Website Development Costs: Breakdown and Explanation

Thinking about investing in web design? Check out this article from IronPlane.


Website development costs can be incredibly hard to estimate.  The budget for your small business site will vary dramatically based on factors that include the number of pages, the available resources, the required capabilities, and whether eCommerce functionality or other special features are required.

If you’re trying to get a handle on the price of your new website, here’s what you need to know about the components involved in website development costs and how each is typically priced, based on numbers provided by Digital.com.  Although your site may not need all these elements, you can use the information to estimate a realistic web development budget.

Setup Costs

Every website needs certain essential components.  These include:

  • The domain name, which costs about $20 annually for a standard .com or .org address and up to $300 for a custom extension like .restaurant.  This is the address that customers type in their browser to visit your site.
  • Website hosting is the storage solution for all the files, images, and content that appear on your site.  Monthly hosting costs range from $10 to $200 per month ($120 to $2,400 per year).  Hosting costs rise as your site traffic rises.  Managed hosting, which provides additional services and features, is also more costly.
  • You’ll need a secure socket layer (SSL) certificate if you run an eCommerce site.  This technology protects consumer data from being intercepted during transmission and costs between $10 and $100 per month ($120 to $1,200 per year).  As with hosting, paying for a year in advance is more cost-effective.
  • The content management system (CMS) is the portal through which you’ll access and update your website content.  Many CMS options, including WordPress, are free.  If you need a custom CMS, however, it can cost up to $5,000.

Your total setup costs can be between $260 and $8,900 for the year.

Web Design Costs

Small business owners can choose from a few different options when it comes to website design.

  • To upgrade an older design to be responsive, meaning it automatically adjusts to the screen size of the viewer’s device, you’ll pay about $2,000.
  • A complete site redesign can cost between $1,000 and $20,000 depending on the features you need, the CMS you use, and other factors.
  • If you use a CMS like WordPress that supports themes, you may be able to use a free theme for your website.  Custom themes start at $10 and go up to about $200 depending on required functionality.  Most businesses need a theme with at least some degree of customization.

Your total website development costs for design are a one-time investment that can range from $200 to $20,000.

Online Marketing Costs

Although online marketing costs don’t necessarily need to be a part of your website development costs, these add-on expenses can make a major impact when it comes to driving traffic to your website, raising your search engine ranking, and improving your conversion rates.  Some of the line items in which you should consider investing include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) – Designed to help your site rank high on search engines for specific keywords, attracting more visitors and establishing you as an authority in your industry.  Although costs vary dramatically depending on the extent of your website content and the size of the company you choose, expect to pay an initial cost ranging from $3,000 to $9,000 and a monthly maintenance fee of about $200 to $500.
  • Conversion rate optimization – Focused on implementing features that encourage site visitors to interact with your brand.  Examples include calls to action, sign-up sheets, email newsletters, landing pages, and other interactive options that gather customer information and increase engagement with your content.  This strategy usually carries a one-time cost of $300 to $600.
  • Content writing and marketing services – Ensure that the information you provide stays fresh and offers your visitors value, another important component of SEO as well as a critical factor in building brand loyalty.  Budget approximately $300 to $500 a month for updated blogs and pages by a professional copywriter.  If you want to add elements like illustrations and video, you’ll likely pay around $1,000 a month depending on the volume of content you plan to produce.
  • Social media marketing – Designed to get all that outstanding content in front of your audience where they spend time – on their social media pages.  You can hire a dedicated individual on staff to post content to your pages and measure the ROI, or you can pay a professional social media agency a maintenance fee that can range from $250 to $2,500 a month.

Total online marketing costs can range from $3,000 to $10,000 up front, plus monthly costs of $750 to $4,000 depending on the site features you opt to implement.

Additional Considerations

website development costs

Image via Flickr by PlusLexia.com

Based on these website development costs, a small business can plan to invest a minimum of $3,500 to build a basic website, with monthly costs of at least $500.  Keep in mind, however, that every business is different.  If your funds for this project are limited, choose the site elements that are most important for your mission and use that framework as a starting point.  It’s okay to start small and grow the ideal website over time; many clients become bogged down with their vision of the perfect website, which creates an insurmountable roadblock to web development.

Ask yourself these questions before meeting with a potential developer:

  • Realistically, what is my budget?  How much can my business afford to spend on one-time and monthly website development costs?
  • Do I want to do some or all of the set-up and maintenance work myself, or do I want to have an ongoing contract with an agency that will administer the site long term?
  • What are my must-have-nows, must-have-laters, and might-want-in-the-future features?
  • What is my team’s level of tech savvy?  Do I have personnel who know some code and can find their way around a CMS?

At IronPlane, we specialize in smart, responsive eCommerce sites with outstanding customer support.  Services include website development on the Magento platform, as well as hosting on a cloud environment customized specifically for your business.  We can also review your code and take other steps to optimize your site.  Get in touch today for your eCommerce consultation.