How Much Should Web Design Cost?

Plan your website knowing what you need, what to budget, and what you may pay.

office of a web design company
Kohei Hara/DigitalVision/Getty Images

It can be exciting to get started on a new business, and in a lot of ways the Web has made it easy to get a new business website off the ground quickly and with very little cash. Pricing Web design work may be worth your time, however. 

Here is a common scenario for small business owners (all prices are estimates):

  1. I’ve got a great idea for a website, and the perfect domain name for it is available! ($10)
  1. I’ll get a decent web hosting package, with a good price. ($150 for two years of hosting, pre-paid)
  2. I’m going to use WordPress, and this theme is perfect. ($40)

At first glance this looks great, $200 to start a business, and you don’t even need a designer. For many businesses, this will be fine at first.

Once you get past the initial stages of the business, however, you will notice that the theme you bought isn’t doing all that you want it to.

Many technical people will start looking at plugins in an effort to get the site to run the way they want.

Ultimately, their site will look and act like every other commercially-themed WordPress site out there. To differentiate your site, you’re going to need more. This is where good Web design and development come in.

What to Pay For

The first thing you need to know when trying to budget Web design costs is what you’re going to need. There are a number of things to consider that can cost you money include:

  • Is this a new site or a redesign?
  • Do you need blog or content management functionality?
  • Do you have graphics for the site? Or are you using a template? Or do you need custom images created?
  • How are you planning on servicing mobile customers?
  • Do you need multimedia (Flash, video, etc.) on the site?
  • How much content do you have, and how much do you need created?
  • Do you need other special features like social media, SEO, ecommerce, or something else?
  • Who will maintain the site?

Below I will go into detail about all of these things, and help you get a general idea of how much you should budget for them. The prices I list are based on my experience; prices may be higher or lower in your area. Be sure to shop around and request proposals from any designer or firm you’re thinking of hiring.

New Sites Often Cost More Than Redesigns

When you’re starting from scratch, so is the Web designer. They have no previously created assets to work from, or to review with you in order to get an idea of what you already love or hate.

The advantage to starting from scratch is that you can work more closely with the designer to get exactly you want within your budget. You should assume that you’re going to pay at least an additional $100 more than if you were redesigning an existing website.

You should start your budget with at least $500 as a base cost for building a site from scratch, and $250 if you’re looking at a redesign.

Blogs and Content Management Tools

If you’re already running a WordPress site then you have the advantage of already having a form of content management system (CMS for short) on your site.

Tools like WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal have their own challenges, and integrating a site using them requires more time than building a site from scratch with just HTML and CSS. Decide if you need these tools by reading this article: Dreamweaver vs. Drupal vs. WordPress - Which is Best to Use.

Also, don’t assume that if you already have a WordPress theme that working off of it should be cheaper. Many themes are sold as-is, and designers are not licensed to change them. Often, the cost of purchasing a theme that can be modified is as expensive as just building a new theme from scratch.

Your budget should include another $200 if you want a blog or CMS. Include this in your budget even if you already have the system running. If you don’t have it running, you should plan to include another $200 to get it installed and running.

Graphics

Graphics are tricky because they can be difficult to create, and purchasing stock images for the site can be expensive. You don’t want to skimp on this area of your site, however; poor graphics planning can cause you grief down the road if you’re not careful.

If you supply all of the images, you will still need to budget some funds to get those images integrated into the new design (budget at least $250). Don’t assume that if you’ve already got a template you want to use that you won’t need any images re-done. Customizing templates can take time, and you want to be sure that the designer has the rights to customize the images in the template. If this is the route you go, you should budget $500.

If you’re looking for the design firm to create an entirely new design with images for you, either in a template or not, you should budget at least $1200.

But that’s not all there is regarding images. You will probably also need icons and buttons created to go with your design. Budget $350 for them. And any other custom images you need you should budget another $450. The more images that you need, the more money you should budget.

You should always make sure that your designer uses licensed stock images (learn more about where to find stock photos) or creates brand new graphics for your site. Be sure to get the license information in writing for any images you will use on your site. Otherwise, you could be looking at a several thousand dollar bill from a stock photo company down the road. Companies like Getty Images are very serious about their licenses, and they won't hesitate to bill your site even if you’ve only used one of their images without a license.

If your designer is going to add stock photos, budget at least $100 per photo—and remember that this could be an annual fee.

Mobile Designs

Mobile devices are quickly becoming the top method people use to access the Web, and your design should take into account mobile customers.

The best designs are responsive to the device viewing the page, but creating that type of design will cost more than a simple site for a desktop Web browser.

The best sites are designed to handle at least three different device sizes: smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. You should budget $750 to get a responsive design, and expect to add on $150 per device size (such as tablet in landscape and portrait) beyond the basic three.

Find out more about how mobile design differ from desktop design.

Multimedia

Multimedia like Flash and video can be difficult to integrate with a website. These will increase cost. You should budget $750 to get some basic Flash or video on the site and another $750 or more to create the multimedia.

Content Creation and Addition

The cheapest way to go is to create all of the content and add it into the site yourself. Most designers have no problem delivering a design template that you populate for no additional cost. But if you want the design firm to add the content you’ve already got into the site, you should budget around $150 per page of typed content (more if they have to type it in) and $300 per page if you want them to create the content for you as well.

Special Features Always Cost Extra

With the above elements, you will have a website that most people would agree is sufficient, but there are a lot of extra features that many designers can provide that will up the price, but can also improve your business:

  • Site membership and registration $750
  • Forums or chat rooms $350
  • News feeds of both your content (outgoing) and adding content to the site (incoming) $400
  • Contact forms and surveys $350
  • Email addresses for the domain and auto-responders $300
  • Newsletters $500
  • Advertising integration (such as with AdSense) $250
  • Photo gallery $250
  • Ecommerce: shopping carts, catalogs, payment processing $1500–$5000 or more
  • Metrics: custom reports, Google analytics, etc. $500–$2000
  • SEO: page optimization, submission to search engines, etc. $500–$5000
  • Social media: Twitter, FaceBook, etc. $500–$3000

And Don’t Forget Maintenance

Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget, or if they dismiss it as something they’ll do themselves. However, the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose eight hours of sales trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract.

Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending upon what you expect from the firm. You should budget a minimum of $100 per month to have a designer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. If you expect them to do additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, and other tasks on an ongoing basis, expect the price to go up.

Many designers dislike doing site maintenance, so it can sometimes be hard to find a firm that will do it for you.

So, How Much Does it All Cost?

FeaturesBasic SiteSome ExtrasFull Site
Base site costs$500$500$750
Content Management or Blog$200$200$750
Basic graphics$250$500$1200
Additional graphics$300$300$500
Total:$1250$1500$3200

Adding in addtional features increases the price.

FeaturesBasic SiteSome ExtrasFull Site
Mobile$750$900 (one extra size)$1050 (two extra sizes)
Multimedia$750$750$1500
Content$300 (2 extra pages)$750 (5 extra pages)$1500 (creating 5 pages including content)
Extras$250 (photo gallery)$500 (photo gallery and ads)$5000 (or more)
Maintenance$100 per month$250 per month$500 per month
Total:$2050 + $100 per month$2900 + $250 per month$9500 + $500 per month

So, for a simple site you can spend as little as $1250, or as much as $20,000 or more for a feature-rich website experience.

Your budget should be based on what your business needs. Remember that all of these prices are estimates, especially on the low end. Web design prices fluctuate all the time. You may spend more or less depending on the size and scope of the design firm you hire, or if you decide to seek offshore development and design work.

You should treat these numbers as a starting point in your negotiations with your Web designer.