During the pandemic, with restrictions globally affecting the ability to get out and visit businesses in person, it’s never been more important to have a website to connect with people online. But how much does it cost to build a website, really? How long does it take to build one, and what’s involved in that process? And what is the best website builder (opens in new tab)?
These questions are asked by most people new to the process of creating an online presence. But to get answers, there are some questions you need to ask yourself first. In this article, we’ll outline these to help you understand the costs involved in building sites.
Step 1: Define what you want
The first thing you need to know is what sort of site you want to create. The larger and more complex a website is, the more expensive it will be. There’s no one size fits all approach to pricing: it can range from a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands or more, depending on what sort of site you want.
Before you consider the costs, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my website’s purpose: to provide information, capture business leads, sell products, or take bookings?
- What sort of content will it have: text, photos, custom illustrations, infographics, animations, video, or data tables?
- What sort of design should the site have?
- Who is the intended audience? Where do they live, and what types of technology do they use?
- What will the domain name be (e.g., xyzwidgets.com)?
- What type of web hosting will my website require: shared, VPS, or dedicated?
- How large is my site audience likely to get, and how quickly could it grow?
- Will I be updating the site myself, or will I want someone to do it for me?
- How will I be promoting my website? Will I require a marketing strategy to ensure it starts generating leads or income as soon as it’s finished?
The answers to all of these questions can have a bearing on what the final cost will be for the site you want to build, so let’s look at them in a bit more detail to understand why.
Step 2: Analyzing your site’s purpose and content
If you require a simple site that provides information about your business - a marketing or brochure website - it's likely it will only require a few pages. The fewer pages a site has, the less it will cost. Or rather, the fewer pages that require different designs or display different content, the cheaper it is.
A five-page site with a different design or type of content on every page will cost more than a five-page site where the design and content requirements are the same. Think about all the pages that your site will need, and what will be on each page: and consider mobile-friendly website design (opens in new tab) when planning, too.
Each time you come up with a page that has different content requirements, it’s likely that a new design and template will be required, which will increase the cost.
Different content requirements can include forms for capturing data; tabs or accordions for hiding and showing content; image or video galleries; data tables with rows and columns of information; or complex layouts with a variety of columns, boxes, or other layout devices.
Step 3: Consider the technology required
If you’re completely new to building websites, and you employ someone to do it for you, a lot of these considerations will be left to your web developers. But for them to arrive at the correct technology stack for your site, they’ll need the answers to some of the questions we posed earlier.
These include the site’s domain name and the sort of hosting it'll need. Be aware that the size of the intended audience and how quickly it's expected to grow will influence what sort of web hosting is required.
If the site's going to receive a lot of traffic, or if its traffic is likely to experience unexpected spikes such as sudden increases, then it will need the best web hosting (opens in new tab) with a lot of resources that can quickly scale up, like VPS (opens in new tab) or dedicated hosting plans. These are more expensive, but will pay for themselves by guaranteeing that your site is always available and operating at peak performance.
What the site will do, and whether you need to be able to update it yourself, will influence the type of technology used to build it. So too will considerations about the technology and devices people use to access your site.
Many are built with a CMS, which enables non-technical users to manage the content on their own sites without any programming language knowledge. There are many different CMSs, and whichever is used can vary from one site to the next.
Step 4: Consider how you'll promote your site
Having the best site in the world, with the most engaging content and stylish design, will mean nothing if nobody knows about it or visits. If you want your site to start attracting visitors immediately, you’ll need to have a marketing strategy in place: it can’t be considered after.
To run a successful search engine marketing campaign, search engine optimization (SEO (opens in new tab)) will need to have been considered during the site’s build. In some cases, SEO considerations will have a bearing on the technology used to build the site and track its performance.
For a site to be successful, launching it is only the beginning of the process. Ongoing work will be needed to make sure it’s continually promoted and improved, in order to keep capturing an audience.
So how much does it cost to build a website? There's no one single answer—it depends on each site. In some cases, a free site is the answer: our feature exploring how to build a website for free (opens in new tab) explains how this can work, and the potential pitfalls.
You must consider not only your site’s purpose, design, and content, but also its users, the technology they’ll access the site with, and the technology used to build and host the site. Finally, you’ll have to consider how to promote it, to ensure you get the best return on investment possible.
As these considerations will be unique to every project, you'll need to have a discussion with a web design or development specialist to get an answer that suits your own individual purpose.
Further reading on website builders
If you're new to building websites, make sure to read our list article outlining our top 10 tips for building your first website (opens in new tab). Should you move forward with building a site for free, take a look at our guide to the best free website builders (opens in new tab) before you do.