The Real Cost of Building a Website

This is the first part of a 3-part series on the business of web design

Vector by Freepik

Consider this scenario: Your business website is non-existent or so old that it belongs in the attic. You need a new business website. How do you get started?

The top three questions that come to mind are:

  • What are the costs involved?
  • How long does it take?
  • How do I choose the right agency?

Costs are inextricably linked to what is required. Currently, the market rate for a customizing an existing website template starts from US$1,500. A bespoke website may set you back at least US$10,500. Most small businesses end up spending an average of US$5,600 on their website.

So what does all that money go towards?

Design and development fees

All websites are customized. Unless you take a theme and use it as-is, with zero changes to the colors and styling of the demo content, your appointed company will still have to make changes to the selected theme. Based on our experience, most clients will make at least 2 to 5 major changes to their selected theme which includes reordering key sections, adding more content blocks, changing typefaces and their colors, etc. These customizations may cost you anything between US$1,500 to US$3,000.

Content creation fees

A website is just a shell if there is no content. If your agency provides content creation services (also known as copywriting), you may get them to write content for your website. Generally, they will need to get some raw input from you on the type of information you wish to feature, if you need a blog and how often you will blog. After establishing these needs, they may suggest you manage your content using a content management system (CMS). Most CMSes will allow you to update your site and blog through a web-based interface. An example of a CMS is Wordpress. Content creation and content management system implementation may set you back at least US$2,500.

Billing matters

So now you have a clear idea of the cost breakdown of a website, let’s discuss agency billing. More commonly, agencies charge by the hour or bill you a fixed rate. Regardless, most shops will require you to put down a 50% downpayment before the start of the project. This means that you can expect to pay your agency around US$3,000 upfront. While many small business owners may find it quite demanding to put down such a large sum of cash upfront, few web design agencies can afford to compromise these fees as they are vital to ensure that their own cost of taking on your project is covered.

The next time you will pay your agency is likely to be just before the website is deployed. Deployment refers to the uploading of the website onto your domain and it is usually considered the final stage of the project. In our next post, we will explain in detail the typical project stages and timelines. Most agencies will collect the outstanding fees from you ahead of deployment. For agencies that bill you a fixed rate, this amount is usually the remaining 50% of the original quote, plus any additional add-ons. For agencies that bill you by the hour, they will present with an invoice detailing the final number of hours spent and the accompanying cost.

Maintenance and other fees

Other costs include web hosting, domain fees, email addresses, and maintenance. Think of web hosting as the bare bone apartment you’ve decided to rent, web design and development as the interior design of the apartment and your domain as the official address of your apartment. Web hosting and a domain cost anywhere between US$50 annually and email addresses cost around US$8 per account per annum.

Maintenance usually includes the routine upkeep and backup of your content, as well as the installation of security patches to keep your website safe from cyber attacks. These rates can vary wildly. Some agencies offer a package while others charge you on an ad-hoc basis. From our experience, most businesses spend about US$1,200 per year.

And we haven’t even begun talking the costs of keeping your website updated and the management of business’ social media profile.

Phew. Clearly, engaging a good agency requires deep pockets.

There is a more affordable way

For the rest of us, we’ve designed Horlu to be a much more cost-friendly alternative to traditional web design and development. Horlu is an intelligent web design assistant who will create a completely bespoke website for your business based on the photos, color and post frequency of your Facebook Page.

This is the first part of a 3-part series on the business of web design. In our next post, we will explain in detail the typical project stages and timelines.

Please follow the “Horlu Business” tag on Medium or #HorluBusiness on Twitter to for more tips!

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