You need a website. That much is clear.
Whether you’re starting a brick-and-mortar business, competing in the eCommerce space, or running an independent podcast or blog, your website is going to be your anchor online.
Of course, designing and developing a website is a significant undertaking. You’ll need years of experience and education to create your own site from the ground up – or enough money to pay a team of experts to do it.
Most people choose to pay people to design the website for them. As well they should!
But how much, exactly, should you plan on spending? How much should website design cost in 2021?
What Does a Website Cost?
This is a multifaceted question, and one we’ll explore in some detail.
Before we begin, you should know that design is just one of the expenses you’ll bear when creating a new website.
- Web design. Web design is the first phase of the process, and arguably the most important phase, since it will determine the layout, style, framework, and aesthetics of your website. Here, you’ll make a number of decisions, including the number of pages you want to design, the branding and aesthetic style of the site, and even small details like the organization of the footer.
As we’ll see, the cost of web design is highly variable. If you use an inexpensive website builder, you can likely use pre-defined templates for free – or pay $100 or les for a premium template. If you’re working with a professional designer, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $150,000, based on the complexity and demands of your site. For a basic informational site, $2,000 to $5,000 is a reasonable expectation.
Web development is also highly variable, depending on the technical complexity of the site. For a basic site with a WYSIWYG website builder, you might not have to pay anything. By contrast, you could pay tens of thousands of dollars to developers to build a sophisticated web app from scratch.
- Website hosting and maintenance. You’ll have to pay to host your website, keeping it live. You’ll also have to practice routine website maintenance, keeping your site secure, up-to-date, and functional.
You can expect to pay somewhere between $400 and $60,000 per year for web hosting and maintenance, depending on the quality of services you purchase and the size and scope of your site.
- Website marketing. Don’t forget about marketing! Even if your website is beautiful and packed with high-quality content, there’s no guarantee that people are going to find it on their own. Marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and social media marketing are a major help here.
It’s technically possible to make a website successful without spending money on marketing, but it’s unlikely. Most national-scale websites spend at least a few thousand dollars per month on marketing and advertising – but businesses in highly competitive industries may need to spend tens of thousands of dollars per month.
We can also get more granular with the costs of website creation.
- Domain name. You’ll want a custom domain name to brand and represent your site – and competitive, marketable names aren’t cheap. The most expensive domain name on record is Cars.com, which sold for $872 million.
- SSL certificate. SSL certificates make your site more secure, and they’re easy to buy and apply. There are different types of SSL certificates to choose from, but most are less than $100 per year.
- Web hosting services. Website hosting services vary wildly due to the number of hosting companies available and the number of hosting options available. For example, sharing a server with other websites can save you money, possibly even allowing you to host your site for free, but you’ll need to pay thousands of dollars per year for dedicated servers.
- Templates and themes. You can purchase pre-made themes and templates to use as the basis for your design; these range from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars.
- Responsiveness. You may also need to pay designers and developers to make your site responsive, allowing it to maintain its aesthetics and functionality no matter which type of device your visitors are using.
- Images, videos, and audio. Most websites make ample use of photos, videos, audio, and other kinds of multimedia content. These aren’t necessarily included in the base cost of your design.
- Content management system (CMS). How are you going to add new pages and customize the content of your website? That’s what your CMS is for. But if you’re building one from scratch or making modifications to an existing system, you’ll need to pay thousands of dollars to do it.
- eCommerce functionality. Some website builders have built-in eCommerce functionality (for a price). But building one from scratch could add thousands of dollars to your bottom-line costs.
- Third-party integrations. If you need to integrate with third-party platforms or with a database, the technical sophistication of your site is going to increase –and your costs will increase along with it.
- Individual page designs. If you’re applying the same design standard to all your pages, your website design should be relatively inexpensive. However, if you want a unique design for every page, or if you have lots of page-level designs to create for your site, it’s going to inflate your total costs.
Key Variables to Consider in Web Design Costs
The cost of website design can vary from $0 to $150,000.
That’s a startling range.
What could account for such a wide margin? And how can you tell where you’ll fall on the spectrum?
Your price is going to depend on several variables, such as:
- Web design team. Who are you hiring to do your web design? An agency will cost more than a freelancer. A freelancer will cost more than a website builder. But there are pros and cons to each option, as we’ll see in the next section. In short, the more people you have working on your project, and the more experienced those people are, the more you can expect to pay.
- Number of pages. The cost of website design scales proportionally with the number of pages you’re designing. If you only need a homepage, contact page, and a few informational pages, you’ll pay far less than someone who needs dozens of custom pages. You’ll also need to consider whether you can use the same general design template for multiple pages; if you can, the cost of design will decrease.
- Website functionality. Your back-end programmers will be the ones responsible for coding your complex functionality – but your designers will also have their work cut out for them if your website has custom features. For example, if you have hover-over effects, parallax scrolling, or more sophisticated features, your designers will need to create visuals for them. In some cases, this can be highly time-consuming and demand significant creative input.
- Design complexity and originality. The complexity and the originality of the design will also affect the final price. This is one reason why inexperienced freelance web designers are less expensive than prominent web design agencies; they often produce less creative, more formulaic work. That’s not to undermine freelancers; plenty of freelancers are capable of creating astounding, original websites. But the more you need from your website, the more you’ll need to pay to get it.
- CMS features and functionality. What do you need from your CMS? Are you just looking for something simple that can help you tweak onsite content and generate new pages and posts? Or do you need something more comprehensive? Designers and developers may need to work together to get you the CMS product you require.
- Additional support. Costs increase further if you require additional ongoing support. For example, will you need technical assistance with web maintenance? Do you plan on adding new pages in the coming years? Are you going to touch up the design in the near future?
Your Options for Website Design
As we mentioned, much of your website design costs will depend on who you hire and how you hire them.
The most common options chosen are website builders, freelancers, and agencies.
A Website Builder
Free website builders have gotten incredibly popular, and it’s easy to understand why. Thanks to WYSIWYG editors and pre-built templates, it’s easy for someone totally inexperienced with web design to put together a decent, professional-looking website – and you won’t have to pay much to do it. The tools are accessible, and many website builders offer additional services and features, including hosting, marketing, and more.
However, website builders tend to be limited in capacity and flexibility. Free and cheap templates don’t look very good and don’t support much functionality. On top of that, you’ll be stuck with little to no support – unless you choose to upgrade your service package. Even then, you’ll be one of millions of customers, so you won’t get much individual attention or service.
- Cheap or free(ish).
- Quick and easy.
- Accessible to newcomers.
- Optional upgrades.
- Formulaic, uninspired designs.
- Low flexibility for custom features.
- Little to no support.
A Freelance Website Designer
Another option is to work with a freelance web designer, or even a team of freelancers. You’ll spend more with freelancers than you will with a website builder, but not as much as you would with an agency. You can also hire people based on their strengths, weaknesses, and existing portfolio, so you an find the best fit.
That said, finding a good fit for your organization can be tough, especially if you have strict web design requirements. And there’s always a chance that your designer will flake in the middle of a project. Also, freelance web designers rarely specialize in other skills – so you may need to hire a designer, a front-end developer, a CMS specialist, a back-end developer, and other roles all separately.
- Novel designs.
- Difficulty hiring.
- Little accountability.
- Need to hire other specialists.
A Web Design Agency
For many companies, hiring a web design agency is the best move. You’ll get access to an entire team of experts, including designers (of course), developers, and other specialists – possibly even marketers. You’ll get constant support from day one, and your agency will be completely accountable for their work. If you have the budget for it, it’s the most comprehensive option, and one that can cover all your needs simultaneously.
The biggest downside is the cost. You’ll pay more for web design with a professional agency than you will with any other option. You might also be locked into a contract with restrictive terms, depending on the nature of the arrangement. Accordingly, it’s not the best fit for all companies or individuals.
- Expertly crafted, creative designs.
- Account representatives and ongoing support.
- Complete accountability.
- Access to other services.
- Contractual obligations.
How Much Should You Pay for Website Design in 2021?
So how much should you actually spend on website design in 2021?
It’s true that free website builders can get you a decent-looking website (almost) for free, but you’ll end up with awful hosting, an unoriginal design, and other potential problems.
It’s also true that you could work with a prestigious agency and pay six figures for the website of the century, equipped with amazing features you don’t even need.
But the reality is, you’re probably going to fall somewhere in the middle.
If all you want is a basic informational website for your small business, and you want a creative custom design to ground it, bank on a few thousand dollars. If you need support for complex functionality and dozens, or even hundreds of pages, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a bit more.
That said, because website design is so dependent on individual variables, and because each project is unique, it’s hard to make a concrete and universal estimate. That’s why at Website.design, we’re happy to give free consultations – and free quotes.
Contact us today to discuss your web design needs, and learn exactly how much your custom design will cost!