How much does a website cost? | Yorkshire Twist

What will I have to spend to get a website made?

This, perhaps, is the most important question in the minds of anyone who is considering having a website built. Unless they are stinking rich and don't care (although in my experience stinking rich people care more than anyone else; that's often why they are stinking rich).

There are loads of factors that can affect the price you'll pay, many of which I'll cover below. But even then I can't give you exact amounts because every website is different.

So if you're looking for an exact price this isn't the article for you. However if you want to know more about why websites cost different amounts, and what you'll get for different budgets, read on.

The basics: a website costs as much as a car

Rather than use some useless 'as long as a piece of string' comment I tend to compare the price of a website to the price of a car. Of course there are lots of different cars that cost different amounts, and that's true of websites too. Here's the basics:

  • A few hundred quid will get you a cheap banger, but don't expect it to be pretty or run particularly well for very long
  • £1,000-£3,000 will get you a decent second-hand car - it will look OK and run quite well, but it won't have the bells and whistles of a newer model and your choices will be limited
  • If you're in the £5,000-£10,000 region then you can get something pretty nice; brand new, and with some modern extras
  • Of course you can spend a lot more than that - an awful lot more, depending on what you want

Looking at websites the same pricing principles apply:

  • A few hundred quid will get you a basic website using off-the-shelf parts, and maybe this is all you need if the website you want doesn't need to be very clever
  • £1,000-£3,000 will get you a better-built website that will be a bit more customised to what you want, but probably with a design which isn't unique to you
  • If you're in the £5,000-£10,000 region then you can get something specially designed for you, with some features developed and configured to work just how you want
  • But if you have a really large and complicated project then you'll potentially be spending a lot more. That's partly because there'll be multiple people involved - designers, developers, copywriters etc - and it takes time (and therefore money) to get a really polished end product.

At this point you may be thinking that it sound very expensive to get a website, and of course it can be. So let's take a look at what you'll actually be paying for. Feel free to skip over the next section to get to the nitty-gritty, although it will give you valuable information about how a website project works.

What you may need to pay for

What you'll actually be paying for can be broken down into four main areas:

  1. Research, consultancy and project management: the stuff that makes sure how the project runs and what you end up with is fit for purpose
  2. Design: making things look and work well
  3. Development: creating and tweaking any bits of the site that need to do clever things (send emails, integrate with other systems etc)
  4. Ongoing costs: paying to keep your website live, ongoing support etc

In the early days of the web normally a single person would have been responsible for doing all the research, design and development, and probably managed the technical side of keeping a website live. Nowadays these roles have become a bit more specialised, although for smaller projects it's still quite usual for just one or two people to do everything.

Even so, it will be useful to delve a bit deeper into these areas to understand the kind of skills they require.

Research before the project begins

Research is absolutely crucial to the success of your project. If the people who will be designing and developing stuff for you don't understand exactly what they need to deliver then you're not going to get what you need.

For smaller projects research can just be a conversation about what you want to achieve. For larger projects research might involve interviewing several people in your organisation, looking at any statistics about the visitors to your existing website, or performing testing with your customers.

The aim of any research is simple: to ask the right questions and ensure we're tackling the right problems.

Consultancy

It may be that you don't actually need anyone to design or develop anything; you just want an expert to help you understand what your options are and make recommendations about what decisions you should make. That's fine, and most projects I've been involved with have included aspects of consultancy.

Sometimes that's been as simple as giving the client a couple of options about how a particular feature could work. At other times it's involved writing documents that outline in detail exactly what the client wants to achieve, and a roadmap for how to get there.

Like research the aim of consultancy service is simple: to draw out from the client what they want to achieve and give them the information they need to get there.

Project management

While a project is ongoing you'll need someone to make sure that things are on track. Someone to check that efforts aren't being wasted, that time and money isn't being lost due to inefficiencies or bad timing. This is the job of a project manager.

Smaller projects may well be managed by the person doing the actual work, but for any medium or large project you'll want to know the person you can approach to find out exactly what's happening with the project. Communication is the key here, and a good project manager will fill you with confidence that the project is under control, and will be completed in budget and on time.

Design

The role of a website designer is very different to that of a print (think of posters, books etc) designer. For one thing they are designing for a very fluid medium - the words that are on the website today may change tomorrow, not to mention making the website work on the huge range of devices like tablets and mobile phones that people use.

So being a website designer is a very specialised and skilled job. You must have a good understanding not just of making things look great, but making them work great as well. This covers aspects of user experience (making the website a pleasure to use), accessibility (for instance catering for colour blindness), and understanding how different devices will display the website. And that's even before we get to the tricky job of actually producing the website itself.

Thanks to the huge impact that companies like Apple have had on the Western world, good design is now more important than ever. As Steve Jobs (in charge of Apple for many years) once said: "Design is not just how it looks, design is how it works."

Development

The role of a developer is even more complex and specialised than that of a website designer, so I'm splitting it into two parts.

Front-end developer

Front-end developers are the people that make the website work; they do the buttons and links that you actually click and the boxes that you type into. They generally work closely with designers to make the design a reality. It's an extremely tricky job, as they have to make these website work in a huge range of devices and browsers.

Front-end developers are becoming increasingly important as consumers' expectations of what a website can do - and crucially how fast it works - increase. Over the last few years there's been an explosion in the complexity of what front-end developers do, and as a general rule the simpler something seems when you interact with it as a user the harder it's been to develop the front-end code.

Back-end developer

In the back-end is where the really technical stuff happens. This is where hard-core geeks live, and where you'll find the technology that powers your databases and integrates your site with other systems, such as handling card payments.

Writing back-end code has always been extremely specialised and calls for highly skilled people with extremely good problem-solving skills and attention to detail. It's not uncommon to find developers who have a complete 'mental model' of an entire system that may be hundreds of thousands of lines of code long.

Ongoing costs

You'll also need to pay for the ongoing costs of keeping your website live. There are two main things you need to buy: domain name(s) - the "your-company-name.com" bit - and hosting, which is space on a specialised computer permanently attached to the Internet where your website will live. There's more detail about these costs below.

Other considerations

Depending on the nature and size of your project you may also need some more people specialised in particular areas:

  • Content architecture: to help you organise large amounts of information - think of them like the people that lay out a large library into logical sections
  • User experience: helping to ensure that your website will work really well for users, often by getting people 'off the street' to test the site and proposing changes based on feedback
  • Systems management: if you have a particularly large project you'll need some clever people to make sure during busy periods you don't melt the computers your website lives on!
  • Databases: storing and managing large amounts of data efficiently is crucial to ensure your website runs smoothly and you can get any reports you need
  • Copywriting: you may need to get writers and editors involved to make sure your text is in top-top condition
  • Photography: everyone knows that bad photos can ruin a website - so cheesy snaps of your staff taken with a disposable camera just won't do if you want to project a professional image
  • Video production and editing: video is now a huge part of the web, and a well-produced video about your products or organisation can quickly give site visitors a flavour of who you are and what you do

How much do web designers and developers cost?

Now you have a good grasp of the type of people that may be involved in your project, and the complexity of building a website, we can start to look at real numbers.

First thing to talk about is hourly rates. A usual hourly rate for many of the roles I mention above is currently anywhere between £25 and £75. Some particularly skilled or specialised people may charge more, as might a web design/development company where you're actually gaining access to a range of people, but that amount is a reasonable average for an individual. Some may charge less, particularly if they don't have a huge amount of experience in the industry.

If that sounds expensive let's put it in some context. The website tradeadvisor.com reports that:

  • Electricians charge about £31 per hour
  • Plumbers charge somewhere betweeen £20 and £40 per hour
  • Tree surgeons are about £40 per hour for garden clearance services
  • You can get an interior designer for around £60 per hour

Looking at some more skilled jobs we can see that:

  • Structural engineers charge around £90 per hour
  • Architects may charge £52 to £90 per hour

I think it's reasonable to compare the overall job of building a medium to large website with what a structural engineer or architect does, as the analytical and project management skills required (if not the specific technical knowledge) are of a broadly similar level. Admittedly if a website is poorly constructed it's not as dangerous as a poorly constructed building, but it may cause a huge amount of financial and reputational damage to the company or organisation whose website it is.

Remember; just like many industries you pay for a person based on their unique combination of skills and experience.

So how much will you need to spend?

The price you actually pay will depend on how long a project takes to complete and who is involved, and is an extremely difficult question to answer as it can vary greatly depending on what you want. I'm going to look at three example scenarios and give details of what you may pay for in order to give a sample total price.

Please note these are just examples and any real project may have many aspects that will result in a different amount you need to pay.

A basic site using off-the-shelf parts

Over recent years there's been a huge rise in free, high-quality (yes, that is possible) software to manage websites. If you're after a basic site, but with the ability to edit the text yourself, then it's likely you'll be recommended something like WordPress. WordPress currently runs around 20% of sites on the Internet, so it's no fly-by-night operation.

WordPress itself is free, and if you sign up for a website at WordPress.com you'll be up and running for £0 in no time. You won't have much choice in how the site looks; you'll have to choose from the pre-defined set of templates. Still, zero is a hard price to beat.

The downside of this is the address your website will appear at. It will be something like 'my-site.wordpress.com'. Hardly very professional. What you'll be looking for is your own domain name: the '.com' bit.

Domain names come in all sorts of flavours - you'll be aware of .com, .co.uk and maybe .org, but there are dozens of others. They have varying prices, most start at around £10 per year but some are much more than that.

If you want control over the emails sent to anything @your-website.com you'll also need to pay for some technical services. Those services might be just email, or also hosting (that is, keeping your site live on the web) or maybe regular backups. While a free website from WordPress.com is really easy to set up, it's also very restrictive. Having your website on your own hosting account will give you flexibility for the future, but will come with a cost of anything from £50 upwards per year - plus paying someone to set the site up in the first place.

And if your site gets really popular and starts getting loads (by which I mean thousands every day) of visitors you'll have to pay for beefier hosting. But, of course, that would be a good problem to have.

OK, let's break down the costs:

WordPress.com website: £0

  • Small choice of designs
  • Restrictive in terms of what you can do with the site
  • You can add a domain name, but you're not really in charge of the full site

WordPress on your own hosting account: £400 setup and a pre-made design, £100 per year ongoing maintenance

  • Wider choice of designs
  • Your own domain name
  • Email addresses (your.name@your-website.com)
  • Lots of options for future expansion

An e-commerce site with a bespoke design

Let's imagine that you want a website that does quite a bit. You want to sell something online, and you want a really good design that will attract customers and get you noticed. For this you could be paying £2,000 - £5,000, perhaps more if what you want is really complex.

Some people will still recommend WordPress as a platform on which to build a site like this. I'd probably agree, as I believe it gives a great set of features. However there are other options, including specialised e-commerce platforms like Shopify. These will get you up and running and selling online easily.

As you may imagine taking payments online has to be very secure, and for that reason it's not easy. Shopify and e-commerce systems that work with WordPress deal with a lot of this complexity for you, but they (for example PayPal) will take a small percentage of your sales.

For a bespoke design you'll need to hire a designer, and possibly a front-end developer as well to actually build the site. Here's the breakdown of costs for a couple of different options:

Shopify site with a custom design: £2,000

  • Well-established e-commerce platform
  • Bespoke design (within the constraints of the Shopify system)
  • It's not a full website, so you won't be able to start adding lots of other features (such as forums) easily

WordPress with an e-commerce system: £5,000

  • Completely bespoke design - the sky is (almost) the limit
  • Expand your website in any direction you want

A large complex site which integrates with another system

Most of my time is spent developing enterprise-level systems. Designed to help manage and streamline processes within companies these systems often have online components that talk to other systems. For example, I recently worked on a travel insurance system which sends the details of the insured passengers directly into the insurers database when payment was completed.

Many organisations will not need large, complex systems like this. However often there are areas where processes can be greatly simplified by applying a bit of technology to smooth what normally would be a manual process.

Of course coming up with a ball-park price for this type of project is almost impossible without knowing what the scale of the work is. But for an average project an amount of at least £4,000 to £10,000 is to be expected.

Disclaimer

Hopefully this article has given you some useful information about what building a website entails, and particularly how much you can expect to pay for different types of sites. But nothing here is a formal quotation; speaking with a web professional and explaining the exact requirements you have is the only way to get a true indication of cost for your project.

If you'd like to know more

There is a special start your project page where you can fill out a simple form and send brief details about your project to me. I'll get back in touch with some ideas of how I could help you. The aim is to get you an estimation of what your project may cost in terms of time and money quickly, so you can make the decision that's right for you.

Or you can fill in the simple feedback form to get in touch with me right now.

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