Even though cost is not the only factor you’re considering when you’re in the market for a website, I understand that it’s an important question. If you’re eager to get right down to brass tacks, just go download my pricing guide– it’ll give you a range to work with and we can talk about your particular business needs to narrow things down farther.
But if you’re looking to answer your burning questions about why the heck websites vary in price so much, and why it can be so difficult to get a straight answer on how much yours will cost, keep reading.
If you did a google search for “how much a house costs,” you’re going to get wildly varying answers. Because, of course, houses come in many different shapes and sizes… and materials, and locations, and on and on and on.
But run that same question by a local home builder, while you’re standing in a neighborhood they built, and you’re obviously going to get a solid, narrow(er) range to work with. Context is key!
That’s why, contrary to what you might have heard, it’s not that hard to throw a ballpark figure out there for how much your website is going to cost… as long as we have the right context.
Contrary to what you might have heard, it’s not that hard to get a ballpark figure for how much your website is going to cost.
This article will explain what factors go into pricing your website, and I promise you, it will change the way you think about your website quote.
Ok, so, how much does a website cost?
First, some background.
For years, I’ve heard over and over from my fellow web designers, whether in blog posts, youtube videos, facebook rants, etc., that when a customer asks how much your service costs right away, it’s a “red flag.”
Now, to be fair, if someone only cares about price and nothing else, that would absolutely indicate that they might not be a good fit for a custom-built website– maybe they don’t need to be found by new customers online or to use digital marketing to turn that traffic into leads, or any of the other things a custom built website can do.
Compare it to a familiar shopping experience– when you’re buying something important like shoes, a mattress, or a car, you’re not just going to go with the cheapest available. So yes, if somebody is shopping around for a website for their business and makes their decision on cost alone, they’re probably not someone who cares about the end result as much as I do and that might be a red flag that they’re not a good fit, because they’re in the market for a different product than I offer. They want a cheap, do-nothing website.
But does this mean it’s wrong to ask about price? Absolutely not. Looking at the price tag doesn’t mean you’re looking for the cheapest solution– probably, you’re looking for something that’s cost-effective where the return is a good fit for the investment. Like any reasonable person, you don’t want to waste money on something that doesn’t fit your purposes, so you check the price tag first to save everyone time.
Here’s where it gets a bit complicated. The price tag doesn’t tell the whole story, especially with websites. We all sleep on mattresses and wear shoes, for example, so we more or less know what we need and what we like. But most people don’t make a lifelong habit of building or commissioning websites, so they may have less experience telling a good website from a do-nothing website that’s costing them business.
Sometimes do-nothing websites fly under the radar because they kind of work– maybe some customers find you online, maybe the designs looks ok, maybe it’s got your contact info and whatever other vital info it needs to convey… but it’s certainly not leveling your business up. You’ve hit an invisible wall that’s holding your business back.
How do you know if you’ve hit this invisible wall? Here’s what it might feel like:
- You’re not getting many (or any) phone calls or leads from your website. Most of the emails you get are just spam, and even the real leads you get are not ideal customers.
- You’re not excited to share your website with customers. You can explain things much better in person or on the phone– you’re afraid you might lose them if they just go to your site.
- Your website doesn’t feel authentically you. It doesn’t match your real-world or social media branding, and some of the stuff it talks about doesn’t match up with the current goals that you’re excited about now.
If any of those feelings are familiar to you, your website might be losing you business rather than serving as your most valuable sales tool 24/7.
Now that the background is out of the way… seriously, how much does a website cost? More importantly… how much will your website cost?
It’s true that the real answer is “it depends” and that’s why my pricing guidelines give ranges and serves as a conversation starter (not the final word).
Here’s what your quote will and won’t be based on.
❌ I do not charge based only on the number of pages in your website. The number of pages in a website doesn’t necessarily correlate to how complex it will be to build. For example, you could have a one page website, but that single page has an interactive form that takes online bookings and processes payments. Even with one page, that type of website is more complex and requires more development time and resources than a basic static site with many pages.
On the other hand, a hypothetical website with 1,000+ pages might have the exact same template for all those pages, meaning it wouldn’t take any more “design” time than a one-pager.
✅ Your quote will be priced a little bit on size and mostly based on the functionality it delivers. Most websites are somewhere in between the above examples: they may have many pages that are dynamically generated and use the same template, like blog posts, alongside a handful of static pages that need to be individually custom designed, like the homepage, about page, contact page, and so forth. Individually designed pages do factor into the price– that’s why I mention “custom designed pages” in pricing guidelines. But overall page count doesn’t tell the whole story.
Here’s what I mean by functionality & complexity. A one-page website that allows your customers to read about your products and services, check your prices and contact info, and has no interactivity (commonly called a brochure site) will be charged a base-level price.
A website that allows customers to shop your products, manages inventory, (or allows customers to schedule services) and processes payments, and has a number of custom-designed compelling landing pages, is a more complex site that requires a bigger up-front investment and ongoing support costs.
❌ I don’t use “value-based” pricing. Value based pricing means that the price changes based on the perceived value of the service in the eyes of you, the client.
This is really common in the field of web design and is the reason web designers don’t often have prices posted on their websites. Since the prices are based on how much the customer values what they are getting, it really drives (successful!) web designers to constantly up their skills and offerings to deliver more and more value. And it’s how I used to charge, for that reason: it jives with my desire to deliver the best possible solution for each client as an individual, rather than just assembly-line websites as fast as possible and deliver the minimum effort. “Minimum effort” is just not how I do business.
But it can also be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as taking two projects with the same scope and scale and overcharging the client with deeper pockets. In reality, there might be behind-the-scenes factors that drive the cost of a project up, but still, it’s inherently a non-transparent way to deal with pricing.
✅ Instead, I give price ranges for different types of projects in my downloadable pricing guidelines , and once I know your exact requirements I give you a firm quote.
I know that for small business owners, setting a budget is critical, and that means knowing exactly what you’re getting and how much it costs. You will know what the least expensive option is– I don’t hide that out of fear of “leaving money on the table.” If that means that you start out with a less complex website because that’s what your budget allows, I’m still going to deliver a site that will work for you, and when you’re ready for phase 2, I’ll be there!
The hidden factors that I mention above, ones that drive the cost of a project up and make a simple site cost many thousands of dollars, are mostly experienced in the world of corporate websites. But I don’t work with big corporations. I work with the small business world I know, the world that includes almost all of my friends and family. My husband, my parents, my brother, my in-laws, most of my friends, and of course me, are owners of small service-based businesses.
So that’s why I work with small businesses– I understand your needs and concerns and I really enjoy working with you to build a platform that grows your business while saving you time and headaches. You’re my people.
Hopefully, you now have a whole new perspective on how to get a quote for a website that will really perform for your business– and not something that’s an expensive drain on your budget, but a valuable and cost-effective investment into the future of your business.