5 min read |  Posted Nov 3, 2015

Estimating and Controlling Website Cost for Small Business Owners

While the benefits of having a website are undeniable, business owners are routinely stymied when trying to figure out exactly what they need to do to end up with a website that is effective but doesn’t break the bank. The countless ads from website development experts are, at best, confusing, typically leaving business owners with more questions than answers.

The ultimate question becomes, what will a website cost for a small business to construct and maintain? Unfortunately, there really isn’t a simple answer, but business owners can easily learn a few basics to help them sift through various options to identify which ones best fit their unique needs.

What factors contribute to website costs?

Before looking at specific cost estimates, it’s important that business owners understand the range of costs involved depend directly on what types of information are already available for use on the site and what elements must be developed from scratch.

For example, are graphic elements currently available or will they need to be custom designed? If video or audio elements are to be included (and they should be), are they ready to use? Quality content can be expensive, and the more sophisticated a site becomes, the more it will cost.

It’s also important to determine up front who will be maintaining the site. If no staff member is able to provide maintenance, that job will have to be delegated to a professional.

While the costs below are not intended to be a complete website pricing guide, they will serve to outline some website cost details.

Are there basic costs for a site?

The short answer is yes, but keep in mind that the costs will vary depending on the providers selected. Here are a few of the essential items every site owner will need to deal with.

1. Planning and design.

Depending on the complexity of the site and the content management system (CMS) employed, industry experts suggest business owners should expect to pay anywhere from about $50 to $75 per hour for a designer, although top design experts may charge more. For a site requiring a significant amount of time, that hourly rate total can build up quickly. It’s not uncommon for custom sites to need upwards of 50 hours to construct.

Of course, there are other less-expensive options to consider, and some of them may work when only a basic website is needed. That fact illustrates why it’s so important for small business owners to discuss website cost details with a professional when trying to determine a total website cost.

2. Programming special features and plugins.

Here, business owners can experience wildly fluctuating costs depending on the features needed and the content management system (CMS) selected.

Today, platforms like WordPress are routinely used because of their flexibility. While basic WordPress is open source software that many non-professionals may be able to take advantage of, the more complex features require a greater understanding of the platform’s nuances.

Service providers generally suggest business owners to expect to devote anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of their web design budget to programming.

For a moderately sophisticated site with a few custom features, that cost can easily reach $2000 or more.

3. Maintenance costs add up too.

Here is where site owners can, in some cases, trim costs.

When using WordPress, there are many ways site owners can add or delete content as needed. That means someone onsite can add a blog entry or update pricing guides as conditions change. However, site access should be closely guarded to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing sensitive page information. It’s also important to understand that if no one in-house has the expertise to make changes, it’s better to let a professional maintain the site.

Again, the costs for professional maintenance will vary depending on the level of updating required, but site owners should, as a rule, expect to pay $200-$300 per month for maintenance.

Are there less expensive options available?

While there are less expensive options available, they often come with limitations. Many providers offer inexpensive templates allowing businesses to self-design a site for next to nothing. However, the templates available prevent extensive customization and often cannot be transferred to another site later. In other words, if a business opts for a less expensive option using a template, the costs can be quite low.

But, if the organization is required to change hosting sites or the site needs to grow beyond the limitations of the provider, it is often necessary to start the entire design process over. That, in turn, will require additional time and expense. There’s also the fact that the less expensive and “free” options tend to be very insecure.

So, where should a business go to decide which option is best and how much the site will cost?

What is the best way for a business to control a website’s cost?

Comprehensive website design pricing is not something most business owners are capable of estimating. Consulting a design professional to analyze a company’s needs before making any design decisions is important to prevent mistakes that will negatively affect the site and, consequently, the business profits.

The professional can work with a business owner to determine what type of site is actually needed. Only at that point should pricing a website project be attempted. For a business-specific cost estimate, contact us today.

Randy Monroe