So, How Much Does a Website Cost?

You can imagine we get this question every time we get a new website inquiry, and it’s a difficult question to answer. But, I’m going to try and answer as thoroughly as possible.

Here at Mindshare, websites that we’ve built have cost anything from $2,000 to $60,000+, most of them on WordPress CMS. These websites range from quick company introductions, to full featured eCommerce and customer management platforms… the scope of a website is a highly variable thing. We like to use the car analogy. You could get an 18 wheeler with a trailer, air glide (whatever that is) and all the extras, or you could get a 1981 Nissan Sentra (my first car). Both drive on the road, but at very different costs, with very different tools.

So, how much does a website cost? It always depends.

Gauging the cost of a website over the phone, or after a quick introduction, is very hard, if not impossible. This is why we offer a free consultation to any new client. This consultation helps us to understand your needs, and helps you to understand what we plan on estimating. We need to know if you’re looking for a full scale delivery semi or a Nissan Sentra.

Here are our top 5 things that factor into the cost of a website.

Your current website

“But, I’m replacing it!”

You have already made some business decisions regarding how to handle website sales/customers/traffic/contacts/etc. Understanding these decisions will help us guide you to more productive ones, or enable us to work within your already created business practices. For example, if you have systems in place that deal with the offline aspects of eCommerce, then it’s likely we won’t have to advise you as much on that process… you have someone fulfilling orders and shipping goods. If your staff is already blogging, and making website updates, then there is less training to be done. If your site was built in the 90’s… well, that informs us there’s plenty of catching up to do.

The development platform

Most of the websites we develop are built with WordPress CMS (content management solution). WordPress is an open source, scalable platform with a huge developer base, plenty of add-ons and is constantly being patched with security updates, features and improvements. Somewhere between 20% and 30% of the internet uses WordPress. This platform is quick to develop with and highly customizable. Therefore it’s the least expensive expandable CMS solution. However, it’s possible that your needs outweigh what can be done with WordPress. That’s where other platforms come into play… these platforms increase cost but offer technology and functionality that WordPress doesn’t.

The features requested

Websites come in all shapes and sizes from basic informational websites to large scale enterprise solutions. I like to rank them as follows:

  • Simple blog or content sites: A few page types and an archive.
  • Simple brochure websites: Same as above but with a custom landing page and a slicker, brand-oriented design.
  • Business Websites: All of the above with added calendars, testimonials, services, etc.
  • eCommerce Websites: The above with added shopping experience. This will often include user profiles, permission settings, and some sort of order tracking system.
  • Nonprofit websites: A donation platform is similar to a shopping experience. Nonprofits often need a website with the complexity and custom content of a business website on a much smaller budget.
  • Large businesses: Large businesses are very similar to eCommerce and business websites, except there is simply more of it all. They also often come with user accounts, custom permissions and a slew of complexity in their content. There can be a huge amount of custom content, variable page layouts, and marketing considerations.
  • Enterprise Scale Sites: More site visits can add a lot of complexity, both in terms of how a server handles those users to how the business does. These sites are often broken down into smaller projects over multiple teams. This adds project management complexity and increases the amount of time spent in meetings.

With each type of site the cost increases, but still stays pretty variable within each category.

Complexity of the content

There is often a lot of talk about features and what the website can do. But it’s also important to consider the content. Are images going to be heavily featured? Does the content include custom and dynamically created graphs? Has the content been written? Will each page have a large amount of text that needs to be read easily or scanned? Does each story get split up over multiple pages? How many authors does the site have? The answers to these questions impacts the cost of the website.

Size and scale of your business

“Why does my website cost more than Joe’s? We’re asking for the same thing!”

This is a hard consideration to swallow.

Creating websites is not just about lines of code and making the features work, it’s also about training, client satisfaction and business practices offline. If your company has multiple staff members working with the website, then each of those staff members need to be trained. Each are going to have unique questions, and every person behind the scenes is going to have an opinion on how they need the site to work. It might also take longer for us to develop a site that works with your offline business practices because there are simply more people involved.

All of these considerations mean more project management and training for larger organizations and companies… or maybe not. It always depends.

The Client Multiplier

Yes, we take each client into consideration when quoting projects. This is because some qualities cost money. Here are some that can get particularly expensive:

  • There is no single point of contact.
  • There is a committee or board approval process.
  • The client doesn’t seem like a good “consultant advocate.”
  • There’s a lot of red tape for decision making.
  • There’s a lack of understanding of basic web practices.
  • There is no business plan, or there needs to be a lot of advising or training.

Unfortunately, these things are not related to the website directly, but still have an impact on the amount of time we spend developing, and thinking about, your website.

After all of that you’d think we’d have a better answer than “It depends”, but as you can see, estimating website cost is a complicated process.

However, we love to do it!

About the Author

James W Johnson

As a southwest native, James has traveled the US working for theaters, nonprofit organizations, small business and as a freelance designer, developer, and photographer.
After spending time in New York, Seattle, Colorado and North Carolina, James decided to come back… Read more ›


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