October 13, 2021 | Web Design
Every business needs a website, but pricing for websites can be confusing. We decided to pull back the curtain to help you understand how we estimate the costs of designing and building a website.
How much does it cost to create a website?
Here are the factors that affect the cost of a website:
- the design
- writing and creating other content
- functionality of the site
- how it needs to support your marketing activities
- fees for licenses, plugins and ongoing maintenance
The design or look and feel of the site
It doesn’t cost more to have a beautifully designed site rather than an ugly one. But since we’re professional designers focusing on branding, we take a strategic approach to the design.
Custom design vs. prebuilt themes or templates
At Visible Logic, every website we create is custom designed. We never use pre-built themes or templates. There are two main reasons why we don’t.
First, we believe that small details about the colors, fonts, and layout are crucial for creating a web design that represents your brand and gives the best user experience. When you start with a prebuilt design, you may like 90% of how it looks, but getting that last 10% right takes too much time and can be frustrating.
Secondly, many prebuilt themes or templates are poorly built. They slow down your site because the code is not well written, or they have bloated features like animations that we rarely recommend to our clients because they can impact speed and performance.
Are your brand elements complete and ready to go
Your website is one of the most fundamental ways that you build your brand.
A good website will:
- Use colors, fonts and visuals that are consistent with your brand image.
- Clearly explain what products or services you sell.
- Make your key benefits and features understandable.
- Cater to your ideal customers.
- Give evidence of why you should be trusted with reviews, testimonials, or case studies.
Sometimes when we create a website, our client has all of this information already figured out. Other times, the website project forces them to get clarity about many of the details about their brand, sales process, and even their business model.
It’s much more challenging to create a website when establishing your visual identity or creating your value proposition from scratch, yet we do it all the time! As a potential client, you need to realize that we’re really starting our work with the branding fundamentals and then moving on to your website project.
How many design options do you want to see?
When we design a website, we first create a mockup of the design. Some of our clients like to see multiple design options, where others prefer to streamline the process and have us only put together one well-thought-out mockup.
Seeing only one design option is the fastest and least expensive option.
If your brand standards are already well developed and well documented, you may not need to see many different design options. On the other hand, if you have a new business, your website likely raises many opportunities and questions about your visual style and messaging. You may want to see two or three options for how these elements come together in a web design.
Who’s doing the writing?
Every word on your website needs to be written by someone. If you have an existing website and this is a redesign, you may have some copy that can be reused. If you have a printed brochure or a sales proposal, you may have language that can be adapted for your website.
In our experience, too many business owners gloss over how critical well-written copy is to the effectiveness of their website.
For this reason, we will always include copy editing or writing into our website estimates. If you have a brochure-style website, we will plan to review and update or write-from-scratch all of the copy on your website.
Many of our competitors do not include this type of work, and two things usually happen. Either the site takes forever to get completed because you now have a big copywriting project on your desk. Or the overall quality of the website is diminished because the copy was not written in sync with the design.
On smaller sites, we do all the writing. Or, we develop standards and templates that our clients can follow. For example, we create templates for product listings or employee bios to ensure they all include the same critical information, are uniform in style, and have the right keywords for search.
The quantity and type of content you want to display
On a website, the word ‘content’ refers to anything you display on your site. The most common items are written words and images. You may also have videos, forms, interactive charts, tables of data, or user-submitted content like comments or reviews.
Total number of pages on your website
Thinking about the total number of pages on your site is an excellent baseline to understand the size of the project.
A simple brochure-style website typically has about 4-6 pages. For a small business, these might include:
- Home page
- About us: where you talk about your company and your team
- Services, or what you offer: where you describe what you do and what you sell
- Validation page: where you show examples of your work and reviews, testimonials, or case studies from customers
- Contact: directions, hours, and a contact form
However, some people like to create long-scrolling one-page websites. Rather than break this content into multiple pages, the user scrolls down to get all the information on one page.
Additional pages added to the complexity of the navigation. With four to six pages, most sites will have their menu in a simple format like a horizontal bar. But when you get more pages of content, you will start to need sub-navigation.
All of this content needs to be:
- Organized into a logical navigation
- Written, edited, and proofread
- Posted into the website.
In addition to just additional content pages, you may have different types of content you want to display. Here are some of those common types of content.
Photos and other imagery
Alongside the words, photography or other imagery is probably the second most important content you’ll have on your website.
You don’t have to use photographs. You can use illustrations or just other design elements like colors, lines, and shapes. If you are going to use pictures or graphics, making sure that they are high-quality and the right visual style for your brand is critical. We’ve all cringed at stock photos that look cheesy and out of date. It’s tough for a website to promote a professional, high-quality brand image using cheap stock photos.
Depending on your business, stock photos are not an option. If you are selling a product, for example, you need actual photos of your product. Additionally, professional headshots of your team or photos of your interior space may be necessary.
Blogs are an easy way to regularly add content to your website, which is excellent for search engine optimization (SEO). Blogs automatically show your new posts in chronological order, and they are easy to categorize or create date-based archives.
A blog doesn’t have to be called a ‘blog’ in your navigation. You could consider calling: articles, updates, resources, or news depending on the content of your blog.
Here at Visible Logic, we build all of our websites in WordPress, and the blog functionality is easy to add to any site. Most people need the basic setup that comes ‘out of the box’ with WordPress. But there are a ton of ways you can make your blog more robust. These include:
- Customizing the style of the landing page
- Adding links to related posts
- Allowing comments
- Advanced categorizing or tagging
- Specialized search functions
Many online businesses, especially software companies, will want to add a pricing table to their website. These typically showcase different types of licenses or packages available along with their associated features and costs.
These tables can be challenging to build because they should:
- Show the different options in an easy-to-understand layout
- Often have areas that expand, link, or use tooltips for more information.
- Make it easy to read on both desktop and mobile
One of the great things about WordPress is that it’s easy to embed a video that you have hosted on YouTube or Vimeo. You can pick up the embed code and put it right into a WordPress page.
But, sometimes, a website looks better if these videos are embedded differently. You may want to have the video pop up in an overlaid player box, for example. Adding videos and then customizing how they play with the website can be small details that improve the user experience but increase the cost of the web development.
Other special content
You can do a lot with basic pages and posts in WordPress, but you may be looking for something more robust. Some examples:
- A photo gallery or slideshow
- A map showing locations or delivery areas
- A timeline of events
- Specialized listings of items such as the homes on a real estate site or employees on a website
Moving away from the standard vertical page, we can engagingly showcase your content. We usually build these areas of your site by using plugins or custom post types. From there, we customize and finesse the design to match the overall design of the site. This customization takes considerable time compared to just adding a plugin and going with the default settings.
Now that we’ve talked about the design and content of your site, it’s time to consider the functionality of your site. Will your site allow users to do anything more than just read what’s on-screen?
Brochure-style website or additional functionality
The functionality of your site factors into the cost.
If a website has no advanced functionality, it is often called a ‘brochure-style website. Like a printed brochure, the site will tell readers about your offerings and give contact information. It’s vital to use well-written copy and high-quality images to make your site have an impact. These simple websites are the most cost-effective and are often adequate for many small businesses.
Of course, many websites do much more than just display text and images. Here are some of the more common functionality that our clients request and details about their related costs.
Contact forms, e-newsletter sign up or CRM integration
We recommend that even the most simple website include a contact form. Yes, you can list your email address, but a contact form is easier for your users if they happen to be on a public computer or in another situation where they don’t have a regular email client.
Your contact form can be set up to email you automatically, and it can do much more like:
- alert more than one team member
- add the contact person to your email list
- store all of the form submissions, so you have them in one place.
Suppose you are using a CRM or marketing automation tool like SalesForce or HubSpot. In that case, your contact form should also integrate into that platform so that any submissions automatically get entered into your sales funnel.
Online scheduling and booking
Make it easy for people to make a reservation, book an appointment, or just set up an introductory call by adding a button to your website.
Probably the easiest way to do this is to set up a Calendly account and then allow people to book time on your calendar. Or, you can link to more robust tools like the MindBody app (great for gyms and salons), OpenTable (if you’re a restaurant), or EventBrite (for events).
Don’t forget that your web developer is just linking the online tool. Someone (you or your web developer) will need to set up an account, add information, style it, sync it with your calendar, set up payments, etc.
Login to a members-only area
Some small business owners have website content they only want available to paid users or members. This is typical for people setting up online courses or paid member groups.
The login functionality is usually only one part of the setup. There may be payment processing associated with the transaction. Or, there may be lots of content that need to be organized and accessible based on different membership tiers.
Allowing customers to buy right from your website turns your brochure-style site into an e-commerce site. Many variables can turn a simple e-commerce site into something very complex (and very costly).
If you’re selling one item, you can have a simple ‘buy now’ button. But once you have multiple products or variations on products, you’ll probably want a full-fledged shopping cart.
Since we build in WordPress, we recommend WooCommerce for e-commerce. Some of the factors that go into pricing an e-commerce site include:
- The number of items you’re selling
- The number and complexity of your product categories
- The type of options you need for each product (e.g., size, color, etc.)
- Shipping details and options
- The ability to offer coupons, discounts, etc.
How does your website support your marketing initiatives?
Your website nearly always plays a vital role in how you market your business and bring your leads into your sales funnel.
If your business mostly gains clients through referrals and networking, a brochure-style site is adequate. You should ensure that keywords like the owner’s name and company name are easily found in the search. Mostly, your website is a place for people to get an affirmation about the quality of your company. It should gain people’s trust by being professionally designed, have good quality imagery, and use reviews, testimonials, or case studies to prove your expertise.
If you plan to use digital marketing, you may want to have some fundamental tools.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
You want your website to show in search results, but how much effort do you want to spend to improve your rankings with Google?
Google, Bing, and other search engines scan your text for words and then show results when someone searches for those words. If you have a very competitive word, there are many other websites also trying to show up.
We always build sites that follow the best practice for search engine optimization. You certainly want to ensure that your site is near the top of the results if someone searches for your business name or the name of your key employee.
But if you want to increase your search ranking actively, you’ll want an SEO strategy. It will require good upfront research and an ongoing plan for continually adding content and optimizing the site. This may include:
- Researching the keywords to find out what has good search volume and how competitive the words are.
- Correctly formatting all of your content so that it’s discoverable by search engines. Make sure that you use keywords in heads and subheads and add in metadata where appropriate.
- Creating a content plan to add new pages to your site that uses the right keywords.
Advanced Google Analytics setup and goal tracking
We recommend adding Google Analytics to every website. Installing the basic tag code takes only minutes, and the data you get with this setup may be all you need.
But, many people want an easier way to figure out if their website is attracting the right users and getting these people to take action. Setting up reports or goals makes it much easier to analyze your website traffic. Sometimes, you’ll need to integrate your Google Analytics account into your third-party accounts to make sense of everything together.
Some specific goals we help people track are:
- Number of people who filled out a ‘request a quote’ form
- Number of people who purchased a product or booked an appointment
- Number of people who hit a paywall or put something into their shopping cart
Many business owners want to build their email lists to communicate with these prospects in the future. One way to do this is by offering an incentive for a user to give their email address. You might develop something of value like an e-book or an online evaluation tool.
When done effectively, these are a way to show off your experience while building your list of leads. But they require a strategic approach that includes:
- Creating an enticing offer that will attract people to give their email address.
- Writing the e-book, calculator, or other content pieces.
- Developing the mechanism of getting the email and distributing the content.
- Having a system to follow up with the lead.
Many of our clients want to quickly create one-off pages that don’t end up in the navigation. These pages may be used in their digital marketing campaigns or just as stand-alone pages for things like one-time events.
We help our clients make landing pages quickly by developing templates based on the website design but are meant to be used as single pages that someone clicks to from an ad campaign or for other promotional purposes.
What else will you need to make your website a success?
There are many more factors that go into understanding the actual cost of creating and maintaining your website.
Hosting and SSL certificates
Your website needs to be hosted somewhere. Hosts range from very cheap to very expensive. The cost depends on:
- Space and bandwidth. How extensive is the database that supports your site, and how much traffic do you expect? Most small business websites can use the starter packages.
- Reliability. Most web hosts plan for 99+% up-time, which means your site is up and functioning most of the time. These types of plans are the best value. But for greater reliability, you could consider an automated database backup or accounts that balance your load over multiple servers. You probably don’t need this for your small business website unless you have peak demand times where you just cannot have your site go down!
- Support. Many inexpensive hosting companies do not offer phone support or knowledgeable tech support. It often pays to have 24-hour, top-tier support, so if you ever do run into problems or have questions, you know you’ll be able to have help fixing it.
- SSL. SSL certificates are required for e-commerce sites but should be used on any website so that your viewers do not experience any security warnings.
Plugins and licenses
Plugins are added to WordPress websites to help make complex layouts or functionality. You might use a plugin to add e-commerce functionality to your site, integrate your contact form with your CRM, or make your pricing table look good. Plugin pricing can vary, and some involve ongoing costs to keep the plugin up to date or ongoing support.
Also, you might need to pay for licenses to use royalty-free photos or specialized fonts.
Ongoing updates and maintenance
You’ll want to keep your site up-to-date.
Content updates might include updating your team members, your store hours, or your specials. It also will consist of adding new blog posts or products to your online store.
Maintenance is more focused on updating the WordPress software and related plugins. Having your software out of date can be a security hazard. So budget time to make these updates or hire someone to do it if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
We offer retainer packages that cover both content and maintenance updates.
Get a ballpark estimate
Our website estimating tool can give you an idea of how much it would cost to have Visible Logic design and build your website.
Try the free website estimator now.