How much does a website cost?

Money It's the question that I'm asked most often, but the truth is that I can't easily tell you how much a website will cost upfront because they're all different.

It's like walking into a car dealership and asking how much a car will cost; Are you looking for a brand new, top-of-the-range, 2-seat sporty number with custom paint-job and all the luxury add-ons, or are you happy with a 7 year old, 4-seat hatch-back with 80,000 miles on the clock, no A/C and scratched wing mirrors?

Both will get you from A to B, but your needs and budget will influence your choice. A website is just the same.

Can you give me a general price for a simple, 5-10 page website?

OK, so you're just starting out and you want a small website to support your small-medium business? That's fine - I'll try and provide a rough breakdown of where the cost of web development lies. Bear with me though - this is still a very broad request so expect some very general prices and very general scenarios.

Once you speak to your web developer, they'll work with you, listen to your needs and offer expert suggestions and recommendations that will bring benefits to you, your business and your customers.

Everyone has different needs so please be aware that recommendations for one client's website will be very different to recommendations given for another website project, so that is where the final cost can fluctuate quite dramatically.

Things that directly affect the cost of a website

Time is Money First things first. Unless you're a web developer, you'll unlikely have a solid grasp of the work that goes into making a website, and that's OK. I'm not talking about those 5 minute DIY websites that you see on TV ads, where you type a bit of text in the designated box and upload your logo. I'm talking about a professionally designed website that takes your unique branding, specific goals and individual business needs into account.

The breakdown below uses very lean time estimates, and these hourly figures assume that everything goes according to plan first time, which things rarely do, even with seemingly simple website builds. Pricing is also based on my typical hourly rate of £25 per hour, but this fee can vary greatly between developers, and depends on experience as well as geography.

Breakdown of website costs

The links below provide information and price breakdowns for the individual aspects of initial website development. Ongoing fees should also be considered but I'll cover that in another article.

  • Domain name
    The URL or link you see in the address bar of your web browser. Website addresses that end "" typically cost about £10 per year. Domain name = £10
  • Website hosting
    Website hosting is like renting a room on the internet to house your website.

    Affordable web hosting for smaller websites costs between £5 and £15 per month and will typically be done on a shared server, meaning that lots of other websites will be housed under the same roof. You can find cheaper (or even free) hosting, but this can attract spammers and people who are up to no good, which is bad news for legitimate websites sharing the same resources; They eat-up resources running their dodgy scripts, create security loopholes, and get themselves banned by search engines. What does this mean for other websites? They run more slowly, suffer regular bouts of unnecessary down-time, risk being hacked and can get penalised, or even banned, by Google, simply by being physically hosted on the same server - a case of one bad apple rotting the whole barrel.

    It's better to pay that little bit extra to put your website in a nicer neighbourhood and save yourself the trouble of a bad reputation by association. Website hosting = £120
  • Research
    All website builds require research in one guise or another, whether it's sourcing a 3rd party script for a specific job, plotting a 'typical user' profile and realising that user's website goals, troubleshooting some problematic code, or picking the best keywords to target your audience in search engines. Premium website builds command many, many hours to this project stage but you're not going to get anything special on a small, entry-level website - call it 6 to 8 hours for base requirements, but that's really, really slim. Research = £150
  • Structural planning
    A website isn't just the bit you see in your web browser. A website is like a very intricate jigsaw, made up of a series of files (pages, images, documents, scripts) that sit inside carefully structured folders on the web server. Each website requires its own unique setup, and each build needs to be planned logically in order to create the best and most effective foundation.

    Future-proofing must also be considered, as a website structure should be able to grow with the development of the site and business. One that cannot expand with you will eventually command a costly redesign, so plan early to save money in the longterm - it's essential.

    Back-end structure also relates to front-end navigation - how a visitor moves from A to B, reaching each page on a logical and anticipated path. Again, this is a must for successful website design and development because if a visitor can't be guided/encouraged to complete their goal on your website, they go to a competitor's where they can.

    A simple site structure and navigation must still be planned, so assign a minimum of 4 hours to this kind of back-end planning. Structural planning = £100
  • Interface design / graphics
    Really this should be broken down into seperate stages since the front-end website design (from a user experience (UX) perspective), is different to the creation of aesthetic graphics, but I'm bulking them together here for simplicity.

    The interface, or web page layout, needs to be planned in such a way as to make the site logical, easy-to-use and welcoming, on lots of different sized screens. And that's before any nice image effects and graphics have been created to inject colour and personality into a design. Fonts must be selected and colours need to be be chosen too. Maybe existing logos and branding elements need to be incorporated. Take into account a few client revisions and ammendments on top, and you're looking at 4 hours at least to prepare a simple website design, and generate the associated template graphics. Interface design / graphics = £100
  • HTML / CSS
    This is the code that makes up the basis of a website - HTML forms the building blocks and CSS is the paint and decoration. To the untrained eye they look like something out of the Matrix.

    Many non-web folk believe that web developers have a fancy bit of software that creates the code automatically, and to a very small degree they're right (it's called Dreamweaver, to those who use it), but not in the sense that we load in a design layout, press a few buttons and job done - it frustratingly isn't like that at all! Tools like Dreamweaver can make the HTML and CSS coding easier, but the developer must still have the experience to know how to use it, and when to apply X feature. It's like giving the blueprints of a house to a construction worker and imagining that their machinery lays the bricks for them, or decides which materials are best for load-bearing supports. The builder does the actual thinking and intricate construction, the digger just helps him out with the heavy lifting.

    I personally do not use Dreamweaver (anything that does part of a job for you comes with limitations) and prefer to code everything by hand, thus giving me very fast and efficient code (that search engines like) and better control over what I build for you.

    Allocate 4 hours to HTML and CSS, either with or without Dreamweaver! HTML / CSS = £100
  • PHP / JavaScript
    If HTML and CSS are the bricks and paintwork of a new house, then PHP and JavaScript are the electrics, gas and plumbing. They add another layer to a basic shell of a website, and provide extra functionality. In effect, they make things work!

    Even a very simple website requires a small amount of PHP or JavaScript coding somewhere down the line; The menu that drops down more options when you activate it, the banner that scrolls through product pictures, the contact form that sends an email to the website owner with customer questions or feedback. Small requirements, but they're frequently expected and still take effort to produce.

    PHP and JavaScript is typically more complex than HTML and CSS, so estimate 4 hours to incorporate a basic amount of functionality into a website. PHP / JavaScript = £100
  • Photographs
    This is something that is overlooked very often, maybe because clients believe that a web developer already has photos on hand. Sometimes we do, but that's most likely because we purchased photos for our own projects or for another client. Ask yourself this - Would you be happy if your web developer give photos, that you've paid for, to another client for free? Probably not, so be prepared to pay for a photographer, or your own stock photography (from somewhere like iStockphoto) which comes in at around £5 - £15 per photo, depending on image quality.

    For banners, you'll need higher resolutions to allow for cropping and manipulation. Assuming that you want at least one high quality photo in your banner and another on each of your main landing pages (excluding the time taken to find suitable images and any editing, touch-ups, cropping and resizing costs), you're probably looking in the region of £50 for photos for your 5-10 page website. Photographs = £50
  • Content population
    So your website is prepared - the design looks good (on desktop, tablet and mobile) and the menus are in the right place, but what about the content? The words that people come to read, to find out about your services and products, are the meat and 2-veg of your website, and guess what?... content must firstly be written, and secondly formatted for the web.

    High-end websites will have a team of copywriters preparing all the content, and charging an appropriate fee to do it, but as this is a breakdown for a simple, entry-level website, be prepared to write the content yourself.

    So, with your content written, the next step is to format it for the web. Forget about those nice bold headings, tables and lists that you created in your Word document - they won't translate well on the internet (and tables are a swine to adapt for small screens); Be prepared to pay somebody with web experience to format it for you. If your website has a Content Management System (CMS), then you can do much of this yourself - the CMS is a seperate entity, with its own fee, so we'll cover that later. The point is, that website content must be formatted for the web, either by hand, or by using web-tools designed specifically for the job, so you should budget for this.

    Depending on how much money you have to invest, content population could also include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which means that your web developer will reorganise your text (often rewriting whole paragraphs) and highlight keywords and phrases to make your content more appealing to search engines. SEO is very time consuming, even with experience.

    Other time-factors to account for are spell-checking and proofreading.

    Simple content population, minus content SEO, would therefore range from £5 (15 minutes) - £25 (just over an hour) per page. Content population = £75
  • CMS setup
    I mentioned above that a Content Management System (CMS) allows you to edit your own website content, so potentially you can cut out the fee for content population and do it yourself.

    A CMS can be built into your site right from the beginning, and its actually easier (and cheaper) to do this during the design process rather than trying to add one in as an afterthought, but again, it comes with its own costs; Some CMS softwares require a one-off license payment, others, an annual subscription fee, while some (like my in-house CMS) are open source, or freeware. But, even when a software is free to download and use, it still needs to be installed and configured to make it work on your server, it still needs to be integrated into your site so that it works seamlessly with existing programming, and it still needs to be setup and customised to run individual user accounts and adopt the look and design of your website. Unfortunately, all of this takes time and effort.

    Typically, the integration of an open source/freeware CMS at the start of the website design project costs about £200. Add one in later and it can cost considerably more due to the time it takes to restructure content and programming around the extra scripts and architecture. You might think that £200 is a bit steep for the privilege of editing your own text and uploading a few pictures, but once you compare the initial fee with the cost of a few monthly updates (charged at £25 per hour), you realise that your CMS soon pays for itself. With a CMS you can be in total control, updating your website any time you choose and not being tied in to monthly website maintenance plans that you're contracted to pay even when you don't use them. The convenience alone is well worth the initial fee. CMS setup = £200
  • Troubleshooting and testing
    Once a website is made it should be tested thoroughly to ensure that it works in all major operating systems and web browsers, and functions as effectively on mobile and touch screens as it does on desktop. Due to the many combinations of modern computer platforms and devices, thorough testing is the only way to ensure that your website is not hindering any visitors (and potential customers). That means, a website and all of its functions, must be tested on Windows PCs, Apple Macs, iPads, iPhones, Android, Blackberry, etc., etc. using all the popular web browsers that your website visitors might be using (and there are dozens).

    The other things to test for are compatability with keyboard users and audio screen readers (some of your visitors are likely to be visually impaired) and also check that your website still works effectively even with JavaScript turned off, or images disabled.

    Testing is just one side of the coin; If something doesn't look right or work properly, it then has to be fixed - this is where necessary troubleshooting comes in. In all, testing and troubleshooting are essential and to do them anywhere near properly on a small site would take at least 6 hours. Troubleshooting and testing = £150

Money Overall total price for a basic 5-10 page website = £950 - £1150

There you have it. A rough breakdown of basic website costs laid out bare for all to see. Again I reiterate that this is only an estimate based on a simple 5-10 page website, and only the initial payout - further consideration needs to be made for ongoing, annual fees.

The price guide above is cut very keen on pricing and does not include all aspects of web design in a broader sense; Larger and more advanced websites with custom images, scripting and shopping carts or forums with large databases, will cost considerably more, purely because they take much more planning, preparation and time to produce as well as using many more resources and much more space on the server.

So, a website doesn't cost £100

In short, a good quality website does not cost £100, or even £300. It is simply not feasible to make a professional website that meets individual expectations and customer needs, for a few hundred pounds, and anybody charging so little is bound to be cutting corners somewhere, whether through non-existent planning, poor coding techniques, zero optimisation efforts, sloppy image production, lack of thorough testing or use of free website templates that dozens, if not hundreds, of other sites are using.

The breakdown above estimates a basic site at £950 to £1150, but £1200 to £1500 is a much more realistic price for custom-catered entry-level websites.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh-up what your internet presence is worth to you and your business. Your website is the front door to your business on a global scale, so you should give it the attention and investment it deserves. You deserve it too.

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