How Much Does a Website Cost in 2023? The Definitive Answer
The answer to the dreaded question
The past seven years since I started Neo Vision have been truly incredible, and, no, this isn’t one of your “look at my amazing journey” kind of posts. Those seven years have also been hectic, challenging, and borderline unbearable at some points. Through all that chaos, some questions remained constant “How much does a website cost?” and “How much should I pay for a website?”.
I asked those questions myself when I started my agency, and I always hear them from my partners and clients.
The internet is full of web development agencies that don’t mention anything about budgets and website costs. At the time of writing this article, neither do we – but this will change for the better.
Instead of addressing this question face to face every time I get it, I’ll give you a crash course on everything you need to know about website prices and the tools to make the best choice for your business.
The short answer
I’ve seen websites of all kinds, built ones for my clients, worked with freelancers in the field, and lost clients to our competitors, so I should be able to answer this question quickly, right?
If you’re looking for a quick answer – or a “rough estimate,” as people love to say – here’s one. It can range from $0 to $1.000.000. Now, that didn’t help.
How do you know how much your website might or should cost, and how do you know if you’re making the right decision?
That’s what I’m here for. Let’s get to work.
There are many options you can go for. That’s why the budget ranges broadly. I’ll split all your options into categories and explain why and when to choose each.
DIY (Do It Yourself)
The web has been full of “do it yourself” solutions lately. No code MVPs compete with more traditional custom web development approaches, and technology allows us to achieve decent results in areas outside of our expertise.
These are three common options that we also played around with. You can use them to build a website on your own.
By far the most popular choice in DIY website builders – Wix has been all over my search results when comparing different solutions. They offer a plethora of design templates that you can choose from, host their website on their platform (so you don’t need to worry about hosting costs), and lately have started to focus on the e-Commerce sector.
They offer a lot of integrations within the Wix App Market, allowing users to get more out of their website than they could usually do with DIY Builders.
The mobile loading speed is still lacking a bit, but they’re showing great promise in fixing that, as it’s been constantly improving over the years.
Also, managing a big Wix site can get frustrating as the editor tends to become pretty slow when dealing with a more extensive website, AND you can’t transfer your content or your website from them.
Weebly is Wix’s biggest competitor, in my opinion.
I feel like Weebly has the edge for ease of use. It’s simple and fast, and you can’t really get lost in it.
It has the same approach of giving you design templates that you can use for your website.
However, the drawback is that Wix’s design templates are superior in terms of the number of designs to choose from, the quality of UX, and overall versatility.
They also offer integrations through their App Center, made by Weebly’s team and third-party partners.
Some drawbacks include that their built-in photo editor lacks the appropriate features for a 2023 website builder (so you better be good) at editing photos offline and that their support level is directly tied to your plan.
They also have e-Commerce features, although I haven’t tested them out. I’ll refrain from giving my opinion.
Squarespace’s main selling point is its excellent design templates, and I’m perfectly ok with that. Although they have fewer design templates than WIX, all designs look stunning.
Their platform is a bit harder to get used to compared to Wix and Weebly, and it also comes with some other annoying limitations. For example, the menu hierarchy can only go up to 2 levels at the time of writing. This can affect larger websites or websites with a complex structure.
Besides that, you get the same deal for your money, some limitations, and some page speed issues, but also fast prototyping and no dependencies on other resources but yourself.
Who is it for?
- Entrepreneurs who are just starting their business and need to get online as quickly and cheaply as possible.
- Small local businesses that don’t need or want to compete with the giants in their fields.
- Personal use websites. Since more than two-thirds of all websites created are for personal use, it’s no wonder the DIY platforms are spending considerable amounts in marketing budgets to get to their target audience first.
- Expert digital power users with the necessary knowledge and content to build a website independently. A few examples might be freelancers that want to showcase their services and photographers that need a quick portfolio website.
- The cheapest option – the overall monthly cost will be between $10 and $100. Be careful because this doesn’t include all the hours you will spend learning how to use the platform, creating the website and the content, and updating it regularly.
- Fast iteration process – want to change something, login, change it, and hit publish. You have no overhead waiting on your freelancer or agency to implement your changes.
- All-in-one solution – You have fewer services to worry about when it comes to your website – most DIY platforms bundle other services, such as hosting, at their cost, so you never have to worry about those.
- e-Commerce – I wouldn’t touch anything DIY-related when it comes to e-Commerce. I know most platforms offer e-Commerce features, but if you are serious about your online shop, your closest option to DIY is Shopify. An agency can scale a Shopify shop once you no longer have time to manage everything yourself.
- Design – Limited options when it comes to design. At one point or another, you will find another website that looks very similar to the one you built.
- Scalability and Features – Limited options when it comes to features. A custom-built website won’t have any limitations regarding features except the skill and knowledge of your development team.
How to get started?
Head over to one of the platforms I mentioned earlier. Here are the links:
They all offer a free trial and have a great onboarding process.
Test them out, see what you like, and then consider upgrading to one of their higher plans if you notice the current plan limits you.
Hire a Freelancer
This would be your second most cost-efficient option. A freelancer usually is cheaper than an agency.
You will find that freelancers are usually hyper-specialized in different areas. If you already have a design for your website, you can hire a freelancer to transform that design into an actual website. Then you can hire another freelancer to help you with the content and so on.
Prices range from about $50 for a WordPress Theme install on your hosting to around $5000 for transforming a custom design into a custom website for more experienced freelancer developers.
Who is it for?
- Businesses that have a particular and documented need.
- Businesses with an in-house resource with experience in managing tech projects that can play the role of Project Manager and Product Owner.
- Businesses with their development team need to augment them for a set period.
- Budget and Costs – you can get great value for money if you know exactly what you want, have a detailed brief, and are comfortable managing the project on your own;
- Number of Options – you get to pick exactly who you work with. You might not get the same luxury of options when working with an agency;
- The Flexibility of Work Schedule – freelancers are usually more flexible than your agency and tend to have more adjustable work schedules;
- Priority – if your project is big enough, then it might be the only one they work on, thus becoming your full-time web developer for the project’s duration.
- Hit or Miss – if things get tough, as it sometimes happens in IT, a freelancer might completely miss your deadline since he’s the only resource working for you;
- Very specific area of expertise – freelancers are mostly hyper-specialized. When you plan to build a website, most businesses don’t consider all the components that make a website work. We talked about this.
You will need a great hosting provider, great UI/UX designers, great web developers, content creators, and digital marketers to produce a website that generates ROI.
If you already have all of those in-house, this isn’t a problem, but when they say they want to build a website, most companies usually look for the whole solution, not just a web developer.
- Legal binds – usually, with an agency, the legal work is much more strict and offers you all kinds of warranties, deadline guarantees, and compensation. Most of the time, you don’t get all that with freelancers, and personal events that can happen to anyone can derail your project and make the freelancer disappear.
How to get started?
Many platforms can help you find your perfect web development freelancer. I just listed the ones that we have worked with in the past.
Hire an Agency
I can’t say I like the term “hire” when working with an agency. I prefer the term “partner” to be more accurate regarding the relationship you should have with your chosen agency.
Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. I’ll go into much more detail about this in a future article.
For now, let’s assume you found a trustworthy agency with great reviews and portfolio and are ready to start working with them.
Usually, agencies have a much more structured process to achieve results. They have multiple resources that they can rely on, and if they don’t have the in-house expertise for a part of the project, they can refer you to some trusted partners that will be able to deliver the project for you.
The costs for building the simplest of websites with an agency start around $5.000.
The average client for a website at Neo Vision pays around $9.000 for development, but we’ve seen it go as low as $6.000 and as high as $22.000.
Who is it for?
- Businesses with bigger ambitions that need expertise from multiple areas of work.
- Companies that want to have a single point of contact and not manage ten different teams.
- Companies that require a website but need a long-term partner to guide them through the process.
- Entrepreneurs that already wear too many hats and can’t afford to spend time managing an entire project.
- Knowledge – usually, agencies can help you in all areas needed to build a successful website. An agency is generally catered towards building relationships for the long term, so they have more skin in the game than a freelancer.
- Structure – agencies have organized internal processes. They have a system and will devise a plan of how the website will work for your business. Agencies understand that you want more trust, leads, and sales, and the website is just one of the means to help you get them.
- Legal Binds – agencies usually have much stricter agreements. They offer warranties for deadlines and deliverables and support after delivering the project.
- Speed of Delivery – agencies can deliver more significant projects faster. They naturally have more resources that allow you to build, launch and iterate on your new website more quickly.
- Communication – usually, you will talk with dedicated people that can bridge the gap between tech and “normal human language” – they will better understand your needs and will be able to explain their proposed solutions better.
- Cost – naturally, an agency will be more expensive than a freelancer. They work from rented spaces, have multiple resources that need managing, and have more significant business expenses than your average freelancer.
- Work Schedule – the flexibility of work schedule – usually agencies work during business hours. In case of emergencies, they might help you out during the weekends or more “exotic” hours, but you shouldn’t be counting on this.
- Number of Options – agencies might be pickier when choosing who to work with. They might decline your project if they don’t think your project will work or you don’t have the required budget.
How to get started?
I have the same advice for you as I did when hiring a freelancer. Ask around in your network for recommended agencies, use Google to search for one, or drop us a message.
Don’t settle for the first agency you encounter – ask around, meet new people and see who you connect with and can see yourself working in the long term.
Hidden Website Costs
Ok, you decided which option to use for building your new website. You are probably wondering what other “hidden” costs you will have during the process.
I will list all the other investments you need to make if your objective is to build a website that generates a return on investment.
As I mentioned, when businesses plan to build a website, they couldn’t care less about the tech involved – they want a solution to a problem.
They usually need:
- More sales;
- More leads;
- More trust;
- More efficient customer support.
Development is part of the solution, but it’s not nearly the only component that should be involved in the making of a profitable website.
Let’s see what other things you need to consider when building your perfect website.
Brief and Planning
Before deciding which option is right for you and your business, you need to determine what you want or need precisely.
Ideally, you would have a mega document that has some or all of the points in the following table of contents:
- General Project Overview;
- Website Goals;
- The Measure of Success;
- Competition Analysis;
- Potential Features;
- List of Interfaces;
- Total budget for all website-related activities;
- Rigid deadlines and launch events;
- UI & UX Inspiration.
I have never been involved in or heard of a website project that eventually became successful that has winged this part. It brings clarity to you, your business, and your future partners for this project.
You want to have this initial document before deciding which option to go to and before having your first talks with potential partners. Depending on who you choose to work with, you might get some help in this area.
Some freelancers or agencies might charge you for this, and some will work with you during the first meetings to clarify this area.
For example, at Neo Vision, if we decide we are a good fit, we will gladly work with you to create the initial brief before we ask for any commitment from you. This will be covered in our initial quote, and you will pay for those hours only if you decide to continue working with us. I know freelancers who take this approach, but I also know freelancers or agencies that will charge you an upfront fee for helping you with the briefing and planning documents.
Insights and Costs
For website projects, our clients pay an average of $500 for the project’s planning phase, but we’ve seen it go as high as $4000 for very complex projects.
Any agency that respects itself will consider this a mandatory part of the project and should invest time to guide you through creating your brief. This time will be charged most of the time.
Freelancers usually will ask you a set of questions to define their scope of work and be able to quote you on the project.
Design and UI/UX
Now that we know what we want to achieve with our website, it’s time for the design phase.
If you are building it yourself, it comes down to choosing your template. If your freelancer or agency uses themes to create a website, then it’s time to select a theme. Please note that by using a template or a theme, you will be limited in what experience you can create for your users. You might encounter some load speed problems, and, chances are, your website will look very similar to many others out there. If you feel like those things aren’t critical for your current business, go ahead – you will be lowering the total budget needed for the website’s creation.
If you opt for a custom design, you either need to work with a UI/UX agency or find a full-service tech agency that can offer that service in-house.
I’m not going to go into much detail about the whole process, but I expect to add more information to your brief and treat this part as a separate project.
By the end of the design phase, your deliverables should be your final, approved design for the website in two resolutions minimum: for desktops and mobile devices.
Insights and Costs
If we are talking about costs, again, it depends. You can go down the freelancer route if you want to. That means managing at least two different resources that work with two different goals in mind. You might save some budget, but the last thing you want is to be the messenger between two frustrated freelancers because I have seen the following scenario play out:
“Designer freelancer sends the design to you -> you send the design to the Developer Freelancer -> Developer Freelancer says the design can’t be implemented or that it will cost you more and ask for some revisions -> You deliver those revisions to the Designer Freelancer which asks you for more money -> Cycle keeps repeating”
Keep this in mind: developers love to blame designers, and designers love to blame developers. If you work with an agency that offers this service in-house, at least you won’t hear about it.
If you work with an agency that doesn’t offer that service in-house, ask if they have a UI/UX partner.
If they don’t have one, ensure that after you find a UI/UX partner, you introduce him to your developers before starting. This way, they can sort all of their stuff together before beginning to work with one another.
Our clients usually pay an average of $3000 for the design deliverables to our design partners, but I’ve seen it go from $1500 to $9000 for the whole UI/UX process.
Writing your brief and going through the design phase would be enough in a perfect world where everything will always go according to plan. In today’s world, things are constantly changing.
Whether you realized you could improve on parts of your brief, add a new feature, create a unique competitive advantage, or just totally forgot about an important feature, I would advise, when planning out your total website budget, to keep about 15-20% aside for potential change requests.
It’s normal for any tech product to go through multiple iterations. It’s the only way it can grow. Learn to expect your product to need quick changes, budget for it, and create the best possible experience for your users.
Insights and Costs
How much will it cost?
Well, it depends.
We’ve built websites where our client didn’t change the scope at all, and we’ve developed ones where the scope was changed by more than 50%.
You will be pretty safe if you set aside a maximum of 20% of the development budget for any potential change requests, but you should also ask your particular agency how they handle change requests and what you should expect.
Ideally, that 20% budget you set aside would be spent on website improvements and not on fundamental features that you forgot cause you winged your briefing.
Maintenance and Improvements
You want to be able to manage your content on your own without any help from your development team. This means changing text, creating new pages with existing templates, changing photos, etc.
Ask your future development partner about this since some freelancers and agencies don’t make it easy for you to manage your content after launch!
You will need some development hours for the following:
- Regular Updates (Plugins, Theme, Server Side, etc.);
- If your website was built using common coding sense and a modern CMS, you could update plugins by yourself. In some cases, if there are significant version changes, this might either crash your site or mess up the front end. That’s why we usually recommend letting your developers do it.
- Integrating new solutions;
- Implementing new page templates;
- Tweaking current pages or features.
Insights and Cost
Usually, we have between 4 and 24 hours of pre-booked development hours for our clients, with an average of around 10. This translates into roughly $200 – $1200, with an average of approximately $500.
This can also scale up during periods of intense development and updates and scale down during slower stages. Keep in touch with your development partners and plan ahead.
Your website needs to be hosted somewhere so users can access it. Like anything in this world, hosting providers come in all shapes and sizes.
Shared hosting, VPS, dedicated server?!
If you are working with an agency, the best practice is for them to recommend and handle all your hosting needs. If you are working with a freelancer, ask them if they can help, but 99% of the time, the freelancer won’t include it in the initial estimation.
If you did the website yourself, your DIY platform would usually handle it.
Insights and Costs
We go with a VPS for most clients unless it’s a huge website. If the project is really that big, we go for one or more dedicated servers.
Our clients usually spend around $20 to $50 a month to host their websites and email addresses.
If you want your website to provide you with the best return, then some third-party solutions are a must, and the best ones usually have some cost attached to them.
Some common categories of third-party solutions are:
- Tracking, Reporting, and Analytics;
- Invoice and Billing;
- Warehouse Management Systems (WMS);
- Email Marketing and Newsletters;
- Payment Gateways;
- Communication APIs for SMS and Voice;
Insights and Cost
Depending on what you need, the price might differ. Our clients spend an average of $100 to $300 monthly for subscriptions to different third-party solutions.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Now, this is a big subject all on its own. SEO is mainly split into two different categories: on-site and off-site.
In an ideal world, most entities developing websites, regardless of whether they are freelancers or agencies, would budget the on-site SEO in their initial quote and have the expertise to do it. But since we live in a highly competitive landscape where you will be immediately judged for your final price, some of them make that initial price more appealing.
Regardless, having proper on-site SEO is a must, so make sure to get it. I’ll write an article going more in-depth on that soon enough. Until then, you can get your daily SEO education from MOZ, one of the industry’s leaders.
A dedicated Marketing Agency usually does off-site SEO. During the final phases of building your website, you should start looking for potential partners to help you there if your current partner doesn’t have the in-house capacity.
Insights and Cost
We usually have the technical on-site SEO factored in in our initial quote. For off-site SEO, we’ve seen our clients pay from $300 to thousands of dollars per month.
Let’s get this straight, when I say Digital Marketing, I mean pay-per-click (PPC) and inbound marketing.
This is a whole area of expertise on its own, and I’m planning to do an entire series on it.
There are a lot of areas involved but what I want you to take away from this article is that you WILL need it to meet your goals of having a website that generates excellent ROI.
Insights and Cost?
Usually, our clients pay an average of $500 on PPC Campaigns Configuration with another average of $500 on the campaigns’ actual monthly budget.
Depending on your business’s needs, you might have some months where you don’t do paid advertising and some months where you spend huge amounts on marketing. The budget above is to keep a steady flow of potential leads and buyers to your site while assuming that you and your partners are constantly looking at the data, optimizing your pages, and improving conversions.
I strongly recommend going with a full-time content manager for inbound content marketing. You can outsource this as well, but I firmly believe that the best content comes from your internal team – that’s why you see me writing this article.
A Budget Example
Let’s do a quick exercise: imagine you decided to partner with an agency for your website. Let’s do the budget for one year since, if you have been paying attention, you know that the actual development of the website isn’t that significant compared to the whole budget of the activities you should be doing for it to be successful.
We will assume the average cost for each of the services needed in the whole scope of the work.
- Design (UI/UX) – $3,000 flat fee;
- Development – $9,000 flat fee;
- Change Requests – 20% of $9000 = $1,800;
- Maintenance and Improvements – $500 x 12 months = $6,000;
- Hosting – $30 x 12 months = $360;
- SEO – $300 x 12 months = $3,600;
- Digital Marketing – $1,000 x 12 months = $12,000;
Total budget: $35,760
What makes website costs vary
Ok, so you’ve seen me throw around all those ranges, and now, you’re probably wondering, “Ok, what makes my website cost $6000? What makes my website cost $25.000?“
It will ultimately come down to how much time a developer or a team of developers needs to invest in building your website.
Depending on the type of website you’re planning to build, you should have different expectations.
To understand why website costs vary so much, it’s essential to know how developers or agencies quote projects.
There are two ways you can work with developers, fixed cost or time and materials.
This is how most website projects are quoted, and it’s also how we start any relationship with a partner since it provides our client with the most predictable budget.
We estimate projects by taking the brief from the client, guiding him through the process of completing it until we are both happy with the outcome, and then splitting all the deliverables from the brief into tasks that can be estimated alone.
After that, we check what tasks need to be completed and by what type of resource – here I’m thinking: Developer, CTO, Product Owner, Project Manager, DevOps Engineer, and Business Analyst.
We then estimate the time each team member needs to work on a task.
The estimate is based on past experiences with an added buffer on top of it.
Since we can’t know for sure how much time will any given task take (think about asking an artist how long a painting will take), we add that buffer so that at the end of the project, when you add up all of the tasks, we might have some that we overestimated. We might have some that we underestimated.
But, overall, we will land close to the estimated budget.
“But Adi, doesn’t that mean that sometimes the client pays for more time than was needed to finish the project?”
Yes, it does mean that – sometimes we find that at the end of the project, we’ve overestimated it by about 20-30%, and sometimes we find out that we underestimated it by the same amount. Usually, the difference is about 10% to 15%, give or take.
If we underestimate the time it takes to complete the work, we take a hit, learn from this experience, and use that information to estimate future projects.
If we overestimated it, we usually use that time to implement any other nice-to-have feature that our partner didn’t have the budget for or bring improvements to the project on our own accord.
Don’t get me wrong, for a fixed-cost project, it’s perfectly normal to deliver precisely what was agreed upon in the determined budget – nothing more and nothing less, regardless of whether the developer or agency overestimated or underestimated the scope of work.
We usually partner with our clients as much as they partner with us, meaning that by the time we start working together, we have already decided we are a good fit – that’s why in cases where we overestimate stuff, we go the extra mile and provide additional value.
Again, I have nothing against developers or agencies that skip the step above.
Time and Materials
This way of working requires more trust between parties, but I also feel it’s more efficient than the fixed-cost approach.
It allows the scope to remain flexible during development and ultimately will give you the best value for your money.
Working like this involves writing an initial brief and then setting up recurring meetings throughout the project’s timeline.
While a fixed-cost project can be done with a Waterfall Project Management approach, you need to use an Agile approach when working with a “Time and Materials” mindset. More about Project Management Methodologies here.
You will split the initial brief into multiple workloads, which you will tackle in set periods (sprints). We usually go with one or two-week sprints, and we have one meeting with our client at the end of the sprint where we analyze what was done, check what still needs to be done, and review our priorities for the next sprint.
After that, we deliver an hourly report of the logged hours and the invoice for the respective period.
If you don’t have a strong relationship with your partners, this whole approach might seem pretty scary because you have a lot of unknowns when going on this route, such as:
- How do you know if the developers are spending their time effectively?
- How do you know if the logged hour report at the end of the sprint is accurate or manipulated?
That’s why I only recommend doing this once you fully trust your partners and can fully and transparently talk about budgets, timelines, deadlines, and efficiency.
Variables that affect website cost
Ultimately, what makes website costs vary is the scope of the project. Who would’ve thought?!
You won’t find two identical websites, and the differences below will determine the final cost for your project:
- Number of interfaces (different design templates that the developers need to create);
- Complexity of design (how much motion, animations, and how interactive will the website ultimately be);
- Number of features and integrations (such as e-Commerce features, payment integrations, newsletter and email marketing integrations, etc.);
- Content Adding or Content Transfer.
Is it worth it?
For the average website project, I can see the example budget working every time given the right partners and a process of continuous improvement.
Will it work from the beginning?
Meh, sometimes it will. In most cases, it won’t. That’s why you plan for the long run, and that’s why you and your partners should have a mindset of constantly improving things in your website, but given enough time, I haven’t seen a project that respected the above that didn’t deliver.
To clarify, by “deliver,” I mean generating enough leads, sales, trust, and awareness to give back multiple X returns.
Final Pro Tips
- Never wing your brief – it’s the core component that brings clarity to your website’s purpose;
- Always talk to multiple possible service providers before making your choice.
- Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with your chosen partner – it’s a marathon, and the last thing both parties need is unresolved questions from the beginning;
- Plan your budget, and disclose it only to potential partners that earned your trust;
- When you don’t know how much you should spend, remember companies usually spend about 11.7% of their revenue on marketing activities as of February 2021. Source here.
Look, I know it’s been a long read. If you’ve got to the end, I’m 100% sure you are more prepared to embark on this journey of creating your perfect website.
I hope I brought some clarity to this whole process, saved you some time and money in this adventure, and taught you how to pick your partner while avoiding all the scammers and fake gurus that swim around those waters.
Much Love <3!