Atilus Blog: Profit Redesigned

What does a website cost? Web Site Development Costs

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What does a website cost?UPDATED FOR 2014 (PRICES ADJUSTED BECAUSE OF CHANGES IN THE MARKET, ADVANCEMENTS IN PROCESS, AND TECHNOLOGY)

This post has been updated a number of times throughout the years. This is currently it’s 4th major revision since its first posting in 2010. 

You probably came here in the process of doing research. Are you a small business looking to build a website, but you don’t want to get taken for a ride? We’ve been professionally developing websites of all sizes for 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…

What it Costs to Build a Website

Or maybe you’re a web developer considering branching out on your own and REALLY want to know what the going rate for website developments costs are. 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?

This is important… and let’s just get this out of the way…

you need a website.

Period.

And not just any ol’ 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, but brought in MORE BUSINESS!

What Should a Website Cost?

Now, what does a website cost?

Like the businesses they represent, websites are not all created equal and serve various purposes, 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.

Basic Website – $2000 – $5000

$2000-$5000 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 done for a mere market average of $2000. This website will not allow you to interact 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 $$$). 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.  Unfortunately, the design of your website will 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 CSS and HTML Coded 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 SEO as a top priority. Also, web analytics are provided with every site we build to track and ensure your web success.

A Proper Site (update it yourself) – $5000- $30,000

2014 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 for clients. Finally, we’ve also started bundling in writing services – no more waiting years for project launches. 

Previously our pricing was in the $3000- $8,500 – for this line item (previously called Content Management System). We’ve since increased our pricing (although interestingly – not our hourly rate). We’ve gotten very good at tracking the total money needs of 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 Content Management System (CMS) websites will run at a market average of $7500. 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 as a pluggable, flexible web application capable of adding additional features as you desire.

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.

Anything Additional/Custom – $15,000- $100,000+

$15,000- $100,000+ If you are looking for advance functionality including social networking, blogging, ecommerce, or any other web application topped off with the markets leading design elements, you should expect to pay a bit more. Actually, just looking at more sophisticated projects you’ll incur a higher fee as there are only a limited number of talented people (and reliable companies) that can do this kind of work – and they typically charge a premium.

Like I said before, some ecommerce and web applications can be created for less, while most successful ventures are created for much more.  Sites that have fallen in this price range include Facebook.com, Orkut.com, and BestBuy.com to name only a few.  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 analysis, research, consulting, database design and implementation, software development and integration, site quality assurance and testing.

This is the mother load and it is priced accordingly.  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. Furthermore, with the rapid rate that technology and the internet is constantly changing, the gap is beginning to seriously widen between web amateurs and professionals. Can you still get a website for $500? Sure you can, but it will not display and operate like a professionally designed website will and it will be as ineffective and unsuccessful as the individual who designed it.

Need more?  Read this.

What Should a Website Cost?

But I can Get it Cheaper Elsewhere

You’re right, and I know a number of our own clients have been able to create great sites at a fraction of the above pricing however, and I can’t stress this enough elements were left out – and future support was non-existent. I can’t tell you how many meetings we’ve been in where company owners have said – our web guy was great, but then he disappeared. I’ve repeated this for the last 5 years. I still have organizations that I’ve talked to over the years, explained this, they agree, but then they use another company to be burned over-and-over again.

Too often us web folks are kind, caring people, who are new to business and associate charging people for work with stealing – so we charge too little (we 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 (although let’s face it this isn’t always the case) web design and development is definitely an area where you get what you pay for.

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Comments

  • I took a look at your site and recommend it to my visitors. I agree with you on the importance of becoming valuable in many different areas. I believe that it sustains any entrepreneur during challenges that inevitably occur.

    • Dylan

      It is great to have a comparable price out there that I can take to clients. I may not be at the level that atilus is at, but I can show what web is worth.

  • Despite some of the negative feedback, I find your prices exceptionally reasonable. I actually find pricing websites is largely dependent on the client and not necessarily a boilerplate price list. I also find that most independent designers severely undervalue their work in the interest of getting the work which ends up being counter-productive.

    Our firm’s prices usually land at up to 25-50% more than your baseline, but our client base are typically agencies and medium size businesses. Unlike Modemlooper, it is not a matter of “robbing anyone blind” rather the valuation and price of the site is proportionate to the expectation and actual ROI. When we do a campaign for adidas, if it doesn’t perform, we may get the money the one time, but we’ll never again get the work and put our reputation and standing in jeopardy. It’s not really JUST about the website ever – when one puts together an effective website, the designer should be considering overall strategy and business objectives; and in our case, there are almost always measurements of success (response, metrics, ROI) which is as it should be.

    Overall, I think the guideline is good and I certainly agree with your statement of charging the client appropriate fees for appropriate services rendered.

    One thing I may add,web design is a SERVICE industry not a “retail” industry with set prices for items …

    One mistake I see much of the industry making, especially independent designers, is that they tend not to charge for what amounts to specialised business consulting leading up to the website (assuming they are really doing their job as a designer and not simply being a production artist).

  • Thank you everyone for continuing to participate with your opinions on this blog, as we appreciate all candid comments and criticisms. I will address the last few comments:

    - Janet, I am glad that you have enjoyed the post. We feel so strongly about proper pricing structures, even though pricing is contingent upon so many different elements, that this post seemed inevitably necessary and appropriate despite the faux pas. I am very happy to hear that you are finding realistic and afforable solutions for your clients. That is news I will tip my hat to.

    - Kirth, thank you for the recommendations and agreeableness on diversifications. I would love to have a conversation with you about creative and strategic internet marketing methods; I am sure we could both learn a lot from one another.

    - Vince, I would like to gather our entire team together, read your comment out loud and then cheer and clap loudly! Your agreeableness and added insight is very much appreciated.

    I hope all of you come back often to engage in more conversation to aid in public education and overall awareness. I think we can all agree that getting designers all on the same page, as well as offering the consumer fair pricing and quality service accordingly will be beneficial for all.

  • Through time I came to the conclusion that most “standalone” designers tend to undervalue their work while the groups of designers tend to pump up the value of theirs. Reading this article and overall debate gave me a good sense of the middle ground in price/value ratio. Thanks to all smile

  • Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment, Zeljko. We are all very happy to facilitate a better understanding of internet development pricing structures to ensure that designers are paid appropriately for their work and clients are receiving quality product reflective of cost.

  • Hi from Brazil. Very interesting and good article.
    You did what others dont: Tell the PRICES!
    Every article I read, most of them show you the INFAMOUS calculator of ‘How much you need of year?’, ‘divide for this’, ‘multiply for that’, ‘add 20% ans its your HOUR PRICE!
    But many, forget to mention: A good PRO can do a site in less hours, and AMATEURS/WANNABE can take 1.000 hours for a UGLY/CRAP site. Its INJUSTICE!

    I believe that an AGENCY has more professional envolved, more costs, so the PRICE is natural to be HIGH than most FREELANCERS!
    For example, I am producing a website for a USA Travel Agency for US 1.600 Including an mini ADMIN for text.
    But the medium Charge in Brazil is a 1.000/1.200 US for a Site.
    Your article was very utile for my next Overseas Negociations.
    And at last, Each client vary from one to one, although in the same niche, a good PRO must define what is the better soluction, and not start scratching without Consulting and Planning.
    Keep it Up Scott!

  • Flavio, thank you very much for the compliment and for adding your personal insight. I am happy to see that our message is reaching international eyes. I wish you all the best in your endeavors, and I hope you experience all the prosperity you deserve.

  • I find the debate very interesting.  I feel that I am under paid at my current job just like everyone…  But I am making around $10K more than I was 3 years ago… why?  Because I continued to strive to be a better employee.  This is funny because I started freelance designing about two years ago and was horrible at it!  I under charged my clients and since they were not investing REAL money into the project, they felt as if it never REALLY needed to be complete.  Most of the projects I took on ended at the retainer.  Legally, I had 25% of the total project cost, but I had no finished work to show for the hours haggling over small minute details of their site.  It was a huge waste of time and a complete disaster.

    I think its better to set the bar high, and if your clients value your work they will have no problem meeting it.

  • Zach K.

    Thanks for your comment Paul. The freelance world can be challenging with on again off again relationships and constantly having to market yourself, do sales, stop to actually do the work, and then start all over again. I hope your business values your assistance and expertise!

    • Don’t forget that you will have only one chance to create the right first impression – poorly designed, cheaply looking website may put users/ customers off

  • Daniel

    I think a lot of the comments here are from small scale designers like myself. If you’re a big company and want the best of the best (which I feel you guys are), this is a fair estimation.

    Everyone else, there’s a difference between you and this firm. I do $1000 websites with CMS and a few custom functions once in a while. But there’s defenitely a difference between me and these guys.

    This article was very interesting, I’ll keep it in mind (might even abuse it to promote my rates.. Yes I’m that shameless), thanks for the perspective guys!

  • Chris

    Having worked as a freelance web developer, mainly as a coder, and then as a designer/developer for a design shop, and then into Sales and Business Development Management, I found this article, and it’s comments, very enjoyable to read.

    In my experience I’ve found the entire industry, especially the freelance area, tends to undervalue itself. In the end this under-valuation means that no-one is happy with the outcome, it’s effectively a lose lose situation.  The designer/developer is try to get the job done as quickly as possible so they make some money on the job, the client is thinking they’re spending good money and the price and timeline is correct; unfortunately an unrealistic expectation.

    The larger agencies can place themselves a little higher price-wise due to the range of professionals, and just numbers of resources at their disposal in order to get the job done.  The level of confidence that the client receives as a result of a larger agency is much higher – and as a result the larger agency rates should be expected to be a higher.

    Reducing risk for the client is the challenge of the freelancer.  That doesn’t mean you drop your rate and cower before them saying “please sir can I have some more” oliver twist style.  You should back your ability, your portfolio, and your track record providing quality.

    Most importantly “Shut up and listen to what the client wants”.  Then allow the time to provide the focus and design/development that the client deserves.  Set your timeline accordingly, regardless of what you charge as an hourly rate.

    If you’re happy with your hourly rate – great!  You should be looking to set that commensurate with your experience.  Just don’t ROB yourself of the hours it will take to actually get the job done.

    My experience is that the client is always willing to pay for what they want. Yes, there’s always a little management required, the challenge is giving them what they want in either the timeframe that they want, or the timeframe that YOU set for the project.  Most clients are willing to trust you to take their problem away from them and solve it, and will trust your opinion on the timeframe.

    I suppose what I’m saying is Be Honest!  This applies to the Agency environment as well.  Both with yourself and the client.  If you think a job is going to take 4 weeks – don’t say you can get it done in 2 weeks because the client is eager to get it done (which is always the temptation), and you think you can do some all-nighters and then have a week off.  It doesn’t ever work out like that. 

    The client will appreciate your honesty, and then perhaps they’ll realise that perhaps they’re asking for too much to begin with, perhaps they need to break this into stages, scale the site back to something more within their budget….etc. etc.

    The best thing you can do as a freelancer or one or two man show is to “Partner Up”. Find other designers/developers, get out there in the community and either find people in your area, or online, or perhaps even an agency. Have people you can hand off work to and work together with. Partners can help you out with work, but the best spin-off is that they can provide opportunities that you’ll never be aware of.  A 30 minute meeting with an Agency or just a couple of like minded freelancers could provide you with more opportunities for work than you’ll ever find yourself.

    Let your client know that you have other resources at your disposal, that you have partners.

    I know this has been a bit of ramble – so I’ll wrap it up. 

    The short story here is, Be Honest on the timeline for the project, charge a rate you’re happy with, and then deliver!  The cost will be secondary to the client, because their problem is solved, they’ve exactly what they wanted and you’re a superstar in their eyes.

    Easy isn’t it!?

  • Zach K.

    Thanks Chris for the fantastic comment. We couldn’t agree with you more. In my follow up article I address your concerns regarding the freelance industry in more depth and feel you are spot on.

  • Hey I am an amateur web designer, and I plan on going back to school in spring. That being said, I don’t believe myself to be and “ineffective and unsuccessful individual.’

  • Wow, that all I can say at this point. I want to say thank you up front. Im going to think about it and post a bigger comment later. but i feel you are dead on on the pricing. now all i have to do is to get my customers to understand that too.

  • I believe the prices mentioned in the article are fair ones, but only the real professionals with killer portfolios can charge that high. I just wonder how many clients around here can afford to pay such a high prices.

  • Zach K.

    Thanks for stopping by and posting your comment Zlatko. I agree with you, but killer portfolio is subjective. You can evaluate a website on any number of items including design, which is the normal thing touted by web developers. But, you can also evaluate a site on customer satisfaction, customer service, performance in relation to the overall goals (traffic, sales, etc.) these are often less easy to evaluate as they are not visual and a casual browser may not be able to know (and in some cases, like sales, should not know as they are confidential).

  • ok i’m only responding to this again because I have been email a few times over my comment. The prices listed in this article are more than what most small businesses want to pay. I get people wanting a brochure site as you call it for a few hundred bucks. So this is why I say that you can charge more for big business, they have more money. I’m not saying you should charge more than market rates but by comparison to what these small businesses expect to pay it seems like you are robbing big business. My comment also states that you should check out job sites for salaries to compare your abilities to to get an idea what to charge people. This is for the complete beginner as you grow you learn to price more accordingly. What you did last year should certainly take less time this year making you faster and then can charge more competitively.

    This is all really mute because as a freelancer you are running your own business and can charge what ever people are willing to pay.

    I start my clients meetings with what do they want to accomplish and then find out what budget they have.

  • Wow, what an excellent post Scott. I think the fact you’ve received such an admirable response from your visitors, who’ve contributed to the discussion, makes it even better.

    A few points I’d like to share:

    - Going freelance is never a point blank decision you should make. I made that mistake; thinking I could earn a living by designing coming straight out of University, but it quite honestly wasn’t the case. The work never materialised and after months of building up a client base and ‘whoreing” my work around the web, for want of a better word, I’m finally starting to pick up jobs when the time could have been better spent looking for a proper job with a studio.
    I really do think this line of work is something you find yourself in without having made a conscious decision to enter into. Pumping away at a calculator, as modemlooper (comment 21) astringently points out, although not a bad way to start putting a figure against your skill set, does seem awfully calculated (excuse the pun)when you see it from the clients perspective.
    Fair enough, if you take the risk and start a business it’s a different story. Then you have your overheads and price hikes, as many of your diligent readers have pointed out. It’s then, that I think, the gap widens between the amount of bang a client can get for their buck and the amount of bureaucratic project management chartering and consultation they can, and are likely, to incur. After all you can post on numerous sites advertising what you want and have two dozen well performing designers jump at your request (believe me; I know of talented friends who are doing it). Which leads me nicely onto my next point…

    - Admittedly before reading the comments, and after reading the original post I was thinking; ‘Jesus, this guy must be having a laugh with those prices’ – £70/per hour to amend a piece of blog code. But now, after reading your explanations in the comments, I have come to accept that that £70 may well be split proportionally between the amount of people’s expertise it’s required to fix the problem/generate a solution. This is a good thing. In theory jobs get done quicker, tailored with more advanced, failsafe, solutions and the client is happy. At the end of the day all you can do is listen, be honest (as Chris covers in his comment (36)), offer a fair price, and let the client decide where they want to put their cash.

    -Third point in case: To the readers who mention designers who undervalue their work, notably vince ota’s (comment 27). This is so true. I’ve seen work done for pittance, and often for free in order to draw in new clients, and often friends of mine have been taken for an absolute ride; ‘change this, change that’-type thing. I’ve even done it in the past and it’s not worth jumping at projects that are bland, or uninspiring to you (or clients that have a reputation for being damn right awkward) just to earn the fee. At the end of the day you’re doing everyone involved a disservice and potentially undermining your reputation (so important to many in this trade and rightly so). How about handing the work over to a fellow freelancer or contact instead?  They will appreciate it, I know I would! They may return the favour with something cool, which just doesn’t float their boat, in the future.
    I always have in the back of my mind that you’re only as good as your last project and I aso agree, for a designer, it can be really counterproductive and demoralising to come off the back of a job unsatisfied. The feeling merges into future projects and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
    Scott you seem to have it nailed regarding how to handle projects and what fees to charge. If you’re pulling in the work then my hat goes off to you. For the rest of us, notably myself, I still think that charging an hourly rate and taking into account the clients budget (staggering, or ‘scaling’ a project down good tip there Scott) is the best course of action for a hassle free billing arrangement.
    Now I’ll pose a question if I may be so bold: If you charge a base hourly rate, should you explicitly outline this on your service/folio pages? Does it demean your skills or conversely would it help potential customers price their jobs? I take into account vince ota’s point (comment 27) about designing/developing being a service industry, not a retail one while proposing this point. Would love to hear your opinions, as I’m sure Scott would.

  • wow great article! I get clients would want a website done but willing to pay up to 300 only! so sad!

  • Smith

    Good article but the rates given here are way too high compared to what yo get in outsourcing market. Go to country like INDIA and they will do the same work with same quality at 75% less rate. Many say that they charge less so the quality of work is also low, but no mistake that’s not always true.

    Thanks

  • Kate

    Thanks for the article!  Very informative, and, in a way, reassuring.  I’m a Web developer, but only recently made the jump to working for myself.  Looking at the marketplace, I also see prices all over the board.  But, the estimates/examples you gave are, to me, solid.  (As are the descriptions of what to expect.)  Thanks again!

  • @Smith – Good for you if you know someone in India who’ll do a good job for cheap. The way I look at it is you could get a stock site for 15USD from a hosting company and be done with it. If you want to see crazy prices; I think it’s ridiculous you can go somewhere like this (http://www.freelance-projects.info/) and find companies/individuals in Delhi, undercutting, and stating they can do a good job on a website from scratch for 60USD (half a day’s work :S). That’s half a wire-frame in my book. Some of these people have holding pages for portfolios, which look like they were made by a kid!

  • Zach K.

    Hi Lewis, Kate, and Smith. Lewis, I have to agree with you here about Smith’s comments. It is very true that work in India is much cheaper. At the very beginning we choose to try to keep costs low and outsource some work overseas, but the back-and-forth and communications problem ended up being an even greater expense. I do agree that the quality of work can be very high (although not always), but, at least in our case we experienced huge communication issues and it just wasn’t worth our time and ended up costing more. Additionally, there may be some security concerns depending on your client or the work you are trying to produce. Thanks again everyone for stopping by!

  • Finally! Thanks for this great article.

  • I have been working in the New Media Industry for 12 years now, and actually think your rates are spot on with a smaller web agency.  $120/hour for a project is pretty fair, compared to what a national or worldwide ad agency will charge for their services.  I have seen bid sheets with hourly rates more than twice that amount, and larger companies will most definitely pay these rates to insure the success of their brand.

    Here is something to think about…

    A local restaurant could have a web site designed and build for around $7K.  It serves the needs of the local market enough and gives the local customer a view of the place, the menu, where they are located, and any special events that might take place. It only gets a few hundred hits a week, and that is fine.  There were probably only a few design comps done, and the copy was written by the Daytime Restaurant Manager in the off hours.  There is really no need for a backend, other than to send a basic email to that manager.  It probably only took less than a week to be built by a few freelance designers.

    Now think of national chains like Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, or something like that.  They have hundreds of locations, and have the need to drive thousands of customers to their web site each day to see promotions and marketing efforts.  Their branding guidelines are a 157 page book of rules and regulations that need to be followed to a “T”.  There were 4 months of revisions on 35 design comps done by a team of 10 designers. And SEM team works with the team of copywriters who then must work with a team of attorneys to make sure the content is sending the write message to the right people and not getting the company sued.  The site has streaming video, Flash applications and animations, integrated content management, guerilla marketing efforts like Youtube seeding and Facebook applications, Flash banner campaigns on every major new syndicate available, and a network of servers pushing all of this data with 99.99% uptime. 

    How much would you pay for that?  $100K, $500K, $1M, $5M, or $10M?

    A service should be priced based on how much money the client will make off of your abilities.

  • awesome! thanks for the info smile

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  • It is really a nice post, its always great reading such posts, this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information.We couldn’t agree with you more. In my follow up article I address your concerns regarding the freelance industry in more depth and feel you are spot on.  Thanks for the post.

  • Rachel

    I agree with many of your points.  Everyone needs a website.  I do feel that your prices are very unrealistic.  It does not take 12,000 or even close to get a CMS website.  You can find many companies with great design for under 2,000.

  • Harry Casimir

    Hello Rachel,

    Thanks for stopping by. See rascalpants respond above.

  • I agree to some of your points but it is not always that the amateurish designers don’t come up with a perfect website, many times they do come up with good designs!

  • What are some tips when getting a freelancer to design a website?

  • Those who have a ample budget as well as want a professionally designed website, this post can help them to get a rough idea about the cost of a website.

  • rigsby

    Being a South FL freelancer (graphic and web design) and an ex-F&B employee, I can’t help but notice some inconsistencies in the comments to this post. The prices outlined here can be either realistic or unrealistic, depending on who you are hiring to do the job. In regards to rascalpants response, I agree that in a perfect world, services “should be priced based on how much money the client will make off of your abilities”, but it would be nice to know where that crystal ball is that tells us which local restaurants will end up being the next TGI Fridays (or, if we want to get local to Atilus, consider Hooters). TGI Fridays and Hooters both had major investors behind them. Most local mom-and-pops do not, and they are taking a financial risk by paying $XXXX for a site that might help their business or might not. Besides, most big corporations start with everything. They can afford to pay one big firm to handle all their marketing needs, from logo design to corporate ID to website design to marketing and radio, etc. etc. etc. It’s one-stop shopping. If a company has a graphic standards manual, chances are that they aren’t going to hire the firm or person to that didn’t write it to design their website.

    Also, rascalpants references SEM. Maybe that local restaurant can’t afford to pay for keywords. They are going to rely on careful planning and SEO, and with patience and an attentive designer/developer, it will pay off for them.

    Also, I take umbrage with this remark which seems to be regarding freelancers; “the gap is beginning to seriously widen between web amateurs and professionals. Can you still get a website for $500? Sure you can, but it will not display and operate like a professionally designed website will and it will be as ineffective and unsuccessful as the individual who designed it.” Whether or not this statement was meant to attack freelancers (or just the kid who took an HTML class in high school and offered to design a site), it is extremely negative. So, the fourth-year web design honor student who needed some extra money to upgrade to CS4 and only charged $500 for that site is ineffective and unsuccessful? No, he needs the money and the work for his portfolio so he can continue to be more successful. In addition, I have seen glaring oversights in websites that cost a bundle and were created by large firms.

    I realize that this was written by someone who is part of a design firm, but there are a few big differences between firms and freelancers that are not addressed. First off, freelancers don’t have much overhead, hence they can offer lower prices. Secondly, most freelancers don’t take on more work than they can handle, and since they cannot take on as many projects at one time, they have an exclusivity that big firms don’t. Thirdly, having no overhead costs to worry about, they can work with potential clients when pricing becomes a hurdle. I have made less of a profit on a job because I want the business I am working with to be successful, and that made the client happy, which meant many recommendations from them and more business for me. Lastly, the one thing my clients have all told me: I am more attentive and hands-on with their projects than a firm would be (or, in some cases, was). They can call me on the weekends, and I am there to address their thoughts. I don’t have to tell them I need to talk to the SEO guy to see what’s going on and call them back, I can answer their questions on the spot.

    I started freelancing when I decided I wanted to continue my education and couldn’t continue a full-time job with a firm. It has since turned into a lifestyle choice, and I make more freelancing than I did when I was working for a firm, and I definitely have more fun.

    Comparing firms and freelancers takes a bit more consideration, as does the pricing scales for either. I support my local businesses. Many local businesses support local freelancers, and for more reasons than the price.

    • starsha

      Is there any way I may contact you personally regarding you doing some work for me?

      • Zach Katkin

        Hi Starsha, Absolutely – we’ve actually just reached out to you and provided you with a few materials to start. Thank you for your interest.

  • Wed designing is a task which needs a lot of patience and hard work and creativity.
    I don’t think it can done at low cost. How much should we rely on cheap website designing

  • I’ll give you a better site than this guy can for the same price.

  • We couldn’t agree with you more. In my follow up article I address your concerns regarding the freelance industry in more depth and feel you are spot on.

  • Quite inspiring,

    This is a very useful article to work out the costs of setting up a buisness,

    Anyway, thanks for the post

  • I read it very well this post. And it was very interesting to me.

    Green Laser Pointer, Laser Pointers

  • Nice and detailed explanation about the cost of the web designing. Every designer must link to this page, if someone mail then to get a quote from them. Fantastic job smile

  • Nice article……..fine. web site cost describing various considerations, such as domain costs, server space fees, keyword rich content, site design considerations, SEO, …

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  • I do agree with some of your points. its really good read. I am feeling great to know all these from you.

  • Hard to believe how much some of the big name companies will pay for their domain names.

  • I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make reader to read the while thing to the end. I would like to read more of your blogs and to share my thoughts with you. I will be your frequent visitor, that’s for sure.

  • Website makes us recognize on the internet as it is one of the most powerful marketing tools we can take advantage of today. With a quality website design and domain name, generating business should be a cinch, even for those who know less about computers and the web.

    Thanks for sharing..

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  • Thanks for useful tips and guidelines!

  • although the post is 2 years old it still gives some valid points, although now at 2000 usd you cant really do much – even if its basic..

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  • I decided I wanted to continue my education and couldn’t continue a full-time job with a firm. It has since turned into a lifestyle choice, and I make more freelancing than I did when I was working for a firm, and I definitely have more fun.

  • I wanted to continue my education and couldn’t continue a full-time job with a firm. It has since turned into a lifestyle choice, and I make more freelancing than I did when I was working for a firm, and I definitely have more fun.

  • Its called ‘Rip off’
    Instead of buying a custom made website, try a template which costs $50.
    For CMS there is always open source sites.
    If ur retarded, you will spend more than $100 for a website/ CMS site..

  • Web designing I guess is the most intricate task of a web programmer cos end-users has unending demand towards a certain site which is why a certain website has also an unending development.

  • Thanks for great tips!

  • Determining how much a web site should cost is one of the most frequently asked but rarely answered questions in the web design world. Anywat thanks for this posting. best wishes……

  • Nice job, it’s a great post. The info is good to know!

  • Generally it boils down to: what is the site worth to the client? Then cut the cloth accordingly

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  • Adley

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  • Peter Thorneycroft

    Reading this post, My first reaction, as a professional myself, was that your prices were substantially too low (at least 50%).
    Then I browsed through your portfolio, and changed my mind. For work of this quality, they are about right.

  • I can only agree that most work is sold under value, specially when it comes to custom coding. Sure, any 2 year PHP developer can setup a DB, and add a few functions, but to have a foolproof system and an outstanding design, costs are way higher, as there’s not only the design needed, but test phases, coding itself, obeying to web standards, accessiblity, security and much more. No home-designer will get such a page done in a way that could satisfy those requirements, which once more makes it clear that professional website design is more than just clicking a page together in photoshop & dreamweaver.

  • I am a designer at Insigniasports.com.

    The company wanted to upgrade our site with a CMS and a custom designed e-commerce that handled complicated ordering/currency/ shipping and tax issues in 3 countries in 2 languages. 

    Myself and the other designer (we both design sites but in the $2000+ range) said to get this done professionally the company would need to spend somewhere near the $30,000 to $35,000 mark.  The best of the respected outfits came back with a $25,000 to $30,000 range.

    Against our advice they got the site done out of India for less than $7,000. Well you guessed it it all turned to shite. The design/CMS was ok but the commerce side cost us customers. They then got a lower quality local outfit to try and bandage the site for another $12,000. They just made it worse. So it was all rebuilt properly for $25,000. 6months and $44,000 later – they got what they wanted with a serious lesson learnt.

    Designers who offer a better job for less are out of their minds. You are undercutting your own industry. Value add instead of charging less or discounting (this is basic business). Charge your worth and live well. If you charge low $ for many hours well you’re saying you’re not worth much. You and your work will get lost in the ether.

    • ccq

      thanks for this article and to everyone for the comments, very enlightening!
      i have done websites for others as a moonlighting job for years, since it’s not my main job i don’t do much research into the business end, so it’s great to see what other people are charging and how they’re running the web design business.

      @ derek cook, sometimes you have to go with what the market will bear. i’ve been steadily charging more over the years as i get more experience, but there always seems to be a cap on what my [very niche] market will pay. rest assured though, my prices tend to be about $1 less than that cap ;)

      i agree with the other poster about how a lot of the site’s cost is invisible- the soundness of the coding behind the site, the customer service, etc. i’m expensive for my niche but i’m easy to get ahold of and my code is pretty rock-solid, so i feel comfortable charging extra for those assurances. most of my websites look good and work fine for years on end.

  • deneme. thanks

  • it can be really counterproductive and demoralising to come off the back of a job unsatisfied. The feeling merges into future projects and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

  • i 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!

  • Worst of all is that many are deceived with sites priced “popular”, which most often are just templates ready running under a CMS platform. And not even took care to design consistent with the company’s visual identity, usability of the site.

  • Mark

    Grateful I tripped into this article! Finally, arrived what I followed seeing for to invest on my school report… Thanks for partaking this.
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  • Cordia Vidler

    Terrific This really is one of the most informative sites I’ve ever read on this subject.

  • Heather T

    Thank you so much. Just beginning to dip my toe into web development and design and I’m HOOKED! This article was fantastic! Quick question. Your pricing in your sub-headings don’t seem to always match the pricing in your text. Was that intentional?

    Ex:

    Custom Website – $1500-$3500

    $2500-$7500 ….

    • Zach Katkin

      Hi Heather, thank you for stopping by and pointing out this error – I made it when revising the prices last year. I’ve actually updated the post a lot and corrected the mistakes. Thank you again for your help and best of luck in the web development world! If you ever need anything let us know.

  • Thanks for taking the time to share with the industry the value of some services. It’s important to note that not all web firms are created equal. You really do get what you pay for. Some firms charge a fee for design but don’t really go over creative briefing/discovery or strategy. With these you get a design but it may not fit all your goals. Other firms do dive into “packaging” you so you get a more custom design. Some observations with current industry trends are that most custom web designs by a real firm (not a freelancer) are going at $5000-$12000 to start. Add database functionality with users/authentication interaction and most of these projects with creative start at around $15,000-20,000. More complex functionality with e-commerce, reporting, etc. expect to have a budget of at least $25,000 to start. Good luck and happy shopping. Be sure to provide all the high level expectations of your project as web firms can’t guess all of the needs you may have.

    • Zach Katkin

      Hi Shad, Awesome observations and thanks for stopping by – we appreciate your insight.

  • andre

    wow this was a lot of gfreat info. i am a web designer myself and i have a friend who wants to develop a social networking site. i tried to explain to him that to do a site of that magnatude, its gonna require a lot of money and time. now he can see that i wasnt lying!!! thanks a lot!!!

  • […] even took the time to create a whole write up on the topic over on my main site entitled “What Does a Website Cost?” and to this day – even after years of being up (and years of edits) it’s still one of the […]

  • While these prices are reasonable considering the amount of work put into these projects, $2000 is still out of range for the small mom and pop stores and local professionals.

    I agree you really can’t get a quality customized site for much less unless you offshore a lot of the work, however the most important aspect of the web development really isn’t having the nice shiny website. It’s being able to generate traffic from the website and that has whole lot more to do with SEO and website marketing than it does with website design.

    • Zach Katkin

      Hi Charles,

      Thanks for stopping by. In part we’re completely on the same page – the success of any website lives or dies on it’s marketing. A great site however, takes a lot of time for more reasons that just “good design” in fact I’d say that’s much less of the process than say communication, and making sure all of the particular technical components are setup correctly and are communicated to the client, and they’re able to navigate them quickly. For example, we just got done with a client that loved the idea of an RSS feed, but needed the single feed split into multiple categories and then that hooked into an email newsletter. So, they can post quickly to their website and get the SEO benefit – and then their newsletter tool auto-pulls that data and feeds it to customers interested in that category. A process that took may be a few hours (and a few $hundred$), but saves countless hours and has already led to a return – in a week or two.

      Zach

  • […] practically built this company on being the experts when it comes to web design pricing. Years ago, our sales director at the time – Scott – wrote the post with my guidance […]

  • It’s nice that you try to make a pricelist of getting a website done, but I don’t think you can expect these prices to hold water everywhere.

    Often, the prices depend on the person/company you use for the work and other, similar factors.

    Just think how much cheaper it will be to have the work done in India than in the US.

  • There’s a couple of factors in the price of a website that the comments have failed to touch on. Can you get a website for $500-1000 from India, Pakistan, Russia, or even right here? Sure you can. But do those freelancers have a vested interest in whether your business succeeds or not? Maybe they do, but often times they do not.

    I have worked a little bit as a freelancer, and almost every client I worked with needed their site fixed from the previous freelancer who built it. That’s not how you want to present the face of your business. When you choose who is going to build your website, you are choosing a business partner. You are deciding who is going to build the very representation of your business. If it were myself, I would look for someone who I could trust, someone who I could communicate with, and who would be there for follow up.

    Most businesses realize that they need a decent website. They may not have the budget for all that they really need. But, in the words of Jeffrey Zeldman, it is more important to do a subset of the job right, than to do the whole project wrong.

    Clients usually know a little bit about the website building process, but they don’t know enough to do it themselves. Some freelancers do a decent job, but many slap a site together without testing it, without web standards, or without concern to what objectives the site is even intended to exist for. When you hire someone to build your web presence, you are hiring them for their expertise, not just code.

    • TOTALLY spot on. It’s an issue on both sides. The average person can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on web design and their typically ignorant about how the who process works. This makes them easy targets for sub standard service providers because people doing the hiring don’t know what they don’t know.

  • […] ago, I even took the time to create a whole write up on the topic over on my main site entitled “What Does a Website Cost?” and to this day – even after years of being up (and years of edits) it’s still one of the […]

  • […] I even took the time to create a whole write up on the topic over on my main site entitled “What Does a Website Cost?” and to this day – even after years of being up (and years of edits) it’s still […]

  • Michelle

    Thank you for the article! I am currently working on a customs wordpress.org site for a client who thought $15/hour to buildout the site (with a $1000 cap) was realistic. The bigger issue obviously is just the time spent, the small details, etc.

  • […] ago, I even took the time to create a whole write up on the topic over on my main site entitled “What Does a Website Cost?” and to this day – even after years of being up (and years of edits) it’s still one of the […]

  • Brandon Swenson

    I liked how to categorized the different levels of website development and actually attached pricing to them. It’s a good move by you guys. :)

  • Mark

    I have offered to design my landlord’s consultancy website which is based on Joomla, for £250. For a custom design, logo and branding advice thrown in. I whipped up a very simple draft version in 2 days of coding.

    I am by no means a professional designer; what tips and techniques I have garnered over the years are purely from trial and error.

    This article is indeed very interesting for hobbyist designers such as myself that are looking to venture into the world of professional development at some point in the future.

    Thanks Kevin.

    P.S. I hope you do not mind me plugging myself here. I am willing to speak to any small business that is looking to start a venture online. I can be contacted via email: markwhit86[at]hotmail.com. Regards.

    • Zach Katkin

      Thanks for your reply Mark. It’s interesting to hear your story. And congrats on landing a project with your landlord.

      Certainly, when we first started our rates were different (about 1/3 of where they are today). However, I’d say getting them to a higher level is important – not just to make money, but more to account for everything (all overhead, computer, power, software, etc.) and to smooth out dips in activity (ie have a savings as a company or personally to be able to weather storms). A client might need help in 6 months for 2 hours… will you still be in business and available to allow this to happen? Will you leave them abandoned, cold and alone in a hosting environment where they don’t have any access – and even if they did – no idea what to do next? EVERY. SINGLE. BUSINESS. We talk to has experiences like this. Their budgets get eaten up by crappy business people who don’t care about these concerns. It’s a tough choice to make – to raise your prices. You fear losing customers. You fear what you can accomplish.

      But ultimately I think clients deserve to pay more for this stuff – because we know we care, we know we’re working hard to provide a great site that provides a return on investment for a client, and we know we’ll be there when shit hits the fan.

  • Sharon Jackson

    I live in rural Canada. If I charge what you suggest, unfortunately I would get little work. But I LOVE this page, because when my clients turn pale and want to throw up at the $1,500 price I give them, I send them to this page to educate themselves. Thank you very much.

  • Austin

    Hey guys just wanted to say thanks. I typically use your site to show my clients what professionals charge, and why i charge only a couple hundred dollars (i know that isnt much.)

  • kevin

    i want to have a website which concerns tourism.how basic or complex can it be and how much will it cost me to make one?sorry its not a comment but a question.

  • simon browning

    Great article.

  • HeadChannel

    So prices are high undoubtedly. But these are prices for a top quality products, using fresh solutions, with full support. Sure you can get a website done cheaper, but who want’s to risk thier brand in this highly digitilized world?

  • College kid

    After reading the informative blog post and learning that there are still a few transparent digital agencies out there I had to leave my 2 cents, however inexperienced it may be.

    I agree with the prices that you charge since you have the track record to back it up along with a well designed / branded website of your own as an obvious testimony (side note, I love the faint white background patterns on your site). I am a college student and do not study design but do earn a healthy income through freelance link building where I show a direct correlation between my actions and my clients ROI to justify my prices. Not to sound derogatory, but how can web design agencies in general claim ROI, or any kind of financial gain, as a factor for their pricing since there is no way to prove such claims -unless they are providing continual A/B testing-?

    Not looking for a fight but just an honest response.

    Secondly, – I know im going to sound like the devils advocate but I promise it’s just the marker side of me mixed with intellectual curiosity since I know how hard design is – when you say that a basic website is between 1,000-2,000$ and that is does not

    “allow you to interact 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”

    isnt that a bit of a stretch now a days? I know from personal experience that for under 500$ one can use adobe muse/adobe BC to create a fully functional website that includes all the necessary features and then some without any coding knowledge at all? I admit, it will be nothing like a custom website designed by you guys, but it will still be better than 80% of local business websites which are from the 90’s and/or are designed by web design agencies that charge your price and dont provide the basics like having a response design?

    To end my rand of questions which will probably cause a mob of angry web designers to troll my sites (just a joke lol)

    I agree with your pricing but personally think the vast majority of web design agencies (or former media companies) do not have your skill and expertise and therefore are not justified in charging similar prices (i am judging said design companies solely on their website and their branding elements of their own blog, most of which lack originality and creativity). But I know the agencies that I am referring to do not represent anyone here on this blog.

    Once again, great post and even better feedback from the readers.

    • Zach Katkin

      Hey Ryan, Thanks for your awesome comment – taking the time to read and then leave all that you left. Happy to answer your questions.

      1) ROI w/Websites – Your question about how do we prove an ROI. Typically our clients choose to start with a website and continue with an ongoing online marketing relationship. In both cases (either website or a website + marketing) ROI is simple to prove – but not always easy to communicate. This is something we struggle with and I was just talking with a partner agency about. With this we certainly do A/B testing, but with site relaunches we can show traffic increases, purchase increases, etc. and a/b typically comes after a relaunch as we refine messaging, images, etc. I like the way you justify your own services with an ROI report to your client! We’re completely on the same page and strive to do that as an agency (because if it weren’t for our clients – we wouldn’t exist!).

      2) Lower End Pricing – You’re right. And I’m right ;). Now a days this is certainly possible. The question comes down to expertise, patience, and willingness to learn. Our basic-basic sites are done with HTML and because of that have no “system” to login or update. They rarely include even a paypal link or something similar – because of budget requirements. Example here would be something like: http://www.bonitaboatshow.com – a nice site, simple, but even as simple as it is – it took time to gather all the materials, meet with clients, setup hosting, and assemble. As for the tools that are available, anyone can go to Squarespace, or another service for $20, and do it themselves, but we don’t cater to that market, and ultimately most are unwilling – or don’t have the time – to do it themselves, let alone all that goes behind it. With something like MUSE, that’s FAR too complicated for the average business owner to understand – even though it simplifies so much.

      3) Agency Pricing – Appreciate this and many times we feel the same. Locally we’re just looking to elevate the market – because as we’ve always said, our clients aren’t just competing with their local competitors – they’re (in essence) competing against the likes of Facebook, Yahoo, Etc. – in that this level of care and design is what users are accustomed to and respond to.

  • […] ago, I even took the time to create a whole write up on the topic over on my main site entitled “What Does a Website Cost?” and to this day – even after years of being up (and years of edits) it’s still one of the […]

  • […] to Atilus, the market average for a custom website (one that is created with functionality and design in […]

  • Richard

    Very good article. I do custom websites and it’s true, you do get what you pay for.

  • Luis Rosado

    Hey Zach great stuff, Quick question as for your CMS, is this your custom application or when you refer to CMS are you speaking about wordpress as the CMS?? Thanks.

  • Patricia McCaule

    You totally nailed it here. Definitely get what you paid for. Websites are not just expenses but assets that generally have a 3-5 year life expectancy.

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