There seems to be a secret code among web designers that prevents them from being open and honest about pricing. Why is that? For a company in need of web design services, I’m sure it can be frustrating. It’s a simple question. How much should a website cost? I’m going to answer that in this post, and give you some real numbers for projects that we’ve taken on.
When I first started out in web design, I had no idea what to charge, so I did some research. I found countless forums where designers and developers were debating the topic endlessly, with answers ranging from $20/hour to $200/hour. My biggest takeaway was that pricing for web services was all over the place, and there was no real consensus as to a ‘standard’ price to charge. So I guessed, based on my experience, and chose $25/hr as my rate. And when my first client agreed to my pricing, I could only conclude that I had either guessed properly, or priced too low.
It’s no different when you’re a client looking for web services. How do you know how much to budget? How do you make sure you’re being charged a fair price? A quick search on Google for ‘how much should I pay for a website’ reveals an astonishing range of anywhere from $250 to $250,000 and up. So where does your company sit on this overwhelming spectrum? The answer is always, “it depends.”
So what does it depend on? It depends on your needs and scale of the project. It depends on your budget. It also depends on the skill and experience of the designer you hire. At Solve Design, we determine our pricing based on a number of components, but it really breaks down to 3 main factors: Budget, Requirements, and Value.
Your budget by far has the biggest influence on a web design project. You simply can’t spend more money than you have, so that will obviously affect your options. How do you know how much to budget? The short answer is to budget as much as you comfortably can. Marketing is possibly the most important tool for growing your business, and the larger your budget, the larger your business can grow. That’s not to say it’s a one to one exchange of budget to growth. Throwing money at a problem will never magically solve it. But making sure you partner with the right people can make all the difference when it comes your budget.
As for a more practical answer, for most businesses, a website is considered a marketing tool. For companies making over six figures in revenue, the general rule of thumb is to spend 5% of revenue on marketing in order to maintain your current position. In order to grow, it’s suggested to spend at least 10%. For a company whose yearly revenue is $200,000, your annual web marketing budget could be $20,000 or more, depending on other marketing you might be doing.
If your revenue is less than $100,000 per year, or if you’re just starting out, take a look at your competition, and ask a web designer how much that company might have spent on their website. It’s possible you’ll have to budget at least as much for your site in order to compete.
Requirements are perhaps the most straightforward aspect of pricing. Requirements determine how something will be built and what solutions need to be implemented. This can easily be broken down to hard costs for assets, software, and service, and how many man hours are required for a project. At Solve Design, these requirements help us easily determine if a project is a good fit for us. Basically, if the hard costs are greater than your budget, we simply can’t take on the project.
Value is a tricky one, but it’s the most important of the three.
What is value? It’s different for every project. For a marketing website, value could be an increase in leads and conversions that result in higher revenue. Or it could be as simple as raising awareness and perception of a client’s brand. Either way, a project needs to have value in order for it to be worth investing in. Furthermore, the value should exceed the investment, otherwise what’s the point? For instance, you could invest $80,000 in a site with all the bells and whistles you can afford, but if it only has the potential to bring in $20,000 in revenue, it might not be a great investment. The value-to-investment ratio need to align.
How do you measure value? By nature, value is conceptual and quite subjective, so it can be tough to measure. Value is in the eye of the investor, but it’s our job as a services provider to unearth that value for you. A lot of the time, we can point out the value of an investment by saying that spending x amount of dollars will potentially produce x amount of revenue. But sometimes value is a bit more obscure. Men’s suits can range in pricing from $100 to thousands of dollars. They all accomplish the same thing, and most people will never know the difference. But some guys pay top dollar because looking and feeling great is valuable to them. It’s no different in web design.
The right services company will do the proper research with the client to determine the true value of a project.
All Together Now
So how do budget, requirements, and value all work together? Let’s consider a theoretical situation in which we’re building a new website. Say you have budgeted $20,000 per year for marketing, because your revenue is $200,000 and you’re spending 10% on marketing. Based on the requirements for the new site, we have determined that a new website will cost $30,000, maintenance will cost $10,000 per year, and marketing through social and advertising online will cost an additional $10,000 per year. Assuming the site has a shelf life of 3 years before it’s due for another redesign, that’s $50,000 for the first year, and $20,000 the second and third years. Averaged out, that’s $30,000 per year, or $10,000 per year over the marketing budget. However, we still need to consider the value.
We’ve assessed the value of the project based on the goals, and have determined that the additional $10,000 per year could potentially increase revenue 150%, so the extra investment will pay off in the long run.
Obviously, this is a simplified example, but it easily illustrates how a number of factors can determine cost.
OK, that’s great. But how much does a website really cost?
If you’ve read up to this point, congratulations, you’re actually serious about investing in web design, and you’ll make good decisions on hiring the right people for the job. If you skipped to this part because you just want to know how much a website costs, and you don’t want to be bothered with the details, you’ve got some learning to do. Probably by hiring cheap and getting cheap results. Come back and re-read this when that happens.
In an effort to be transparent, I’m going to share some real numbers for projects that we’ve done, so you can get a sense of what to expect when working with a design company.
But first, a bit of context. We are currently a two man design company. We bring in additional members when needed to assemble the proper team for each project. Based on this model, we’ve calculated overhead, seasonality, and salary, and have determined that our hourly rate for client work is $100/hour. Your mileage may vary depending on the size and type of company you hire, and there are benefits to both going big or keeping the team small. We’re not for everyone, and that’s OK with us.
All our projects include research, strategy (wireframes), design, development, testing and deployment.
All of that said, a typical small marketing website design starts at around 120 hours for a site with 5 unique templates and about 20 pages, integrated into a content management system. About 10 hours of this time is research. 20 is put into strategy. 30-40 is used in design. About 40 is put into development, and another 10 is for testing and launch. Tack on another 30% or so of the total budget for a mobile friendly responsive design.
This equates to around $12,000 to start for a basic marketing website with a content management system. “That’s insane,” you might be saying. “I knew a guy who got a website for under $1,000!” That’s great for them. However, this is a custom solution built specifically to suit your individual needs based on research and goals, not a cookie-cutter run of the mill WordPress template.
Now let’s look at some actual projects. I’ve left out project details in order to keep our clients anonymous.
- $6,000 to convert an existing Photoshop design into a responsive, fully functional Shopify theme
- $9,300 for a custom WordPress portfolio website
- $19,800 for a custom WordPress marketing site
- $32,000 for a fully custom WordPress site with custom functionality and custom CMS integrations
As you can see, there is a good amount of diversity in our project costs. This is simply because every project is unique. We could reduce the number of hours by templatizing the process, but the effectiveness would suffer. We provide tailored solutions, and our success proves that our process works. It’s important that you work with a design company that can provide the right solutions for your specific needs.
Great. But How Do I Find the Right Design Company?
Finding a solid design company can be tough. There are literally hundreds of thousands of options in the U.S. alone. We’ll be covering this in more detail in a later post, but we suggest first educating yourself as much as possible (you’re reading this article, so great start!), and reaching out to colleagues who have websites (good and bad) and discussing their experience with them.
Finally, a good design company will always be upfront and honest with you about web design costs, and will be more than happy to answer any questions you have about web design. Reach out to a few and pick their brains. They love talking about this stuff. Or they should. They’re in a client services business.
Our best advice is to you when approaching a website project is to remember these 4 things:
- Educate yourself, so you can make educated decisions
- Know your budget, or at least have a solid idea of what you can spend
- Clearly define the project’s requirements
- Find a design company that can help you determine the project’s value and the right solution for your needs.
As we’ve learned, web design pricing can be a tricky subject, but hopefully I’ve helped you understand some of the complexity that goes into it. By finishing this article, you’re one step closer to making educated decisions about web design. Armed with your new-found knowledge, you might just be ready to go forth and hire. But if you have questions, feel free to pick our brains. We love this stuff.