[last revision: February 5, 2018]
The cost of a website can vary quite a bit. It depends on how big the site will be, what functionality is needed, as well as the level customization/artwork you need for the site. Beyond that, you need to think about the ongoing costs of maintaining your site and periodically producing new content.
Create the site yourself?
If you are very limited on funds and want to create your own site, you have a number of options. WordPress.com offers free websites—there is a small charge if you want to buy a domain name (http://myname.com). WordPress.com has some limitations—you can’t upload WordPress templates within the free plan (you may only use the ones that they make available to you unless you pay for their business level plan). Other free services are Wix and Weebly.
A very nice, affordable paid service is SquareSpace. SquareSpace has a number of very professional templates from which to choose. The drawback of using a service like Wix, Weebly, or SquareSpace is that once you have created your website using that service, you will not be able to move it easily to a different service. WordPress sites are more easily moved. (For a detailed article on the subject of building your own website, check out “How do I build my own DIY website?” by my good friend, Mark Moran.) If you aren’t very techy or artistic, or you are too busy running your business, then you will probably want to hire someone to create your website for you.
To get a rough idea about the initial investment you will need to make, check out this website cost calculator: http://www.webpagefx.com/How-much-should-web-site-cost.html
How many pages do you need? Do the pages need to look different from each other?
It makes sense that the more pages you need, the more expensive the site will be. If a number of the pages will share the same layout, that can help keep costs down, but if you want different layouts for different sections, the costs will increase.
How much customization do you want?
Many designers start out with a template that they then modify by swapping out images and text. If you are happy with the look of the template from which they start, you may not need very much customization. It depends on the sort of customers that you want to attract and your budget limitations. If you want your website to have a unique look, or if you have very particular ideas about how things should look, then expect the site to cost more.
Can I write the content myself?
You can write your own content and many people do. If you want the best results, though, you may want to hire a copywriter, or even better, an SEO copywriter to either write your content or refine the content that you provide. Writers who specialize in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriting understand how to write content that is more effective at getting sites better rankings on Google and other search engines. Less is more with web content. An SEO copywriter will know how to distill your content down to the most important bits in a way that will communicate quickly to customers.
Do you want to be able to update the site yourself?
If you want to be able to go in and modify text, add events, swap out images in some places, and add your own blog posts, you will want to have your site designed in a “CMS,” or “Content Management System.” Some of the most common systems are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These systems allow anyone to maintain the basic content of a website without knowing anything about coding, though there is a bit of a learning curve to each one. At Great Big Lake our CMS of choice is WordPress.
Are there any other costs besides the fees to build the website?
In order to keep a WordPress site healthy, there is a certain amount of maintenance required. We recommend having your WordPress site hosted on a “managed WordPress host.” Increasingly these days, WordPress sites are hacked and/or infected with malware. Having your site on a managed WordPress host greatly decreases the chances of this happening because the host is monitoring their servers. Currently our host of choice is Flywheel. We include Flywheel hosting as a part of each of our website care plans. If you expect to have lots of visitors, web hosting could cost you anywhere from $300 to $10,000 a year depending on your traffic. Beyond that, there are other things that need to be done to keep a WordPress site healthy. For this reason we require all of our clients to be on a “Website Care Plan.” Our care plans start at $100 per month with varying levels of support. All plans include website hosting, site backups, plugin updates, database optimization, security and performance scans, malware cleanup, uptime monitoring, link checking, monthly reports, and access to WordPress training videos. Larger plans can include unlimited 30 minute support tasks.
Marketing/SEO is another added cost. A beautiful website is worthless to you if people aren’t finding it. The cost of promoting your site will depend on what you are offering and who your target audience is. If you are a local business trying to attract local customers, it will cost less than if you are, say, a shoe company and competing in the national/international market. Whoever designs your site should be asking questions about your target audience and the keywords that they will be using to search for a product or service like yours. “Onsite SEO” is the first step in attracting customers. It involves making sure that each page of your site has its keyword (or keyword phrase) on the page in strategic locations to help it rank as high as possible in search engines. Ad campaigns on places like Google or Facebook can also help as well as social media marketing. Another key to attracting customers is keeping your content updated and adding new, helpful content regularly to draw in new visitors and to demonstrate to Google that you are an active and alive business.
To break it down, here are the costs for a small to medium sized site that doesn’t need advanced functionality like a shopping cart:
|Domain name registration||$15—$60/year|
|Managed WordPress hosting||$160–$10,000/year|
|Premium plugin subscriptions for special functionality||$40–1,500/year|
|Website care plan/maintenance||$960–$3,600/year|
*Possible additional costs: copywriting/SEO copywriting, photographer fees, videographer fees, fees for stock images/artwork.