It’s funny how many people cringe when the topic of the cost of a website comes up. It’s probably because there are several variables that you need to factor in. On one extreme, you can get a free website from one of the many free hosting services. On the other, you might require dozens of full-time employees and your own climate-controlled server room with a disaster recovery site.
For this article, we’re going to focus on small businesses and individuals that get fewer than 20,000 page views per month. We’ll cover the three basic cost areas: design, hosting, and maintenance.
So you’ve decided you want a website. You reach out to ten different web designers and get ten different prices. Depending on the complexity of your site and the amount of work you need your designer to do, expect to pay between $1000 and $5000 to build your website. The below factors contribute to cost:
- Is the designer using a template or creating one from scratch? The latter will add significant costs, but it will help you stand out.
- How much content do you have? More content means more pages, which increases the cost. If you’re willing to create and edit the content, you can save money.
- Do you require a lot of images and image manipulation? Again, more work adds to the cost.
- Do you need special apps & tools added to your site? A custom tool can be expensive – some even require annual subscriptions. Be sure to ask about this when you’re given a quote, as you may find some components of your site not working unless you pay the fee.
There are various types of hosting, so be sure you understand your options before you pay. Shared hosting is the least expensive, and therefore, most popular for small businesses with light traffic. This means that your site lives on a computer (or set of computers) that hosts other websites in addition to yours. While rare, the downside to this is that malfunction on someone else’s site could affect your site. But most hosting companies have tools in place to prevent this. Shared hosting typically costs $10-$30 per month. Many companies offer a new customer rate for the first year, which I’ve seen as low as 99 cents per month.
A dedicated server means someone else is hosting your site on its own computer in their climate-controlled environment. This can cost anywhere from $100 to $2000 per month, and can even climb higher. I’ll get into more details about dedicated hosting in a future article.
You might see the term SSL tossed around. This is a security protocol that encrypts data between your site and the user’s browser. If you accept payments on your site, this is critical. Even if you don’t, not having SSL impacts your search engine rankings on Google and may cause a warning with some browsers. Hosting companies charge anything from $60-$100 per year for this, but I recommend using a hosting company that offers this for free. Please feel free to contact me for my current recommendations.
Some web consultants charge a monthly maintenance fee (usually $20-$200 per month). You need to be cautious with this for two reasons. The most obvious is you want to know exactly what they’re charging you for. Sometimes, the cost is just to cover the hosting and some profit. Other times, it covers ensuring your site is up to date and some small updates. Just ensure that you know what it entails if it’s over $20.
The second thing that you want to be aware of is who owns your site. Now, you’re probably thinking that you own your site, but it’s not always the case. If you don’t get billed annually for your domain name, then your consultant may own it. What that means is that if you get into a disagreement, he or she can hold your website hostage. I’ve had several clients in this situation – one had to pay $7500 to get it back. If you feel like you might be in this situation, please call me at 978-707-9583 or use my contact form. I’m happy to take a look for you (at no cost).
So those are your costs in a nutshell. If you have questions or would like more information, please reach out to me. I don’t charge for an initial consultation.