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How much does a website cost? A breakdown

May 7, 2019Will Leffert

I see and hear it all the time. "Why should I pay that much?" "A website shouldn't cost XXXX!" "I can just do it myself and save costs that way!"

Today, I'd like to share with you just what it costs to build, host, and maintain a website. I'll focus on 2 approaches: The first utilizing a builder platform, and the second utilizing WordPress. Both are equally valid ways to get on the web, but there are limitations for each.

Approach 1: A hosted, managed DIY website builder system.

In this scenario, we're going to go with a builder system I'm intimately familiar with; Duda.

Building a website utilizing a platform like Duda can be relatively simple. If you don't need much, and don't have the time, you can just grab a template, plug in your information, and push it live. You'll still need to learn how to use the system, of course, but I've trained clients in less than an hour on managing theirs; another hour or two could be all you need to learn to build a site on the platform.

With Duda, you have the following capabilities: eCommerce (with an extra cost depending on needs), blogging, and some nice widgets for common design tropes (including sliders, background video, etc). You can actually create some attractive sites utilizing Duda, and I've even won a W3 Silver Award for one website I've done.

You also have some limitations, though.

Larger sites (10+ pages, we'll say, for the sake of the readers this targets) have common, repeated design elements. Managing those design elements can become a real headache if you need to change something, as there is no way to create page-specific templates that'll update each other without digging into code (and even then, the code base for Duda is a bit.. well.. Wonky).

Features such as directory systems, membership databases, etc will require a 3rd party system, which can be costly, and less efficient to use (not to mention requiring some knowledge to build properly).

eCommerce is designed for basic storefronts; not for things like online food ordering, or other, more advanced eCommerce functionality.

Here's how much a website costs using a managed hosting builder.

Hosting: $168/year (includes 10 product basic eCommerce store)
Time: As much as you're willing to put into it. You can get a basic site up in hours. A good estimation of costs would be 3-5 hours per page, if you're really dedicated and want to do it right.
Management/Updates: $0.

Approach 2: WordPress.

WordPress is pretty much the industry standard for the majority of websites. Why? It does everything, essentially, thanks to its plugin and theme systems. Plus, the cost is, get this.. free*.

*Sorta.

There are even ways you can build a website utilizing builder plugins that are much like Duda and other website builders. Would I recommend this approach to the average joe? Absolutely not, and here's why.

A WordPress site isn't done when you've built it. WordPress sites require continual maintenance; this includes updating the WordPress platform itself, as well as updating plugins and your theme. Without the knowledge necessary to troubleshoot any issues that may arise, you can find yourself with a broken, hacked mess of a website within a year. I've seen this too many times to count.

WordPress does give you a lot of options, though, especially if you hire someone to build and maintain the site for you. You can literally build just about anything in WordPress. I myself have built portfolios, online stores, podcasting platforms, news sites, and even an auto dealership website utilizing it. The sky really is the limit here, folks, as long as you have someone do it with experience.

Let's break down how much a website costs using WordPress.

Disclaimer: Actual costs vary wildly, so I'm just going to go based on what I might recommend.

Hosting: $240 per year with SiteGround's GrowBig managed WordPress hosting. This is the bare minimum I would recommend, so remember.. It just STARTS at that price! At least, in this case, the WordPress platform updates are handled for you.
Management/Updates: If I were to manage a WordPress site, I would start at $600 per year for an average WordPress site, and $1,200 per year for larger ones that have more complex requirements. This includes weekly updates to plugins/themes, troubleshooting, and more.
Themes & Plugins: This is the tough one. You can buy a basic theme for anywhere from free, to hundreds of dollars. As well, without knowing what you need, you could just get by with free plugins, or need multiple paid ones. We'll stick with a $200 estimate here; this will cover a theme, page builder, and one or two paid plugins to make life easier.

Finally, you'll need a designer. Seriously, don't try to do this all yourself. Pay someone to do it, and save yourself many, many hours of work and headaches (plus, you'll get something better in the end). A good starting point for a well designed site with a few pages is around $2,000, but I've built websites that cost upwards of $15,000, and have even pitched websites in the $30,000 range. Those are pretty large, complex websites, though.

What is the main takeaway regarding how much it costs to build a website?

Ultimately, the largest cost is, and always will be, time. Either yours, or a designer building it for you. If you're not experienced in designing for the web, and all the intricacies (such as making sure the site is accessible, user friendly, and will actually convert visitors to customers), YOU NEED TO HIRE A DESIGNER. This is why we go to experts for things such as electrical work, plumbing, and more. Sure, we can do some little things ourselves, but we make mistakes that a professional won't.. Especially on the big projects.

If you'd like to hire a designer, I'm available!

Having a designer on your staff full-time (especially one who is skilled in more than just web design) is something you'd be surprised about regarding affordability.. Especially if that designer helps you bring in more customers, and works to ensure your digital front is always working the way it was supposed to be.

Think of a designer like having building maintenance staff who can also add on to your building when you grow.

Just reach out to me if you're interested!

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