We work primarily with small businesses for whom budgets are often extremely tight. When every penny counts, how much should you be spending to get a website set up for your business? To a certain extent this is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string?’ kind of questions. Obviously a complicated website with many pages and lots of functionality is going to cost more than a simple brochure site with just a few pages. This post discusses the key factors influencing website pricing to give you an idea what a reasonable expectation might be.
If you don’t have a website at all then there are a few elements to consider, each of which is going to cost you money.
- What is a domain name?
- How much does a domain cost?
- How much does building a site cost?
- How much does hosting a site cost?
- How much does ongoing maintenance for your site cost?
We’ll consider each of these in turn, explaining what they are and how to determine what each is likely to cost you.
What is a domain name and why do I need one?
Your domain name is the address of your website. For example, our domain for this site is awesometechtraining.com. The first step to getting a domain is to see whether the domain you want is available. You can do this by checking with a domain name registrar such as GoDaddy or 123-reg. Simply go to their website, enter the domain you want into the search box and they will tell you if it’s available and, if it is, how much it would cost you to buy it.
Without a domain name you cannot have a website as visitors would have no way of finding it. That said, it is possible to have a website without buying a domain yourself. For example, if you use Google’s My Business website building service you might end up with a domain like yourbusinessname.business.site – the business.site bit belongs to Google. However, the disadvantage of this option is that you don’t fully own your own domain which means that potentially someone else could buy it and stop you from using it in the future, and you don’t have full control over your web presence.
Your own domain also makes your business look more professional as well as enabling you to have customised email addresses such as [email protected] rather than having to use a gmail, hotmail or other generic email address for your business.
For these reasons we would always recommend that you buy your own domain if at all possible.
How much does it cost to buy a domain?
Broadly speaking, how much the domain will cost you depends on how popular it’s likely to be. Popular domains including valuable keywords will be very expensive. For example, the domain insurance.com was reported to have been sold for $35 million – one of the most expensive domains every sold. However, many domains are available for just a few pence.
The other factor that may influence the price is the top level domain – that’s the suffix at the end of your domain. The most common (and hence most valuable) are generally .com and .co.uk but there are many other options available such as .site or .net that may well be cheaper. It’s always worth looking around for other options if you find that the .com version of your domain is too expensive or already taken.
It’s important to remember that when you register a domain, you are buying the use of that domain for a fixed period of time. At the end of that time you will have the option of renewing the domain or letting it lapse so someone else can buy it. The price will be influenced by the length of time for which you register the domain. Shorter periods of time will be cheaper as a one off charge but if you know you’re going to want the domain for a long time then registering it for a longer period generally gets you a much better ‘per year’ rate.
How much does it cost to get a website built?
This really is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question as the price will vary massively depending on what you need and how you want to go about building it. For small businesses it’s often more cost effective to learn how to use a platform like WordPress and build the site yourself, and that’s generally the approach we advocate where possible.
Our Build a Website in One Day with WordPress course costs £199 and gives you the skills you need to put together a simple website for your business yourself. It is very unlikely that you would find a web designed prepared to build you a website from scratch for this price. That said, there are certainly circumstances in which it would be better to hire a professional (as we have discussed already in this post about when to hire a designer and when to build your site yourself) so, assuming you’ve decided to go down this route, how much should it cost?
The factors that are going to influence the price are generally as follows.
Do you need a web designer and a web developer?
There are two different aspects to the work involved in setting up a new website. One is the design of the site (determining the look and feel of the pages, typically done by a web designer) and the other is the actual building of the site (putting together the pages, populating the site with content, making sure all the functionality on the site works and so on, typically done by a web developer). For relatively simple sites that don’t need a bespoke design it’s likely that the same person will do both tasks. If you require a new design, completely tailored to your brand or some complex functionality then it’s more likely that you’ll be working with two different people.
How large is the site and what functionality do you need?
The more pages and content you have, the more it’s going to cost to have someone lay them out for you. Of course, there’s money to be saved here if you’re prepared to do some of the work yourself. For example, you could get a designer to set up a template for each type of page that you need on your site (an example blog post, a product page, a general information page and so on) which you then populate with content yourself. A designer or developer will typically charge on a per page rate to set this content up for you, so you’ll easily be able to see what it’s going to cost to have someone else do it for you versus what it will cost to do it yourself.
A simple site, perhaps with just a contact form and not much other complicated functionality, will be relatively cheap to set up. As soon as you start adding more functionality the price goes up. Adding elements such as an e-commerce store or event bookings, for example, can increase the price significantly so think carefully about your ‘wish list’ of features and whether they are all things you’ll need right from the outset. One of the advantages of a content management system like WordPress is that it gives you the ability to easily add more functionality to your site as it develops over time rather than needing everything in place at the start.
Do you want something that’s completely unique to your organisation?
The more that something is bespoke and tailored to you, the more expensive it’s going to be. If you’re using WordPress then your choice of theme can be significant (there’s more advice on what to consider when choosing a theme here). If you’re happy to work with a free or relatively inexpensive theme which is then customised for you then that’s going to be significantly cheaper than if you want a bespoke theme to be built especially for your site.
Using a free theme doesn’t mean that your site is going to look like everyone else’s. You’ll still be able to put your own organisation’s spin on the site. However it will mean that you’ll have to work within the constraints of the theme which might mean that you need to compromise over certain aspects of the look and feel of your site, or invest in someone with the technical skills to tailor the theme – something that’s going to add to the cost of the project significantly.
Who do you get to build the site for you?
Assuming you want to employ someone to put the site together for you, your choice of developer and designer will significantly influence the price. There’s a whole range of options here, from large marketing agencies through to freelancers. Generally, the larger the organisation you’re working with, the more it’s going to cost you. Large web design agencies often have a minimum project size below which they won’t take on the work anyway so they’re likely to be beyond the reach of most small businesses.
Working with an independent freelancer is likely to be the cheapest option, and if you’re happy to work remotely with someone abroad then it can be extremely cheap (although that depends on how comfortable you are working remotely with someone). Sites like Fiverr can be a good source of overseas freelancers and prices can be extremely cheap. You can also post your project on a site like Upwork and freelancers will approach you with proposals. Ask around in your network for recommendations.
Be aware that, as with everything, you’re likely to get what you pay for. If a designer is extremely cheap then think carefully about why that might be. You should be conscious too that good web designers and developers have trained hard and developed specific skills that are worth paying for. Choosing someone to work with shouldn’t be just about price. A good designer or developer will add real value to your business and that’s something that you should be prepared to pay for.
Ultimately the cheapest option is often going to be to do it yourself. If your requirements are relatively straightforward then this is a proper viable option to consider. Don’t assume that you have to outsource this. Learning to do it yourself will also save you money in the longer term as you’ll be able to make changes to your site as you need them rather than always being reliant on someone else to do everything for you. This is the approach we advocate on our Build a website with WordPress in one day course.
How much does hosting a website cost?
Once you’ve got a domain for your site and built the site, you need to arrange for it to be hosted. The hosting company will take the files that comprise your website, store them on their servers and make your website available to be viewed.
Hosting is becoming more and more like a commodity these days, with people driven to decide on a hosting package purely on the basis of price. At the bottom end of the market you can find hosting packages that start at just a few quid per month, and at the top end of the market organisations can pay many hundreds of pounds per month for hosting for large sites with big volumes of traffic. So what factors influence how much your hosting should cost?
What factors influence the cost of web hosting?
- Shared hosting – the cheapest option is shared hosting where your website lives on a server with other websites as well. This is often sufficient for small sites or those with low traffic levels. However, you’re sharing your space with other sites all accessing the same resources which can mean that shared hosting is less robust than other options as well as often being considerably slower, a significant disadvantage for some sites.
- Dedicated hosting – you’ll pay more for this because your site will live on its own server, not sharing the resources with any other sites.
- Support levels – at the lower end of the market you’ll get bare bones hosting with little in the way of extras. This can mean that, for example, you’re only entitled to email support rather than telephone support.
- Service level agreements – Cheaper hosting packages won’t promise the same level of service as more expensive options. How much of an issue is it for your organisation if your website is down? If your site is absolutely mission critical and needs to be guaranteed live 100% of the time then you’re going to pay a lot more for your hosting than if you can live with a lower guaranteed up time.
- Backups – Check whether your hosting package includes regular backups of your site. At the cheaper end of the scale you may find that backups aren’t included. This isn’t necessarily a problem as you can install at backup plugin for your WordPress site and manage the backing up process yourself. It is, however, one more thing that you need to consider.
We’ve written elsewhere on this blog about why it’s not always a good idea to go for the cheapest possible hosting you can find.
How much does ongoing web maintenance and support cost?
Getting your site designed and put live isn’t the end of the process. All but the most static of sites will require ongoing maintenance and support. You will want to make changes to your site and add more functionality as it develops. This might range from relatively simple things like adding new blog posts, updating images or changing the dates and times of regular events through to more complicated work like adding e-commerce functionality to your site.
Our recommendation is always that you should be familiar enough with your website to be able to handle most regular updates yourself (or have someone in your organisation who can do this for you), as we discussed in an earlier blog. We talk to clients all the time who have found they’re reliant on the person who built the site to make all the changes because they aren’t confident about making changes themselves. For many small businesses this can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
People who come on our courses often remark that they didn’t realise how simple it would be to make changes to their site and express surprise that they’ve been paying £50-100 every time they want to make a change, for something that might only take a few minutes. However most web developers and designers will have a minimum charge for this kind of work, otherwise it isn’t worth their while to do it. An hour’s work for a freelance web designer might start at around £50 and rise up to several hundred pounds so you can see that the cost of having someone else make changes for you is quickly going to add up.
It’s well worth investing a day of your time to learn how to make changes to your own website yourself. This then gives you the flexibility to either run your own site or outsource the work to someone else from a position of knowledge and strength rather than ignorance. If you do decide to get someone else to make changes for you it’s a good idea to save up a bunch of changes and get them done at the same time so you get maximum value from your designer’s minimum charge.
Many hosting companies will offer you the option of having both a live site and a staging site. A staging site is a copy of your live site on which you can experiment and make changes without affecting the live site that visitors see. Once you’re happy with the changes you can push them across to the live site. This arrangement makes it possible for you to try out new things on your site in a safe environment without risking ‘breaking’ the live site.
Take control of your website
As you’ve probably gathered by now, we’re firm advocates of small businesses taking control of their own web presence and doing as much of this themselves as they can. Our one day Build a Website with WordPress course will get you up and running with a basic site, a theme and hosting and give you the skills you need to develop it yourself.