How Much Does A Professional Website Cost?

In this article I'm going to use an object we all know and love (or hate, depending on your current situation) to illustrate the cost of the all powerful Website (aka Online Business).

I apologize ahead of time as it’s a little long-winded, but we’ve got a lot of ground to cover if you’re going to become an expert at answering the question “how much does a website cost?”. 

In short, a website costs as much as a car. 

The range of options and costs associated with buying a car are actually a really good comparison to the cost of a website. It's possible to buy a used car for under $10,000 that should be perfectly adequate to get you where you need to go. Similarly, buying a new car can run the gamut from a bare bones Kia for under $15,000 to a high end Porsche 911 GT3 for $100K plus. Beyond the desired car's look and style, there are many other considerations that will affect its cost like how many people fit in it, how fast it goes, what options are included, etc. 

"How much is a typical website?" A quick answer to that question is "a website costs as much as a car" - The following items can all have influence on a project's budget, just to name a few:

  • Visual design (esthetics, what are the look and feel requirements?)
  • Site size (how many pages will the site contain?)
  • Project scope (what type of information will the site pages contain?)
  • Special functionality (are there any unusual services that the site will provide?)
  • Site traffic volume (how many visitors is the site expected to handle?)
  • Custom business logic (will there be the need for programming?)
  • Development timetable (what is the site's expected launch date?)
  • Project team (will the project require user experience, design, dev or all?)
  • Integration (will the site need to connect to any other pieces of software?)

Website Budget Ranges 

We have 3 (well 4, sort of) pricing ranges that our projects fall within. We're happy to quote these ranges to help potential clients determine the right budget ballpark for the work they are requesting. Additionally, we're usually able to propose alternative solutions when a discrepancy between needs and budget create a budget gap. Less complex alternatives or phased projects can often bring needs and budgets together.

$6,500 - $10,000 - Pre-owned cars

From time to time EBWAY Creative will convert an existing site to the our own CMS (content management system) enabling a client to get control of their site's content without having to shell out for a newly designed site. This is akin to purchasing a late model pre-owned car that is still under warranty and has plenty of life left. 

$12,000 - $25,000 - New cars

Our starting project range will get you into a new site, where you can pick your design, options, and accessories - a respectable, dependable, clean, worry free site that gets good mileage. 

$30,000 - $80,000 - Luxury cars

Sometimes you want your site to do more than get you where you need to go. Sometimes you want style, added comfort, and cool features. Perhaps performance is more important and it's worth paying more for the turbo charged engine and sports suspension. Translating the metaphor the web, a site that needs brand new visual design, animated presentations, e-commerce, significant custom business logic, or API integration might fall into this range. 

$100,000+ - Performance cars

The sky's the limit. There are plenty of options out there for you. Sometimes when style counts it's worth paying for a Bentley or Rolls-Royce. Perhaps style isn't worth paying for, but customization is. Some people want a tweaked out sound system, or maybe convert their engine to run on vegetable oil! websites enter this range when they are either enormous in terms of the number of pages, extremely complex in terms of custom business logic, or when they require custom applications to be built.

Sites in this range might contain some applications like bulletin boards, games, etc. In this range, sites may also contain some custom business logic. Due to our database driven approach to web development a site's page count has a minimal effect on budget. The complexity of a site's pages has a greater impact on the budget than merely the overall page count. 

Lastly, the content can affect the budget (who's writing it, is it optimized for search, is it technical in nature, et, etc). 

Website Budget Examples 

In website design & development there are thousands of ways to solve any given problem. Usually solutions can range from the very simple to the extremely complex. Often a subtle change in requirements (aka scope) can result in an enormous difference in project scope and price. Given the large amount of functionality already built into the the Adobe Business Catalyst CMS (our primary platform) and its various applications, many highly customized requirements can be adjusted to fit within existing functionality.

Subtle changes can spell the difference between a simple implementation of an existing component and the need to create a new and highly customized application. For this reason, when it comes to areas of custom business logic, functionality or api work, it is important to probe a client's needs in order to carefully understand the underlying goals and desires behind those "requirements." 

Often, when a client requests an extremely complex and un-maintainable piece of functionality, we can suggest something much more appropriate for their needs that will be less expensive, easier to administer, and more maintainable. But, we need to understand the client's reasons for their initial request so that we can educate them on their options. 

As mentioned above, there is sometimes only a slight distinction between a simple site element and a complex piece of custom coding. 

Usually the differences between sites that rely on large amounts of custom business logic and simple sites are imperceptible to users. For instance, the EBWAY Creative Solutions website (, a very simple and minimalistic site from a visitor perspective is actually extremely complex with built in marketing automation! Although it contains many pages, all of the pages are very simple in their structure and use almost no custom business logic with very few exceptions. 

Custom Website Programming Pricing 

SaaS applications vs. Open Source

One of our website platforms is created by ADOBE (you know, the inventors of the PDF and web dev apps of all kinds) and backed by ADOBE. That's the difference. We use only the best of the best. OK, that's probably no enough information - so, let me take you through the major difference between our CMS (content management system) and the Open Source solutions out there (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, Etc). 

First off, open source is not free. You still have to setup a hosting environment, plan for upgrades, install security, plan for backups, and if you customize the open source software in any way (like adding a template or plugin) you'll need to prepare to keep those running smoothly as well. In fact, the cost of running your own WordPress or Joomla website can be up to 10x more expensive than using a hosted solution (aka SAAS = software as a service). 

That's not all, we've only scratched the surface. 

Budgeting Questionnaire

  • When pricing a project, the following questions can help to hone in on the scope of a project and its appropriate budget range.
  • What are the visual design requirements for the project? 
  • Who will be providing the design? 
  • Are there existing corporate design standards and logo?
  • Roughly how large is the site in terms of page count and how complex are the pages?
  • Will the site use any the SaaS applications? 
  • Does the site require complex component functionality, such as password protection (extranets and intranets) or e-commerce?
  • Does the site have any unusual needs that extend beyond the basic display of content and existing component functionality?
  • Will the site need to integrate with any other existing systems?

Budgeting for Website Maintenance 

Ongoing Maintenance Costs

Another pricing related concern for clients is typically the long term cost of ownership of a website. Through our ADOBE platform, most typical maintenance items can be addressed directly by clients without ongoing expense. Changing text, uploading documents and images, creating new sub pages (such as product pages, press releases, etc.) can all be done through the the CMS. As a result, any ongoing financial investment that a client makes in their website will result in tangible site improvements, making it a better and more effective business and communication tool. 

While EBWAY's CMS (content management system) platforms allow clients to maintain virtually all of their site content, there are other kinds of changes that require the EBWAY Creative's ongoing help. For example, adding a new main category to a navigation system might require us to make adjustments to site templates. Adding additional functions to CMS applications or making database structure changes will also require our help.

For a small monthly license fee ($99 to $299) - we'll keep your website secure, keep the tools up to date with current trends, provide backups, and more. Most business owners have no idea the costs involved with supporting their own software. 

Compared to maintenance costs of open source solutions: 

For this example we'll use WordPress

  • Hosting - $30 to $40 per month
  • Security - $50-$150 per month
  • Backups - $50-$150 per month
  • Updates & Maintenance - $250-$1500+ usually 4-7 times per year (theme updates, plugin updates, etc, etc,) 

The breakdown: 

  • Yearly cost for WordPress = $1900+ to  Who Knows! 
  • Yearly cost for SaaS CMS = $1200 on the low end. (Benefit = you know what you're paying) 

You see - in one month, you could easily spend more than an entire years cost if you're hosting your own wordpress site. With every release you'll need to backup the site, secure it again, and do a quality check of all code. And what happens if it gets hacked? Don't even get me started! 

Budgeting For Website Design And Programming 

Custom Business Logic

What is Custom business Logic?

Not all web pages are created equal. Some pages simply display content like text, pictures, captions, and links. Other pages need to "make decisions" about what information to display and how to display it. For example, a product page might simply display the content associated to a particular product, this would not require any custom business logic. However, a similar page might need to "decide" what price to display based on the user, or provide links to PDF tech sheets only if there are any associated to that product. When pages need to "make decisions" we need to program in custom business logic. We estimate custom business logic on case-by-case basis.

Depending on the particular needs of a website, custom business logic can add a tremendous amount of complexity and cost to a web project. For instance, consider a typical website page that contains some text, an image, and a few documents. A standard page will display the same content to anyone that visits the page. Now contrast that to the typical extranet or intranet page where, depending on what user is accessing the page and their level of authorization, the page will display completely different (personalized) content. If a sales representative visits the page, they might see vastly different information than a CEO visiting the exact same page. Custom business logic is required in these instances to enable a web page to "make decisions" about what information to display to a particular user. The needs and uses for custom business logic are limitless. When multiplied out over an entire site, custom business logic can easily turn a very small site into a very large project. 

For this reason, a raw site page count will typically have less impact on a project budget than the complexity of the site's pages. 

We have built some very large sites for relatively small budgets, because their pages were all relatively simple in their structure. 

By contrast, we have built some relatively small sites that have required large budgets to account for the complexity of all the relationships between content and users on the site. 

The degree of custom business logic is always an individual line item that affects the final cost. Along with user experience and design elements.

Final Thoughts

While we can work with just about any budget. There’s always a barrier to entry. If you truly need to / or want to reply on your website to bring you business - then you’d better be prepared to make an investment. Otherwise, you’re just wasting the little bit of money that you’re probably throwing at template builds and crappy code. 

Give us a call, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to put together the perfect website budget for your needs, goals and timeline. 

Jonathan Hinshaw

Post Date:
Monday, May 15, 2017

(0) | Permalink

Trackback Link

Trackback List
Post has no trackbacks.
comments powered by Disqus