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Building a good website can be tricky. It is even trickier when you have to do this on a tight budget.
Cost estimations for website building are never easy because of the variables involved. There are so many choices you can make that shrink or balloon the overall costs. While creating a cost estimate can be difficult, you still need to do it.
Estimates help you determine what route you should take when building a website and the budget you need. To help, we have looked at the average costs for a general website and an e-commerce store.
The Tools In Your Website Building Kit
To build a website, there are three basic tools in your toolkit:
- Domain name
- Web hosting
- Website builder
These tools are required regardless of the type of website you build. You need them even when you hire someone to develop your website for you.
Website domain names are the internet equivalent of street addresses and what people put into their browsers to get to your website. Domain names are not bought outright and you register them for a minimum of a year. At the end of the year, you can renew your registration to keep the domain name.
To register your domain name, you need to work with a domain registrar. You will only be able to register a domain that is not currently in use. All registrars will tell you if the domain you want is available or not.
If the domain name is the street address of your website, web hosting is the plot of land your website is built on. This is where all your website files are stored and where the framework is based.
To get web hosting, you need to work with a hosting company. These are companies that rent out server space to store your website files. Web hosting is offered for a minimum of 1 year.
While you need web hosting, it can be hard to choose the right package. There is shared hosting, virtual server hosting, and dedicated hosting to name a few. The costs vary depending on the package you get and shared hosting is best for those just starting out.
Once you have your domain name and web hosting, you may become nervous about the actual building of your website. You do not have to worry because the next tool in your kit is there to help.
A website builder can be used regardless of your understanding of coding, HTML, CSS, and PHP. Website builders allow you to implement website themes, features and additional functionality. There are a few of these tools to choose from, but WordPress is the most popular.
Approximately 34% of the internet is running on WordPress. While this might seem small, it does give you a good support network when you need help. WordPress is also open-source and completely free making it perfect for new website owners.
The Actual Cost Of Website Building
Having a toolkit is important, but how much does that cost? What other costs will you need to face before your website is life?
Overall, a website can cost between $100 and $3,000 before it is live. This will vary depending on the type of website you are building and the features you want. The larger and more feature-rich the website, the more it is going to cost.
When it comes to your toolkit, your domain and web hosting are the ones that you have to pay for. A .com domain name will cost $14.99 per year on average, but there are some registrars that are cheaper. Other domains such as .net will be cheaper, but they do not have the same draw as the .com.
The cost of web hosting will vary depending on the type of hosting you get. Shared hosting is the cheapest option and costs between $7.99 and $25.99 per month bringing the minimum yearly total to $95.88. Virtual private servers are more expensive costing between $30 and $120 per month. Dedicated hosting is priced similarly to virtual private servers.
On average, a basic website using shared hosting will cost just over $110 per year. If you want unlimited storage and bandwidth, a basic website will cost just over $360 per year.
The Estimated Basic Costs Based On Website Features
Knowing the cost of your toolkit is a good start, but what is a realistic budget for a full website that is successful?
What Is A Realistic Budget?
A realistic budget for a basic website is $350 per year. That provides you with your domain and unlimited shared hosting for the year.
As a new website, you do not need to have dedicated hosting or VPS hosting which is more expensive. This is something you can upgrade to once you better understand the demand on your website. However, you should not start with hosting that has limitations.
Limited shared hosting will be cheaper and lower your yearly costs by up to $200. The problem is when you reach the bandwidth limit. When this happens, your website will not be accessible and this hurts your bottom line. Padding your budget will mitigate this issue.
The Costs Of Custom-Built Versus Pre-Built Websites
After budgeting for the basis of your website, you need to look at the body of the website. These are the elements that visitors see and interact with. When estimating costs, you have to choose between custom-built and pre-built websites.
Pre-built websites are cheaper than custom-built ones. If you use WordPress as your builder, you can use a free theme which is very good for the budget. There are also premium themes you can purchase ranging from $30 to $100.
Premium pre-built themes offer better support than the free options and will have richer features. This will be very important if you have a larger website or want certain functionality.
While pre-built themes are better for the budget, they are limited. The plugins you can use with these themes are limited based on what the creator was able to do. If you have a specific plugin you want to use, you have to find a theme that is compatible which could leave you with a website that is not quite what you want.
Custom-built websites are more expensive. The exact cost will depend on who is developing the website and how long this will take.
If you know basic coding, you can create your website yourself and it will only cost you time. This is not something that most people are able to do or comfortable with. If you need to hire someone, you can look at freelancers or a website development agency.
Most freelancers will charge by the hour and their fee varies based on their experience. The more experienced the freelancer, the more they charge. Less experienced freelancers may charge $20 per hour while more experienced freelancers can charge $80 an hour.
The benefit of paying more is the knowledge the freelancer has. More experienced developers can tell you if what you want is possible and give you a better idea of the timeframe needed. Newer developers might promise features that are not actually possible.
The amount of time it takes for a website to be developed depends on the complexity. A basic website will generally take around 64 to 96 hours to develop. Taking a mid-range freelance fee of $50 per hour, your budget for development should be between $3,200 and $4,800.
If you do not want to find a freelancer, you can look for a development agency. These agencies will have different developers working for them and charge on the higher end of the scale. For a basic website, you should budget $4,000 to $6,000. If you have a more complex website, the costs will increase to $10,000 or more.
The Features You Need
The features you need on your website will also impact the cost of development. The more features you want, the more you have to pay because they add time to the development.
Before you start talking to developers, you have to think about the features you want. These features are ones that you need immediately and those you think you will need in the future. Future proofing your development will save you money in the long-term.
The Costs Of Advanced Options
If you have a minimal budget, installing a free theme on WordPress will give you a functioning website for very little. While you will have a website, it might not have the functionality or appearance that you want. This is where plugins play a role and they can be free or be purchased.
The Website Essentials
There are certain website functions that are considered essential, but are not incorporated in themes. To add these essentials to your website, you need to use some premium plugins.
One of these essentials is contact forms. Every website must have a contact form or some method for users to get in touch. To make this easier, there are a lot of WordPress plugins you can choose. These plugins have free versions, but the Pro editions will have better functionality. The most popular form plugins will cost $40 per year for the basic package.
Another essential is analytics. You have to use analytics to track your traffic and what each visitor is doing. Google Analytics is the most common tool used and can be linked to a range of plugins including MonsterInsights. While Google Analytics is free to use, the linked plugins offer basic functionality in their free versions. If you want in-depth metrics, you have to buy the premium versions which cost around $100 per year.
These essentials will increase the costs of your basic website by $140 per year if you choose the basic options. If you want better functionality, the cost can increase by $300 or more.
The Website Appearance
Getting a free or premium theme can give you the aesthetics you need, but not everything you want. To improve the appearance, you can use certain plugins. This will give you the control of a custom-build without the large costs.
Some appearance plugins include drag and drop page builders. These builders allow you to move elements around the screen to create a custom website for a fraction of the price. The basic versions of these builders will generally cost around $100 per year.
If you do not want to change everything on your website, you can use a responsive gallery plugin. As the name suggests, these plugins will create image galleries for your website. Basic options cost around $30 per year while the most expensive will cost around $100.
Updating your website appearance without hiring a developer can add around $130 to $200 per year to your costs. The page builders will usually only be needed when you create your website which makes it a short-term cost.
Marketing Your Website
A lot of people forget about marketing when budgeting for their website. They assume this will be part of a completely different budget. For the most part, that is true, but there are certain marketing aspects that need to be included in your development budget.
Email marketing starts on your website and you need to budget for this. An opt-in form is the first aspect to include in your budget. Fortunately, when you sign up for an autoresponder, they will have an opt-in form builder that you can use.
An autoresponder is an email service where you set up a series of emails that are sent for you over a course of days, weeks or months. This is a great way to save time with marketing, but it does cost. All autoresponders have different pricing, but the cheapest will be $20 per month.
If you do not like the opt-in forms on offer, you can use a plugin to create a better one. The basic versions of these plugins can cost around $15 per month.
To make your website into an email marketing machine, you need to add around $35 per month to your budget. This will increase your yearly budget by $420.
Hacking, spam, and DDoS attacks. The bane of websites and something you do not want to happen to your website.
To avoid being the victim of cybercrime, you should budget for website security.
Your primary element is a good WordPress backup. Some web hosts will include this, but a decent plugin will cost around $120 per year.
Another security feature you need is a good spam filter and firewall. A good security plugin will cost around $200 per year. This generally provides protection against hackers, DDoS, and a firewall.
Your website security will be the biggest cost in your budget after development. You should be prepared to add around $320 for basic security and $450 for more advanced security.
Costs Of Building An Online Store
Developing an online store is very different from a basic website and will cost more. There are other functions and features you need as well as SSL and security for purchases. The functionality of your website will impact the cost of development.
The basic tools for building your online store will be the same as any other website. The one tool that you need for an online store that you do not need for other sites is an e-commerce plugin. One of the most popular is Woocommerce.
These plugins allow you to upload your products, track stock levels and sales while adding a shopping cart. Woocommerce itself is free, but there are additional extensions that improve functionality that cost.
You will also need additional security such as SSL certification. A good SSL certificate can cost between $30 and $50, but the benefit is secure transactions. There is a free service that is currently in beta from Let’s Encrypt, but there are still bugs that need to be worked out.
If you do not want to use a pre-built theme for your online store, you need to budget for the development. A small e-commerce website can cost at least $7,000 to develop. This includes the creation of the website and the integration with shopping carts and other back-end programs.
If you have a mid-sized e-commerce store, you will need to budget $10,000 and over for this development. This will provide you with a basic store that is able to handle data imports and transactions. If you want additional functionality or to sell non-standard products such as subscriptions, you need to budget around $15,000 to $20,000.
Keeping To Your Budget And Not Overpaying
You have your budget, but you keep seeing things that you want to add to your website that will take you over this.
This is a problem that is more common than you might imagine and going over budget happens a lot. For a starting business, this can be a game-changer. If you want to avoid any cash flow issues, there are some ways you can avoid overpaying and stick to your budget.
Start Small With A Padded Budget
The best way to stick to your budget is to start small and pad your budget. Start your website with the bare minimum. The budget for this should be $350 per year, but start with a budget of $500.
Having some wiggle room in your budget will help you stick to it. You may also find that you come in below budget which makes it easier to stick to plans in the future. This is a pure psychological bonus that affects how you view budgets in the future.
Add As You Need
Another way to stick to your budget is to only add what you need to your website when you need it. There is no point in creating an interactive website if a simple one will do.
If you are starting an online store, you can work with the minimum until you become profitable. You can then add further functionality to the website as you grow. This will make the website easier to run and maintain, but would be overkill when you start out.
Look Out For Coupons
A great way to stay on budget is to use coupons and take advantage of sales. Plugin providers, web hosts, and other website services offer coupons and sales throughout the year. Keep an eye on the services you use particularly around Black Friday, New Year and Cyber Monday. If you are already happy with the service on offer, getting the premium service at a discount is a bonus.
Having a good handle on costs is the only way to run a successful business. The only problem is that creating a set estimate for web development is impossible. There are too many variables that are unique to each website that have to be considered when creating your estimate.