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How much does a website cost? Part 1

It's usually the first question we hear. In some ways we're exactly the right people to ask because we work with folks who need websites all day long. On the other hand, getting numbers out of us and our partners is like a long walk with grandpa; interesting and insightful, but probably more talking than you bargained for. There's no such thing as a shortcut to getting an estimate unless you're prepared to say "yes" to $50,000. You can definitely get a website for $50,000, but if you aren't willing to take the time and consideration to collectively determine what your needs are, it's going to be tough for anyone to provide an accurate estimate site unseen (pun intended). Be cautious of those who will offer an estimate without learning your needs.

With that said, there are some guidelines that can get you closer to a range without going through our interrogation rigamarole. In our neck of the woods, it's unlikely that you'll get a professional website for less than $2500. That's not to say you can't get some web pages up on a domain name for $500, because you can. There are some great services out there if you need a simple website or blog and don't care too much about how your brand is presented. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're making the assumption that you care quite a bit about your brand and the way you want to present yourself to the world.

I'm on a budget

If you have existing branding assets like a logo or letterhead, and have a general idea of what you want, but can't afford a professional designer to create a custom website, templates are your friend. You can pick out a template, get some basic customizations and have all the control of a content management system starting around $2500.

Whatever you may have thought about templates, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised at the options out there. We almost exclusively recommend Theme Forest for their massive selection, cost effectiveness, and most importantly clean semantic HTML which makes all the difference in keeping development costs low.

I'd like a custom design

In our opinion, if you're going to spend money on a website, enlist a professional web designer to help you create something you can call your own. It'll probably double the cost, but you'll be much happier with the end result, and likely get more business out of your website than if you went a cheaper route. Most small-medium organization websites can be had for $5000-10,000 with a really sharp custom design by a qualified and thoughtful professional.

At that price point, you'll probably get a few extras too. Maybe a little bit of custom development, or a simple online store, or the beginnings of an SEO campaign. Needless to say, most of the websites we come across fall in this price range.

I want something I can't find anyone selling

Custom development is expensive. There's no two ways about it. So if you're a startup wanting to build a new service, or a company that needs to get their offline services online, be prepared to open up your wallet.

Starting around $10,000 you can begin talking about bringing your big idea into the world. This might include an ecommerce application that integrates with your member management software, or a mobile app, or a new online marketplace for exchanging services, etc.

In general, there are few web applications that can't be built for $10,000-50,000. Chances are however, if you have a $50,000 budget, you already know how much these things cost and probably aren't getting a whole lot of value out of this post.

That's ridiculous, I can do this myself

And we applaud your resolve. You can absolutely DIY your way through designing, coding, and managing a website. That's pretty much how everyone we call colleagues got started. There aren't nearly enough designers and developers in our area, so if you're serious, then reach out to us and we can get you pointed in the right direction.

For most professionals however, that's unrealistic at best and a disaster of an idea that can destroy a company at worse. My advice would be to save your time and frustration and start small with an existing service like Tumblr or Facebook to broadcast your message while you build your company and can ultimately pay a professional. Or at least while you teach yourself Photoshop, HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, and systems :)

Don't take our word for it

There's some great resources around the web by others who have taken the challenge of answering this extremely subjective question. If you're curious, give them a read here here and here. Or… just call us. We'll get you started. Just be prepared for a long chat with grandpa.

Up next, Part 2

In the next installment, we'll dig a little deeper and actually break down how we come up with estimates and get into how value is created by building websites on Sitemason.

Update: Part 2 of the series is located here

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Billy is a web developer and Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Sitemason, and has been with the company since 2006.  Read more about Billy White.

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