I have recently started getting a lot of requests to build people a website, many of which I turn down, because I am just a student and don’t have much free time on my hands. I don’t know if it this surge in website ownership popularity has anything to do with businesses being shut throughout the pandemic and owners deciding to up their marketing game. There is one thing that has become apparent to me though… people have no idea how much a website should really cost. I will help try to answer that in this article and you should hopefully be able to tell if your web designer is taking you for a ride.

Firstly, in order to help breakdown the costs of a website, we need to first understand what is needed to make a website. There are 3 core essentials…

  • A domain name:
    • This is the www.example.com people type in, click on or find on Google.
    • Think of your website as like a house, the domain name acts as the address needed to find that house / website.
    • Domain names are also needed if you want your own custom email address like yourname@example.com.
    • These are usually billed yearly if you were to purchase them individually.
  • Web hosting:
    • This is a server or cluster (group) of servers that you rent to store your website’s source files so people can access your website on the Internet.
    • Renting servers is more effective than trying to run your own, simply because there are so many costs associated with that e.g. electricity, bandwidth, cooling, security, maintenance staff etc… You would need your own datacenter ideally to run your own 24/7 x 365 servers.
    • Web hosting sometimes comes with other essential features such as hosting custom email as discussed earlier and HTTPS/SSL certificates… but not always (see my other post about web hosting for this)!
    • To make your website live, you need to point your domain name to your web hosting server using DNS nameservers (more on that in another post).
    • Web hosting is usually billed annually or monthly, the former is usually cheaper since you are paying upfront, although some providers offer a money-back guarantee… worth checking first!
  • The website itself:
    • Then there’s the website itself.
    • This is the part that takes up the most time and requires your close engagement… web designers hate clients who don’t know what they want and your vagueness will cause issues, increase the project time or cost!
    • You can pay a web designer to build you one or do it yourself (more on that in a bit).
    • The more pages you have on your website and other features such as blog and e-commerce integration will increase the cost of the website and the delivery time… so please please please be specific with your web designer how many pages and what features you want on your website from the start!
    • The website part is usually billed one-time or may be billed monthly or annually if you would like to make continuous updates and changes… recommended if you have a WordPress or dynamic website because lack of continuous maintenance is the #1 reason WordPress websites get hacked and you will lose money due to your own negligence!

How much will all this cost me you ask?

Option 1 – Web Designer w/ Package (Recommended):

Sometimes, when you ask for a quote from a web designer or agency, they will give you a monthly or yearly quote… this is the most normal and cost-effective approach and will cause the least surprise when it comes to paying the bills. They will have done it like this because they are likely including the domain name, web hosting (possibly with email and HTTPS/SSL certificate) and the website build itself, possibly some other services like SEO and ongoing website maintenance… all in one package. This shouldn’t be any more than between £1000 to £5000 a year, depending on the number of pages you want and what features you want. If someone charges you incredibly less than that e.g. £20 a year or £100 a year, all I can say is they are probably a cowboy and you will be left with a steaming pile of 💩 and will likely need to break the bank to fix it or buy a whole new website altogether.

Option 2 – Web Designer w/ Separate Services:

Just like the above, the web designer may ask you to pay separately for the services or they may just charge you to for the website itself and you pay for the domain name and web hosting elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with that as long as your website gets properly looked after and maintained after the fact (see the warning below for what I mean). When purchasing services yourself, just make sure you are only paying what you need. You need a domain name, web hosting, possibly a custom email address or two (your choice) and most definitely a HTTPS/SSL certificate. A sign of a good web hosting company is one that includes custom email addresses and HTTPS/SSL certificates as part of the web hosting and not as an extra service. In today’s age you should never pay for a HTTPS/SSL certificate, since they can be obtained for free, unless you are a large conscious organisation needing SLAs and insurance for HTTPS/SSL (most businesses won’t need this).

⚠️ WORD OF WARNING ABOUT THIS APPROACH:

I have spoken to certain individuals who have unknowingly paid web designers a lump sum to build their website and provide the ongoing services (domain name and web hosting). No monthly or yearly billing cycles, just a one time fee. This is incredibly dangerous and very bad practice. Someone has to pay for these ongoing services, whether it be the client or web designer and if there is no sign of ongoing fees then there is likely something suspicious going on. Also as mentioned earlier, if you do not pay your web designer an ongoing fee to look after the website, you won’t be able to request them to make any changes or updates to it (without additional fees at the time of maintenance) and since your website is being neglected, it is most likely to be targeted by hackers to take advantage of out-of-date website software. If your website gets hacked, you almost certainly will have to pay again.

Option 3 – DIY:

Since this post is getting longer and longer the more I type, I will cover what is needed to build your own website in another post. If you take this approach, be absolutely certain you know what you are doing. You will need to purchase the services yourself, connect them all together and build the website yourself in a method of choice… whatever that be custom-coded with HTML and CSS, a WordPress website or DIY drag-and-drop website builder. If you get stuck and need help, there are people willing to offer their expertise for a fee but that fee may grow, depending on how badly you messed up.

Building and maintaining a website is a lot of work, so if you are kind to your web designer and try to be a helpful client by telling them exactly what you want to achieve, the kindness will almost certainly be returned and they will try their absolute best to help you achieve a result you are pleased with. Unfortunately, not everyone in this world is a good egg and depending on the agreement, both parties have every right to terminate and go with someone else. You are not their only client and they are not the only web designer in the world.