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How Much Does a Website Cost?

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 ( – 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.

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Kristen also has a background in digital marketing, and has been working in the digital marketing space since 2012.

Recent Comments | 12 Comments
  • Avatar
    James Tryon

    I have just started working on a project that 4 years ago I updated some old CF4 code that at the time was out dated and worthless. I told them my price and they said I could have a shot at it but they needed to wait a little bit. will 2 years pasted and nothing. Then I contacted them at the beginning of the year, and they just hired a team to do it for 5k. I told them good luck and that is way to low for all they need done.

    Will like I said at the beginning of my comment. I just started working on the project because the other team dropped the ball and took the money. People like that hurt the Biz and give us all a bad name. Just like listed two other place in this post and comments, the client is now out all that money plus my cost.

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Steele

    Looking at it from another standpoint…
    I teach a class on building internet based businesses at a local CC. My students (mostly business owners) take a minimum 3 hours of class for 10 weeks and another 8 hours a week for 10 weeks to just get the site to about 3-15 pages, all optimized.

    So depending on what what your time is worth, it is not out of line with what your figure is for a basic site. The difference is the time and in their case learning curve.

    For those who cannot afford your prices, consider the market disruption theory of how markets work before you let them out of the door to go to a competitor.

    When people have a job to be done and they have a choice of the market disruption or nothing, they will buy the disruption even if it is not as good as it could be.

    By embracing this model, as people move up the value chain, they will see the value of and be able to afford people like you to build their sites. And they will be able to do the basic daily tasks that need to be done with out having to wait or find someone.

    It could be a wonderful thing.

    Well, at least it is proving to be for me.

    I am new to all of this and I couldn’t see the value in the expense until I build my first site.

    The DIY and Class model fit the market disruption theory. And they will be needing professional services in the future (as I have and do) where they will be knocking at your door.

    Only not as a disgruntled customer who has already wasted their money and now has to spend more. They will be there as an educated customer recognizing your value.

  • Avatar
    Website Design

    I can really relate to this post.  For many years I was offering my services for far less then what they are worth.  Thank you for helping to put this pricing out there for the clients to see the truth.

  • Avatar

    Zach, I really like this article. It’s frustrating me as a web development company’s owner to see potential clients go with my competitors just for the price and later report back to me because they cannot get in contact with their designer or he/she cannot deliver. In return I take them as clients and charge the same amount I would have charge in the first place. At the end he/she pays more (Cheap designer + My Company). Something the client could have paid less, once, and no need to become a web designer (bounty) hunter while paying for it.

  • Avatar
    Scott L Clark

    Brilliant. Simply brilliant. And if you wish to read the controversial article that inspired this blog post here it is-

  • Avatar
    Brett Bisbe

    Wonderful article! I run across this argument in the networking field and have used the same reasoning in my rebuttals (mostly referring to a car mechanic). I don’t think people appreciate the technology industry because compared to most other industries (doctors, lawyers, etc…) we are in our infancy. With that said and this being a young industry everyone and there bother thinks they can do it cheaper, which they can without all that planning, research, professionalism, and quality that we expect.

  • Harry

    (LOL). Nice outfit DC.

  • Avatar

    I hope he thought it was as funny as I did. BTW, your website rocks. You have a SOLID portfolio, keep up the great work! Look forward to more posts. Thanks

  • Avatar
    Zach K.

    Hi Debbie, thanks for stopping by. Yes, this is one of our amazing PHP developers Devin. I cornered him in the office just a few minutes ago smile

  • Avatar

    The picture is priceless..Is this one your employees?

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