How much will my website cost?

I hear this a couple of times every week.

The short answer is: It depends.

[At this point, it’s a big range, like a ~$15k-75k+ kind of range. Can you do it for less? Yes. Are they sometimes more? Yes.]

The longer answer is that dialing in that range requires a lot of talking and our team using our knowledge and strategy.

What I am going to attempt to do here is to give you my internal algorithm for how I ballpark how much a website will cost.

I’ll ask this upfront because it’s the first question you should be asking whilst embarking down this path:

Who is your intended audience?

It’s a best practice to actually write this down, as specifically as possible, and then mashup all of the different audience characteristics into fictitious avatars that you imagine as you are creating this site.

Right, how much does it all cost?

We’re getting there.

But to answer that, I need to take you through our method, and that starts with goals or first, first principles that you just need to know before creating a digital presence for yourself.

First, first principles of websites (the goals you have in mind):

  1. Storytelling – Informing someone who you are, telling your unique business story and worldview
  2. Showing up prominently in Google – in my humble opinion, this is not about shortcuts or hacks. This is about having the knowledge of how Google works, following its guidelines for structuring a website, the best practices for writing unique, relevant, fresh, compelling and informative content. And then carrying that out throughout your entire website strategy, from initial planning, to page research, to interviewing your own company’s subject matter experts to writing, to photo, image, graphic and video development. It all matters. And is it a local business or chain of local businesses? — does it have a brick and mortar presence, that people will look up in Google Maps? Because if yes, then there’s a whole ‘nother aspect to take into account.
  3. To persuade – The goal of most websites is to get someone to take action — to submit a form, to call …
  4. Be very, very, very ridiculously good looking – This has to do with knowing good design principles, (following them), knowing good user experience principles, (following them) and then being able to balance all of that into an online, digital experience that reflects: your business and the story you want to communicate, your business goals and your attempt at persuading.

So, as you can see, our first, first principles are directed at strategy, content, imagery/graphics and design direction.

We’re going to use round numbers as a jumping off point.

Strategy and initial story work — $5,000 — figuring out what this website needs to do, what the sitemap will be, the content that we need to create, who your audience is, the imagery that exists, the possible design direction.

Content — Depends on the scope — Basically, say that it’s going to be $1-2,000 for really important pages and $750-$1000 for supporting pages.

Imagery/Graphics/etc. — Depends on the scope and the overall design direction. Very rarely does someone have all of the images and graphics that they need before coming to us. They need to be captured or made. For a 10-page website, I’d probably earmark about $5,000 for imagery. And you can probably safely scale that up based on the # of pages.

Then other questions we need to ask when we create a website

Brand – Do you have a tight brand look? Logo as an EPS file, brand standards, brochures you’ve created in the past, typical typography you use in business documents. A tight brand makes everything work better because people can associate your marketing materials more easily when they see these visual cues and brand expressions. What one might call a Brand-in-a-BoxIf yes: great; if no, add $2500-$7500. (Honestly, this alone can be a really pricey and valuable project, but this price range gives you a good idea of what we see in 80% of the client situations.)

Integrations –  Will it need to integrate with a piece of business operations software? Like a reservation system, like a CRM or ERP, appointment scheduling? If no, add $0; if yes, does the website need to link to the software or does the website need to literally be integrated? If it’s integrated, it’s a big range and totally depends but just count on that adding money.

Languages – Will the website be in several different languages? Once all of the content is ready, should it be translated (probably, yes) or do you want Google Translate to handle that?

If just English, then a template website, like Squarespace is still an option; if it’s multiple languages a CMS like WordPress is probably best, and if WordPress, in my opinion, it’s better to do a custom WordPress site than a template site simply because there’s more control. But if you’re doing Custom, basically 2x the project (or add up to about $10,000). Custom makes everything different because custom is custom. Design takes longer. Content takes longer. There’s more choices to be made and so it’s just more. And if it is translated, ballpark ~$200/page/language.

Code – What are the Design and development fees?

It depends, but again, this is how I think through it:

If it’s Squarespace, there’s basically a base fee that I mentally calculate at about $3,000 and then add about $500 for really important website pages and about $250 for supporting pages of the website. (this is separate from the content fees)

If it’s a custom design, count on those fees being about 2-3x or more.

CMS? – Is there a content management system that you just have to use?

See above. If it’s something different than I’ve said already, probably add an X factor.

Migration? – Do you have a current website and search engine presence that needs to be taken into consideration? Because a migration needs to be handled very purposefully.

Website migrations are carefully orchestrated plans. Take the wrong move and you search presence can be indefinitely, negatively impacted.

This depends on the size of the site but adds $1500-5000 for any given project

Domain? – Do you have a domain name?

If not, check domain.google to see if the one you want or one close to it is available and reserve it, now.

Do you have access to the CMS, FTP and domain registrar for the current website?

If no, stop reading, go get it, and then come back. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Having an agency track this stuff down for you can eat up at least $1000 in “chase your tail time.”

Age? – When was the last time your website was designed?

This doesn’t have immediate financial impact but it does give me a sense for a few intangibles.

Previous SEO work? – Has anyone ever done “SEO work” on your website, brand, domain, etc.? If you have a website, when was the last time you ran a comprehensive technical SEO audit?

Most clients don’t know what this means because frankly it’s a super nebulous term — SEO. But the reason I ask it is that, is there anything that we’ve got to go clean up, are there landmines lurking that will permanently impact you?

If yes, we’d need to look into it, and sometimes that actually a good thing if it’s done well. If poor work has been done in the past, this could add $2-5,000.

Access? – Do you already have digital properties setup and do you have administrative access to them? (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, Bing Webmaster Tools, Bing Places for Business)

If no, add about $1000; If yes, super, please add inbound@handbuiltbrands.com as an admin for them; or you’ll give us your login for us to add ourselves.

Competitors? – Who do you consider to be your top competitors?

This is important from a brand and design standpoint and your search strategy. If your competitors are really strong websites and you want yours to be better than theirs, this can be a 1.5-2x project multiplier imho.

Keywords? – What [top 3] keywords would you want to rank for?

This is important as a strategy piece to let us know how deeply we should plan the content to be. Are these super competitive terms? If they are, it’s usually a project multiplier.

The stuff agencies are thinking and don’t say

Who is responsible in your company? Is there someone in marketing who will be responsible for this project? Or is it a president, c-level person running the project? In my experience, projects that are run by a marketing person go faster, more smoothly and more comprehensively than if the business leadership has responsibility for the project. And will it be fun?

This doesn’t have quantitative price impact but it may make me mentally skew more towards the high end than the low end of a range.

As you can see, the answer to “how much will my website cost?” really depends on answers to a lot of questions.

And let’s be clear, there’s really inexpensive ways to get a website created. In fact, you could buy this book, the Content Champion Guide and it will give you our method for structuring and writing great website content. Then, you can go put that content in a Squarespace site for ~$200/year. And with some photos from your phone at your business, you’re pretty much done.

But to have someone else do it for you, expertly and hand built, there’s monetary value in that.