What Does Web Design Really Cost?

What Does Web Design Really Cost?

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Web companies of varying skill levels are literally everywhere.  Along with the shear number of companies clamoring for your business, comes differences in service, support and price.  Recently, we did some digging and investigating and posed as a potential customer to our competition.  What we found was not doubt alarming but also confusing.  So in this read, let’s take a look at the differences as well as talk about what to expect from your choice in web design company.

So let’s set the table a bit.  We began by drafting a set of requirements, functionality requests and over guidelines of the project.  Afterwards, we presented this information consistently to our test group of agencies, here are our results:

  • Agency 1 – $1,800.00 with a completion time of 2 weeks
  • Agency 2 – $6,500.00 with a completion time of 2 weeks
  • Agency 3 – $13,500.00 with a completion time of 4 weeks

If you’re waiting for the punch line… well, there isn’t one.  That’s because the joke is on the client who now needs to figure out which of these estimates is the most reasonable and why.

We hear stories like this more times than we like, but obviously this puts not only confusion about what an agency does, but how they accomplish it.  Unfortunately most business owners have no way of knowing which bids are unrealistically low, which are outrageously inflated and which are in the right ballpark.

So with all that information in place, let’s again look at what websites should cost and how a small business (10-20 pages with basic content management and social media applications) can take advantage of the situation by factoring in advances in technology with the current costs associated with designing, developing and building a website.


On average, the following can be applied to estimating the cost of a small business web site:

Domain Name $10/year (using non-premium domain names)

Hosting $10 to $100 a year (depending on traffic & hosting services)

Web planning, design and development time 60 hours and up ($75/hour)

Continued website Maintenance $500 a year and up (depending on number/type of updates required)

Marketing your website online $300 a month and up (depending on scope of marketing and choice of tools)


When trying to budget web design costs there are a number of factors to consider:

  • Are we starting from scratch or redesigning an existing space?  Next week we will get more into this topic and why one is better than the other.
  • Are you prepared or will there be many discovery meetings? – do you have a detailed requirements document?
  • Do you need a blog or content management functionality (CMS)?  The answer for the vast majority of businesses is YES!
  • Do you have graphics ready for the site?  Are they purchased, high-resolution graphics?  Licenses, etc?
  • Responsive web design?  Again, with mobile traffic exceeding 66% of a websites traffic, the answer is yes!
  • Do you need multimedia (Flash, video, etc.) on the site?
  • How much content do you have and how much do you need created?
  • Do you need other special features like social media channels, SEO, ecommerce, or something else?
  • Who is going to maintain the site after it has been launched?

Below we go into greater detail regarding these items and an estimate of how much you should budget for them. Pricing is an industry average and we used quotations from us and our competitors to determine average cost.  Be sure to contact us for an estimate.


When you’re starting from scratch, so is the web designer. They have nothing to work from, they can’t look at your existing site and get an idea of your online brand or features and functionality requirements.  All new sites really should require a discovery and documentation process.  This process will help define the online brand, website structure and functionality. We think this process is critical because it helps set expectations on all sides and reduce potential frustrations. Simple business websites, where the client has a solid idea of what they want, can get by on a minimal amount of discovery and documentation, but it is still an important part of the overall planning phase.  More complex websites may require weeks of meetings and the creation of many detailed documents to fully define the project.


User Interface (UX) design is also referred to as the look-and-feel or visual design. The interface design will incorporate your branding, all your photos and images, even your page layouts. Don’t assume that if you’ve already got a pre-made template you won’t need any images or layouts re-done. The designer will demo for you multiple options and then tweak these designs based on feedback to develop the final, approved design.  For a small business website(10-20  pages), budget $1,200 – $3,500 to get you from concept through to the final design that will be handed off to the developers for programming. User Interface separates great concepts from great companies.  If you lack here, which many sites do, it is hard to use your website as a vehicle to drive traffic.


Website graphics are tricky because they can range from $10 each for cheap stock images to $100′s of dollars each for custom or high-end stock images. Compelling art can make a huge huge difference in the effectiveness of your website. On the low-end, budget at least $10/image for stock images.  With a good designer (and yes, we are one of those) they can make a stock image look and feel like a custom one.

But that’s not all. You will probably also need stock icons (menu interface, social media) and buttons to compliment your design. Budget $50 for them as well.


Mobile devices are swiftly becoming critical to online success and your design should at least be friendly to mobile devices. The best designs are responsive, which automatically adjust its layout to display properly on various devices: smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. A quick check to determine if your current site is responsive is to drag your browser window from fullscreen all the way down to a vertical rectangle.  If content has repositioning and adjusted based on the new window – you have a responsive site.

Crafting a responsive website can average 20% – 30% more than a site for a desktop (the cost of progress). This cost is because the interface designer needs to design how the site will look on the various devices, the programmer will need to program the designs and finally more testing is required before the site is ready to launch. Almost all our projects these days include responsive programming.


The least expensive way to go is to create all the content yourself and provide that information to your web design company.  But if you want the web design firm to add your content and adjust the layout of the text, you should budget $100 – $150 per page.


There are a so many extra features that web developers can integrate that will improve your business but can also up the price. Sometimes these features are “included” in your website framework – but beware, just because they are “included” doesn’t mean that they look or work the way you want. The estimates below reflect the general requirements we have seen, however there are many factors that can push these costs higher. If you don’t see your add-on here just give us a call and we can provide an estimate.

  • Custom Content Management Systems- for clients who want to manage their own content we integrate and customize content management systems (CMS). We work with PHP-based open-source CMS solutions like Drupal and WordPress.
  • Training and documentation – You will probably need some instructions and documentation on how to maintain and edit site content.
  • Blog Engines – Many clients want a WordPress or similar blog within their website, customized to their website branding and design.
  • E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs, payment processing
  • Email Marketing Campaigns- Clients that want to gather emails and send out branded email blasts for announcements or newsletters require an Email management tool. We integrate 3rd-party tools (graphicmail, mailchimp, constant contact, etc.) and create an email blast template design, we can even manage your email blasts.
  • Branding/Identity Development- Logo design is something we are often asked to do. On the low-end, we start with an 8-hour process that generates about 6 rough logo concepts. If one of these is chosen we go through several rounds of edits to arrive at a final version.
  • Style Guides – An online style guide is important because it establishes brand consistency and provides a guide for all your print collateral and online marketing.
  • Targeted Landing Pages- Landing pages are pages that promote a specific product or service. They are usually part of an email, social media, or banner ad campaign.
  • Contact forms and surveys
  • Newsletters 
  • Advertising integration (Google AdWords)
  • Photo gallery 
  • Metrics: Google analytics, custom reports, etc.
  • SEO: on-page optimization, off-page optimization submission to search engines, etc.
  • Social media: Create and manage social media network profile such as Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn etc.


The majority small business websites we design, develop and launch range from $2,000 – $10,000. Some websites run more, others less – but this is a generalization.   Another way to break the budget down is to assume:

  • 15% Planning
  • 25% Interface design
  • 40% Programming
  • 20% Project Management


Websites don’t just maintain themselves, and the best are changing all the time. Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget or think that they can do it themselves. But the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose 8 hours of sales trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract. Make sure your web developer offers post-launch maintenance, many don’t because they can’t be bothered by clients calling with small requests.

Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending upon what you expect from the firm. You should budget a minimum of $250 per month to have a designer/developer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. And if you expect them to do additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, etc. expect the price will go up.  Executionists offers customized, full-service maintenance plans.


A final note: If this website will be a significant part of your business don’t blow past aspects of the design and development. If you’d expect to pay $100,000 for a brick and mortar retail shop (inventory, interior design, furniture, rent, utilities, staff, equipment, insurance, etc) – then don’t balk at paying reasonable rates for the creation of your online business.  So, for a small business website you can spend as little as $6,000 or as much as $20,000 or more.  Your budget should be based on what your business needs.



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