Website Maintenance Costs:
The cost of maintaining a personal website is relatively low. The largest maintenance costs incurred will be purchasing plugin licenses yearly and ensuring your website is updated to avoid security issues such as hacking.
Single-page websites (Estimated cost: $100 to $200 per year)
As the name suggests, a single-page website has only one web page. An example of a single-page website is a landing page or sales funnel page. These are usually simple websites that are built with a short-term goal.
Since they are usually temporary, single-page websites may not require you to buy a permanent domain like you would with a fully-fledged site. The builders used to create these single-page sites will automatically generate a temporary domain name for the site.
The main cost involved in building these types of websites is the subscription to the builder you use to build the site. You may also have to buy the template you will use because not all the templates in these builders are free.
If you want to use a free website builder and you want a subdomain, such as mysite.weebly.com (Weebly as the builder), you may not incur any fees. There are three excellent free website builder options: Weebly, Strikingly, and GroovePages.
Note: GroovePages is the only website builder that will allow a custom domain name and be free.
A single web page using a page builder will be free if you choose a subdomain approach. If you want a custom domain, you’ll be looking at roughly $10-$20/month. Website development for a single-page website may cost $500 or more.
Website Maintenance Costs:
If you are using WordPress, the maintenance costs on a single-page website are tied into the plugin licensing, annual hosting, and domain name costs. This cost should be minimal and may only be $100 annually, depending on plugin use.
If you choose to use a web builder, the maintenance costs will be the cost for the domain name and not much else unless you upgrade functionality or features and require an add-on.
Business websites (Estimated cost: $5,000 to $50,000)
Websites created with the objective of supporting a business online are how business websites are defined. Such websites are usually created to give people information about a business, its products, and its services. A business website might add multiple types of content, such as pages, posts, custom content types, etc.
The complexity of a business website depends on the type of content you intend to publish, the necessary features, and the design. Building a business website can be done using a CMS such as WordPress. You will also need to purchase a template and extend functionality with plugins.
A business website should have strong hosting, a custom domain name, and certain features such as adding content, handling permissions, and user roles. It needs excellent security, performance caching, analytics, and SEO.
You will want paid plugins to ensure they are supported in case your website has an issue. Website development costs could reach up to $5,000 if you use a freelancer for parts of it. It could be more if you have unique feature needs or need additional integrations.
Depending on many factors, agency development fees will be much higher, upwards of $20,000 to $200,000. Depending on the branding needs, you may also need the services of a web design agency, and those fees will add a substantial cost.
Website Maintenance Costs:
Maintenance costs on a business website will be based on the platform chosen and the ongoing needs of the business in terms of functionality, features, security, performance, and website hosting costs. Expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per year.
Online store (Estimated cost: $5,000 to $200,000)
An online store or Ecommerce website is the type of website that is built with the objective of selling products, which could either be physical or virtual. These websites are usually more complex than the first three website types we have covered.
Online stores involve creating specific types of pages and integrating other features and functionality typically not required when creating other types of websites.
Some common pages that an online store should include are category landing pages, product detail pages, product listing pages, the home page, shopping cart, checkout, and thank you pages. The number of product listing pages will usually depend on the number of products sold on the website.
There is no limit on the number of products an online store should have. However, some website builders have a limit on the number of pages you can create depending on the plan you choose to subscribe to. That is why it is usually wise to use a platform like Shopify or build using WordPress and WooCommerce for the eCommerce aspects.
Additional functionality an online store will need includes payment processing, shipping, promotion, handling of transactional emails, higher levels of security, etc. Integrating these can be done using APIs or by installing plugins.
Before you start building an online store, it is always best to come up with a list of all the features you want and the corresponding plugins, add-ons, or integrations that will provide those. This will make it easier to calculate costs ahead of time.
The cost of building an online store can be significant. Depending on the features and how those need to be developed, you could be well over the $5,000 base price for basic functionality. A lot of this is provided via a platform like Shopify, so you could be under that price if you don’t need bells and whistles.
When it comes to development, the complexity of your online store will dictate costs. A professional web developer may charge $50,000, and an agency… $200,000.
Website Maintenance Costs:
Website maintenance for an eCommerce store could be extensive depending on any advanced functionality baked into the site and the overall feature upkeep. Expect to pay anywhere from $2,500-$5,000 annually to upkeep an online store.
Custom websites (Estimated cost: $25,000 to $500,000)
A custom website refers to the type of site built from scratch by writing code both for the backend and front end. These are the most complex websites and usually take more time and money than sites create using no-code or low-code builders.
The main advantage of building a custom website is the flexibility to create something unique. However, the additional cost of building and maintaining a custom-built website usually outweighs the benefits unless you have extensive needs for custom features and functionality that cannot be accomplished in any other way.
Creating a site from scratch also removes all the limitations created by no-code website builders, but this comes at the cost of complexity and developer costs. Websites created from scratch are also usually built by more than one developer because different sections of the site require different expertise. This is one of the reasons they cost more to build.
With custom websites, you will avoid the costs of subscribing to a website builder plan or any fees related to plugins or theming. However, these costs are usually insignificant compared to how much you will have to pay for development.
Creating a custom website will cost you between $25,000 to $500,000 to build. Extensive features, integrations, a custom API, significant coding requirements, and web design costs will move a custom-built website up in price from the low to the high end.
The agency cost to build will be much higher depending on geographic location and higher than a freelance developer, but as mentioned, you may need multiple freelancers to help in the process of building a custom website.
Website Maintenance Costs:
The maintenance cost to build a custom website will be much higher than any other website type. The security needs, hosting needs, API maintenance, performance needs, etc., can cost upwards of $10,000-$20,000 per year.
Factors that impact website building costs
As we stated earlier, the cost of building a website will usually vary depending on several factors. In this section, we will cover some of the factors that affect the cost of building your website.
Do it yourself (DIY)
If you have web development skills or are willing to learn how to build websites, you can build a website yourself. No-code website builders have made it even much easier for small business owners and solopreneurs to build their websites and save themselves the costs of hiring a developer.
DIY is the ideal strategy for a small business or small website project, such as a personal website or a landing page for your next marketing or sales campaign. Besides costs, when it is your own website, you have the freedom to design it the exact way you want.
Software and platform cost
You must pay for a web builder unless you choose WordPress. You’ll also need some tools to design and build the website. Depending on the kind of website you are developing, you will need a theme, a page builder plugin, and other plugins. Most of these tools have free versions, which could be enough to get started.
Freelancer vs agency vs in-house team
If you don’t build the website yourself, you must hire someone to do it for you. When hiring, you have three main options; freelancers, an agency, or using in-house resources. The choice between the three will largely depend on the size of your project and how much you are willing to spend on it.
Let’s say your website will take 200 hours to complete across all provided services.
- Low-tier cost to build a website: Freelancer ($35 to $100 per hour) x 200 hours = $7,000 to $20,000 total website cost.
- Mid-tier cost to build a website: Agency ($125 to $250 per hour) x 200 hours = $25,000 to $50,000 total website cost.
- High-tier cost to build a website: In-house team (developer, designer, content creator, project manager – all salaried or hourly, plus benefits (combined $150 to $400 per hour) x 200 hours, and then they still work for you.
- Developer salary = $125,000 ($60/hr)
- Designer salary = $85,000 ($41/hr)
- Content creator salary = $65,000 ($31/hr)
- Project manager – outsourced at $50/hr x 60 hours or 30% of the project total = $15/hr over 200 hours
- Search engine optimization (SEO) – outsourced at $75/hr x 50 hours or 25% of the project total = $18.75 over 200 hours
- Total per hour $165.75 x 200 = $33,150 (for this example, but likely low and calculated w/o benefits and long-term commitment as employees.
Most of the time, hiring a freelancer is the best and cheapest alternative, especially when dealing with a small and short-term website project. You should only hire full-time developers if you are working on a big and long-term website project that requires full-time internal attention. Agencies are the best option for big website projects you want to get done in the shortest time possible.
Another key factor determining your website’s cost is complexity. Complexity adds time, and you need developers with special coding skills to build it correctly. A professional web design agency may have specialists across all disciplines and may be able to reduce the time it takes to complete the website.
Most freelance developers usually charge based on the number of pages your site will have and the estimated time they hope to spend working on your project. If you want your site to have hundreds of pages and special features that require developers to code from scratch, then be ready to pay more.
The more features you want your website to have, the more money it will cost. Adding more features means more time spent in research and development on the developers’ side. Some features may require purchasing plugins or APIs to integrate them into your site. Purchasing these extra tools will further increase your development expenses.
Breakdown of costs from A-Z
Let’s break down the costs of building the different types of websites.
Domain name – price ranges from $12.00/year for a single domain to $85/year for a premium domain. You must purchase the domain and pay a domain registration fee with your chosen registrar. You can get a free domain with certain hosting or website builder plans.
Content management system – price ranges from free for WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal to over $500/mo for proprietary enterprise-class platforms.
Plugins – If you want to use premium plugins, which will probably be necessary for some instances, the cost will depend on the number of premium plugins needed, but assume roughly $59-$199 per plugin per year.
SSL certificate – Any website should have an SSL certificate to ensure security and safe data transfer. This is an ancillary cost but not one that should be omitted. Some web hosting companies will provide a free SSL certificate with a hosting plan, or you can purchase a more advanced SSL certificate from a third-party provider for around $200-$500 annually.
Theme/template – Depends on the chosen theme provider and if you go with a free or premium theme, but roughly $99-$299 per year for a premium WordPress theme.
Web design – Web design costs will depend on location and outsourcing method. A professional web designer or design agency will cost more than a freelance web designer.
Web development – Depends on geographic location, outsource method, i.e., freelancer, agency, onshore, offshore, etc.) or in-house team – $35/hr to $400/hr.
Web hosting services – price ranges from $2.99/mo for shared hosting to $1,000/mo for a dedicated hosting plan.
Website builder – Most website builder prices start in the $15 range and go up to $100 monthly.
Website cost reduction tips
Do some tasks yourself: If you have web design and development skills, the do-it-yourself approach can be rewarding and save you money. Doing some of the tasks on your website project by yourself will help you cut costs.
Use a free theme/template: You can use plenty of free WordPress templates. They are abundant across the web. These templates usually have premium themes and plans you can subscribe to if you need those features. The only issue with free templates means no support should something go wrong.
Use free stock images: There is no need to pay for images if you are on a tight budget. There are multiple free image-sourcing websites to check out. See our post here on the best free image sites.
Don’t add unnecessary pages: As we shared earlier, most website developers and web designers will charge you based on the number of pages your website has. Excluding any unnecessary pages could help you cut development costs.
Use already-made templates: A custom WordPress theme is not needed for 95% of all websites. A premade template can save money and still provide a custom site look and feel.
Add your own website content: Don’t rely on the development company to populate your website with content. Take this on yourself, save money, and learn the back end of your website builder and how to add content and make changes.
Rely on your web hosting company: Sometimes, when you have the right web hosting company, they’ll do some of the work for you. They might help set up site backups, a performance plugin, help you navigate your web hosting server, or install WordPress for you.
Questions to ask a web developer or agency
Before you hire a web developer or agency, it’s important to get certain questions answered to avoid having issues down the road. Some of the most important questions that you need to ask to include the following:
- What types of websites have you developed before?
- What tools and technologies do you use when building websites?
- What platforms do you typically recommend for my type of website?
- How will you help me achieve my website goals?
- How much will it cost to build my site? Ask for a breakdown of the exact cost, including the labor costs.
- How long will it take to build my website based on the requirements I have provided?
- What deliverables should I expect per month/week?
- Will I be involved in the process of building the site? If yes, what role(s) will I play?
- Do you optimize your websites for mobile and SEO?
- Will my website meet the minimum requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
- Do you also provide hosting, security, maintenance, or digital marketing services?
- How much does a website like mine tend to cost?
It’s 2023, which means there are many website-building options. You don’t have to spend more to get what you want. This is a critical point that can not be overstated. In the age of the freelancer and the saturation of people who know how to build websites, there are money-saving options when building your own site, including you.
Understanding the cost to build is most important. Figuring things out, like your budget and goals, can be more complex. Whether you require a professional website or want a simple one, you must arm yourself with knowledge, which is vital for a successful outcome.