Small business website cost (2018 update)

NOTE: Website designing and website developing are often used synonymously, but they’re two very different things. Designing a website is like working with an architect to create the blueprint for your house. Developing a website is like working with a contractor to actually build your house. The 2018 pricing estimates listed above are for designing *as well as* developing a website (i.e. the total cost).

• Page volume. Let’s say a web development firm offers a package for a 10-page small business website for $3,000. But let’s say you need a 25-page site. A good rule of thumb is to add about $100/page for each page over and above what’s included in their standard website package. So in this example, 15 additional pages would be about $1,500.


Add this amount to the original base price of $3,000 and your new total is $4,500. Obviously every situation will vary, but at least this gives you a reasonable cost estimate based on common pricing in the industry.

• Custom programming. Sometimes you can get an application that will provide the functionality you want right out of the box (i.e. image carousel, membership portal, payment calculator, etc). Other times, getting your site to do what you want requires significant trial/error and testing. It would be nice if everything digital was plug-and-play, but it usually isn’t.

• Number of design revisions. With most website projects, the standard is to have either 1 or 2 design revisions before your site gets built. But I’ve seen designers offer as many 3-5 revisions during the design phase. Keep in mind, each design iteration comes at a price, which adds to the overall cost of your project. In our experience, 1-2 design revisions is more than sufficient 99% of the time.

• Content creation. Solid, thoughtful content is the foundation of any great website. If you’re launching a new site but don’t have any content yet, it’ll need to be created. If you have an existing site but the content is weak, stale or outdated, it’ll need to be refined or enhanced. Depending on how much information you need to publish, your website might have 5-10 pages or more than 50. (The largest site we ever built had over 800 pages!)

• SSL certificate. Even if you don’t plan to sell things directly from your site, you’ll still want to secure your site with HTTPS protocol. Here’s an article I wrote explaining HTTPS in plain English. You can get an SSL certificate for as little as $10/year or as much as $200-300/year. So shop around, but don’t buy more than you actually need.

• Premium website theme. $100-$150. There are hundreds if not thousands of themes to choose from. Some free, some paid. I urge you to spend a few bucks and get a quality theme. Don’t skimp here. You’ll thank me later. We’ve experimented with many website themes over the years and the ones we now use exclusively to develop clients’ sites are from StudioPress — great design + solid coding.

• Premium plugins. $100-$200. As with website themes, you usually get what you pay for. Do yourself a favor and invest a few dollars to get quality plugins. For example, two premium plugins we use on nearly every site we build are Gravity Forms and Envira Gallery. Yes, there are lots of free plugins and many of them are very good. But there are also lots of bad plugins that don’t work as advertised and will waste a bunch of your time. So be careful.

• Stock photos. If you’re a good photographer or you already have high-quality images for your site, then you’re all set. But chances are you’ll need to purchase some images to dress up your site a bit. The two places we recommend are BigStockPhoto.com and iStockPhoto.com. They have lots of high-quality, royalty-free images at reasonable prices. In most cases, you can probably get all that you need (at least initially) for $50-200. After that, you just buy what you need as your website evolves. NOTE: Never, ever, ever just copy/paste images from other sources onto your site, unless you’re 1000% certain you have permission. Otherwise you can get sued. Instead, play it safe and just purchase your images — it’s way less expensive than a lawsuit.

• Faulty, untested technology. The theme and plugins you use to build your site matter. There is a lot of shoddy coding out there that can result in security risks, software incompatibilities and site instability. Stick with proven, name brands that have been around a while, have been thoroughly tested and are continually supported. Use premium digital components. Otherwise you’ll be constantly fixing things that keep breaking, or worse — having to rebuild your entire site.

• Incompetent idiots. Beware of knuckleheads that know just enough to make them dangerous. A few years ago I hired a subcontractor to assist with some custom programming on a large project. A few weeks into the project it became clear he didn’t know what he was doing. He talked a good game, but couldn’t deliver. So I fired him and cut my losses — but only after wasting precious time and money on a project with a deadline. It’s impossible to get it right every time, but do your best to vet people carefully before you hire them.

• Bad advice and information. This is what has cost me more time and money than anything. Tens of thousands of dollars, plus countless rabbit holes that lead to nowhere. Years of my life I will never get back. The topics weren’t always website design and development, they included ancillary topics like SEO, PPC advertising, Facebook marketing, content marketing, etc. In retrospect, most of it was hype and fluff that didn’t deliver. Bottom line, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Regardless of what “secret” the hucksters are selling today, sustained success takes time and effort. Period. (OMG, I’m sounding like grandpa, “If I knew then, what I know now … “)