What Does a Website Cost?

Website Investment

Photo by Mark Strozier on Flikr

One of the most common questions I get as a web designer is  “what will a website cost?” The initial cost of a website is dependent on a number of factors:

  • amount of content
  • type of content
  • functionality (features) of the website

Amount of Content

A 3-page site will cost less than a 50-page site. Even though each page will have the same look-n-feel, the more pages there are, the more time it takes to add the content. (And, just a reminder: It also takes more time to gather the content – which is usually the client’s responsibility.)

I used to determine the fees for content by potential number of pages. With the advancement of html/CSS, you can now get a ton of information on a page. Now, I use what I call sections and subsections. A section is usually a part of the main navigation menu. For example, Products or Services would be a section. A subsection are areas within a section. Under Products for a camera store, you might have Cameras, Lens, Miscellaneous. You might even have more subsections under each of those areas, as well. Using sections and subsections gives a more accurate picture of the amount of content on a website versus using pages.

In my proposals, I include a range of sections and subsections with the associated cost. This gives the client the freedom to pick and choose how much content they want on their site, and it gives them the flexibility to determine how much they want to invest in the initial cost of a site. For example, in a recent proposal, I included:

Option 1: Up to 20 sections/subsections; up to 15 images $1700

Option 2: Up to 35 sections/subsections; up to 20 images $2100

Option 3: Up to 55 sections/subsections; up to 30 images $2500

Type of Content

A site with lots of images will take more time to create than an informational site with just a few images. A site with videos will take more time. A site with slideshows or lots of interactivity takes more time to create than a ‘static’ site. A site that includes feeds (information is automatically sent to your site) from news sources or market sources or any other type of source will include setup fees, as well as potential subscription fees.

Here is a quick list for types of content:

  • images
  • videos
  • audio (recordings, music, etc.)
  • feeds
  • interactivity (rollovers, games, calculators, etc.)
  • pdfs
  • forums
  • social networking (links and/or content)

A type of content which I recommend staying away from is what’s called Flash content. Flash content looks great (lots of moving parts, drop downs, rollovers, rotating images, etc.), but it does poorly with SEO and takes longer to load. Much of what can be done in Flash, can now be done using other technology.


An informational website will be less investment than an ecommerce site. A site that requires a database (to store information) requires more investment. Additional functionality may include

  • database
  • newsletter signup (or email list)
  • capturing and storing client/visitor information
  • product information (ie. for an Alpaca site, we created a database to keep track of the Alpacas for Sale as it was constantly changing. By using a database, the website always showed current information.)
  • ecommerce
  • CMS (Content Management System, lets the client perform updates to the website)
  • forms
  • live content (from feeds, social networks, blogs, etc.)
  • blog
  • galleries

Be prepared to discuss with your web what’s needed in these three areas:  Amount of Content, Type of Content, Functionality. Your web designer should be able to guide you and help you better define what’s needed in these three areas. A good web designer will ask you questions to give them and you a good idea on what’s needed.

Don’t forget there are also ongoing costs associated with a website. We’ll cover that in another post.

What has been your experience in the initial investment of a website? What kind of things worked well in working with your web designer? What didn’t work well?

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