How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website in 2023?
On average, it costs roughly $6,000 to build a website for a small business (approximately £5,000, or €5,750).
For most startups, $6,000 is a substantial portion of their marketing budget. You may even be missing a couple of zeroes off that total. But fear not! There are proven strategies that you can employ to minimise your costs and maximise your return on investment.
Like any project, the cost of building a website depends on three things: The amount of work; the complexity of the work; the person carrying out the work.
To build a good website cheaply, you need to compromise in one or more of those areas.
Typical Website Build Costs
Website build costs will vary greatly depending on what you need; a small one-pager will be relatively cheap, but a large ecommerce store may cost many thousands of dollars.
As a general rule, the more unique the functionality of your site, the more you should expect to pay. Any variation from the norm will inflate expenses. In addition to setup costs, you should budget for security and content updates.
The following costs are ballpark figures based on professional experience.
Business Card Site
Setup cost: $400
Annual maintenance: $50
A business card site is a simple one-pager intended as a basic presence on the web. It might have a photo or two, a brief description of your business, and contact details.
Setup cost: $3,500
Annual maintenance: $500
A simple website is a handful of pages with limited functionality. It’s an informational site best suited to small, independent businesses with a local customer base.
Small Business Website
Setup cost: $6,000
Annual maintenance: $1,000
A typical small business website will feature a content management system (CMS) to allow you to create text and images yourself. There will be multiple pages akin to a company brochure.
Setup cost: $8,000
Annual maintenance: $2,000
An ecommerce store allows you to sell products online. Functionality, and therefore costs, can vary greatly. For example, a site selling a single item will be much cheaper to create than a store that stocks thousands of customisable items.
Setup cost: $15,000
Annual maintenance: $3,000
Enterprise-grade websites have multiple sections to mirror departments in the company and are often international, necessitating a different microsite for every territory the corporation operates in.
Additional Website Costs
Numerous additional expenses come with building and maintaining a website. If you hire a professional to design and code your site, there shouldn’t be hidden expenses, but if you’re not careful, it’s easy to walk into unexpected bills.
Some costs are one-offs, and others are recurring costs that you’ll need to continue paying monthly or yearly.
Annual cost: $10+
You will need a domain name for your site so customers can find you. You can register domains very cheaply, but you will have to pay extra for privacy, and you may need more than one domain. For more guidance, refer to our complete guide to domain names.
Monthly cost: $5 – $250
Web hosting is a service that stores your website’s files and delivers them to a customer’s browser when they visit your website. The more your website does, the higher the price of hosting. A very basic site with very little traffic is cheap to host; a large ecommerce site with lots of traffic will need more speed and storage. The good news is that most web hosts start with affordable packages you can pay to upgrade if needed.
One-time cost: $500 – $500,000
Building strong brand recognition is essential in the digital world.
A brand identity, including a logo and color scheme from a professional branding designer, starts at around $500, while a branding agency could charge up to $500,000.
Annual cost: $0 – $150
An SSL certificate allows your site to use secure hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS). Using HTTPS tells your customers’ browsers that your site is safe to visit, and if you don’t have an SSL certificate, most modern browsers will obstruct traffic to your site.
Because they are essential, most web hosts include a built-in SSL certificate with your web hosting.
Monthly cost: $0 – $500
Your website is 90% text, so your website’s design is likely to depend on the right font choice.
The costs of fonts range from free services like Google Fonts to premium font foundries that cost in the region of $50 per 10,000 pageviews. If you have a high-traffic site that uses several different fonts, the cost can quickly mount up.
For more tips on choosing the right font for your website, see our guide to choosing a scannable font for your business.
Themes & Plugins
Monthly cost: $0 – $500
One of the hidden costs of developing a website is the licensing of themes and plugins. Themes are blank templates to fast-track your design, and plugins are small pieces of code that perform specific actions. For example, you might use a plugin to create a product image gallery on your website.
Themes and plugins speed up web development, but they are also weak points in your website’s security; one of the most common ways websites are hacked is via poorly maintained third-party code. Consequently, if you use them, it is wise to only use regularly maintained themes and plugins—which usually means paying a license fee.
How much you pay annually will depend on your theme, the number of plugins and their individual costs.
Occasional cost: $0 – $10,000
The cost of stock images and videos varies greatly. But unless you’re an expert photographer—or have access to one—you’ll need to buy professional-grade photos for your website.
Stock services vary in price from free sites like Unsplash and Pexels, which merely ask for tips, to subscription services like Adobe Stock, which require a regular fee, to huge print media-grade providers like Getty Images, which charge hundreds of dollars per image.
Monthly cost: $50 – $10,000
What is the point of building a website if no one finds it? Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a skill set that helps you adjust website code and content to maximise your chances of appearing high in search engine results.
The cost of SEO ranges from relying on technical SEO built into your site code to hiring a team to write a dedicated blog. At the very least, you need to establish and review metrics regularly so you know how well your website is performing.
One-time cost: $250+
Depending on the nature of your business, different legal standards will apply. Most businesses need a simple statement detailing customer privacy. If you’re running an ecommerce site, you’ll also need information on terms of sale, returns, and liability.
Ongoing cost: Your Time
When you launch a website, the most significant ongoing cost is your time. Managing a website takes time, and the more you opt to do yourself, the less you’ll be able to focus on your actual job of running your business. Don’t underestimate what a few hours in the evening or over the weekend will cost you in terms of your health and your earning capacity.
Why is Building a Website Expensive?
An experienced freelance designer will charge around $65 per hour.
From the kick-off meeting to the final hand-off, a professional small business website takes 60–90 hours to complete.
$65 x 90 = $5,850
You’ll spend the remaining $150 of your $6,000 on sundries, such as registering a domain name and web hosting.
Is Hiring a Design Agency Worth it?
The value of a design agency increases with the complexity of your site. Enterprise-grade websites or ecommerce stores with complex functionality may require a team with multiple specialisms that a design agency has on tap.
However, if you opt for a design agency instead of a freelancer, you can at least double the cost—design agencies have high overheads that they need to recoup.
Additionally, many design agencies are simply sales teams that will outsource your project to a freelancer and pocket the inflated fee. If you opt for a design agency, ensure you are given a project manager and a named team who are responsible for your website.
Is Hiring an Offshore Design Agency Worthwhile?
The move to remote working over the last decade means that website designers can work anywhere. As a result, the cost of building a website does not vary considerably internationally.
Additionally, problems with communication, misaligning work cultures, and a lack of legal accountability usually result in the need for remedial work that inflates final costs.
If you’re hoping to save costs by hiring a remote team, the safest route is to hire from satellite towns in the same jurisdiction. For instance, a New York-based organisation will get better value in New Haven than in Manhattan.
How to Build a Successful Website Cheaply
A tailored Savile Row suit will fit better than anything you can buy off-the-peg; it is also prohibitively expensive. Most of us start adult life in the best ready-to-wear suit we can afford, expecting to upgrade our wardrobe down the road.
The same applies to your business’ website: a bespoke website will deliver a stronger brand presence, better search engine ranking, and higher conversions. But it will also cost in the region of $6,000.
The key to maximising your budget is to make cuts in the right places, investing in a strong foundation that you can upgrade over time.
The 80/20 Rule
The most common hurdle when reining in web design and development costs is the ambition of stakeholders. The nature of entrepreneurs is to focus on the horizon, but if you don’t glance at your feet once in a while, you tend to trip up.
The 80/20 Rule originated in economics but is now widespread across many different sectors because it holds true (at least in broad terms) for various human endeavours.
The 80/20 rule, when applied to web design, states that 80% of your conversions come from 20% of your website. Or, from an actionable point of view, 80% of your website is all but redundant.
The challenge is to simplify your plans to find that profitable 20%.
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It means that you design and build the simplest form of your website possible.
For example, imagine you are running a pizza restaurant, and you want to accept orders online. You could build a complex booking system or integrate a third-party booking system into your website. An MVP approach would be to put your menu online with your telephone number attached. Once you have established that customers will order over the phone, you can accurately assess the pros and cons of adding an automated ordering system.
The key with MVP is that the website you create is just one iteration of an ongoing project. It gets you online fast and allows you to test with real customers.
Taking an MVP approach, you might build a website in five hours, costing under $400. Then add another feature, and then another, step-by-step.
Not only will MVP help you keep your budget under control, but it also spreads the overall cost of your build, reduces your risk, and usually results in a higher-quality website.
Hire a Web Consultant
To minimise your costs, you’ll need to complete as much of the work as possible yourself. Many businesses successfully launch websites that have been built in-house by founders or teams who have little prior experience.
However, there are potential pitfalls when building a website for your business. It’s essential to consider factors like your time and whether you would be better employed focusing on your core responsibilities.
If you are going to build the site yourself, hire a web consultant who can guide you through the self-build process.
A freelance web consultant can explain problems in jargon-free language and give you fast solutions. When you hit an obstacle, it’s helpful to have the phone number of someone reliable who can unblock your path.
A few hours of consulting time is considerably less expensive than paying for revisions necessitated by a novice mistake.
Use a (Premium) Site Builder
A site builder is an online app that allows you to design and build a website.
Many different site builders promise a professional site in minutes, with no coding or design experience. If that were possible, web designers would be obsolete. I am still looking for a site builder that lives up to its marketing, but some are better than others.
I compare site builders with public transport systems. Like a bus, a site builder is cheap and gets you relatively near your destination. However, you will be dependent on someone else’s schedule, route, and priorities.
Your ideal website is comparable to personal transport—be it a car, a bike, or a jetpack. It moves you precisely from A to B on your terms.
Using a site builder gets you online fast, and it’s a sensible first step in an MVP approach, but they are rarely a good long-term solution. When choosing a site builder, look for one that allows you to export your data. Many site builders lock you in by withholding your content so that once you start using their service, you can’t leave without starting over. Those site builders are a false economy.
If you can, opt for a premium site builder over a free option. For just a couple of bucks a month, you’ll get a much more professional service.
Start Small, Stay Ambitious
The website you build today will not be the last website you build. The key to success is to make it scaleable—a foundation on which your online presence can grow.Building a website is transformative for any business; enjoy the process. Use the 80/20 rule and the MVP approach to get online quickly and spread costs. Find a freelance web consultant to hold your hand when needed. Use a good site builder to keep initial costs low.
Remember: quality, not quantity. Put everything you can into a small website that does its job well, establishes your brand online, and starts growing your revenue. Then, begin planning phase two.