This post has been updated a number of times throughout the years. This is currently it’s 5th 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? 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…
What it Costs to Build a Website
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?
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, but brought in MORE BUSINESS!
Now, what does a website cost?
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.
Basic Website – $10/month+ or $2000 – $5000
For 2015, we’re splitting this section out into 2 parts:
1) If you hire a developer: $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 created in the $2000 – $5000 range. This website will 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 $$$).
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 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.
2) If you 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.
A Proper Site (update it yourself) – $7500- $30,000
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.
Previously our pricing was in the $3000- $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 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.
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 advanced functionality including 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.
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 planning, 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.
Need more? Read this.
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. Just 2 months ago an 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 downage 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.