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How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website for a Small Business?
Graphic Design

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website for a Small Business? 

It is essential for every business to have a website and a good one at that. While small businesses require you to be very hands-on, it is important to dedicate some of the already limited resources – be time and/or money – to getting and maintaining a company website.

If your business does not have a website, you are not alone. According to a 2021 survey done by Top Design Firms, 28% of small businesses in the US do not have one either.

But why is a website important to small businesses?

A Digital Presence

Businesses with a digital presence enjoyed four times year-on-year revenue growth when compared to those without one. This is according to the Digital Tools in Crisis and Recovery U.S. report. The digital presence in this case refers to making efficient use of digital channels like email and social media marketing – in conjunction with websites – to impact a target market.

For any organization, the website is possibly the first point of interaction. It is where impressions are formed. For a small business, your website is your online storefront. It exposes you to a global audience. What kind of impression does it leave on potential clients, if any?

Having established that a professional website is key, what are the cost implications of getting one?

What is the Average Website Cost for a Small Business?

There is no definite, straightforward answer to this question. Sorry. It is also worth noting that ‘cost’ is not only monetary. A website requires a time investment in equal measure.

Cost depends on a number of interdependent factors which can be boiled down to features and complexity. The kind of business or industry that you’re in determines your website requirements. Service industry websites, for example, may be well served by less than 10 pages in total. On the other hand, an online store or e-commerce website requires significantly more pages and extra functionalities.

The average cost of a small business website ranges between $2,000 and $8,000, as confirmed by Digital.com. That is quite a huge range, but as alluded to by the previous examples, different types of websites have different complexity and therefore have different asking prices. A service industry website may be significantly less than $2,000 and also as much as 5,000. An e-commerce website can quite easily exceed $10,000.

The cost includes essentials like the domain name, hosting services, and the expertise necessary to design and develop a proper website. Expertise can be in-house or outsourced.

How about a further breakdown of the cost?

What Determines a Website’s Cost?

If you are planning to look through this list with the intent of finding something you don’t need, you might get to the end of it very disappointed.

A lot of these factors are essential to launching a successful website:

  • Domain Name | $1 to $15/domain

A domain name is your website’s address. It is what is typed into a browser to open your site. Ideally, the domain name you choose should match the business as part of the branding. This makes it easier for the clients.

Domain names are normally not expensive, but some particular industry-specific or product-specific ones can make you break the bank.  If the domain name you have in mind is already taken, you can try to buy it from the current owner or choose a suitable alternative.

  • SSL Certificate | Free to $1,500/year

This is a digital certificate used to authenticate your website’s identity as it enables encrypted connections.

While they are not mandatory to the functioning of a website (to some extent), internet security is mandatory. It is also a trust indicator for your clients. They will know that they’re at the correct address and feel safe and protected when making any kind of data entry or transaction.

Some hosting companies include a free SSL certificate in the subscription plans, meaning that this is one cost you can save on without skipping it entirely.

  • Website Hosting | $24 to $120/year

Web hosting ensures that your website files are accessible on the World Wide Web.

A lot of hosting plans these days include a free domain and/or SSL certificate in a bid to stay competitive. Keep that in mind when shopping for a hosting service.

There are many hosting companies to choose from but you should be good with any as long as they have a plan that meets your needs and they have excellent uptime to ensure that your website is always accessible.

The hosting cost is determined by the hosting option you chose for your website.

Hosting Options

  • Shared Hosting

This is where several websites are hosted on the same server, sharing resources such as storage, memory, and processing power.

Shared hosting is the most common and cost-effective option. Most small businesses opt for this because their website requirements are met and the financial implication is more than favorable. There are some probable disadvantages, like the occasional performance issues and certain security concerns, but it will serve a small business website well for the most part.

If any performance issues are observed, the subscription can be easily upgraded (depending on the service provider) for a higher fee.

  • Dedicated Hosting

In this type of hosting, your website has all the server resources allocated to it.

Dedicated hosting offers a lot of flexibility in terms of customizing the environment without affecting anyone else’s website. Dedicated servers offer great performance because of the unlimited resources as well as the security that comes with isolation. It is great for high-traffic websites such as a busy e-commerce sites.

However, you must be sure that your website will fully utilize the dedicated resources before paying for dedicated hosting. If not, you will not be getting value for money and would probably be better off with a VPS.

  • Virtual Private Server (VPS)

VPS hosting is a halfway house between dedicated and shared hosting. It simulates dedicated hosting by allocating (privatizing) resources to your website while on shared hardware. This uses virtualization technology.

A VPS may be suitable for a small business that has a slightly higher need for resources and security options than those provided by a shared hosting plan.

  • Managed Hosting

This is where your hosting service provider handles everything on your behalf.

It is essentially outsourcing mostly done by larger businesses. Every technical aspect is managed and overseen by the hosting company.

Only Pay for What You Need

The key with hosting is to start with the entry-level plans and upgrade as the requirements dictate. This will keep the costs to a minimum. There are also incentives like discounts when paying annually or bi-annually which saves your business some more precious dollars.

  • Design | Varies Highly

Design costs can easily fluctuate from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. It all comes down to what the client wants for their website and who is involved in the design process.

When working with professionals and agencies, the design cost also depends on their particular rates. A small business does not require an earth-shattering design, to begin with. When meeting with the professionals, enquire about the costs for different types (level) of websites as well as the examples.

If a cheaper design appeals to your vision for your website, then you should absolutely go for it. You may or may not have any branding, and this may be included in the design project. You may include a logo design and suitable imagery and pay extra for them to create a more cohesive end product. Above all, always remain faithful to your predetermined budget.

Design can encompass the following:

  • New Design or Re-Design

Building a website from scratch is quite the undertaking in terms of time and money. This has a higher price tag than starting from an already existing site, where not everything has to be conceptualized and actualized.

Certain aspects like client requirements and complexity also play a part in design costs. The more change required in a design refresh, the higher the cost will be, especially if some consultation is necessary.

  • Responsive Web Design

Many aspects of design are now mobile-first: websites, applications, and even media. More people access the internet on their phones than on their laptops and desktop computers. As such, any modern website should be able to be viewed properly on any device screen, regardless of the size.

It is so important for every website to be responsive. Google favors mobile-friendly websites, ranking them higher than non-compliant ones.

If your website is being freshly-built, this may not be an issue as most websites today are mobile-friendly. However, if an old site is being re-designed, it may cost as much as a few thousand.

  • Theme Design

This is dependent on the platform the website is built on. If the website is built from the ground up, this may not apply. If the site is built on top of a platform like WordPress, you may need to hire a developer to make you a unique theme that is on-brand.

The platform themes can be very generic and add no personality whatsoever to your website. However, if free themes serve your website just fine as is, this is unnecessary.

  • Page Volume

Different websites have a different number of pages. It takes a lot of time and effort to design and build an e-commerce website with hundreds of pages as opposed to a single-page landing page. This is directly proportional to the cost.

You may argue that for an e-commerce website, for example, most of the pages are identical. While this may be true for the design phase, the development phase is a lot more complicated than that. There is website copy to be added to each of those 100 pages, not to mention any media and any test that need to be run before a website goes live.

Professional website developers and agencies charge in tiers. For most small businesses, the lower tiers should be more than enough pages.

  • Features and Functionality

How will your website be used by the clients? Will it have an online store? How do you want to accept payments? Do you want to integrate customer care functionality into the website?

The cost goes up with the functionality and features that are included.

As a small business, you should prioritize the features that support business. Accepting online payments directly on your website offers convenience to clients and can improve greatly on sales, and conversion.

  • Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS is a platform used for managing digital content. It makes it easy to edit and update the content on your website. This means adding and removing products, changing prices, or even changing the images. A CMS gives you a level of independence because you do not need to contact the website developer to make changes.

The more complex the CMS is, the more it will cost.

  • Marketing

A website adds no value if no positive change in business can be observed. Traffic must be able to find its way to your website, whether organically or otherwise. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is mandatory for a successful website with organic reach. It involves actions that can be performed to make your website rank higher, like being mobile-friendly.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) aims to increase conversion through call-to-action (CTA) aspects like newsletters and purchase prompts.

Copywriting and content marketing work together to bring in clients and retain them. Your website should also include social media integration to increase the reach even further.

How Can a Small Business Get a Website?

The cost of building a website for a small business is dependent on whether the site is built in-house or a professional (agency) is contracted to do it.

Hiring Professionals

For small businesses that do not know where to start or those that simply cannot spare the time, hiring professionals might just be the way to go. By outsourcing, you remain focused on the business at hand (pun intended) and let someone more qualified handle everything.

With their expertise, professional web developers can build a unique, professional, future-proof, responsive website that will take the business to the next level. With the addition of great value content and SEO, your business may suddenly be discovered by a stream of new clients.

How Much Does Professional Web Design | Development Cost?

Professional web development mostly requires an upfront fee, with subsequent fees for updates and maintenance. For small businesses, professional web design can cost anything from $2,000 to $8,000 depending on previously discussed factors.

There are two options if you decide to go the professional route:

  • Hire a Professional Designer | Developer

You can hire an individual who will both design and develop the website.

This can be a cheaper option with the advantage of communicating directly with the person doing the actual work. On the other hand, you run the risk of being taken for a ride or starting from scratch if anything happens to the individual.

  • Hire an Agency

An agency is more expensive. Agencies have in-house professionals and practice separation of duties. They have designers and developers as separate roles.

Even though it costs more, an agency gives the assurance of professionalism and met deadlines. You do not need to keep checking up on the progress.

Doing-It-Yourself

  • Build It Yourself | Internally

Small companies rarely have professional developers and designers on retainer (unless it’s an agency). This means that someone has to take time to learn how to design and develop a website before actually doing it.

Even if someone technically sound is available in-house, small businesses usually need all-hands-on-deck in the daily operations. Having someone break off to focus on website building can have adverse effects on the whole system.

As well as the time required to pick up a new skill, you might need to pay for instructional content.

Websites costs like domain, hosting, and SSL still apply with DIY websites.

Financially speaking, however, a successfully built in-house DIY website should only cost a few hundred dollars at most.

  • Use a Website Builder

This option will appeal to most small businesses. It saves on the two things small businesses treasure the most: time and money.

A website builder is a platform that allows you to build a website with no technical knowledge. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the service provider. A framework of a website is provided and all you have to do is drag and drop certain elements to make a complete website.

Website builders charge a recurring monthly fee that can be paid annually for some financial incentives. Subscription plans include hosting, a domain name, an SSL certificate license, and other perks. The design aspect of things is taken care of by the free customizable themes that these platforms provide. Premium themes are also available for a more unique look.

Website builders are more intuitive than ever. They offer a very user-friendly experience that even the most non-techy person can figure out.

Website builders range from about $10 to $50 per month for subscription plans that can support a small business, including some e-commerce functionalities.

Recurring Website Costs

  • Domain

Your domain name purchase is supposed to be renewed yearly, a failure to which someone else can buy it.

  • SSL

SSL certificates are renewed yearly.

  • Hosting

Hosting might be a monthly or annual recurring payment depending on the service provider.

  • Subscriptions

This applies mostly to website builders. The subscription plans are monthly but paid for annually. On platforms like WordPress, some plugins require a monthly payment.

  • Updates and Upgrades

If an agreement is in place with a developer, you can pay them to make any changes that arise after the website is already built and live.

  • General Maintenance

Everything breaks, even websites. Once in a while, a developer may need to come in and fix something, for a fee of course.

Expensive Mistakes to Avoid During Website Design & Development

  • Incompetent or Unprofessional Hires:

Vet the individuals or agencies before starting a project to avoid outcomes such as a poorly built website, missed deadlines and milestones, or having them disappear halfway through the project.

  • Poor Technology and Design Choices

Not future-proofing the website means that a redesign or complete re-build will be due in a far shorter time than normal.

  • Paying for Unnecessary Features and Services

Only pay for what you need at the time the website is being built. Updates and upgrades can always be made as needs arise.

  • Lack of a Marketing Plan

You should know what marketing strategies will be used on the website beforehand. This will inform some design and feature selections instead of making changes after the fact.

  • Not Complimenting with Great Value Content

Great content helps your website rank highly on search engines, meaning more traffic will find its way to your new website.

What Approach Should Your Small Business Go For?

While hiring professionals has its advantages, a small business can benefit massively from what website builders offer. With no significant time and financial commitments required upfront, small businesses can focus on improving the actual business and grow to a point of actually hiring the professionals.

Nonetheless, if a website does not bring any significant improvement to the businesses, it needs to be re-evaluated. Whether it cost a lot or just peanuts, its value-addition should be undeniable.

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