Richard Parr
by Richard Parr
Posted: December 23, 2016

How Much Does a Website Cost in 2016?

You will learn about how web companies charge for their services. We’ll also dig into what different types of websites cost. This article is based on over eighteen years of experience in this field.

Ok – let’s begin: How do website design agencies charge?

NOTE: Our updated website costs in 2017 article is also available.

There’s only one sensible method to charge for website design and development: you establish a cost for your services and then mark them up to a price the market can afford. This is similar to how other professionals change, whether a lawyer, doctor, plumber, etc. Our web agency is based in Los Angeles so we have labor costs for each team member as well as typical business overhead such as office expenses, rent, insurance, bookkeeping, taxes, etc. Based on that, our hourly rate (as of January 2016) is $125 for most services.

Web agencies that use offshore staff have lower costs and so their hourly rate may be lower. Freelancers, one-person shops and website brokers can also be more competitive on price but may have other challenges such as communication, reliability and quality. When a client brings their project to us, we determine how many hours it will take and charge accordingly. So if a website takes 75 hours to build, that translates to a billable cost of $9,375.

Some web companies (not ours) may promote website costs in “package prices” such as $995 for website “Package A”, $1,950 for the “Pro Package”, etc. This is an effective way to sell websites but we advise you to scrutinize the fine print of what is included. In order to sell a package website and make a profit, the scope or limitations have to be very restrictive. That may not be readily apparent when you scan the list of “included” features. Also, these types of website deals are often “managed” by the company, so there is the potential for them to overcharge you on other basic services like hosting, SEO, maintenance, etc. These solutions tend to be very templated so your website and online brand probably won’t stand out. It will end up resembling every other website that company produces.

Finally, some interactive agencies will look at website cost based on what they think the value is to your business. For example, if they see you are a five million dollar business, they may calculate a value of the website at X% of your total sales. This approach would never work with our client-base.

NOTE: Here’s a link to our short video on the benefits of going with a web agency.

levels of websites and costs

What are the various levels or types of websites and what do they cost?

When we estimate website cost, we look at the potential complexity in order to calculate the number of required hours. Although every website is different (different brand, different design, different content, etc.), there are certain levels of effort required for certain types of websites. Here are some common website scenarios we often encounter and the associated pricing based on our process.

Note: All of our websites are mobile-friendly and have Google Analytics installed. Most of our websites come with a content management system (CMS) so that clients can update their content themselves. Cost includes strategy, original design, programming, testing, SEO-readiness and client training.

Simple, Informational, Business Website (no E-commerce, marketing-focus):

These types of websites are among the simplest in our repertoire and typically include the following specifications:

  • Client provides logo and text content and possibly some photos
  • Website consists of approximately 4-6 pages
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social Media links and feeds
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other minor features: calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $7,000 – $10,000


Mid-size, Informational, Business Website (no E-commerce, marketing-focus):

These types of websites are primarily informational and have all the components of the simple website option above but with additional sub-pages and options. These websites typically include following specifications:

  • Client provides logo and text content and possibly some photos
  • Website consists of approximately 10-20 pages
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social Media links and feeds
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other minor features: Calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $11,000 – $20,000


Simple, E-commerce, Business Website:

These types of websites typically include the following specifications:

  • Client provides logo and text content, product info and photos
  • Website consists of approximately 4-6 pages
  • Website has a shopping cart with 1-100 products
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social Media links and feeds
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other minor features: Calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $8,000 – $15,000


Mid-size, E-Commerce Website:

These types of websites include all the components of the simple E-commerce website option above, but with additional sub-pages and options. These websites typically include the following specifications:

  • Client provides logo and text content, product info and photos
  • Website consists of approximately 10-20 pages
  • Website has a shopping cart with 100 – 500 products
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social Media links and feeds
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
  • Other minor features: Calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $16,000 – $40,000

Other common options that can be added and increase these budgets are:

  • Customer account dashboards: + $2,000 – $5,000
  • Integration with clients back-office systems: + $1,000 – $10,000
  • Custom product configurators: + $5,000 – $20,000
  • Membership: + $2,500 – $5,000
  • Multi-language features: + $2,000
  • Private, secure client areas: + $2,000 – $5,000
  • Distributor databases or directories: + $1,000 – $3,000
  • Extensive company team bios: + $1,000 – $2,000
  • Data migration, database configuration -$TBD
  • Customized e-commerce features & functionality  -$TBD
  • Additional optimization for social media (e-commerce / non-e-commerce) -$TBD
  • Marketing services – $TBD

What’s the most expensive website we’ve worked on?

When you are working with a Fortune 500 company you can bet they don’t have a $30,000 website. They probably pay that in monthly hosting services alone. Over the years we have worked on many websites ranging from $5,000 to $700,000., for example, cost hundreds of thousands to create and over $5 million annually to maintain and manage, BUT since they earn $100 million in annual sales, the expense is easily justified. The higher budget websites are usually e-commerce with extensive customization, back-office systems and reporting. It’s also quite expensive to design, develop and maintain websites that manage large numbers of members with various levels of permissions  and offer online services.

extra web costs

5 things that can jack up the cost of any website:

  1. Content entry and migration: If you have a lot of content like blog articles, PDF files, products, even a customer list, this qualifies as content that needs to be entered into the website somehow. If the content already exists in a database, it may be possible to migrate it within an hour or so. But if the content needs to be manually entered and checked for accuracy, this would count as additional effort. In cases like these, we can train the client to do the content entry themselves or we do it at an additional cost.
  2. Custom features or functions: There are literally thousands of “features” such as photo galleries, video players, online directories, forums, social media, marketing, E-commerce, etc. These features are encapsulated in plugins, modules, and extensions that can be purchased or licensed for under $100, and these can be added to your website.
    The issues occur when you want to modify or customize the custom feature and/or the plug-ins don’t work well together and break the website. It’s easy enough to install an out-of-the-box plug-in BUT modifying it can be time intensive, also some plugins are not compatible with other web applications so they often require more testing and troubleshooting which also requires additional time. Down the line, they also require maintenance in terms of upgrading to newer versions over the lifespan of the website.
  3. Additional creative exploration: We typically provide 2-3 website design options to our clients so they can choose a design direction. Some clients have a difficult time deciding and request additional design work. Some clients point to websites that they want to emulate without realizing that those example websites have spent thousands of dollars (up to six figures or more, depending on the brand) on custom animations and infographics.  Within our budgets, we have to set expectations with clients that what we’re building for $12,000 won’t be a copy of a website that was built for over $100,000. Our budget dictates a finite number of hours for our creative design phase. If the client can’t decide or if they have intricate design goals, then we may need to increase the time allocated for that effort. In all cases, we try to be as creative and accommodating as possible within the budget.
  4. Integration with an existing client database or software application: This scenario is typical of building a new e-commerce site to replace an existing site. We may be required to connect the website with some other third-party online solution that’s in place. It could be a database of customers, products, custom shipping rules, inventory systems, accounting software, marketing systems, etc. For many of the major software solutions, there are known methods to connect them with a website but many times this is more complex than anticipated and can spin into many hours of additional effort.
  5. Client does not have content ready: Please see our blog post on How To Be a Good Client.

So what are next steps?

what types of people are researching website costs?

If you’ve gotten this far down the article, 65% of you are probably a business or organization seeking to redesign an existing website or planning to develop a new website. 25% of you are our competitors looking to see what we charge and the final 10% are students doing some research for a school project.

For the first 65% of you, the most important next step is to define what it is you want to build. If you don’t have set specifications or requirements that clearly outline what you want, it is very difficult to get an accurate estimate from any web agency. You will need to provide an overview of your company, goals, products/services, brand goals, features you want, etc. There are many ways to get your website requirements together. On our blog, we have several articles we recommend to learn more about how to prepare for requesting quotes from a creative digital agency:

  1. Critical Development Document Samples: This article provides a good overview of the documents that help define your website requirements – along with samples.
  2. Scope Creep – What it is and how to beat it: This free white paper describes how not to lose money on your website development process.
  3. Client Questionnaire: This PDF download is a bit dated (we will be redoing it soon) but it does ask all the right questions and helps you get your requirements list together.
  4. We also have some excellent, short videos in our video blog that discuss many aspects of website and marketing costs.

For those of you that are in the process of searching for the right web agency to develop your website, heed these tips for finding a great professional agency:

web agency warning signs


Web Agency Warning Signs:

  • They don’t have an office address. If they do, just for the heck of it, Google-map it. Does it look like a real business or is it a fake address?
  • They don’t use proper English. We are guilt of occasional typos (that one was on purpose), but some web agencies are obviously not native English speakers – if this is the case, you are probably dealing with an offshore company or a website broker. These types of companies can develop effective websites BUT you also might have problems with communicating and quality control, not to mention time zone management.
  • They require you to host your website with them or purchase a “maintenance” or “marketing” package. Most businesses owners want the freedom to manage their website and not be locked into a long-term commitment. If something goes wrong, your options are limited.

At Executionists, we pride ourselves on our transparency, and straightforward, free advice, whether you intend to use us or not. We are always happy to respond to any inquiries so feel free to call 310-754-3807 or fill out our inquiry form. We publish this article annually so you might also be interested in our take from 2015 and 2014, and don’t forget the 2017 article on website costs is also available.

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