How Much Does it Cost to Have a Small Business Website?

A couple of years ago, I put together a creative brief and requirements document to solicit bids for a website redesign. The most surprising things about the process to me were: 1) I quickly discovered that I needed a technical guru to help me sort through the specifications and recommendations; and 2) the pricing from professional companies varied dramatically.

It was overwhelming to navigate through the options when I had access to several internal experts. So I can imagine how difficult this process would be for small business owners looking for straightforward websites of about 10 to 20 pages with some basic content management and social media widgets.

As I prepare to go through this process yet again, here is some research I uncovered to help you know what you are getting yourself into financially with a new or redesigned website, along with some sites Affinity Express designed for small businesses.

BadgesBasic Costs:

  • Domain name: $10 per year. You should never create a website without owning the domain. Here is how you can register your domain name.
  • Hosting: $25 to $200 per year, depending on traffic and hosting services. You can get discounts if you pay for a year or more in advance. The average is about $10 per month if your site is new and does not have much traffic or data. If you need large files or develop higher traffic, this cost may increase—not such a bad problem to have! But it is not advisable to use a free service for a professional site.
  • Web design and development time: 60 hours and up. This varies based on the requirements. See Website Packages below for price ranges.
  • Software: if you plan to manage your website directly from a web browser, you will need a content management system (CMS). This is a program you install on your website that lets you create pages, modify their appearance and control other features through a browser. There are free CMS scripts and commercial ones.
  • Content writing/development: $50-75 per hour. There are a variety of projects under this heading including:
    • Re-write or edit existing web copy—1-3 hours per page
    • SEO articles (300-500 words)—2-4 hours per article
    • Press releases—2-3 hours per page
    • Sales letters—2-4 hours per letter
    • Online catalogs—2-3 hours per page
    • Original web content copy—2-4 hours per page

Depending on the project, these tasks can include the following steps: research and concept development, copy writing, meetings with clients and web designers, proofreading and editing, revisions to web copy, consulting and communication (e.g., teleconferences, faxes, e-mails, and travel).

  • Website maintenance: $500 a year and up, based on the number and type of updates required. Consider whether you want to include reviews, links, interactive pages, etc. Charges are typically hourly, monthly, quarterly or annually based on the webmaster.
  • Online marketing of website: $750 per month and up. You can advertise on individual websites or you can sign up as an advertiser using one of many affiliate networks, which act as intermediaries between you and the sites that will display your ads.
This is an example of a peelback ad hosted by a website.

This is an example of a peel-back ad hosted by a website.

Website Packages:

  • Basic website—$1,000-$2,000: this will essentially be an online brochure from a boilerplate template that allows prospects and customers to view products and services. It serves as a digital foundation for your online and print marketing efforts.
  • Custom website—$2,500-$7,500: this fee will get you an attractive site that will meet your specific needs. You will get custom CSS and XHTML coding so the site will show up the same way on virtually every interface and will be optimized for Google, Yahoo! and Bing. What you won’t get is features for audience interactivity, ecommerce or content management.
  • Content management system—$3,000-$8,500: the average is $5,750, depending on unique needs and extent of customization. The site will be designed with special attention to functionality and appearance. You will be able to manage and update content and images through the CMS interface (which saves money on outside help for future updates and expansions of the website!) and you can have an infinite number of pages.
  • High-end package—$15,000-$100,000+: when ecommerce, social networking, advanced blogging and web application development are factored in, the cost of a website grows significantly. There are also fewer companies that can offer these services because coding is typically from scratch and application programming can be required. There is a major commitment of time to research, develop and implement the necessary software.

Park Avenue FabricsImportant questions to answer that will affect costs:

  1. Is this a brand new site or redesign?
  2. Have the graphics been created for the site yet?
  3. Will the site be accessed by customers on mobile devices?
  4. Does your business require multimedia on the site—Flash, videos and other formats?
  5. How much content is ready and how much needs to be created?
  6. Do you need a blog or content management capability?
  7. What other special features do you need (e.g., social media channels, search engine optimization, e-commerce, etc.)?
  8. How will you maintain the site after it is launched?
  9. Do you have a detailed requirements document?

Ray-Ban Responsive WebsiteAdditional Costs:

  • New versus redesigns: it takes much more time to start from a blank slate and build a website. There is a discovery and documentation process that is required to define the online brand, website structure and functionality.
  • Interface design: this is the creation of the appearance and functionality of the website. It has to be developed to advance your brand, include the appropriate photos and images and layout the pages to support your objectives. Small businesses should typically budget $1,200 to $3,500.
  • Images and graphics: depending on your needs, you could spend $10-20 on a stock image to hundreds of dollars on custom or high-end images. At the very least, you should include $100 for images. You will probably need stock icons and buttons too, so include $50 for them.
  • Hosting: hosting problems take two to ten hours initially to address on website projects. Problems account for about ten to twenty hours of support in any given year for clients of professional website builders.
  • Content creation: if you want a designer to add content and adjust layouts, budget $100-150.
  • Mobile and responsive design: if you want a responsive design (and why wouldn’t you?), the project will cost 20-30% more so you can appear well on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.
  • Special features: there are a wide variety of additional features you could incorporate such as shopping carts, landing pages, contact forms and surveys and photo galleries. For more insight on pricing, check out this article from The Executionists.

Charlie's LawnCautions About Do-It-Yourself Websites

  • No personalized attention: one challenge with do-it-yourself sites is that you will be a small fish in a large pond for the provider. If you miss a payment, forget to renew, forget to update a credit card or skip a myriad of other tasks, your site will go down. The vendor owns the site for your business instead of you.
  • Cookie-cutter templates: using templates to build a website means your site will look like many others already online. You want your website to differentiate you from your competition, not help you blend in and be overlooked. These templates are also restrictive as far as the amount of copy, photos and other features you can use so you may end up not adequately representing your brand. Another thing to consider is that you might need to expand the number of pages or links you have and templates frequently will not allow for this.
  • Graphic design: typically, you will need some graphic design support to get pictures or images that advance your messaging and represent your products and services. This will cost more on top of the basic fees promoted by the provider.
  • No testing or troubleshooting: as I mentioned, there are many details that go into a site and things can easily go wrong. Will you take the time to test the website in different browsers and devices? If so, how will you make fixes if the site does not appear correctly? Most do-it-yourself websites are hosted on slow servers and business owners can sometimes incorporate images that are slow to load, frustrating visitors and turning away potential customers.
  • Professional image: if you are not a website professional, you are probably going to be happy if your site works properly. But you should have the more ambitious goal of an attractive, interactive site that impresses your customers so that they buy from you.
  • Lack of SEO: providers offer search engine optimization packages but they are usually very basic and you will likely need more focused attention to appear high in search results for terms that are important to your business and customers. Do-it-yourself websites can be hard to find by search engines like Google and Yahoo! because they have bad, inefficient coding, weak title and meta tags and other issues.
  • Time constraints: creating and maintaining a website requires quite a bit of time and energy. It’s hard for small business owners to divide their attention from tasks of daily operations to make their websites effective. The important question to ask is: do you want to specialize in HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc., or do you want to run and grow your business?

Creating or updating a website is not a weekend project. The best advice is to plan effectively, understand your costs and seek the help of experts. This will increase the total expense but will also reduce the risk.

What advice do you have for small business owners planning the budget for their websites. Do you have tips to make the process easier?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

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