As a business owner, entrepreneur, or organization looking to create an online presence, the obvious first question is “How much does a website cost?”
It’s no wonder why this is the most frequently asked question. Understanding the costs of creating a website is essential to ensure your budget will cover all your needs.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal answer to how much it will cost. Designing and building a website involves several factors contributing to the overall cost.
This article takes a deep dive into the expenses of creating an effective website. Read on to learn how much it really costs to build an effective, high-quality site that truly represents you or your brand. You might be surprised by how affordable it can be.
Use a Website Builder (DIY) or Hire a Designer?
There are a few different approaches you can take to build your site. Years ago, if you wanted a professional website, you had to hire a web designer or web developer to create and code a custom site.
Today, several no-code platforms allow anyone (even non-designers) to make their own website. These DIY platforms use templates and drag-and-drop builders, eliminating the need for a custom build.
These DIY web builders meet the needs of most small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations. And they drastically reduce the cost of creating a website compared to hiring a designer or developer.
Large businesses and those that need advanced functionality from their site will still require a professional designer or developer. However, DIY website builders are sufficient for a growing number of businesses and organizations.
Average Costs for a DIY Approach to Website Design
If you’re using a website builder like Squarespace, Shopify, or WordPress, here are the basic costs that you’re likely to incur:
- Domain Name ($10-$20 per year)
- Web Hosting ($36+ per year)
- SSL Certificate ($0-$100+ per year)
- Website Builder ($0-$360 per year)
- Theme or Template ($0 – $350)
Your domain name is the address visitors will type to visit your site. For example, our domain name is vandelaydesign.com. Every professional website needs a custom domain, and thankfully, this is usually very inexpensive.
You can register a domain name with your choice or registrar. Many web hosts will also offer domain registration. However, I prefer to keep domain registration and hosting separately. Moving from one host to another is common, which gets messier if the domain name is involved.
I use and recommend Namecheap for domain registration. Their prices are among the lowest in the industry, free privacy protection is included, and they offer excellent customer service (based on my experience).
Registering a domain with Namecheap will cost about $10-$20 per year if you go with a standard domain not registered or owned by anyone else.
Web hosting is what powers your website and keeps it running. The service stores your site’s files and makes them available to visitors.
You won’t need separate web hosting if you use Squarespace or Shopify for your site. Both are hosted platforms, meaning they provide hosting for you. The monthly price you’ll pay includes hosting and support.
If you use WordPress, you’ll need separate hosting. Most web hosts have different plans, usually based on how much storage space and bandwidth you need. For small websites, the most basic plan may be enough. This could cost as little as $3 per month with a low-cost host like Bluehost.
Vandelay Design is hosted by Rocket, and I highly recommend them for WordPress-powered websites. Their prices start at $30 per month. Although this is much more than Bluehost and other discount providers, it’s an excellent price considering what you get.
Websites hosted by Rocket will load much faster than the same site on a cheap shared web hosting plan. Load speeds are important, so it’s worth the difference in price if it fits your budget. Also, Rocket provides top-notch customer service. Their support reps are the best I’ve experienced in more than 15 years of using about 20 different hosts.
An SSL certificate gives your website the “s” in the “https” part of the address. It provides security and protects your website users’ data. Years ago, only e-commerce and banking websites used SSL certificates, but it’s standard for any type of site today. An SSL certificate should be considered necessary even if you’re not providing a secure checkout.
Most web hosts offer free SSL certificates now. However, more advanced types of SSL certificates may be needed in some situations. But for most small businesses and organizations, a free SSL certificate that can be registered through your host is sufficient.
WordPress is free and open-source. There’s no direct cost to use it on your website, although you’ll need separate hosting. Most hosts make it easy to install WordPress, and others will install it for you.
Squarespace and Shopify require monthly or annual fees. As I mentioned earlier, this fee includes web hosting. It also includes the platform’s functionality to power your website, free templates or themes, and customer service.
Both platforms, like other web builders, have different plans you can choose from. Squarespace pricing starts at $23 per month or $16 per month if paid yearly. Shopify starts at $39 per month or $29 per month if paid yearly.
Theme or Template
Theme and template are two different names for the same thing. Both control the look and layout of your site. WordPress and Shopify call them “themes,” while Squarespace calls them “templates.”
All three of these website builders offer free themes or templates you can use for your site at no additional cost. Thousands of free WordPress themes have been created by various designers and developers.
Shopify and Squarespace both provide a selection of themes/templates that can be used by anyone who pays for their platform. Shopify currently offers only 11 free themes in their theme store, but Squarespace provides over 100 free templates.
You’ll probably want to buy a premium theme if you use Shopify. You can buy one in the Shopify theme store. Others are available at sites like ThemeForest. Prices range anywhere from $100-$350.
Most Squarespace-powered websites use one of the templates provided for free. Squarespace offers an excellent selection of beautiful templates. However, if you can’t find one that meets your needs, you can buy a template from a third-party designer/developer. Prices vary, but many cost around $200.
WordPress users also have the option of paying for a premium theme. For example, Vandelay Design uses the Kadence Pro theme. Elegant Themes also offers two excellent and versatile themes. Most premium WordPress themes cost less than $100.
Which Website Builder is Right for Your Small Business?
I’ve mentioned three different website builders, and you may be wondering which one is right for you. Here are some basic details about each and when they will be most effective.
Squarespace is my top recommendation for most small businesses and organizations. If you want an inexpensive way to create a professional site that promotes your business and services, Squarespace is an excellent choice.
As I mentioned earlier, Squarespace offers an extensive collection of beautiful templates. You can easily customize design details like colors and fonts. You can also change layout details or create layouts from scratch with the drag-and-drop builder. Overall, Squarespace makes it easy for anyone to build a site but also gives you plenty of creative freedom to customize something.
Although Squarespace and WordPress both can be used for online shops, Shopify was created specifically for e-commerce. It’s my top recommendation for building your e-commerce website.
Shopify provides features and tools to help you create a successful online store, such as payment processing, shipping options, and inventory management.
WordPress is my top choice for people who want complete control over their site. It’s the most flexible platform and can be used to create almost any site, from a blog to a photography portfolio to a corporate website.
WordPress offers thousands of themes and plugins to customize almost every aspect of your site. Plus, many developers specialize in creating custom WordPress themes and plugins, so you can find one that will fit your needs exactly.
However, it’s important to note that WordPress does require some technical know-how and can be more difficult to manage than other platforms. This is why I recommend Squarespace for the average small business or organization.
WordPress requires ongoing maintenance for things like keeping themes and plugins updated. WordPress is not your ideal platform if you don’t want to deal with those details.
The Cost of a Custom Website: Hiring a Designer/Developer
So far, we’ve looked at the DIY approach of using a website builder to create your site. The other option is to hire a web designer or web developer. As I mentioned, this is no longer necessary for most businesses and organizations.
The cost of a designer or developer will vary significantly based on details like:
- The size and scope of your project
- The type of website you’re creating
- Whether you hire a freelancer or a large design agency
- The location of the designer/developer
You can find designers and developers who will do the work very inexpensively (especially if you’re hiring someone outside of North America, Europe, or Australia. In some cases, the lower-priced designers and developers will do excellent work. In other cases, you might get what you pay for.
There’s no exact way to put a price tag on a custom website. However, if you’re hiring a US-based designer or agency, you’ll probably pay at least $5,000 for a custom design and build. The price will go up from there, depending on the details.
If you hire a designer or developer, you’ll still need a domain name, web hosting, and SSL certificate.
Possible Additional Costs
There are also some other costs you may incur. This is not a complete list, but some of the most common items include:
Photos, Graphics, and Videos
You’ll often need stock photos and other visuals to create a high-quality site. I use and recommend Envato Elements. With a subscription, you can download as many items as you want. They have an excellent selection of photos, videos, icons, graphics, and other resources. Pricing starts at just $16.50 per month.
Add-ons and Plugins
Many platforms like WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace allow you to purchase plugins, add-ons, or extensions to get certain features.
Squarespace add-ons include functionality for scheduling, email marketing, selling courses and memberships, and more.
Shopify users can browse the store for add-ons that provide all kinds of functionality. For example, you can add a live chat widget, appointment scheduling, loyalty programs, and more.
WordPress plugins are available for almost anything you can imagine. There’s a huge directory of free plugins. Even more are available for a fee.
Marketing and SEO
All the costs mentioned so far involve getting your site up and running. But you’ll need visitors to have an effective site. You may need to hire a freelancer or an agency to help with marketing or search engine optimization.
The details of these areas are beyond the scope of this article, and there are options for all budgets. But keep marketing and SEO in mind if you’re considering the ongoing costs of running an online business.
How Much Does a Website Cost?
Based on the details and costs covered in this article, here is a general guide to the costs of building your site.
|Theme or Template
|Ease of Setup & Maintenance