You probably came here in the process of doing research. Are you a small business looking to build a website? Or maybe you’re a non-profit, looking to redesign your website in order to more effectively communicate your mission? Or, are you the marketing director for a multi-million dollar organization looking to improve customer relations and increase revenues?
Atilus has worked with all of the above, helping to build websites and implement online marketing plans for organizations of all sizes. We’ve been professionally developing websites for over a decade and we love to educate the business (and consumer) market at large about what it takes to build a website and, perhaps most importantly…
UPDATE: This blog post has been updated a number of times throughout the years. For 2015 (PRICES ADJUSTED BECAUSE OF CHANGES IN THE MARKET, ADVANCEMENTS IN PROCESS, AND TECHNOLOGY)
This is currently it’s 5th major revision since its first posting in 2010.
Let’s Determine What Type of Website is Right for You
What it Costs to Build a Website
Free – $50/month or $2,000 – $5,000
This is either a do-it-yourself tool or pricing guidelines if you’re talking to a web development company.
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$7,500 – $30,000
With this level includes a tool that allows you to update your website yourself if a company builds it for you.
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$15,000 – $100,000+
Finally, something totally custom. A larger site, with advanced functionality to custom fit your needs.
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Like the businesses they represent, websites are not all created equal. Websites serve various purposes, feature different technology and therefore they can vary greatly in cost as the level of design and functionality increases and becomes more complex to suit your company’s needs. At Atilus our hourly rate is $150. We offer special discounts for partner companies, non-profits, and in select cases partner projects. All of our pricing is based on this hourly rate, our overall costs (wages + overhead) and the long-term costs of properly communicating and supporting our clientelle.
This post is also written for web developers considering branching out on your own. We’ve found that the web community at large REALLY wants to know the going rate for website developments costs. Regardless of who you are, having a baseline to work with is always a good idea. Atilus is always up front about pricing and we believe everyone needs to be too (although honestly many in the internet marketing field are not – charging clients different amount based on their situation and income). Before we get to the pricing, I want to ask you… do you think you need a website?
What Does A Website Co$t?
This is important… and let’s just get this out of the way… you need a website. Period.
And not just any website, but a great website with a clear, crisp easy to navigate design, with superb usability and functionality. Furthermore, YOU need to be able to easily update that website. It doesn’t matter if you are a national corporate brand, a smaller brick and mortar with ‘plenty of business’, a brick and mortar with only local business, or an ice cream shop that only sells to people between 5’10 and 5’11 wearing baseball hats before 3 pm… you still need a website!
Your business can be broad or niche, it can be large or small, and despite what you may believe… you need a website!
Recently a local furniture company spent nearly a million dollars renovating their retail space in order to attract new business. But an investment in a great website and internet marketing plan costs a tiny fraction and brought in MORE BUSINESS!
Website Prices Breakdown
Basic Website | Free – $50/month+ or $2,000 – $5,000
For Small Businesses and Individuals
For 2015, we’re splitting this section out into 2 parts:
Do it yourself: Free – $50/month
With advances in business models, content management systems, and software there are now (and really there have been) some amazing tools online some include Wix.com, SquareSpace.com among many. These tools are amazing. As a development agency it’s sometimes scary to see how far things have come.
However, it’s important to note – these tools are often complicated and our (general) audience is still not comfortable learning and using these tools. Similar to the above – these sites are highly configurable, but still require some coding, graphic design, and other knowledge to cull out of them a custom, attractive look. However, these are excellent resources and I’d recommend these services for any business looking to do it themselves.
If you hire a developer: $2,000 – $5,000
A basic designed website, acts primarily as an online brochure, establishing a necessary presence online to answer your customers’ questions “do you exist?”, “are you professional?” and “what do you do?” A basic website can be created in the $2,000 – $5,000 range. This website may or may not allow you to interact in a 2-way conversation with your audience (social networking, blog), transact business directly through your site (ecommerce), or enable you to manipulate and update the pages and content within your site without hiring a web programmer/designer to do it for you (Content Management System does enable this for more $$$).
This gets complicated to further elaborate on why this may or may not be included. For us, the complexities of using and designing around a content management system (or tool that allows you to update your own website) is usually a bit more time consuming then coding HTML from scratch – additionally there are a lot of customer service, content, and small testing requirements that eat up time and budgets for all projects – but which make up a significant fraction of smaller projects.
A basic website site will serve to help brand and market your company, showcase your products and services and inspire sales as a lead generating tool. The design of your website will, most likely, be templated at such low costs. This means that your site probably mirrors that of other sites on the web. With our firm, these sites will be responsive using the latest standards to allow your site to look the same on nearly every computer/device and will be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for greater natural search engine ranking success.
But not all firms code the same and have search engine optimization or online marketing as a top priority. Also, web analytics are provided with every site we build to track and ensure your web success.
Advanced Website | $7,500 – $30,000
For Medium Sized Businesses
Previously our pricing was in the $3,000- $8,500 – for this line item (previously called Content Management System). We’ve since increased our pricing. We’ve gotten very good at tracking the total money needs of a project – throughout the lifetime of our relationship with clients. And this means we have to cover costs for phone calls, the sales process, meeting space, the actual work (OF COURSE!), and then after launch support.
Depending on the level of aesthetic design that is requested as well as additional features Content Management System (CMS) websites will run at a on average around $7,500. These websites are created with both functionality and design in mind, as you will receive both custom art design and the ability to manage and update all content, images, and text contained within the pages of your site (infinite number of pages possible). With a CMS capable website, your site will have endless possibilities.
2015 UPDATE: In reviewing the old information (and our old pricing) from back in 2012 (the last time this post was updated), it’s interesting to see where we’ve come. We decided to knock out our “custom website” line item completely from the list because almost all of our sites now-a-days contain an element of custom design. In addition we build ALL of our sites, when we can, with a CMS (content management system) for clients. Finally, we’ve also started bundling in writing services – no more waiting years for project launches.
These websites are built with the idea that you will have a significant number of changes, additions or updates to be made to your site in the near future. Instead of being charged hourly rates to make such changes, a CMS system enables you to do a majority of the basic additions without prior coding or web designing knowledge. Social interactivity with your site visitors is possible with a site of this caliber, as a BLOG will be present within your site enabling you to place posts of content that you believe is relevant and desired by your audience. Your audience can choose to respond to your blog posts and each others comments allowing for 2 dimensional interaction between you, your audience, and within your audience.
Some ecommerce and real state listing sites can be created within this price range depending upon level of functionality and design. Also, sites of this caliber have varying prices with regard to design elements. These sites do have custom design work, but more expensive elements like Flash Art creation will affect pricing. Again, with our firm, these sites will be CSS and XHTML Coded to allow your site to look the same on nearly every computer and will also be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for greater natural search engine ranking success. But not all firms code the same and have SEO as a top priority. Also, web analytics are provided with every site we build to track and ensure your web success.
Custom Website | $15,000 – $100,000+
For large Businesses or businesses that solely drive on the web
If you are looking for a larger site, with advanced functionality including but not limited to social networking, blogging, ecommerce, or any other web application topped off with great design and content that speaks to your audience you should expect to pay a bit more than the previous two sections. We’ll detail out some specifics in our additional sections on Ecommerce & Custom Applications, but this section should serve as a decent place for larger businesses to start.
Like I said before, some ecommerce and web applications can be created for less, while most successful ventures are created for much more. There are countless sites that have fallen in this price range include Facebook.com, Orkut.com, and BestBuy.com to name only a few (all GREATLY exceeding 6-figures). A site within this price range may be built and hand coded from scratch – and in all cases will require extreme customization – and coordinating various technologies in order to work with your company or infrastructure.
That means your site is unlike any other and requires the attention and expertise of an experienced web application developer(s) and web site designer(s). A site that falls into this category requires months of planning, research, consulting, database design and implementation, software development and integration, site quality assurance and testing.
I know what you are thinking, ‘who knew it was so expensive?’ And the only answer I can give is that web design and creation is like any other craft or trade and requires a high level of knowledge and expertise.
Why are websites in this range so expensive? Here’s a few factors to consider, and examples of scenarios we’ve been in throughout the years that change the cost of a website, even when functionality may not necessarily be beyond the ordinary:
- Tighter timelines
- More meetings
- More people (and approvals) involved
- More exacting content specifications
- More pages of content to port over or account for
- Additional security concerns
- Governmental or other requirements/regulations must be adhered to (for example 508 compliance is a beautiful and on some projects required element – accounting for this and testing for it takes extra time and money)
None of this is extreme or out-of-the-ordinary, but when needed or required, costs go up.
Going Beyond A Website
For businesses that sell multiple products online
Over the years we’ve updated this page and our own pricing many times. We’ve decided to add two new sections, one for E-Commerce, and one specifically for customer web applications. E-Commerce Websites are those characterized by the ability to add products and transact business online – IE accept payment for products, and facility shipping, correspondence with purchasers, etc.
Similar to our above breakdown, E-Commerce sites, in and of themselves have many varying levels of pricing. For example the absolute simplest “e-commerce” site we come across, and one that actually accounts for most of the requests we get, is either a single paypal button – or the ability to accept payments/donations online (most often for a non-profit). Even with such a simple starting point, there’s a lot of questions to address – what was the existing site built on? Do you already have an account with paypal? Do you want to keep people on your website as they make their purchase? And the list goes on. But, at it’s absolute simplest (organization has a paypal account, and just needs a button added) this can generally be done in an hour or so and as such cost anywhere from $50 – $500 depending on the company setting things up or the relationship they have with their web development company.
However, when you start to add products, shipping, transnational email (thank you emails, etc.) things get a bit more complex.
If you’re JUST starting out and are comfortable with blogging and setting things up – we highly recommend shopify for ecommerce. However, it’s limitations, and your own limitations on management/setup might quickly be realized – and at that point you might want to go with a full service agency.
For our basic e-commerce websites, our own pricing starts at $20,000 and quickly scales up from there. Here’s why.
Generally most of our clients with e-commerce needs, also need guidance, education, and setup with the following:
- Server Setup
- SSL selection, purchase
- Merchant Account Setup
- Payment Processor Setup
- Shipping Setup – Including coordination/setup of accounts
- Transactional Email – What does each email your website send say “thank you for purchasing…”, “thank you for creating an account,” etc.
Basically an ecommerce site is like a normal website, on steroids, and most clients need a knowledgeable and reliable company to not just make the right decisions, but also to guide and hold their hand along the process.
Custom Application | $2,500 – $10,000+ for planning and $? for the end price
For businesses that need custom work
Going beyond a custom website, we have custom web applications. These are websites with entirely new functionality that might not yet be available, or is available, but needs updating, tweaking, etc. For example we had a new potential client come to us recently with an amazing idea – a website for people to create their own obituaries that would trigger upon their death. We worked together to plan out an initial scope, signed an agreement per the scope, and then got to work building this new application.
Our team worked with our client to design what it would look like, how it would work, and then launched the new site.
Literally we turned this man’s dream into a reality – and created a business out of his idea. Custom web applications can be large, or small. At Atilus, we prefer to start with a project scope and have a set price of $2,500 for an initial scope. However, many clients prefer to not pay for this planning, brainstorming, and discovery phase and instead like to bundle it in with a final set price, all up front. Although this is possible, in our 10+ years experience, it’s not the best way to go.
What Does A Website Co$t?
On another web application project our potential client refused to do the $2,500 planning phase instead opting for us to go with one grand project pricing. We responded by saying… “As a (new) company with investors, investing lots of money for this new web application, it’s clearly important that you get this right. Your WHOLE business rests on the success of this new application (that it works as advertised, and is seen online via search engines). And you’re looking for a partner that is going to help you get this right correct? If you in ANY way think we’re reputable and know what we’re doing (which if you didn’t think so we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation) – why not just take a step back to plan this project out? You trust us, and our experience, trust that we shouldn’t GUESS at what all of the details here… instead let’s take a little bit of time to plan them out. We’re going to either pay for this up front on a dollar/hour basis – or we’re going to have to guess and pad our time considerably to ensure we’re covering all of our basis.”
So what does a Custom Web Application cost? Unfortunately this is the hardest of the bunch. As we’ve written before, sometimes if an agency has used a good CMS – they can extend some custom functionality and quickly add in what you need for only a couple of hours’ worth of programming and design work. In other cases – I would hesitate to say – MOST other cases – custom web applications are the most expensive lot on this page, and as such require a partner you can trust and will be with you for years to come.
Discrepancy in Pricing
Why Are Some web design Companies So Inexpensive While Others Are Outrageously Pricey?
To wrap up this whole discussion on pricing I wanted to address something that’s been coming up more and more – even in 2015 – why are prices so wildly different in the web design industry? We had a recent bid on a project where we were smack in the middle. On the low-end there was a company vying for the project at $5,000. On the high end, $300,000. And then us, smack-dab in the middle. Our future client would go on to ask us… “What gives? Why are you so much more expensive than the low-end companies, and so much less expensive than the high-end companies, and why is there such a massive difference in the first place?” What is with this industry!!!!!
I suppose it works a lot like consulting. On the low-end you have people that frankly, have no idea what they’re doing, didn’t listen enough (or pay attention) and frankly are just throwing a number at a wall. I know even with razor thin margins and outsourcing that $5,000 will only allow for about 100 hours worth of time. And there is NO FREAKING WAY this client was going to get the system they needed (based on what they communicated to us) within 2 weeks’ worth of work. I explained as much and they agreed.
And, just like consultants, you have some operating on large margins, prestige, and a large (sometimes helpful, sometimes laborious) process that cost more. Is the $300,000 company twice as good as someone half as expensive? Probably not. At the end of the day it’s all about satisfying requirements. In my opinion it’s the company that can do that the best that wins. If the budget is one of those requirements, then that must be a factor. If on the other hand, budget is high – and a more important piece of the puzzle is that the new system “work” or that the future development company properly communicate progress along the way – then those extra tens of thousands of dollars are well spent.
I can’t stress this enough, on projects where we see extremely low budget – elements always get left out – and future support was non-existent. Just 2 months ago two former clients came to us requesting a copy of their website as the companies each had gone with had disappeared and taken their website and email with them. Their email down-age cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and their website represented more than a $5,000 initial investment and lost marketing dollars.
In all between the two of them this other provider ended up costing them nearly $30,000.
We’re proud to continue to charge correctly, providing our clients with amazing support and technical know how. Even years after these clients ended the relationship due to price, they came back to us and we were around (with backup copies no less) of their sites, proving that “quality doesn’t cost… it pays“.
Unfortunately, even 5 years after writing this post we continue to hear story after story where companies explain – “our web guy was great, but then he disappeared.”
Too often us web folks are kind, caring people, who are new to business uncomfortable asking for a fair rate that will allow their company to grow and prosper and allow for flexibility when emergencies arise. So we charge too little (Atilus did it at one point). Unfortunately that creates an eco-system where no one is accountable and – eventually – there’s no one there to pick up the phone or answer an email when shit hits the fan. And believe me, eventually, the shit always hits the fan.
Not to mention there are literally hundreds of tiny steps that you – as the purchaser or client – will never know that need to be done. Making sure analytics code is correctly installed, making sure goal tracking is setup, submitting the site to webmaster tools, etc. and if these aren’t done you are receiving a sub-par product (with potentially sub-par marketing results – learn more about your sites coding and its effect on your organizations overall marketing) and if they are done, even the simplest site will still take many hours to fully setup.
The bottom line is, like in many industries web design and development is definitely an area where you get what you pay for.