Understanding the Cost of Site Development

[By Greg Johnson]

There’s not too much mystery to calculating the price of building a website. It’s basically a formula that multiplies the hours of work involved by the hourly rate a consultant or team is charging. There may be additional costs for stock media, templates, paid plug-ins, or other elements.

You might get a proposal that bundles all the costs into a total for the bid, or the estimate may include an itemized breakdown of each included expense.

I’ve created websites in as little as an hour, and that included training the site owner on how to use their site. The cost for such sites is $18 per year paid to the hosting company. However, I’ve also known of sites that took much longer and cost thousands to develop. It’s not necessarily unreasonable to pay $3,000 or more for a basic website.

This page helps explain a bit about the cost of developing a website, and what a customer should expect.

Planning Phase

For some projects, the most time consuming and thus costly part is the time working out the details of what the site will look like and what it will do. These are usually discussions about what the site should look like – the general design – not necessarily what words or pictures will be on the pages. If those discussions extend over several meetings and multiple site revisions, that could cost thousands more.

Photos and Graphics

The process of deciding on what photos or graphics to use on a website can be time consuming. Some people already have their own photos or stock photos purchased and ready to go. This saves a huge amount of time. For others, it may be necessary to try a few different images before they are satisfied. This requires extra time and therefor increases the cost of developing the site. Sometimes a business needs to have photographs taken of their staff and facility. Restaurants usually want photos of food. Video may also be requested by a business. This can all take more time.

Content Creation

Some people already have text written up for the various pages on the site. Yet, others may need help figuring out what they want written on their website. This can be a lengthy process.

Social Media Setup

It’s important for a website to be connected to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. These resources need to be setup and then managed by someone.

Marketing Training

Setting up social media connections creates the infrastructure to begin marking. The promotion of an organization, company, service, or initiative takes ongoing effort. Some training is required to know how to best use the infrastructure.

Site Development

Depending on the technical complexity of the website, the actual development time can vary widely. A basic site with a few pages can be put together fairly quickly.


Unless you plan to pay a consultant to maintain your website, you’ll want to get training on how to edit and update your site. This could include training on how to update the system your site is running on. There may also be tips about creating the best content that will help your website get found.

Average Site Cost

Each of the above seven tasks could easily require 5 to 10 hours. That’s 35 to 70 hours total.  At $70 per hour, the cost would be $2,450 to $4,900. A more experienced designer may charge $100 per hour and possibly give you more expertise and quality for your money. The cost would be $3,500 to $7,000. So, this range of prices reflect what someone could reasonably expect to pay for a website.

Depending on your needs, and how efficiently you work with the consultant through the entire process, you may end up spending more or spending less.

Lower Cost Sites

I sometimes provide website consulting at a discounted rate or free of charge for local non-profits or businesses I like. Yet, my lower rates don’t reflect the actual costs which are explained above. One way I help reduce the cost of web development is to guide people through the process and train them on how to do most of it themselves. I also look for ways to develop a simpler site that can be just as effective as a more complicated one in terms of producing the desired outcomes.