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A quick Google search will tell you that a website costs somewhere between $100 and $150,000. If you get more precise and specify that you need a complex website for your business, naming some specific features or functionality, the general range remains about the same. While this information is accurate—website costs do vary widely—this isn’t all that helpful when it’s time to budget for that new website.

This article aims to give you tools to better understand what a website might cost, as well as the factors that go into narrowing the initial budget and determining how much you should invest in ongoing support, maintenance, and improvements.

Why Are Websites Hard to Estimate?

The reason the available ranges are so comically wide is because asking “what does a website cost?” is a bit like asking “what does a house cost?” To determine what a house costs, we must first establish the location, size, design, and materials we want in our new home. We have to think about the ongoing cost we can afford to maintain and update the house over time. And we have to balance our wants with our budget. For example, your kids may want a pool, but will it fit within your immediate and ongoing budget?

Similarly, websites differ dramatically in scope and costs depending on the precise business needs they must address. Websites with many pages, world-class design, professional copywriting, search engine optimization (SEO), a flexible content management system, integrations, custom plugins, and e-commerce will cost a lot more than a four page brochure website with limited functionality and no CMS. So, in order to determine what a website costs, you first have to determine how the website will impact your business strategy, the impact it will have on your bottom line, and the value that will return to your customers.

For example, I once met with a business owner who had some specific requests regarding features and functionality, which made it relatively easy to determine that it would fall into the “medium size” category for Mostly Serious, starting with a ballpark of $45,000–$75,000. The prospect’s reaction? “That makes me want to puke a little bit. I was thinking $5,000.” And those numbers are very different. At this point, we had established both the cost the client anticipated to pay and what it would typically require to build the type of site they described, but neither of us were factoring in how the website would support the business and their customers.

I transitioned the conversation to the impact of the website. We talked about how many online sales they were currently receiving (zero), the value of each deal ($50k+), and how much growth a performance-driven website could achieve. Assuming the website can bring in a single lead, that lead would pay for the initial cost. At this point, we started having a different conversation: what else could we do on the website to drive value back to the business? We ended up settling on $98,400 for the initial build and one year of continual improvements.

When looking at the website from a different angle, it became clear to the prospect, now client, that the website was a far more valuable asset than they previously assumed. They could have gotten a website from a freelancer or DIY solution for $5,000, but it wouldn’t have driven their growth, supported operations, or positioned them as a leader in their industry.

Finding the Value

Finding the Value

Too often, our clients come to us because they’ve previously spent money on a website that just didn’t work. While going through our Website Health Check process, it becomes clear quickly that the previous agency failed to align the website with business goals. The result is most often a site that focuses on aesthetics or trends rather than prioritizing the features and functionality that have the greatest impact on the bottom line. The reason is obvious: agencies like to build websites that their peers admire and that win design awards. One of the things that makes Mostly Serious a different kind of agency is that we build solutions that work for businesses.

That means we start with a different process. We start by building a strong justification for a website investment, set clear expectations, make informed budget decisions to maximize the ROI, and consider long-term improvements to support future growth.

We do this through our Discovery process. At a high level, this process has four key steps.

Identify Key Business Objectives

Every investment should be tied back to specific business goals, especially websites. Depending on the maturity of a business, the goals can range from general awareness to highly detailed and measurable outcomes, like a 10% increase in revenue for a specific service line. Creating clear objectives from the outset allows for better prioritization of the features and functionality that will have the greatest potential impact on the business.

Need help in strategic planning? Our consulting division, Habitat Communication & Culture, has the team and experience you need to establish organizational alignment.

Quantify the Potential Impact

After defining and prioritizing each objective, we now need to estimate the potential financial impact, such as revenue generated or cost savings. Sometimes, the financial impact is obvious, such as an increase in sales, while other times the financial impacts for the business can be less obvious.

For example, on a recent project, we discovered that a client was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in manual language translation, revealing an opportunity for massive potential cost savings for both the website and all supporting sales collateral. We built AI-powered automated translation into the website, which made a significant and unexpected impact on the client’s annual budget, allowing them to allocate those funds to more meaningful areas.

After determining the potential impact of how the website will influence each business objective, calculate the total potential financial impact of achieving the objectives. This is the value the website will deliver back to the organization.

Determine the Investment Required

We can now match the ROI established in the first two exercises with the real cost of a website, either built in-house or with an agency. Knowing the business objectives we need to accomplish, we have a better understanding of the scope of the initial website development—considering factors like size, functionality, design complexity, etc.—and ongoing maintenance and improvement requirements.

We can then understand if the potential ROI is significant enough to justify the investment. In addition, we may learn that a larger investment will lead to greater returns.

Putting It Together

These questions will help ground your project. As we explore different costs in the next section of this article, we will have a deeper understanding of the value generated to know which areas to pull back on to reduce budget and where we should double down for maximum impact. For example, world-class design may not be a requirement to meet your business objectives, whereas excellent content strategy may be a critical element to attracting and educating your target audience on a new product line.

Our Groundwork process is built to uncover and align new projects with your business objectives. Interested? Initial conversations are always free.

Stylized t-shirt with geometric shapes and "S, M, L"

How Much Does a Website Cost from Mostly Serious

I can imagine you’re thinking: “Alright, great, so now we know the information needed to zoom in on a website cost. But how much do websites actually cost?” We have built websites ranging from $15,000 to $500,000. Our annual relationships start at $19,200 and go up to $100,000+, and our average client commitment over 12 months in 2023 was just under $95,000.

That’s still an unhelpfully wide range, so let’s tighten it up.

We use the objective-driven process outlined above and, in an effort to seamlessly and swiftly make sense of potential costs, we find it’s helpful to use a simple framework: t-shirt sizes. Projects, based on a variety of factors, are generally small, medium, or large. This approach allows our prospects and clients to arrive at a realistic budget as quickly as possible so we can begin the process of refining the scope and budget together.

Overview of High-Level Categories

Our website services are broken into five high-level sizes: Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large. Each fills a different common need for our clients and allows us to quickly place their project into a budget range while tying the outcomes to common business objectives.

If a new business doing under $1M in revenue calls us for a basic four-page website with a contact form that will meet their business objective of supporting a public launch, establishing credibility, and capturing leads, we’re likely looking at the Small size, with a range of $8,000 – $25,000.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, an established healthcare institution seeking to revolutionize the digital patient experience with a website serving hundreds of thousands of people and integrating with dozens of third-party and internal systems will land in the Extra Large category and require significant investment just to determine how to build the solution. This type of project would start at $150,000 and go up depending on a large number of factors we would explore and determine as part of our research and discovery phase.

Then there’s the reality that we don’t always have a solution that works for all prospects. A one-person company seeking to build its first website is rarely the right fit for our services. A DIY solution is often a better route unless they have ambitious growth goals. Similarly, a company that views the website as a requirement but that doesn’t believe the website will have any impact on business strategy will not want to invest in our services, as the value isn’t there for them. That’s fine! We help point these folks in the right direction while focusing our attention on the clients that align with what we do best.

Price range: $8,000–$20,000

When It Makes Sense

Our smallest website offering is a fast and cost-effective solution for establishing an online presence. By leveraging low-code platforms like Webflow or Framer, businesses can quickly launch a professional website without the need for extensive coding or development. This approach is ideal for clients with limited budgets or those who need a website up and running in a short timeframe.

Most often, these projects serve our existing clients. For example, recently one of our clients was seeking to launch a standalone product that does not match the look and feel of their existing website. Rather than build a second complex site or attempt to shoehorn the product into the existing site, we presented options to use Webflow, Framer, or a similar tool to launch a beautifully designed site with minimal functionality and features.

Determining Cost

This option is all about speed and maximizing the benefit of low-code tools. Factors that increase the range, and move projects into higher categories, include customization beyond the capabilities of the chosen tool, more than one round of revisions, writing or content creation, and functionality that extends beyond that offered by low-code tools (e.g., custom forms).

Price range: $20,000 – $45,000

When It Makes Sense

This is a solution for a basic online presence that emphasizes affordability and a quick timeline for getting a website up and running. The typical size is 10–20 total pages and we leverage well established design patterns, focusing on a professional look that is easy to use on the backend, with minor customizations and integrations. It is ideal for businesses just getting started online.

Determining Cost

Similar to low-code solutions, factors that determine where clients land within this range include style of design, more than one round of revisions in each phase, the inclusion of complex motion or animations, and requirements beyond basic integrations (e.g., contact form, basic email sign up).

Price range: $45,000–$75,000

When It Makes Sense

Our medium sized solution is a professional and unique website that reflects the client’s brand, improves user experience, and includes basic functionality to support a variety of business goals. The typical size is 20–40 total pages with unique design, basic integrations (e.g., contact forms, HubSpot, SEOmatic, etc.). It’s a great fit for businesses that need to level up their web presence but do not require advanced features, world-class design, or robust integrations to support operations.

Determining Cost

Similar to the small website size, the final budget on a medium website is dependent on the style of design, more than one or two rounds of revisions in each phase, motion and animation beyond the basics, and the addition of robust CMS or back-end features to support business goals.

Price range: $75,000–$150,000

When It Makes Sense

This is our most common range. These websites are most often tightly aligned with our client’s business strategy and work to drive revenue and growth. They are highly functional websites that seamlessly integrate with business processes, enhance customer experience through tactics like personalization, and provide a competitive edge through completely custom design and messaging. They are highly customized websites with 20+ pages, driven by our modular approach, advanced integrations (e.g., CRMs, booking systems, member portals, e-commerce platforms with multiple SKUs, etc.). This option is for businesses with complex online operations or those needing a scalable platform that can grow with them over time.

Determining Cost

The reason the range widens in this size is due to the number of unknowns that exist when a website project becomes large. For example, integrations with a member portal may be as easy as linking to a login screen we don’t manage, or we may need to build an entirely unique experience by leveraging an API, pulling information from an operational system into the website. Or, for e-commerce, we may use Shopify’s most lightweight solution or we may be dealing with thousands of SKUs with many more thousands of variations. The known unknowns are very high, before we even get into the unknown unknowns. That’s why most large websites should start with an agreement on a high-level budget range, say $60,000 to $80,000 and a strategy phase that includes customer research, strategy planning, and clear goals should drive the final website plan. This is where our Groundwork approach fits perfectly.

Price range: $150,000+

When It Makes Sense

Websites of this size are often enterprise-level with highly specialized needs, advanced custom coding, complex data management, or integration with multiple systems. This range, which realistically has no cap, supports demanding online requirements and innovative digital strategies. This option is for clients seeking to win in their industries, deliver world class customer experience, and turn their web presence into a significant driver of revenue and to meet organizational goals.

Determining Cost

Websites of this scale require clear planning before diving in. Extra large websites are very complex, require processes that have worked to build similar websites in scope, and often include a lot of land mines along the way. Our Groundwork approach, matched with extensive reviews and user testing as we design solutions, ensure that we stay one step ahead throughout the entire website build. In addition, we add a Developer Feature Plan (DFP) after our clients approve design, which is a detailed roadmap for the development phase, accounting for every feature, integration, and other decision we will make throughout the development process, establishing clarity with our clients from the outset.

Different website sizes require different levels of ongoing support. At a minimum, hosting is required. However, we recommend every client undergo routine website maintenance to stay ahead of potential issues. For clients in the Medium, Large, and Extra Large categories, we recommend viewing website properties as investments to make iterative improvements to over time, maximizing the return on investment. This approach changes a website from a build-it-and-forget-it tool to an evolving tool that learns from customer feedback and enhances your online presence continually. While every website project is built with the best intentions, there’s no replacement for listening and responding to your customers.

In an effort to reveal what you can expect in terms of cost, Extra Small and Small websites will require between $200 – $3,200/month for hosting and maintenance. Medium, Large, and Extra Large websites will require between $3,200 – $7,000, not including website enhancement projects, ongoing content marketing and SEO, and custom research.

We work with every client to find an ongoing partnership approach that maximizes the impact we can make on their business, accounts for existing budgets, and aims to grow our business around the long-term results we achieve for our clients.

Making Informed Decisions

Aligning your website budget with your overall business strategy and the realities of the market will better position your project for success. By taking a strategic approach to website planning and budgeting, you can ensure that your investment delivers meaningful results and supports your long-term goals.

To recap, here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Start by clearly defining your business objectives and how your website can help achieve them. This will guide your decision-making process and help you prioritize features and functionality.

  • Quantify the potential impact of your website in terms of revenue generation, cost savings, and other key metrics. This will help you justify your investment and set realistic expectations for ROI.

  • Consider the long-term benefits of investing in a high-quality, scalable website solution. While it may require a larger upfront investment, a well-designed website can pay dividends over time by supporting your growth and adapting to changing business needs.

  • Don't neglect the importance of ongoing maintenance, support, and iterative improvements. Your website should be treated as a living, evolving asset that continues to deliver value long after the initial launch.

At Mostly Serious, we specialize in helping our clients navigate the complex world of website planning and budgeting. Our team of experts will work closely with you to understand your unique needs, develop a customized strategy, and deliver a website solution that drives measurable results. Whether you're a small business just starting out or an established organization requiring enterprise-level solutions, we’d love to help.

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