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How Much Does a Website Cost? (In Depth Website Pricing Guide)

by | Price & Process

In the web design industry, one question has caused more controversy than almost any other: “Should we list prices on our website?”

Our company has held different positions on the question over the years. But something began to frustrate me: Most don’t consider how their decision to talk about price affects you, the potential client.

So at NorthMac Services, we believe in openly sharing our pricing, as well as the considerations that clients should take into account when considering a new project.

Why Web Designers (Really) Hide Their Pricing

Please keep in mind, it is not my objective to throw shade at other web designers. As I’ve said, our company has been on the other side of this question in the past.

Even still, I believe it is fair for you to know why web designers hide their pricing. Typically, it is not ill-intentioned at all. Rather, it is out of a concern for their client’s needs as well as the needs of their business.

Because web design pricing ranges from free to $1,000,000+ (I’m not kidding), and many designers/agencies work with clients of all different types, they feel as though every project is a little different and pricing “just depends.”

This leads them to stay quiet about pricing and leave it up to sales conversations.

The difference is, while we have settled on a static pricing model (more below), we believe there’s no reason not to inform potential clients how or why it “just depends.”

With that, below are the most common considerations when determining how much your potential website might cost.

Brochures vs. Platforms

There are many types of website. At NorthMac, we focus primarily on eLearning and membership sites.

But if you had to break websites into just two “overarching” categories, it would be brochure sites and platform sites. (Of course, many sites are both.)

Brochure sites are primarily about displaying information. They simply display static pages that seldom change, do not require much interaction or updating, and exist to inform.

Platform sites are primarily about doing something. They exist to engage with potential clients or customers, whether through education, tools, community, or other form of advanced interaction.

In today’s current market, a brochure website will likely cost somewhere between $1,500 and $10,000. This excludes cheap, unpredictable platforms like Fiverr that charge $100 or less, and enterprise-focused agencies that charge $25,000 or more.

If, however, you want a platform website that is set up to achieve some sort of business result, you should plan to spend somewhere between $6,000 and $25,000 on average.

These are wide ranges—yes—but they will be narrowed down as we consider additional criteria.

Agency vs. Freelancer

Do you plan to work with a solopreneur or freelancer? Or, are you considering whether an agency will be right for you?

This will absolutely factor into how much the website will cost you, for the simple reason that agencies must charge more to meet payroll.

Of course, there’s also an in-between. At NorthMac, we have a small-but-mighty team. We want to create that “just right” experience that blends skill and expertise with a personal touch. (This is why, during your project, you are free to communicate with the entire team.)

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As you might expect, freelancers will be closer to the lower end of the price estimates above, and agencies will be closer to the higher end. Small design teams like ours will come in the mid-range.

Experience Gained

As with anything in life, the longer you do something, the better you (typically) become. In the business world, this translates to higher prices.

Thus, if you are engaging a company that has been in business for two years, you will almost certainly pay less than one who has been in business for 10 years.

At this point, you should also consider that money is not the only factor, but so is time. While the 10-year company will charge you more money, they may be able to produce a better result in a faster time period.

The two-year company may be more economical, but you could lose out in the quality and time it takes.

Specialized vs. Generalist

Some web companies focus on a specific kind of client, while others will take just about anyone who comes knocking.

Similar to how you pay more to visit a specialist in the healthcare industry, you should expect to pay more for a specialist web agency or freelancer.

It sounds counterintuitive at first, but a person who has dedicated their personal or business resources should be compensated for their knowledge.

This is because, as with many of the factors I’ve mentioned, it will ultimately end up saving you time and money. If you’re a travel agency, wouldn’t it make more sense to work with a web design company who focuses on travel agencies than someone who takes on any job?

Pricing Models

Did you know that there are a variety of different web design pricing models?

Some of the most common are:

  • Hourly pricing
  • Project pricing
  • Value pricing
  • Retainer pricing

Hourly pricing is where most inexperienced web designers start out because it most closely relates to how they were paid as employees. Sometimes agencies opt for large “agency rates” (usually north of $300/hr), but this is not commonly how work is presented to clients. (It will be accounted for internally, though, in how they estimate work.)

Project pricing is where the overwhelming majority of solopreneurs and small agencies settle. In this model, you should expect to pay a milestone-based percentage of the project. The most common is 50/50: 50% up front, 50% upon delivery; however, there are several combinations.

Value pricing is, in the marketing and web design world, the “holy grail” of pricing. It also contributes to a lot of the mysticism and secrecy around pricing, so we’ll spend a bit more time discussing it.

In this model, conceptually, the same website could cost one customer $5,000 or another customer $50,000.

Now, I know what you are probably thinking.

This sounds, at first, unethical. While we do not price this way (more on our model below), I think you should give those who do the benefit of the doubt. It is not likely they are trying to take advantage of you. Rather, they are attempting to weigh risk as well as the required effort to produce results.

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There is a tremendous amount more risk involved with redesigning the Papa Johns Pizza website, for example, than the mom-and-pop pizza shop down the street. A mistake on one could cost hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of dollars, while a mistake on the other might only cost hundreds.

Thus, a firm would need to hire the additional resources for risk assessment, project management, better talent, and other roles to ensure their protection.

Furthermore, if the work stands to make a business owner $50,000 in the course of a year, does it sound right to only put $1,000 worth of effort into the website? Should a $1,000 website be expected to result in $50,000 worth of business? I would argue no.

On average, it is probably appropriate to assume that whatever business result you want your new website to achieve, be willing to spend between 10-30% of that amount.

Retainer pricing allows agencies to work with clients on a monthly retainer basis. It is not usually applied to the website design itself, though, and is more commonly found in post-design maintenance plans and more robust marketing programs.

Why We Choose Subscription Web Design

Subscription Web Design is a term that I coined. In 2015, when I started this business, I decided from the get-go that I wanted to work with clients on an ongoing basis.

A business mentor once stressed the importance of residual income to me, and at the time, I didn’t see anyone else applying this thinking to the website design process itself.

We have been using this model successfully with clients for the past seven years. I love it because it provides stability for our business, and clients love it because their web team is just “always there,” ready and willing to jump in and help when called upon.

In this model, we charge a setup fee, then an indefinite monthly contract with an 18-month minimum. For as long as you are a client, you get a regularly updated, fully maintained, always backed up and optimized website.

How Much We Charge

Taking all the factors above into account, we:

  • Build platform-based websites (eLearning and some marketing automation)
  • Are a small team (in between agency and freelancer)
  • Have a few decades of combined experience
  • Specialize in the eLearning/online educating niche
  • Price using a subscription model

We offer two website packages right now:

Managed eLearning Website

The managed eLearning website is built using WordPress as the foundation, and either TutorLMS, Learndash, or AccessAlly (licensing costs not included) as the Learning Management System.

It costs $849/month with a $2,500 setup fee.

Managed Marketing Hub

A “marketing hub” is a website designed to convert prospects into leads, students, or customers. We build on WordPress and include one 5-page sales funnel in the package.

It costs $499/month with a $2,000 setup fee.

Summary

Although pricing for a website can vary greatly, it does not have to be mysterious. You can enter into the process of finding a website provider right now, knowing what to expect about their pricing.

If you’re considering an eLearning website, read this article next.

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