Web Design - how much does it cost?

Updated on November 12, 2020

The first part of every creative conversation

I can't know if someone is set on hiring me or just shopping price until I ask, "what's your budget for this project?" And there's always three flavors of answers.

  • 25% answer immediately because they have a well organized marketing budget and expected the question.
  • 70% answer with an amount far below what's reasonable for any creative project type, simply as a defense mechanism - they feel I'll charge more after knowing how much they're willing to spend. This is hardly the reason, but when I mention an amount that would be fair to both parties, they become obsessed with 'shopping' price. Basically a lot of time searching for low hanging fruit instead of building a foundation for success.
  • The remaining 5% never considered the question, simply because Web Design wasn't even in their business plan, which is an epic fail in today's hyper competitive market. Since someone told them they needed a Website, they started sending e-mails and making phone calls, but after I mention a reasonable amount for the amount of work they're asking about, they put off all marketing plans indefinitely.

I always try to explain to the last two how unreasonable it is to expect a Website developer (or designer) to put together a detailed proposal, do some industry research, then design revenue-generating assets (for print or Web) on a budget that won't remotely match the expected workload. This mentality probably wouldn't result in much work from a plumber, mechanic or dentist. Expecting a Web designer or even a Website developer to deploy a secure, SEO, properly hosted e-commerce site for several hundred dollars is kinda crazy.

With all that mentioned, I just find it sensible to discuss budget upfront, well before discussing any creative processes.

Be open about your budget

Creative work is exhausting and challenging. I have a few clients who first tried to DIY a flyer, booklet, even a Website in Microsoft Publisher. Each of them quickly realized that converting a few hours of work into something that sells one person on their products or services, was going be almost impossible.

So even if you don't immediately have thousands of dollars to spend on marketing (the stuff that ultimately converts a consumer into a customer), be up front about your budget. A professional graphic artist and Website developer like me is more likely to work with you, especially if you are passionate about your advertising project. And, you have choices! So if a quote is outside of what you can afford, get another quote or wait until you have the funds. If you form a bond with someone, albeit above your budget, it might be worth the wait.

Look out for that Rabbit Hole

I get my share of phone calls and e-mails from disappointed/pissed off/frustrated people who spent months looking for the lowest fee, and instead got nothing or got an incomplete Website or got a really embarrassing representation of their brand.

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The biggest mistake, as I mentioned, is shopping price. It's easy to get consumed with trying to out-do the first guy/girl who quoted a higher than expected fee, by e-mailing or calling every other "Web designer" and pitting them against each other. And it eventually happens, one of them mentions the magic number. You get excited, rush to hire them, they start the project, and you suddenly fall into a rabbit hole full of excuses.

  • "I need more money to finish the project" - basically extortion, forcing you to pay another fee to get your Website completed.
  • "I'm busy with another project" - stall tactics like this are not uncommon, they're hoping you offer a "rush" payment to expedite your project.
  • "We didn't see that (fill in the blank) in the original quote" - next time get a proposal, not a Gmail account e-mail containing a few lines of vague expectations.
  • Non responsive - AKA hit-and-run, as they never intended to do any work, so now they and your money are gone forever.

I've been in the Website development and graphic design industry for over a decade, so I know how much gets how much. Your brand image will depend on that Website for the foreseeable future, so it just makes more sense to base any hiring decision on a developer's abilities versus shopping how little they're willing to charge for Web design.

How much already!

With Web design prices ranging from $1000 to more than $100,000 (as much as $2b+ if someone else pays for it), it helps to know where your budget fits in the following professional Web design pricing structure. All of this is loosely based on what I might charge, after determining the potential client's core needs.

Basic Web design ($1000 to $3000)

Expect a simple, yet effective Website that is specific to your brand and goals.

If you’re a small business or startup, this provides your company with a credible, user-friendly site that can start driving purchases, quote requests, phone calls, and more.

Intermediate Web design ($3,000 to $8,000)

Expect a dynamic Website that includes some content management features - add or modify content, even make minor layout adjustments. With some guidance, you'll be able to create content that is unique to a product, service or event without depending on me.

Advanced Web design ($8,000 to $15,000)

This is typically for the company that needs a more engaging layout and design. Business types that benefit from a more flexible or fluid layout are e-commerce, learning management or real estate. These companies see more value in ROI (return on investment) and conversion rates, and believe their Website/social network presence is core to their brand image. Essentially, they're willing to make significant investments to ensure their brand is noticed first.

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While asking how much Web design cost, also ask a lot of questions of the person you plan on hiring. If someone is willing to go all-in on the following tasks for less than $1000 and you feel confident in their ability to deliver an awesome product that will serve your business long-term, HIRE THEM!

  1. Send you a proposal summarizing your conversation and confirming deliverables.
  2. Use a collaboration portal instead of e-mail, to organize tasks and project assets.
  3. Give you access to a work-in-progress Website you can interact with to provide feedback.
  4. Secure your Website at the file and directory levels to protect against hacks.
  5. Point your new domain name to a robust Web host (not a $10 shared hosting plan)
  6. Complete the project on time and as expected, then take time to explain how everything works.
  7. And if agreed, ensure search engine optimization is completed to immediately boost your site ranking.