I Need a Website: Help!

May 11th, 2019

A question I get asked a lot is: “how much will this website cost?”

In short, the rather unhelpful answer is: it depends! 

Is this your first website?

If this is your business’ first website, or a small project with a limited budget, I usually recommend creating the first version of the site yourself. 

This is what tools like Squarespace were born for. It has lots of good looking templates that can get you started and the drag-n-drop interface is one of the most intuitive around.

Asking about the cost of a website is usually an indicator of one of the following:

  1. The business has a limited budget

  2. The business has little or no prior experience of commissioning a website

These situations are totally normal: even if the business has a reasonable budget, dropping a load of money on a site’s first concept may not be the best first step.

Building the site yourself lets you create a minimum viable product quickly and cheaply. You can then test demand for your service and build a custom or more professional site at a later point.

It’s also a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with the stages involved in creating a website. Working out the pages needed and menu structure (information architecture), thinking about layout and user experience (wireframing) and choosing colours/fonts (design). Let’s not forget the all-important content, either.

This might be a long and painful process at first, but it will make communicating with a pro much easier if you ultimately go down that route.

I’m going with a professional!

If you’re looking to upgrade an existing site or simply don’t have the time to build it yourself, what sort of cost are you looking at?

There are lots of factors that influence the cost of a website: the type of site, how extensive it is, who’s building it, what sort of functionality is involved and the platform it’s built on, amongst other things...

The best place to start is to think about your budget. What can you afford to spend on this? How much is the site worth to your business?

Pro tip: “as little as possible” isn’t a budget!

Deciding on an initial budget, however you decide on it, is important as it shapes the recommendations a designer or developer will make. For instance, if you have £2,000 to spend, they are likely to make different suggestions than a project with a £20,000 budget.

Being open about the budget helps initial conversations to start on the right foot, avoiding the frustrations that arise from conversations like this:

Client: How much for this website? 
Designer: Difficult to say: could you send some more details? Do you have a budget?
Client: It’s a few pages. We need a mailing list and some restricted content.
Designer: Ok. Have you thought about how you want the restricted content section to work? Do you have a budget in mind?

The client might feel that the designer is trying to extract the maximum budget. The designer is trying to get an idea of the project’s scale, wary of committing to a cost when the scope is so vague.

Being upfront about the budget means a designer can recommend a way forward that maximises the available budget.

Approaching a pro

The next step is to actually approach a designer, developer or agency. But where do you start?

Recommendations are always best, so ask your network before hitting Google. Narrow down the recommendations to 2–3, taking into consideration their aesthetic (whether that aligns with your business) and how previous projects have performed.

At this point, you’re likely to receive one of a few responses:

The costs are going to vary, so it’s important to try and compare apples with apples as much as possible. Ask for details about the process, what your site will be built on, how much design time is involved, the turnaround time, etc.

You’re likely to find there’s still a range of price points even when you’ve aligned the proposals as closely as possible. 

It will be tempting to go with the lowest quote or the quote that includes most of your spec, but this is a good time to go back over the portfolios. It’s also important to listen to the feedback on the original proposal, too. 

Perhaps some of the features could wait for a second version/stage? Perhaps it’s unnecessary?

“Oh, why do you charge more than most designers?”
“Why do you want work with me?”
“Because I really like your work!”
“There you have your answer."

Rafal Tomal

Other costs

In most cases, the quote you receive will only cover the design and development of the site itself. There are likely to be other ongoing costs associated with the site.

These might include: 

Budgeting for maintenance and updates is important, especially if your site is built on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Craft, Perch or Statamic. Not only do the updates help your site run smoothly, but they should help the site stay secure and prevent most common hacks.

As for content updates, most CMSs will allow you to make small changes (text/images/new posts) relatively easily. When it comes to anything requiring a new layout, it is almost always best if these are handled by a designer or developer.

How about some cold numbers?

Rates and services will vary. As of 2021, my rate for custom websites starts at £5,000.

Small business websites can be much more or much less than this, it really depends on what’s being offered: everything has its pros and cons. Putting together a rough budget is a great way to narrow options.

If you decide to start with something like Squarespace, bear in mind that it’s often possible to hire designers on a consultancy basis. This lets you tap into expert knowledge on making the most of your self-built site, avoid common mistakes and spend your time on the site’s most important areas.