How Much Does a Website Cost?

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In this Blog I share some of our internal processes and methodology used at Net Solutions to provide a cost estimate to build a website.

I spent many years pioneering and implementing activity based costing for major Telcos with great success. It may sound simple but its the result of 3 years of development. Basically I developed a framework, process and tool that measures the effort it takes to deliver a service using ITIL and eTOM.

Just for clarity when I talk about cost, this is the internal cost to the company. The price to the client is derived from the cost plus margin.

Solution Description

We start off with a Solution Description. This is where we take the customers requirements and detail our solution that we believe best fits the client needs. Its part of our Proposal and describes how we will deliver the solution, the price, terms and conditions etc. It often consists of a number of Services both recurring and one-time. Internally we take the requirements and produce a Service Configuration.

Service Configuration

The Service configuration looks at all the services we have to offer in our portfolio and details what is included and excluded as part of the overall solution. The services that are included are internally mapped to Service Functions.

Service Functions

Service functions are building blocks that make up the Service. Internally each Service function has a set of parameters. Once of those parameters is the effort required by our engineers to fulfill all the tasks for that service. I won’t go into it here but each task for a given Service Function is called a Service Element.

There are variations that factor in quality or service levels for that function. For instance if the Service Function “ecommerce” is included I must decide on WooCommerce,, etc, and the required quality and service level. This is important as these have different license costs, and each require their own amount of effort or time to configure.    .

Custom Design or Off-the-shelf themes / templates

This needs to be established right from the start as the price difference between a custom design or off-the-shelf theme/template is substantial.

Off-the-shelf themes / templates are pre-designed by a third party. There are many designers out there that make a good living from designing themes and selling them for a low fee.They are a good choice if you have no strict rules on how your site must look. You may have to compromise on some of the look and feel of the site as the configuration and amount of customisation is restricted to what the theme can offer. Customizing beyond the themes capability ends up being many hours of custom PHP, Javascript and CSS code. Support for the theme is ultimately with a third-party who may choose to stop supporting the theme or charge a recurring fee.

Pre-designed themes will cost you approx $120 per year to purchase, and then approx  $1,200 to tweak, setup and configure the theme to your liking.

However, none of this this should stop you from having a fully featured site supporting your business. In almost all cases, your content determines how well your site performs, not its cosmetics.

Custom Design themes/templates will meet your requirements 100%. In cases where the brand must be protected by using strict design rules, workflow, fonts and colours etc, and only a custom designed theme/template will do. Developing a new or custom template/theme requires two types of skills and resources. A graphic designer will develop the concept, wireframes, specification of typography, colours and layouts and graphics images. For a responsive site that works well on desktops, notepads, tablets, phones the design component is typically around $5,000 – $25,000

The graphics designer then provides the design specification to a developer who spends anywhere from 10 to 40 hours cutting code to produce a theme or template from the design specification. So this adds another $2,500 – $5,000 to the cost. ll the web developer to transform the design specification fonts developing code and testing based on a wire frame.

Service Functions

  • Graphic Design to build mock ups or wire-frames, style tile $5,000 – $25,000 and theme/template development coding $2,500 – $5,000 or
  • Pre-designed theme at approx $120/year plus $1,200 to configure, tweak and setup
  • A CMS such as WordPress installed, configured with minimum set of Plugins (SEO, Backups, Security, Analytics etc) and initial set of pages and menus will be around $1,200.
  • Sliders – These are great for a landing page. There are many plugins and all need styling work with your site design. Then populate with some images and content. $200 to $400
  • Ecommerce through, or similar. Setup, configuration, design, code, importing products and testing will cost around $7,000.
  • Self hosted ecommerce solution. Setup and configure WooCommerce Magento, Virtuemart, etc involves more complex work. $2,000 – $8,000
  • On-site, professional photographer: up to $900 for half a day, or $1,600 for a full day
  • Photo Galleries: $200 to $400
  • Contact Forms – Including anti-spam features and conditional fields $30 per field. Typical contact form $120
  • Newsletters with a HTML template and integrated with Mailchimp, AWebber etc, to match your site $900 
  • Events Management – Calendar integration with multiple different views (daily, weekly, monthly as well as the actual event view) to layout and template and often clients want galleries or forms integrated directly into event pages. $1,200 to $2,200.
  • Events Registration. As simple as a name and email address to fully featured with online payments, multiple gateways, early bird discounts, different costs based on membership levels, tax rates, coupons, group registrations, etc. $600 to $2,000
  • Document Management. Where access needs to be controlled . $300 to $600
  • Advanced User Access Control. Depending on requirements $200 to $1,200.
  • Memberships and Payments. Often this is linked to Advanced User Access Control. $2,200 – $8,400
  • Social Media Integration. Set up, configure and template social media modules $600.
  • Product catalogues $1,600
  • SEO. On site SEO, set up of meta data and microdata and submission to search engines $1,200+ depending on the number of pages to optimise.
  • Backend integration with external systems like ERM, CRM etc needs to be assessed on an individual basis and usually requires separate project.
  • Custom coded functionality will need to be assessed separately. The price will depend on the amount of time required to code and test it.

Content creation and entry

Content creation is often underestimated task and often is the cause of project delays. Developing content takes time and requires the sourcing of images. This is creative work and it may require outsourcing to a Copywriter for the most effective solution.Generally, I estimate 30 minutes per page when content is supplied. Sometimes people think providing it in Word helps, but it needs to be un-obfuscated to strip out spaces, word formatting, fonts, bullet points, images etc. A menu item needs to be created and modules positioned on each page. Allow least $100/hour for content creation.

To produce and supply content I allow at least 3 hours per page for simple SEO. High quality content will require an SEO copywriter who has the right skills. You’ll need to put together a good brief for each page and supply as much existing marketing material as you can. Allow $140/hour for copywriting,

“Some offshore guys can build me a website for $500.”

The cost of getting things done offshore is much cheaper than Australia due to the differences in labour rate. There are developers out there who work for $20/hour, so I understand you may be tempted to go for a $500 quote and they may even throw in free SEO. It’s much cheaper than $5,000 and they will promise it will be just as good. But just like my grandfather used to say, “If it’s too good to be true, it usually is” . So while offshore developers work for $20/hour and local Australian based developers work for $100/hour you have to ask yourself  “Do they produce the same quality of work?”. In my experience the answer is no but still many people go down this path and just look at the price alone.

I frequently get contacted to fix someones broken website. It goes something like this… “I paid some mob $500 to build me a website. It almost finished, its 90% there but just need someone to finish off the last 10%. I particularly like the part where they tell me that it shouldn’t be a big job to fix.

When I did used to take on this work I quickly found out that it was a “rat trap”. In almost all cases there were telltale signs of the development being produced by some cheap offshore provider. “90% complete and just needs a few bugs ironed out” means, all sorts of plugins have been installed to get the site to work, broken, obsolete or cracked themes have been used with illegal software licenses and just generally bad programming and coding. In many cases the site and its plugins were riddled with malware and ransomware which is just disastrous. Check out some facts on Ransomware statistics.

So in almost all cases its better to start from scratch and build a new site, rather than trying to fix someone elses work.

So, how much does a website cost?

Solution Description

        • Domain name: $44/year for
        • Hosting: <$90/year through a budget host. $400/year for a quality Australian host. $2,500+ per year for VPS or Dedicated hosting
        • Design and Build: 40 – 80 build hours (typically) including project management, design, build, testing, upload and training. See the Service Functions list below.
        • Ongoing Maintenance: $500+ year.
        • Ongoing Organic SEO: SEO $600/month minimum for SEO work
        • Ongoing Marketing: $600/month adwords minimum for an online marketing spend

To build a small business site the typically costs are $4,000 to $8,000. If you require your website to be designed from scratch, add $10,000 to the design costs. Medium business sites, with moderate features are in the order of $20,000+ while more complex, fully featured sites are $50,000+ .

Once built you will need to spend $8,000 to $16,000 on SEO and Marketing . SEO services are not optional if you want a successful business. Most business people are not aware of the complexity of optimizing their websites to compete or stay ahead of their competition.

The key take-away is that whatever you are paying for, you are hiring resources for their time. Building a successful site will require a mix of resources such as Software Engineers, Project Managers, Software Architects, Program Managers, Copywriters and Graphic Designers. The price you have been given is based solely on time and materials. Lowering these prices or negotiating on cost means cutting time, cutting quality, cutting features or reducing margin.

What did you pay for your website?


Steven Lutrov
Steven Lutrov
Steven is a software engineer, managed services specialist and a part time musician living in Melbourne. Educated at RMIT, Steven has worked extensively in the telecommunications and IT industry for over 30 years. Today Steven works for Net Solutions as CEO and does not mind getting his hands dirty.

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