How Much Does A Custom Website Cost?

5 min read
in Blog, Web Development
woman making calculations at a computer

Ah yes. The question about custom web design cost. It’s probably the most common question we receive, but it’s also one of the most difficult to answer. In this post, we will break down the cost of website development and pull back the curtain to tell you how much your website design should cost…and most importantly, why cost matters.

How much does it cost to hire someone to build a custom website?

The price to create a website can vary greatly, and if you’re a small business owner you’ve probably seen ads for low-cost monthly websites starting for less than $20 per month. These sites are great for hobbyists or people trying to monetize their side gig. But if you are a serious business the price for a custom website can range anywhere from $5,000 up to $15,000.

Why is there such a big price difference?

The difference in price between a custom website and a template website can large. The type of website you need will affect the cost to build it. Are you providing information? Are you looking for a home for your blog posts? If your site has lots of content, supports e-commerce, or requires national visibility, the price can be even higher than what was mentioned above.

Let’s take a look at two websites. The first one is a custom site built by us and the second is a Wix template.

screenshot of Educational Dividends website
screenshot of Wix template

The visual appeal of a design can sometimes make a huge difference, but that isn’t always the case. Both of these sites look good. But appearance doesn’t guarantee a website’s success. There are differentiating factors that can decide whether or not your site is a success. It’s really difficult to tell a website cost just by looking at the design.

If you want a website that converts visitors into people who interact with your business, you need people who are experienced with building websites that can not only attract visitors, but convert them into people who interact with you.

A dedicated team

Of all the marketing efforts in your small business arsenal, your website is the first place people go when they’re learning about your business. The products and services you offer should be highlighted on your site. Experienced web designers will know how to make those things look professional and attract attention. With many templated or pre-designed websites, you may not even be able to use your favorite template. Do you have more top-level services than the template allows for? Conversely, if you have fewer things to talk about, will you end up with awkward blank spaces in your design?

Figuring out the best way to showcase your company not only requires good design services, but also informed developers who understand your goals and can translate those goals into something tangible. The people who are building your site should not only be able to provide you with a solid custom website design, but they should also have experience with online marketing. They should understand how search engines operate and how to make your site visible to them. But most importantly, since every business is different, they should understand your business model.

Email bots, help forums, and call center operators do not always have practical experience.

The pieces of a custom website

When you hire a company to build a custom website, most often they will use a content management system. You may have heard of WordPress–the most used content management system on the internet. A WordPress website can be created to be as robust or as simple as you like. Some developers may utilize a WordPress theme, but a true custom designed website (even one that’s built on WordPress) will utilize a WordPress framework. There are many moving pieces to any website. Experienced designers and developers know how to use a framework to make these pieces interact in a way that benefits your business.

The custom web design process and how to start

There are a few ways to identify a solid web design company. Referrals are always a great place to start, but if you don’t have any then check the signature on sites you already like. Many web developers sign their work in the footer. (Our sites carry the simple three-word phrase “Site by ThirdSide”.) Take a look at the firm’s web design portfolio to see some of their created websites. If they also offer graphic design services, check some of that work as well. Once you feel comfortable with the quality of their work, reach out to them. Be wary of any firm who doesn’t offer a free consultation, as every design and development project should begin with one.

The first meeting with a web development firm

The first time you meet, expect to be asked a lot of questions. Even if the company is familiar with your business they will want you to learn about your business model as well as your goals for the site. The best companies may even uncover challenges you didn’t even realize you had. You might talk about favorite design styles, what your competitors are doing, and budget. Your ideal timeline–with specific dates–is also important. While “as soon as possible” may mean a couple of weeks in your mind, it could mean six months to your developer. Be prepared to set a clear expectation.

Working with a project manager

Once you have hired your chosen company, you will probably be assigned a project manager. This person’s goal is to ensure your project moves smoothly. They are your advocate in this regard. Even though it may be tempting to try to work directly with individual staff members (and from time to time, you may) by communicating with through your project manager you can be assured your project won’t suffer needless delays because of misunderstandings.

If your company is large enough, you may want to assign a project manager from your own team to handle communication with the firm you’ve chosen. This person may or may not be empowered to make final decisions, but having them will help ensure communication runs smoothly on your side as well.

Designing your custom website

Website design is a subspecialty of both graphic design and marketing. Some of the things an experienced designer will consider are user interface design, color logic, and image sizing. While many designers learn these skills through formal education, experience is the key differentiating factor between a website that looks good and a website that converts visitors.

If you look through the student portfolio of any recent graphic design graduate, you will see examples of website designs. Even though these may look great, they haven’t been tested in the wild. An experienced designer knows how to bridge that gap.

Optimizing your custom website for speed

Speed is critical with a custom website. We’ve seen numerous websites with large images, preroll videos, and animated effects. While these may look great, if they’re not properly developed your site speed will suffer. Site visitors expect a web page to load in under three seconds. Recent estimates show that 40% of all users will abandon a website that loads slower than that. Google knows this, so part of its search algorithm includes page speed. In other words, if your competitor’s site loads faster than yours they have a better chance of outranking you in a Google search. If you have paid advertising, you may even pay more for your clicks!

Cost vs. Value

When it comes down to it, the decision you need to make is whether or not saving some money on your site will be worth it in the long run. If you have a brand new business and you’re running on a shoestring budget, the choice may be to go with something cheaper. But if your budget allows it (or if you’re more established) a beautiful website that can convert visitors is the best investment you can make.

Get started now

Even if you’re not ready to move forward, it’s never too soon to start talking to firms you might be interested in working with. Why not contact us and get started now?

Meet the Author

Jason is a co-founder of ThirdSide. When he’s not building websites, making graphics, or meeting clients, he’s hanging out with his family doing family things or hanging out with performers doing performer things.

He has a Star Wars obsession that some consider to be…unnatural.

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