How Much Does a Website Cost in 2017?
Total website cost or price is difficult to ascertain. Gone are the days where you could build a website and let it bring in traffic. In 2017, once your site is built, there’s no guarantee it will be visited. In 2012 (when there were only half a billion websites) a well coded website might naturally attract 10 visitors per day. Now with over 1 billion sites, you’re lucky to get 2 or 3 visits.
Here is a list of things you MUST to take into consideration if you are being holistic about what your yearly website cost is;
- Hosting (we do this, but we call it website maintenance)
- Website Build (check our prices here)
- Basic SEO (we also do this – check pricing here)
- Website Maintenance (we do this – check our prices here)
- Content Marketing and Updates (we also do this – check our plans and pricing here)
Unfortunately enthusiasm wanes after 1 & 2. SEO, Maintenance and Marketing are mandatory if you want to get found. Having a website no longer equates to “passive income” – nor does it take the place of advertising. Many think it does. If you just leave a site – as is – it will slowly get eaten in search by better coded (SEO) sites with new content (Content Marketing).
But let’s break it down a bit . . .
Who will host my website?
In 2012, I saw a 1000% increase in traffic the week I moved from Hostgator to A2Hosting.com. Investing in a fast host pays off. And sometimes you can get great deals. If you’re paying $100 per year for hosting, my bet is that you’re not really giving your site the best chance. Faster speed, robust 100% uptime servers and good support are hard to find.
Hosting fees are pure profit for web developers. Whatever you pay per month – or per year – goes right into the pocket of your web host. For $500pa, you can run a shared server with 100 websites on it. What you charge for “hosting” each site is up to you. And most people with websites won’t bother the hosting provider – until something goes awry.
A better thing to pay for is Website Maintenance (sometimes called “Managed Hosting”). Maintaining the back end of your website is great for SEO and if you are running WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, it’s mandatory if you don’t want to lose everything to hackers. That’s why we don’t charge for hosting. Hosting is free – but your site NEEDS to be managed by a professional. Otherwise it’s a risk and can affect other websites on the same server.
Who will build my website?
How much you pay is largely determined by who you choose to build your website. Each choice has its own particular advantages and disadvantages.
That choice is, roughly between;
- DIY website (free)
- Out-sourcing to India or Philippines
- Relative, friend or student
- Graphic, Design or Print Company
- Freelance Web Developer
- Web Firm, Web Developer Collective or Company
- Communications Company or Advertising Agency
Let’s start at the beginning – at the very VERY bottom . . .
I’ll do it my way, thanks
$0 (FREE websites)
I have several clients who built websites themselves but eventually hired us to oversee, maintain and tweak things as needed (in other words: Website Maintenance). We look after each of our sites on tailor-made website maintenance plan).
If you are on a tight (or $zero) budget, great! You’re actually starting in the right place. Running your own website for a year or more will give you an idea of what’s involved. You may even see your company change direction as you serve or sell to one particular customer type more than another.
In a couple of years you will give someone like me a call, but for now – Just do it. Get started. My best clients are the ones who’ve done it themselves, but now need a little help.
If you like the idea of getting your hands dirty with HTML and CSS and fancy yourself as a bit of a tinkerer, Wix and Weebly are great. Things get fiddly when you “point your domain name to the server” or “set up a new form,” but even I’ve updated Weebly sites for clients (there’s a code window as well as a WYSIWYG window).
Attention coders: Check out these light CSS frameworks. One is less than 1KB!
Tweaking and fiddling by a web developer will set you back hundreds of dollars (independents charge over $120/hr and Australian companies in 2017 can charge between $250 and $350 per hour).
If you have time, a free website solution is a great idea. Get an independent web developer like me to tweak it, but save yourself quite a bit by doing the hard yards yourself.
NB: If you’re the sort of person who likes to delegate and hates fiddling with code, DO NOT get a free website. A poorly maintained website will do more damage to your online reputation than not having one at all.
Successful FREE Websites
About 15 years ago, I found an awful-looking website run by a lady selling (what looked to me like) pieces of paper. It was an online scrap-booking company and it was a shocking looking website. She approached me to redesign the site, but when I delved deeper, it turned out she was making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. I decided not to go ahead with a redesign. I didn’t want the responsibility of chasing away her customers (who possibly perceived that they were getting great value for money) by creating a flashy-looking website. Who knows what part design, sluggish server speed or clunky navigation played in the site’s success?
In my experience, anyone who has gone through the trouble of setting up their own website understands what it is I actually do. My favourite clients are always the ones who have run a website and (usually by osmosis) know a bit of code. They understand just a smatter of my complex world.
FREE website creation online
Below is a list of places where you can set up websites for free. I’d try the Google Business option first because I know it will instantly help with SEO and Google Search. You will need a Google Account (a gmail address means you already have one) to get started.
As long as you keep content up to date on a regular basis, there’s no reason why a Google, Weebly or Wix website can’t successfully compete with a more expensive, custom-built site in terms of search engine ranking, sales, leads and trust factors.
Content is King
Google rewards websites which are “a going concern,” and that means having great content.
Content is King in 2017, just as it was in 2007. It’s a simple matter of putting in the effort. Updating your site with a blog post, new product or even a (relevant) funny video you found on YouTube helps Google index your site. The idea of writing a blog post stops people in their tracks. Remember what your English teacher used to say about your writing? She was wrong. Most people are great writers – they just don’t have the confidence. That insecurity is why my content writing service is taking off.
Examples of Good Content
I wrote those as part of a Social Media Plan (now called Content Marketing). One company grew from $300k per annum to $10 million per annum using this technique.
People buy from people. People trust people. Your website has to look and feel as if there are busy, friendly people behind it – ready to attend your every whim.
With a DIY site, you are limited to the skills you possess and the time you have at your disposal.
Wix website tutorial
(for those that want to do it their way)
Setting up a free Wix website
The Professional Option
Going with a professional web developer is a better option in terms of getting a site up that looks the part, is built on a future-proof framework, is built in a timely manner (I typically take between 6 and 10 weeks depending on complexity and other work commitments) and has something of an online strategy behind it. Naturally, I’m biased. Having said that, I still believe that some experience running a DIY website will set you apart from the pack when you eventually go pro (and you will further down the line).
Your website designing nephew or friend
$1,000 – $2,500
Your nephew is studying web design at school or university. He has offered to build you a website (and broaden his portfolio, or start one). Maybe for $1,000. Or even a few hundred. Perhaps you could give him money or a solid Birthday present.
I’ve rebuilt MANY nephew sites. The nephew moves on, loses interest, changes career or just bails on the job (or in some cases doesn’t finish it). It’s just not worth the time chasing small jobs.
My clients fall into one of two groups.
- Those who were paying too much and then defected to Geoffrey Multimedia or
- Those who built their own sites, understood the effort involved, gave up and thought, “I’ll get Ed at Geoffrey to worry about all this.”
The only drawback with a nephew, relative or friend, is reliability.
Some people are naturally very reliable. Some. Maybe 5%.
I used to be part of that great 95% until I started working on that particular aspect of my personality.
If your site was / is built for free, watch for these sticking points;
- Your designer gets paying clients and your site is demoted to backburner status (or worse – “albatross” status).
- Your website may not be maintained properly (opening the door to hackers and crashes)
- Your web site lacks security (again, leading to hacks and crashes. We rescue such sites every week.)
- Your website may get forgotten
- Your wannabe designer changes career (web design was too boring, time to be a pilot)
Having said all this – if you factor in the usual Murphy-like catastrophes, it may not be a bad experiment. See how it goes. If you expect to pick up some of the pieces down the track, do it. If that’s your bag – go for it. Email me when it goes belly up. I might be able to help. :)
Some people still think that getting a website (or building an app) is a key to passive income. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those opportunities are looooong gone. It never was the case if you read about how quadrillion dollar websites get started in the first place.
On this note, you might find these links interesting:
If you have experienced your own DIY website, you can graduate to a professionally website built (by yours truly) further down the track. Your experience will mean we speak the same language and I love working with people who know what I’m doing for them. They appreciate it more and I don’t get to feel like the shifty Asperger guy.
I re-build mates-rates websites all the time. If your site has garnered some attention and traffic, a makeover of your existing site will be a welcome find for your loyal clients. Shoot me an email.
Freelance Web Developer
That’s me and people like me
$1,250 – $10,000 (max)
Geoffrey Multimedia falls into this category. Okay, because this is me, and because you have red /website-questionnaire/this far, I’ll let you in on some of my secrets.
All sites are not only updated but maintained regularly to ensure that my client sites and the software running them are up to date. I offer three professional website plans at varying prices with the ability to upgrade further down the track.
- No Frills ($1,250+)
- Small Business Site ($4,250+)
- Company Site ($6,850+)
- E-commerce Site ($8,949+)
Clients can pay outright or monthly. The plus is for unseen or additional functionality you may require beyond the basic design / what is listed.
Websites with a CMS need to be maintained or they will either crash, go offline, get hacked or eventually cripple a server with unchecked security issues. I’m not fear-mongering or exaggerating here. Security is big these days. As part of what I do, I add, maintain and tweak security behind all my client websites on a monthly basis. Sometimes more often. For this, clients pay a yearly fee from between $249 and $549 (including hosting). Site security and SEO issues are 20%+ of my workload.
I also allow people to pay on a monthly basis until the full amount is paid. Prices start from $12 per month for small sites which usually take a couple of weeks to build.
Naturally, you might go with another freelancer or web development company, but check the fine print first, or read the reviews and get in touch with someone on their testimonials list. I know you’ll find Geoffrey Multimedia best value for money.
All websites these days need to be maintained, so make sure your host includes this somewhere. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve rescued from oblivion because they weren’t maintained or secured correctly.
Hosting is not maintenance. Hosting is 95% profit and is how most web companies stay afloat. There’s, literally, nothing to do except onsell sever space for a profit.
Sites I run are managed sites. They are no more than 1 month out of date at any time because I keep them that way.
Okay – that’s my spiel out of the way. :)
Onward . . .
Graphic or Print Company
These guys probably did your signage and logos
$2,500 – $7,000
Graphic and print design firms have moved into web design. But be wary. There’s a LOT more to a website than pretty pictures. Yes, you can build a website using Photoshop. I wouldn’t. I consider actual design between 10 and 20% of what I actually do when I build a site. Moreso on more expensive sites.
Security was 10% but is now closer to 20% and (ethical) SEO can take up nearly half the time on a search-engine-focussed eCommerce site. What’s under the bonnet counts for a lot. Just getting found is a big deal these days as there are now over 1 billion websites. Search Engine Optimisation is huge. Optimising your site so that search engines can find it (well, actually, Google) has its own set of skills. Get that wrong and nobody sees your site unless you tell them the URL.
Your graphic design agency should be familiar with these terms;
- Search Engine Optimisation (beyond basic tags)
- Content Management Systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento etc.)
- PHP, MySQL, CSS, HTML
- “The Google Dance.”*
*The Google Dance refers to Google’s Ever-changing search engine algorithms.
If they don’t know what these things are (or at least some of them) you could be spending a lot of money on an invisible website.
Make sure someone is coding up the design properly and not just outputting images from Photoshop using “Save as HTML” (on this note I just did a site for a guy who’d hit “Save As HTML” on a series of Word documents). Photoshop skills cover between 2% and 5% of what web design and development really is in 2015. Nice pictures and nice code are very different beasties.
You will need a Content Management System
Gone are the days of getting your web developer to update your website. You should be able to do that yourself.
No. Just . . . no.
For the most part, Flash websites are 100% invisible to search engines. I avoid Flash entirely because of it. It simply doesn’t work at all on Apple devices – a huge part of the web viewing platform.
I once made a cartoon for ABC TV here in Australia using Flash (see it below) but I’d never build a website in Flash. Flash was borne on the web but has found its home in cartoons for television.
If you insist on having your print company build your website go for it, but do keep the above reservations in mind. Too many pretty websites never get found.
Beware the cloak of Google invisibility
In short, clients who have come to me with websites built by graphic or print-oriented companies are often disappointed with how their sites has fared in search results. This is because the focus was on the layout, not the underlying code or market value of a page.
I am biased, naturally. If you understand that print and web graphics are very different things with totally different requirements you’ll be okay.
If your print company has a professional web developer, these differences may not be an issue. A background in advertising and graphics could even be an advantage with a real developer at the helm.
Website Company or Firm
These guys probably did your signage and logos
This option might be a good one for large companies with 20 or more employees (although I’ve done plenty of those myself). If you are into Risk Managment, you have the security of dealing with a Pty. Ltd. Company. If you want a lot of very specific (custom) functionality, you will pay more than $15,000 for your website. If you want to present a unique experience you have never ever seen on another website, you will pay more again.
I need not tell you that companies are in the business of making a profit (and retaining good staff). This will interfere with their charter as it often means taking on work they’d rather not.
As a freelancer, my personal aim is to make a comfortable living doing what I love and serve my clients loyally. It’s my way of making the world a better place and a very different volition.
Nearly half of all my clients have come to me after having bad or below-par experiences with larger web companies.
The Biggest Problem
Big clients get the most attention.
Big clients pay staff wages. Small sites might mean the difference between profit and loss in a thin month, but weathering long periods of inactivity is difficult for web firms. And often that means doing horrible things like cold-calling or taking on jobs which might have been better left to little guys like me.
Just on that. My site may not look so, ;) but I’m a cottage industry web developer who prides himself on solid, personal service. If I get into trouble I may call a specialist friend, but that’s becoming increasingly rare (as I learn more about this wonderful craft).
Communication Company or Ad Agency
The big end of town
$12,500+ to $250,000+
What do we get for the big money? Sometimes a lot less. Communications companies don’t build websites, they outsource to people like myself. I’ve had heaps of work from large companies in the past, but choose not to deal with them as much these days because everyone gets hurt by the final bill. And I like to be transparent about costs.
Bit of gossip for you…
A friend of a friend (let’s call her Maria) runs a big (local) Perth web design company. One communications company approached Maria and asked her for something quite specific. Something that her Web Company never does. So Maria put out the feelers and found a programmer (let’s call him John) who wrote the kind of functional specific code that the communications company client wanted. Maria ball-parked the job at around $30,000 – but when the programmer did it for under $10,000, Maria couldn’t go back on her word. She did very well out of the deal but felt really guilty as she’d simply outsourced the work and hadn’t added any kind of value herself. And Maria loves to do her bit. John happily did the job and was very happy with his $10K.
Maria later discovered that the Communications Company had charged the client $150,000. Had the client known John in the first place, the company could have saved $140,000.
Maria and the Communications Company added nothing to the project and then needed John to make all the modifications without letting the client know he even existed.
I’m not John by the way – although I have certainly had this very experience working on websites for various Government Departments. These days I prefer to deal with the client directly. It’s way more interesting and I get to get out of the office more.
This story isn’t unique to web design as I’m sure you know, loyal reader. :)
In short, Communications Companies are more expensive, outsource all their work and use the model of buying cheap and on-selling for the profit. If you are visited by a well-dressed man or leggy blonde with a bullet list questionnaire of requirements for your website – move your wallet carefully to your front pocket. Chances are that this person will know nothing at all about web design and the sheet of notes will, most likely, be passed on. :)
To be fair, Communications Companies do also look after the marketing and brand awareness of your business including; logo, colours, tv advertising, company, style-guide and other marketing aspects of your transmitted image. This holistic approach may be what your company needs.
They sometimes work closely with external contractors (like myself) to create a uniform look and feel of the brand or product throughout all associated marketing materials including the website.
“Brand Message” is what they are all about. I, on the other hand, have done my job when your T-shirts fly out the door.
While I reject Communication Company work (because I can’t help but feel that everyone is getting ripped-off) this is actually how the web world often is. Suffice it to say, if all you need is a stock-standard website with a bit of added functionality and creative pizazz avoid Communications Companies. Their aim is to find out how much you have and then take it while giving a small percentage to the actual coder.
In my humble opinion, communications companies are a left over idea from the heady 80s and 90s, where clients were charged $100 to hot-link text to another web page (A hot-link is an expensive way to say “link” but they are exactly the same thing. A straight “hot-link” takes about 5 seconds to code).
If you want “hot links” go to a Communication Company. They use that lingo.
Online Web Development
The risky alternative
Ah, cheap, off-shore web development.
You can approach an overseas company or an online website template service to have your site built if you want. Or why not just trawl through your spam folder and answer one of the thousand emails criticizing your existing website?
Sure. You’d be doing the 3rd world a big favour and it will be like you have a whole company dedicated to just your one website. But, the code is awful and the distance is great.
A few clients have come to me after experiencing Philippines-based or Indian web design company services. While their prices may initially look attractive, there are many hidden charges and additional extras not clearly outlined in the pitch. They get away with advertising for things that are not covered by law here in Australia and you are often left holding the baby when it comes to website support and maintenance.
I know of one person who fully paid for an off-shore website which, when it was delivered, was just the first page. All the links to other pages didn’t work. “I’m afraid that will cost extra, kind Sir.”
In short – DON’T DO IT.
The Last Word
I advise anyone who has a website to make sure it’s comes with some kind of maintainence plan because if it doesn’t, your site will get hacked or used as a spam farm and then you will need expensive support.
I use open-source software which allows anybody to expand or update their website over time without having to pay me a dollar.
I do charge $249pa – $549pa maintenance to clients (free hosting on a very fast server) which allows me to keep all software up-to-the-minute up to date, functioning correctly, healthy and secure from attack. If a site is attacked, I resurrect or rebuild from a recent backup.
Read more about my maintenance and support plans here.
You get what you pay for
You can pay what you like for a website. Or rather, some companies will take what they can get from you. I once worked for a company that was charging $250K for websites I routinely built independently for less than $10,000.
Lots of free beer and coke in that fridge I can tell you.
There are too many middle men in this industry and it pays to be aware of that. No many people actually know what they are talking about so you should ask them directly.
This industry is still very new and there are almost no rules. The internet is borderless, which means that every man and his dog can set themselves up as a web designer for very little cost outlay.
From where I sit, I see the web as a kind of Wild west. Everybody has a gun and there is no Sheriff yet.
The websites I build are usually for small businesses with some staff. I find building really massive websites painfully boring and tend to shy away from bigger jobs which take me away from smaller, challenging, fun projects. The boss on those bigger jobs is invariably a confused board of people clinging to old ideas, each board member with a different favourite colour and naturally, because we’re “living the democratic dream” everyone gets a say. Which means your website will look as if it were designed by committee.
While the money is great and more regular, working on big projects feels like I’ve sold my soul and invariably I return to happily servicing smaller clients and small businesses.
Take your online web presence, production and design seriously. If you are investing other people’ money, don’t spend $2,000 on your website. Wear a suit that will give the groom a run for his money. Most potential clients will see your website once. Three seconds is a typical page browse time. You need people to stay longer than that and then come back again later. And you need to have something there for them to come back to.
Another thing worth noting is that the success of your website solely depends on YOU, not the person building your site. How much time you are able to allocate to the upkeep of your site (adding articles, news, new images and timely content)? Who will write this stuff?
I’m going out on a limb here, but it’s a good idea to treat your website as if it’s even more important than your actual business. More people could visit your site in one month than you will meet during the entire year. It essentially IS your business as far as thousands of mobile device users are concerned. You need to get your head around that. Most businesses have it the other way around. Entrepreneurs put the business first and think of the website as an after-thought.
Your website can do a lot more than your physical business, but it must generate trust and you need to do that quickly
Imagine. You have less than one minute to make an impression.
Your time starts NOW
NB: This article was originally written in March 2012, Rewritten in May 2013, December 2013, April 2014, October 2014, January 2015 and this version November 2015.
Article ©Copyright Geoffrey Multimedia 2012-2016. All rights reserved.
Author: Edwin James Lynch
Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jumpjet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites utilising best practice, future-proof web development, online marketing and SEO. He lectured for 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best out of 2,500+ university lecturers in Australia.
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