What does a website cost?

Imagine asking a Real Estate company, “How much does a house cost?” Well it depends. First off, what are the essentials you need? Three bedrooms because you have two kids? Central air conditioning because you live down south? Now that we have the essentials, what are some of the less essential, yet nice features? Basement? Extra storage? Large backyard? Three car garage? What if you could have it your way? How about a pool? Sounds nice right?

All these factors go into the price, yet we all have a budget to adhere to. Most of the time it comes down to what we can afford. Many times this means opting out of some of the less essential amenities.  Even if we opt out in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t potentially add them later. Wanted a pool, but couldn’t afford it upfront? Save up a bit more and you’ll get your pool in a few years. Great things take time.

How does this relate to web design?

I cannot count how many times I receive the “How much does a website cost?” email. Design in any instance doesn’t have a generalized price tag. It’s an investment of experience and time. While the experience factor is tough one to measure and quote, the amount of time, on the other hand, depends on the scale, complexity, features, elements, components, and so on.

Typically, my clients start off by filling out a project worksheet, which helps to gauge the project from the get go appropriately. Questions such as, “Does the redesign need copywriting?”, “Will your site require a CMS?”, “Which ‘social’ feature(s), if any, will be required?”, help to get a general feel for the timing and scale of their specific site.

Check out this site for things to consider when calculating the cost of a website.

Discussion and Comments

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  1. Exactly… Great link and I may use it as in betweener or as a side item when I have clients fill out my project worksheet. Thanks Brian!

  2. Great thoughts here brian, thanks!

  3. Great analogy, I always use the ‘house’ analyogy when clients ask for mass changes to the design after the site has been built…

    Imagine asking an architect that you now want three extra bedrooms instead of one, after all the blueprints have been signed off and the movers are putting the furniture in! :)

  4. Edwin says:

    Awesome analogy. People always think that websites are too expensive, but depending on what you need, there is a big scale in terms of price.

    Thanks for the link. I will implement some of these questions for future clients.

  5. Chris Walker says:

    Spot on, this is great! I always find myself second guessing the person who is asking. Have tried to use a car as an analogy. I think I’ll be using this in the near future.. Thanks for the post

  6. Michel says:

    Hi Brian,

    Really incredible analogy. Loved the idea and will probably use it as reference when I get those emails too…

    On a side note, on your last paragraph, the word copywriting is spelled “copyrighting”.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. Katy says:

    Great link, thanks for sharing! Curious what you think about website ‘packages’. I don’t do this myself (I look at every project as being unique, and therefore having a unique price tag). But I’ve seen other designers offer packages with predetermined price tags.

  8. This has been one of my pet whines forever: people who LEAD with that question. Not just for web sites, but anything: “What do you charge to do a brochure?” is something I hear all the time. I tell people it’s like asking “How much does a vacation cost?” Same type of thing you have presented. I have decided what I need to do is go back and find the final cost on the most elaborate, expensive project I have ever done, as well as the most budget-minded simple one, and present that as the range. “Hey, you asked. I’ll narrow it down if you will!”

  9. Offroadcode says:

    Thanks for sharing our link to whatdoesawebsitecost.co.uk Brian :)

    We knew it would be a question pretty much every designer and dev would have faced at some point and the twitter sharing etc very much confirms that so we hope it proves useful to other folks who might want to copy/share some factors etc in their own questions when speaking to potential clients.


    James @offroadcode / whatdoesawebsitecost.co.uk

  10. Brian says:

    Thanks for picking up that auto-correct typo. Lion’s autocorrect drives me a little batty sometimes. :)

    Offering ‘packages’ as you mentions certainly undermines our professional and views design as a commodity. I find that many offering those packages, often do not see our work’s real value and it often show’s in their “portfolios.” Anyone can offer up and shoddy service / experience but it’s the people that actually care that do good work and drive results.

  11. Birgit says:

    Very good points to show to clients. If I may, I would translate this into German to post it on my site. What do you think?

  12. Faheema says:

    Very informative and really true, type should be easy on the eyes, quick and fast to read. It’s a great means of visual communication.

  13. Faheema says:

    woops, made the comment in the wrong post…dunno how I managed that lol

  14. Stephen says:

    Excellent. I have been looking for the adequate analogy. Is there any chance we might be able to see your actual worksheet with the questions?

  15. such a nice example you put in the context of website cost.

  16. Brian says:

    Sometimes you don’t have to look far (check out the Availability area at the very top of the top) ;)

  17. Stephen says:

    Huzzah, Brian! Thanks.

  18. The bane of web developers everywhere, the cost estimate. While we’ve come quite far in automating the process, we still find ourselves needing to get 25% into the process before getting a true handle on costs.

    But our biggest frustration lies in the almost inevitable apples and oranges comparisons amongst competing bidders. There’s a huge difference between straight forward visual and usability design and coding vs. in-depth marketing and competitor analysis, content organization and architecture, writing and editing, photo editing and manipulation, etc.

    There is just so much that may or may not be included that needs to be a part of a good design, whether by the developer or the client and there is so much smoke and mirrors I see in many bids. It’s the biggest frustration working in this field, and requires significant education of each and every client.

  19. Great link, thanks for sharing! Curious what you think about website ‘packages’. I don’t do this myself (I look at every project as being unique, and therefore having a unique price tag). But I’ve seen other designers offer packages with predetermined price tags.

  20. Raymond says:

    Great article here. The key points are that the cost of a site can vary depending on what you need your site to do. Design might only be one aspect…

  21. Sam Anderson says:

    Good piece of article. Much needed. I don’t know anyone who mentions their charges on their website. Brilliant! I hope clients can read this. Thanks a lot.

  22. I too get that question a lot. How much will SEO cost is the question that I get. So many things go into a quote for services that both you and I offer that it is too hard to just give out a price. Thanks for your great analogy on this topic too.

  23. Great little read Brian. We take 50+ calls a day from prospective clients, and this is easily their most common question!

  24. Iggy says:

    I’ve asked the question. Basically, you wonder where the starting point is. You need to know where the base price is. In a world where you can pay $500 or 10s of thousands of $ you kinda ask out of politeness.

    You know, I could have a simple 6 page website and yet quotes could vary by 50 or 100 times or more depending on designer. And sometimes prices has little to do with ability and more to do with sales ability you know. It’s difficult to assume anything in this world.

    Where will you actually start engaging with me? At what point? You know, that’s all I ever want to know when I ask this question, and sometimes its like squeezing water out of a stone!

  25. What a great way of looking at this. Like a bum house with a leaky roof and bad plumbing, you get what you pay for with websites

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello: