How Much Does a Website Cost?

Subtitle: Meditations on the cost of a website, addressing the developer community.

How much does a website cost? Well… that depends. How much does a building cost? “Ballpark figure. If you had to give me a number?” All buildings are different. Is this a manufactured home you’re thinking of? A commercial building? Perhaps a beautiful lake front mansion with marble Romanesque columns. I guess the answer should be… it depends. And web development is not much different.

I can’t believe that it would take a company apparently as professional as yours upwards of 12,000 to make a blog. Either you’re ripping customers off or you’re incompetent. One framework could be re-used thousands of times, saving you time and your customers money. Yes, each site needs its own modifications, but if you build a solid framework you can run pretty much anything off it.

How much does a building cost?

I’ll address this comment later, but first of all I would like to thank Scott for writing and publishing his great article on our blog to which the above was a comment – just a few weeks ago. He was really able to sum up “what does a website cost.” Without going into full detail on everything mentioned here is just a brief break down of what was discussed regarding the cost of a good website:

  • $1000-$2000 Basic Design Website
  • $3000-$7000 Custom Design Websites visually attractive, completely unique design
  • $7000- $12,000 Content Management System (CMS) Websites
  • $12,000- $100,000+ – totally custom situations, implementation of more advanced design & programming, etc.

Visit the Complete Article – What Does a Website Cost?

Internally we had discussed the idea at length writing an in-depth article about how much does a website cost and, finally decided to hit “publish” after weighing everything. We effectively laid all of our cards on the table, allowing our audience, the web developer community, our competition and future clients to understand how much this web stuff costs. The truth is the biggest thing we were concerned with in writing and publishing an article like this would be backlash from the web community or independent developers. Ultimately, the benefits outweigh the negative we have to educate the community on the steps, time, and price involved in a proper web presence.

Personally, I am sick and tired of hearing two things from new or potential clients:

1. I took my project out to bid and am getting numbers all over the place! One company says $1500.00 and one company says $100,000.

2. I just got out of a terrible situation with a developer that under performed. The design was all wrong; he couldn’t do what I asked, he/she was never there, I can’t get a hold of them, etc.

too many [developers] are selling themselves short or under delivering

We work very closely with all of our clients, and to hear stories like this from potential clients, it is a huge blow to our industry and in many ways our individual business. But, everyone needs to understand, both people purchasing or thinking about purchasing a website as well as developers (companies and individual contractors alike), that this is a reality, that this is our industry, and that something must be done. Internally we’ve drawn parallels of our industry to the Wild West, or the dark ages, both in terms of technology as well as the professional industry’s formation. The web is this mysterious “thing” and those who can harness its power, alchemists. But, overall there are too many people either a) selling themselves short or b) under delivering creating an ecosystem that is simply not sustainable.

At the end of the day one must realize that the web development and Internet marketing business is similar to many service based industries an attorney, a doctor, an accountant the cost is not based on materials it’s based more on man hours, education, proficiency, benefit, and reputation. But unfortunately, “Corporate Attorney” as a profession is much sexier (or more respected by parents)  at the moment than “PHP Developer”.

(one day “php developer” will be sexy)

Much like all of these services you can do this yourself. You can create your Will, do your taxes, perform an applendectomy (removing your Adams apple), even make your own website (by far the most dangerous and bloody of those services just listed), and indeed many times you should. There are lots of resources available to help you in your journey and great software that will help you do so. But, at a certain point it may behoove you to move to a professional. At that point, do you choose a reputable professional, based on experience, track record, etc., or do you choose one solely on price?

Unfortunately, almost everyone has been there, or I should say come from there. You chose a product or service solely on price and then find out it wasn’t exactly what you needed or didn’t solve the problem you had. Ultimately, if you stick with this kind of product or service, it often ends up costing much more than was actually saved in down time and lost productivity.

And that brings me to my big point about the cost of a website and my direct address to developers.

How valuable is your time?

Most of us have the capacity to learn, and do, much of the things we pay others to do. You can read a car manual, practice on your beat up old truck, and then eventually be capable of solving your own engine or car troubles. But, instead you didn’t do that. You went to a mechanic.

You’re a business owner, a pharmacist, a dog breeder, you’ve specialized in a trade or service (hopefully one that you love), relying on the expertise and experience others can provide, as well as the time (and money) saving that this specialization and expertise affords. So developers reading this article… how valuable is your time?

At the beginning of this article I included a nasty comment we recently received from a commenter on Scott’s recent article, “What Does a Website Cost?”:

I can’t believe that it would take a company apparently as professional as yours upwards of 12,000 to make a blog. Either you’re ripping customers off or you’re incompetant. One framework could be re-used thousands of times, saving you time and your customers money. Yes, each site needs its own modifications, but if you build a solid framework you can run pretty much anything off it.

We are by no means charging $12,000 for the blogging software (wordpress.org – free) or (in some cases) the content management software a website is built on. But, what we are charging for our time in planning, creating, and developing a site that not only matches the aesthetics a client is trying to achieve (and can immediately evaluate with their eyes and wrist movements), but also meets and exceeds their ultimate marketing and business goals. Additionally we are charging for our education, proficiency, benefit, and reputation as developers.

We develop:

  • A plan for production, maintenance, marketing, and break even & profitability ideas (selling advertising, determining lead goals, etc.)
  • a website that matches the way a client wants it to look and move, with our experience with end users as well as common web conventions.
  • a website that includes the colors, images, pictures, and text they need it to include and need generated/created.
  • a website that includes the back end functionality, reporting, accounting, etc. that needs to be incorporated.
  • a website that properly reaches, touches, and makes its target audience respond, through close attention to design detail, copy writing, keyword research, search engine optimization, etc.
  • a website that will grow with a company and allow it to truly meet the goals we’ve planned.
  • …and we build the future into the process.

That last item is perhaps most important. You must keep the future in mind! For the most part you can go through the above steps and create a website for nothing; substitute Dreamweaver for NVU, Photoshop for GIMP, host with Angelfire.  But, can you afford to do so forever? There will be times when companies need to update their website, add functionality, and need to do so right away! This seems to be one of the bigger problems plagued or not addressed by independent developers and many web design companies. You have developed, and will need to support, your clients’ business online. Many people’s livelihood’s may be at stake. In fact – if you’ve done it right – they SHOULD BE AT STAKE! Your website should be an indispensable tool for the company you built it for. It should familiarize potential clients with the team, help shorten sales cycles, generate leads, generate REAL revenue. And we develop a team around each company and website we work with to help create ideas that will build our clients’ business online.

What we develop, these steps we go through to create these successful web presences, require professionals, experts in their fields, which we are honored enough to have here.

Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin is the co-founder & CEO of Atilus. He is a Certified Google Professional, author, and lover of technology. He helps Atilus stay out ahead of online marketing trends and loves driving results for Atilus' clients.

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Recent Comments | 12 Comments
  • dmk
    Reply

    this and the companion article are both excellent. thanks for them.

  • Dave Kaye
    Reply

    I’m with you on every other thing you’ve said here, but RE: “Corporate attorney v. PHP developer” while I certainly have nothing against PHP developers (having been one myself), anyone can pick up a few books and call themselves one. 

    An attorney has at least been to law school, and passed some level of certification proving competence.  (As I think/hope will be the case with developers some day.)

    So a CS undergraduate and graduate degree, meaning you’ve spent 7 years studying to be a PHP developer—or its equivalent—then yes, that should be comparable pay.

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