The Brutal Truth of How Much it Costs to Build a Website

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The Brutal Truth of How Much it Costs to Build a Website

The Brutal Truth of Your Website Design Cost

You know that your website is critical for your business. With over 80% of research being conducted online prior to purchase, your website needs to be head-and-shoulders above the competition. But how much does website design cost? Whether you’re building a brand new website or giving your current one a facelift, there are tons of options out there for web design: free site builders like, freelance consultants, boutique web design agencies, and large digital agencies. The costs associated with each option are quite different as the level of service, expertise, and technical expertise greatly vary.

Another factor to consider when weighing the cost of a website goes beyond just money. Think about what you truly value. If you’re not a developer, do you have the time and patience to learn code? If you’re not a designer, do you have the time and will to learn the ins and outs of design? Consider what matters most to you. For example: if you’re a multi-tasking business owner who would rather focus on growing the business rather than learn new skills at the risk of a mediocre outcome, maybe you’d rather pay to have it done by a professional. Or if you’re a start-up, perhaps you value financial savings, and have the available time to dedicate to learning new skills. Figure out what you truly value and go from there.

Although we can’t give you a definitive cost of your website project, we can help you gain a better understanding of what you’re looking for, the value you’ll get, potential challenges you’ll face, and pros and cons of each web partner option.

The website design process

First, let’s dive into the stages of website design:

Step 1. Discovery
You meet with your selected web partner to discuss the ideas, requirements, and needs of the project.

Step 2. Planning
Your website partner will gain a deeper understanding of your brand’s look and feel, target customers, and start mapping out the core features, functions, and navigational items. In this stage, you’ll need to make sure that your content is primed and ready to go.

Step 3. Initial Designs
Your designer will present initial design concepts that reflect your branding, business and customer needs to ultimately drives your business goals. When you and your web designer have agreed upon a design layout, they’ll build out the rest of your website using the same look and feel.

Step 4. Testing & Changes
At this point, your site is ready for testing to make sure that all integrations, links, and features are working properly. Any required fixes will be done in this stage, and minor adjustments or tweaks can be made.

Step 5. Go Live
Hooray! Show the world how awesome you are.

Step 6. Maintenance
The digital world is constantly evolving, requiring everyone to frequently adapt and readjust. Your website will need to be scanned for security risks, your plugins will need to be updated, your content should be search engine optimized so people can find you, and your data backed up just in case the server goes down.

Website design costs to consider

Project Management
Having a single person to communicate with and hold accountable for deadlines, revisions and feedback, as well as managing developers and designers, can be the difference between a pleasurable experience with an incredible end result, and a disorganized, chaotic mess that puts you in a straight jacket. A great project manager keeps things moving smoothly, adheres to deadlines, and seamlessly communicates between you and the execution team.

All content should provide a deep understanding of who you are, what you do, and why it matters to the end user. Your text should be succinct, yet clearly convey your brand’s messaging, tone, and personality. Your images should be crisp, high-quality, and relevant to your company. Any video on your site should be professional, clearly communicate a purpose, and support your brand’s message by telling a compelling story.

Jaw-dropping visuals are a must. The entire look, feel and navigational structure are the most important pieces of your website. The design ties everything together: your business objectives, leads conversion path, content, brand – everything. The design must provide a seamless experience across all devices and cater to the needs and actions of your users.

This is often an overlooked consideration. However, complex integrations such as an inventory management system, scheduling software, accounting software, or other important integrations vital to your business will require more development time, adding to the project’s complexity.

Search Engine Optimization
You undoubtedly want your website to rank high in search results. It’s important to thoroughly research which keywords your target customers are searching for, and strategically place them in the site’s content, metadata, image alt-tags, URLs, product descriptions, etc.

Your site needs to live somewhere – and ya gotta pay rent. Monthly hosting costs largely depends on the size of your site, how often you want your data backed up, the amount of traffic your website receives, and any extra security measures you need.

Choosing the right web partner for your project.

So which option is best for your business needs? Here are some of the pros and cons of each available resource for building your website:

Do it Yourself


  • The smallest financial cost to build a website
  • Tons of tools, resources, and helpful information available via the internet.
  • You’re learning something new!


  • A heavy time investment is required to find the right website templates, create content, identify appropriate plugins, and troubleshoot issues that will inevitably arise.
  • Unable to integrate complex systems without spending lots of time learning IT backends.
  • Limited flexibility in features, functions, and design.
  • There’s a risk of the website not functioning properly or the design not turning out how you envisioned.


  • You get tons of one-on-one time with your freelancer.
  • They’re often cheaper than agencies because they have minimal overhead costs.
  • Their schedules are often super flexible, since they choose their own hours.


  • If you’ve got a strict deadline, make sure to ask about their workload as deadlines can get pushed back.
  • Skillsets are limited. You may need to hire multiple freelancers for various pieces of your website (development, design, content, etc).
  • There’s a risk they disappear, and it can be a headache trying to locate documentation or assets.
Small Web Agency


  • There’s not a huge overhead cost, so they can afford to provide reasonable rates.
  • There’s an emphasis of quality since there’s a higher level of accountability.
  • Culture is often a priority since the company size is more intimate. Happy team members are productive team members.
  • Team members are often knowledgeable across multiple areas and can provide valuable insights and recommendations.
  • Tons of experience across a variety of different projects, from startup to large projects.
  • Everybody is easily accessible if you need anything.
  • There’s a higher tolerance for change and adapting.
  • It’s a more intimate experience for the client.


  • If you need an expert in a specialized, niche area, it may be difficult to pinpoint everything you need. For example, if you need a HIPAA expert to write code to secure patient information across multiple platforms and applications, and write blog articles that adhere to the federal regulations of the healthcare industry, it could be challenging to find in a smaller agency if they don’t have specific niche expertise on-hand.
Large Digital Agency


  • There’s a wide breadth of professional skills at your disposal, often possessing niche expertise.
  • Processes are usually streamlined and efficient.
  • There’s typically a rigorous testing process to ensure the final product is accepted by users.
  • There’s multiple people’s input and recommendations.
  • Experience with highly complex integrations, project needs, and varying demands.


  • There’s a lower tolerance for project changes.
  • Communication can get messy quickly if there’s not a streamlined process in place.
  • The larger the team, the lower the level of accountability.
  • It’s easy for projects to get lost if there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.


So now that you know all the steps it takes to build a website, the website design costs to consider, and the difference between your partner options – you can now think about the next steps. Think about what you value most, what you need help with, and go with who you believe is the best fit for you to drive the goals you need your website to reach.

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