How Much Does a Website Cost in 2016?

Read this article if you want to learn about how web agencies charge for their services, and what different types of websites cost.


For a no-nonsense estimate on your web project, please fill out our Inquiry Form and we’ll respond within 12 hours. Note: We just published Website Costs for 2017.


How do most web agencies charge?

The most common method for a professional agency to charge for website design and development services, is to establish an hourly rate that takes into account salary, overhead, and profit. This is similar to how other professionals charge, whether a lawyer, doctor, plumber, etc. Executionists (for example) 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, 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 small business website takes 100 hours to build, that translates to a billable cost of $12,500.

Some web companies that cater to web neophytes 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. We have had several clients who have found it difficult to escape from their current agency, due to restrictions that they were not aware of when they signed their contract.

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.

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

 

website costs graphic

What are some 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: Cost includes strategy, original design, programming, testing, SEO-readiness and client training. For these estimates we have not included branding, copywriting, photography, or ongoing marketing services.

Very simple, informational, business website (no e-commerce):

These types of informational websites are among the most common. They are ideal for sole proprietors and smaller businesses. Even though these websites are small, with the right content and marketing they can be very effective profit centers.  Following are some typical requirements for this type of website:

  • Website consists of approximately 1-10 pages
  • Client provides logo, text content, and possibly some photos
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social media integration
    2. Blog – for content publishing
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other plugins: calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Typical Cost Range: $7,000 – $12,000

 

Mid-size, informational, business website:

These types of websites are primarily informational but with more robust content and features. For example, this could be a business with highly detailed services, document downloads, and media galleries. This complexity requires more strategy around content organization, and page layouts to accommodate the information. These websites typically include the following requirements:

  • Website consists of approximately 10-35 pages
  • Client provides logo, text content, and possibly some photos
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social media integration
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other plugins: calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $15,000 – $30,000

 

Large, informational, business website:

If you have a larger organization with a lot of content and complex navigation, the costs increase due to many factors. These types of websites usually have several user types with various permissions to access content. This could be a financial services website, for example, that has to display member accounts , and custom views based on membership tiers. Databases on these sites are more robust, along with complex security and reporting requirements. These websites typically include the following requirements:

  • Website consists of approximately 30-100+ pages
  • Client provides logo, text content, and possibly some photos
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Membership tiers
    2. Complex user accounts / dashboards
    3. Extra security and reporting
    4. Social media integration
    5. Blog
    6. Email newsletter signup
    7. Other plugins: calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $35,000 – $60,000+

 


What about the costs of e-commerce websites? 

When e-commerce enters the picture, it changes the requirements quite a bit. At it’s simplest, commerce requires a cart and checkout. At it’s more complex, commerce requires multiple integrations with back-office systems, including inventory, CRM, and accounting applications. Here are some common website scenarios we often encounter and the associated pricing based on our process.

 

Simple, e-commerce, website:

A basic e-commerce website usually consists of a small number of “simple” products. The products would not require unusual/custom logic. This means that a customer wouldn’t be able to customize the products online, or arrange for special shipping, etc. On the backend, the store owner would have standard, out-of-the-box tools for reporting, and managing their inventory. We prefer to use Shopify or WooCommerce as an out-of-the-box cart solution. These types of websites typically include the following requirements:

  • Website consists of approximately 4-6 informational pages
  • Shopping cart has 1-100 products
  • Client provides logo, text content, product info and photos
  • Other features we can include:
    1. Social media integration
    2. Blog
    3. Email newsletter signup
    4. Other plugins: Calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $9,000 – $20,000

 

Mid-size, e-commerce website:

These types of websites include all the components of the simple e-commerce website option above, but with more complex product types, and customized features. These websites typically include the following requirements:

  • Website consists of approximately 10-20 informational pages
  • Client provides logo, text content, product info and photos
  • 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 plugins: Calendar, gallery, slideshow, etc.

Cost: $25,000 – $60,000+

 

Enterprise level website:

We have worked on many Enterprise level projects. These websites are quite complex and are often seen with Fortune 10,000 brands, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, non profits, and online publishers. These websites typically include the following requirements:

  • Extensive scoping and planning phase
  • Website consists of approximately 50+ pages
  • Multiple user types with custom permissions
  • Integrated marketing strategy
  • Partner, vendor and application APIs , etc.

Cost: $60,000 – $100,000+

 

Some common options that can be added to business website budgets:

  • 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 features: + $2,500 – $8,000+
  • Multi-language features: + $2,000+
  • Distributor databases or directories: + $1,000 – $3,000+
  • Extensive company team bios: + $1,000 – $2,000+
  • Data migration, database configuration+ $3,000 – $20,000+
  • Customized e-commerce features & functionality + $3,000 – $20,000+
  • Marketing services – clients should establish a consistent ad spend plus the cost (retainer) for an agency to manage the marketing.

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 may pay that in monthly hosting services alone. Over the years we have worked on websites ranging from $10,000 to $700,000. Footlocker.com, 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.

extra web costs

5 things that can increase 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 easily migrate it. 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, usually for under $100, and these can be added to your website.
    The issues occur when you want to modify or customize the plug-ins, or several 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 one can be time intensive. Down the line, plug-ins 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. Occasionally, a client may 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 website budgets, we have to set expectations with clients that what we’re building for $12,000 won’t be the same as a website that was built for over $100,000. Budgets dictate a finite number of hours for each design phase. If the client can’t decide, or if they have intricate design goals, then we may need to increase the time/budget allocated for that effort.
  4. Integration with an existing client database or software application: In this scenario, we may be required to connect the website with some other third-party online solution. 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 integration methods. Unfortunately, this integration is often 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 college business class 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 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 article asks 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 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.
  • 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.


 

Richard Parr
by Richard Parr
Posted: June 1, 2016

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