Throughout my career, I have asked and been asked this question many, many times: how much does a website cost? The short answer is that it can be anywhere from $5K to upwards of $100K. The long answer is that it depends.
The variation in price boils down to five main things:
- whether it’s templated or not
- what platform it sits on
- what functionality you need
- how developed your brand is
- the experience level of the individual/company creating it for you
A templated website using SquareSpace, Wix, or WordPress, can be a very quick and cost effective way to get a website up and running. In theory, anyone can create a website, and these content management systems (CMS) make it relatively easy. They all make use of ‘what you see is what you get’ (or ‘WYSIWYG’) content editors that allow you to make changes visually instead of through HTML, and there is a vast selection of existing pre-built templates out there to choose from. All three sites offer an array of monthly subscriptions, including options that incorporate hosting and email services.
If you have no budget, then creating your own site with a pre-built template is definitely the way to go. Just beware that:
- You will most likely still need to pay for help with the initial set up (especially if you’re using WordPress).
- No matter how beautiful the template is, if you’re design-challenged like me, you’ll still struggle with making your site look good.
- You will miss out on the sales impact that only a professional can provide: an optimised site layout that focuses on creating a clearly defined path to guide your customers’ through their buyers’ journey, and an infinitely better user experience.
- Templated sites are limited in their functionality and level of customisation unless you are talented at coding.
The platform you use will decide the functionality and the limitations your website will have. It will also considerably affect the cost. There is an abundance of different website platforms out there, so listing them all isn’t practical, but below are a few of the most popular options.
Hubspot is a content management system on Speed. It has an integrated CRM, marketing automation and so much more. It’s not cheap though (mostly because it allows you to manage your entire sales, marketing and customer service portfolio in addition to your website content), but I’m personally a huge fan of its fully-integrated approach.
Silverstripe is an example of an open-source CMS. Open-source software is highly-customisable because developer communities are constantly building and sharing new plug-ins. These sites are not cheap either, but they offer a lot of freedom and flexibility when it comes to adding functionality.
Other platforms include Craft, Drupal, Sharepoint, and Joomla, but they’re not the most popular (for a reason).
The functions your website is capable of carrying out will be the primary determiner of the final price and what platform it gets rolled out on.
The purpose of your website and the nature of your business will help dictate the functionality your site needs. Will a simple 3-page static website cut it, just so that people know you’re legit? Are you constantly going to be adding new dynamic content? Are you selling products or driving event registrations? Do you need visitors to sign-in to access or provide information? All these things will greatly effect not just how much it will cost to design and setup your website, but also your ongoing costs to maintain it.
Here are just a few examples of functionality that might bump up the price tag:
- integration with a CRM or third-party app
- an online calculator, like the calculators on sorted.org.nz
- an interactive graphic element, like informationisbeautiful.net.
- using IP geolocation to show different content depending on which country your website visitor is from
- anything that gathers, shares, or uses live streaming data
Creating a website should be an iterative process, so don’t worry about cramming all the functionality in at once. Focus on the essentials first and then add more functionality as you go. That way you’ll spread your costs out over time and make sure each one works the way it should before trying something new.
The important bit to be aware of is that you have to determine what functionality you actually want and need from the start so you can choose the right platform to build it on from the get-go. Switching platforms later will probably cost you the same as a whole new website.
If you’ve already put in the work to create your brand story, chances are you’ve fleshed out your key messages, your value proposition, a strong visual identity, and hopefully even your brand’s tone of voice. You know who you are, what you do, who you do it for and, most importantly, WHY you do it.
If you haven’t, you will also be trying to patch together your brand story and visual identity during your website development process. It’s going to cost you both time and money and, since you have just 2 seconds to make an impression on your website visitors, it’s going to cost you customers if done improperly.
Experience is the sum of all the lessons you’ve learned from your mistakes (and successes). Nothing beats it. So, it’s no surprise that the more experienced and specialised the person or organisation creating your website is, the better your website will be.
Creating a whizz-bang site is hard work, but an experienced professional will make it feel easy. And just like all good things in life, you get what you pay for. What you don’t pay for in money, you’ll end up paying for in time — your time — or substandard quality.
A website created by a professional agency will cost you no less than $20K — even if the agency themselves are starting from a base template. That’s because you’re not just paying for a pretty site, you’re paying for well thought-out UX that takes your buyer personas and buyers’ journey into account.
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