What’s the real cost of building a website in 2020? Is it $500? $1,000? $5,000? More? The question can seem daunting unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, so we’ve put together a guide to make sense of it all.

In general, the cost of a website can range from only a few dollars for a personal website built with a DIY website builder, to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for large, customised, technically complex websites for many large corporations.

Like most things though there’s a creamy middle, and as a ball park figure, and assuming you want something more professional than the DIY approach (the DIY approach is fine if you’re on a shoe-string budget, but won’t be very flexible and it’ll be very difficult to give it a professional look and feel – more on this later), most businesses will spend somewhere $1,000 – $5,000 building a website, depending on their particular needs and goals.

Your website isn’t a dead cost, it’s an investment. As a business, your potential customers will judge you on your website. Like any investment, you should have a clear idea of exactly what you’ll get for your money, and you only get out what you put into it.

You’re asking all the wrong questions – define what you need before you start

To work out a budget for your website, you first need to decide what sort of website you need. Depending on how you want your website to look, what it should say, and how it should function, you might find yourself paying for things you don’t need, or you might be disappointed at how primitive and unattractive your low-budget website turned out . So ask yourself these questions:

  • Will a simple, informational website be enough for my business, or do I want some design or functionality options?
  • What are my design requirements (i.e. website layout, colour scheme, logo, photography, graphics)?
    • It’s much cheaper to use a template for the website design, like a WordPress theme, rather than a fully customised design.
    • You can hire a designer to a logo, photos, and any other graphics you want to use on the site, but again, if this can wait till later, stock photographs and a simple text logo are much more affordable.
  • What do I want to say on the website? Will I write this content myself, or would I like help with it?
  • What functionality will the website have? (there are thousands of possible features a website could have, but some examples include: ability to change the website’s content, a blog, a forum, photo galleries, newsletter sign-up forms, or ecommerce functionality). Which technical features are must-haves, and which are nice-to-haves?
  • What’s my marketing budget, to get found online? It’s okay if don’t plan on budgeting for this, we’ll

To avoid scope creep, and an ever-ballooning budget as the project goes on, it’s important to have these things figured out before you start.  A good web design agency will sit down and help you decide these things before offering you a quote.

Stop! If your budget is less than $1,000

If you’re expecting a professional business website for under $1,000, you’ll have to do some serious corner cutting. You’ll either need to go down the DIY track, and use a drag and drop website builder like Weebly or YolaSites, or you should expect to spend a considerable amount of time learning coding and other technical skills before setting up your site with a more powerful platform like WordPress.

The DIY approach

If you’re operating on a shoe-string budget, a DIY website builder may be your best option to start with, until you decide to invest in a more professional site. If you do decide that a DIY website builder is for you, just beware of hidden lock-in costs and contracts. Companies like Weebly that offer free DIY websites typically make their money by offering tiered ‘freemium’ plans; a basic plan can be very cheap, or even free, but if you decide later that you really do need more features or flexibility, like your own domain name, ecommerce functionality, or a premium template, you may end up paying ongoing costs you didn’t anticipate.

Become your own web developer with WordPress

The other low-cost option, if you’re looking for a website with more flexibility and functions than a run-of the-mill drag-and-drop website builder can provide, is to spend the time learning a more powerful platform, and building your website using WordPress. WordPress is the platform of choice for most good web design agencies (including RU Online), but you can learn to use WordPress yourself.

From finding a hosting provider, learning to use FTP, correctly configuring your hosting environment and the WordPress platform, and finally designing and developing the website itself, it can be quite an ordeal if you’ve never build a website before, so expect a steep learning curve for some of these obstacles.

Remember, though, that your time is also a cost. Be realistic about your own IT skills, and how much time you’re prepared to spend learning web development skills. If you’re time-rich, money-poor, and don’t mind spending quite a few hours behind a computer screen, the DIY approach could be the perfect way to get your business online at low cost. And remember, once you have a website, you can always find a website expert later, to help you with the little things you still just can’t quite crack by yourself.

A final note for those looking for the silver bullet of a cheap or free website: if you want a professional-looking website, and especially if you want it to have custom features and functionality, you’re going to have to spend a substantial amount of time and/or money to get a final product that you can be proud of. Remember that you get what you pay for.

Should I hire a web designer? Dealing with a professional web design agency.

If you do want a professionally-built website, and either aren’t able to or aren’t interested in learning the various technical, coding, and design skills of a web developer, it’s time for you to look at hiring a web design agency.

If you do decide to hire a web design agency, avoid the cheap and nasty ones. There are plenty of web design firms out there offering suspiciously cheap complete packages, and they’re usually suspiciously non native English speakers making the offers. Take these kinds of deals at your own peril, but don’t say we didn’t warn you! When it comes to hiring a web design agency, you really do get what you pay for.

Web design agencies charge by the hour for their services, so their quote will be determined by how long the project is expected to complete. Don’t be fooled by agencies that offer fixed-price packages; make sure you read the fine print, so you know exactly what you’re paying for. After you’ve sat down with a few agencies, gone through exactly what you want out of your website, and been given detailed quotes, including a breakdown of all deliverables included in the project, you can compare quotes and know you’re comparing apples with apples.

Expect to pay between $40-$150/hr for a good website designer. Being a low-cost operation, RU Online charges between $50-$80 per hour for our services, depending on the particular service in question (design, coding, setup, support, etc).

Getting found online – digital marketing

Now that you’ve got your business online, and have a professional image for potential customers and clients, it’s time to think about how you’re going to get found online.

Your website won’t stand alone. It’s one part of a broad ecosystem that makes up your business’s online strategy. Extend your online presence with an active, social media presence, and boost your brand.

You should also consider using digital marketing to reach more customers – through a combination of online advertising, SEO, email marketing, and more.

While a lot of this digital marketing can be done by you in-house, it may be beneficial to hire an agency to help you set up your wider online presence, or to help you manage it long-term.

See our DIY Digital Marketing Checklist for a great starting point to getting found online.

A final word

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You now have all the tools you need to start the journey of getting your business online, and we’d love to be a part of that journey.

Here at RU Online, we pride ourselves on our transparency, and straightforward, free advice, whether you intend to use us or not.

So drop us a line, we’d love to help you get started, and offer you a free quote to get your business online.

Summary (too long, didn’t read)

  • If you hire a web designer, expect to pay between $1,000 – $5,000 for a business website, depending on your design and feature needs.
  • If this is outside your budget, you can make do with a free or cheap DIY website builder like Weebly – you’ll get a website, but it’ll be lacking in features, flexibility, and a professional finish.
  • As a business, potential customers will judge you on your website. If you can afford it, it always pays to get it done professionally.
  • Hire RU Online to build a website for your business.