How Much Should A Website Design Cost?

January 19, 2019

Read time:

16 minutes

Imagine: You've just come up with a fantastic idea for a business. You write out the business plans; you figure out a name for the company, but you need to get legally established. You find a business attorney online and schedule an appointment to his office. When you walk in, it looks like the 1970s with green carpet, old furniture, stale smell, and awful wallpaper. You immediately give second thoughts of doing business with this lawyer. First impressions are critical, and it doesn't matter if its the office space or when they come to a website. When your potential clients or clients come to your outdated or crappy web design, they will have the same reaction.

Now you probably are thinking: "omg, I need a beautiful site that has a great user experience that strikes my users emotion, so they want to purchase my product or services!"

You really excited!

But how much is that professional website going to cost me?

You thinking about how much that is going to cost you.

Did you know over 80% of users judge a companies credibility and purchasing decisions based on it website design? I do it, and you may do it too without realizing it. A great website is a significant investment, and it will pay off. Think about your website as the front page of your business.

In this article, I will explain about web design cost and options. I'll tell what you can get for your price range, the pro's and con's to each and what you should look out for when choosing a web designer or a company.

What you get out of your website is what you put in it.

Mike Creative Mints

You can put less than $20 bucks into your website per year but what is that going to get you? A basic site that is mostly informational text. It will most likely have usability errors, accessibility errors, not optimized for SEO and so on. I have run across many clients over the years that think just because they get a website they will get clients or customers. That is not true in the slightest bit.

Imagine someone creating this nice magazine and sitting it on a stand on the street. Most likely no one will stop and look at it. Imagine putting a beautiful display behind it detailing what might be in the magazine and the benefits. You might get some people to stop and take a look. Now put someone beside it constantly handing out flyers or getting peoples attention. You are now making impressions and building up momentum.

These things take time, effort and money to get build up an audience. It is the same with your website. You have to keep putting effort, time, money and updates to it all the time! The biggest joy is seeing the visitors and engagement to all the hard work and effort you put into it over time using tools like google analytics and google search console to track your performance.

I am going to break down what you can get from the smallest budget to the highest budget website in a minute but lets first talk about user experience and the function of the website.

Usability and function should define its form

A site that looks good doesn't always mean that its a good website. I've many to many big agency websites, and they had a beautiful website but it wasn't, and it was incredibly frustrating user experience.  The fact is a site that has a good user experience, and functions is a better website. A critical part of managing your web design cost is the difference between how the site looks and functions. Before you dive into how the website should look, you first need to figure out what it needs to do, define its purpose, figure out your audience and then figure out how to make it user-friendly.

I like this illustration that shows web design isn't just one skill but its an umbrella of many different fields:

User experience is a team effort

User researcher owns research the strategy and conducts usability studies, interviews, survey, personas and is the voice of the user.

User experience designer (UX) is more about how the user feels when using the site. They pinpoint the frustrating and annoying aspects of the website. They often take on some of the roles the user researcher has as well.

Visual designer is the job that can communicate through visual design such as the buttons, colors, images, type, brand personality and takes what the UX team drafts and turns it into reality.

I put these in order from most important to least. The user experience is the utmost important task when designing your website. You have to figure out what you want the website to do, how your users are going to interact and receive information. You have to focus on the experience in its totality not just on its visual looks. Once you handle the usability, you can then move into the design.

How you want your site too, and the goals you want your users to accomplish on your website will determine the web design price. Your website can be simple, or it can be unique complex interphase, additional features, more pages, and development cost. Before you work on your web design, you first need to create an outline of what your business needs for your website are, and then what your user needs are. Then you can define what you wants are. This planning will give you an idea of where your expenses should go.

3 routes to take when designing your website

After explaining the background for getting a website built, you might be a little overwhelmed and think it's going to cost an arm and a leg for what you want in your website. Before you panic, rest assured there are options to get what you want without a huge budget.

In these different options, I will explain where your money will go, what to expect, some helpful tips and what type of company might be the right one for each fit.

Squarespace template

1) Do it yourself template or website builder

Cost: $0 - $200+

Huge - template monster theme

You may have heard of services like Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and more. They are a leading force of the do it yourself web design world, making it possible to create your website in for a low cost. Two recommended marketplaces for templates are Template monster. They offer a large selection of website templates design and developed by website professionals.

You first have to figure out which option to choose. These different DIY options appeal to different styles for example; Wordpress has one of the largest online communities of third-party designers for custom options. This is where Template monster come in handy when picking out the best template to use; however, if you go with this option will be on the more technical site and require you to get web hosting and lots of maintenance time to protect yourself from those crazy hackers

When working with services like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and Shopify, these services are geared to people with no design knowledge and often built with drag and drop functionality with very limiting and basic functionality.

These sites can simplify the process by providing pre-designed templates, components, themes and the use of add-ons. You can pick the features you want or download other options you want, but of course, there are drawbacks.

If you have a unique vision and ideas to bring to your website, templates can put a block to that creativity because you are limited to what's already created.

You can look for a while and find something close to your vision and rig it but coming from experience you are going to waste a lot of time and be disappointed (or worse ditch the project altogether)

Intense template monster theme

One thing you want to look out for in the DIY website builders is the often advertised flat fee, but really when you start putting the website together, you will find a component, add-ons, themes that you will end up spending in addition to your monthly rate. For example, they will tell you it will be $19.99 a month and then once you start building you will find the best components that you need are a "premium" item that you have to pay addition too.

Remember that fancy outline we asked you to create of what you may need for your business and users verse what your wants were? You can use that to research components, themes, and add-ons for Wordpress or whatever platform you may choose and that way you are not surprised later.

Who does this work for?

This works best for micro businesses and startups just starting with the basics. It's best for simple landing pages, e-commerce stores for the hobbyist, and portfolio sites. The website builder would best suit someone for the short run until you raised enough funds to build a website for your business for the long term. If you're on a tight budget, this might be the best option.

DIY Tips

The DIY site option can spare you a lot of change but also takes some learning and a bit of time to get it built. If you have a little extra money you can hire a designer that specializes in one of the tools for example; WordPress, to develop your site.

Additionally, hiring a designer could help you accomplish building a theme that somewhat has your brand personality. If you don't have branding materials like a logo or brand identity to place on your website, you will need to make sure you get one created. (plug, we do that, and you can have it done affordably here!)

Pros of DIY:
Website for cheap
Pre-made themes and components

Limitations on customizations
Hidden cost
Not able to scale
Takes times and a little learning

Possible add-ons:
If you're going with a platform like WordPress, you may have to purchase WordPress hosting: $12/mo
WordPress security maintenance: $25/mo

We recommend going with a host thats more than $3 a month because you don't want your website to go down at random times.

Mike from Creative Mints

2) Hire a freelancer

Cost: $999 - $5,000+

Nathan Riley - Dribbble

A popular method is to hire a freelance web designer to build your custom web design. Hiring a freelance web designer can provide you with the option of being in total control without having to do anything yourself manually. A good freelance web designer will make it a collaborative effort between you and them allowing you to explain the company vision, mission, provide examples, and review that outline we mentioned before.

It's essential that you have all the information ready beforehand like that outline, get several examples and have your brand materials and brand identity ready. An excellent freelancer will require you or help you gather these things, but chances are you may get a freelancer that will wing it and give you something that you didn't expect. Wasting time, money and creating a bad relationship with the freelancer. If everything goes right, you can have a beautiful website that has the function you want and the looks to go with it!

You may have to hire a developer to code the website for you in addition to the freelance designer, but this also depends on the functionality you are requesting. Sometimes you will find a designer that also has front-end development knowledge. You may be asking what the designer does verse what the developer does? The designer is in charge of what you see and interacts with such as color, images, buttons, typography, brand and so on while developers handle the technical aspects like making the text live, making the buttons clickable, making the site work for mobile devices also known as responsive.

Solechan - Dribbble

You will need to check with the designer to see if they have front-end development experience as well and check examples of their development work to see if its responsive and loads quickly.

Earlier when I gave the price range, you were thinking, "that's a hell of a range!" That is because it depends on the designer's skill level, the project scope, workload, and location. If your web design project has a lot of pages or functionality the higher the web design cost. One way to save a little money it so has the designer create only a certain number of page types this means these are templates of pages with the same structure and components allowing you to duplicate them throughout the site and change the content yourself.

One thing to remember is your custom website design will require a lot of maintenance, and you will need to keep this in mind when thinking about your website design cost. You can get website maintenance by the hour, month or as a one-off when you need it.

Who does this work for?

Hiring a freelance website designer is something that many companies regularly do whether they are small or large, they have requirements that fall within the scope the freelance designers are capable of handling.

Did you know you could hire an agency with an entire umbrella of professional UXers, visual designers and developers for the cost of hiring a freelancer?

Freelancer option tips

One of the most challenging thing about hiring a freelance web designer is finding and the hiring process. You have to review the designer's portfolio but if you are not good with design knowledge then how do you know if they are good or not? You also have to look into their reputation. Find out if they are good communicators.

Another thing I caution you with when working with freelance designers is the number of people that are not honest or trustworthy. There are many so-called "freelance website designers" that take advantage of people every day by over promising and never delivering.

You will find freelancers that will offer you a website for $75 or a $100 website. Remember, you get what you pay for! Most likely they will be using a DIY template and adding your logo and content to it. If it's too good to be true, then it most likely is not true. A good website should cost around $2,000 to $5,000 easily.

Because there are so many people wanting to take advantage, feel free to reach out to us if you would like help reviewing and choosing the right freelance designer. We want to make sure your not a victim, so will help the best we can for free. Click here to reach out!

More professional design & more user-friendly
Mid cost high return
More hands-off than DIY

Rigorous hiring process
High potential for scam
Have to be detailed, or you may not get what you want

Possible add-ons:
You are still going to have to purchase web hosting for low as $12 a month. You could get a host for $3 dollars a month but we recommend paying a little more to get a more reliable host. You do not want down time!

WordPress security maintenance: $25/mo

Ueno Dribbble

3) Working with an agency

Cost: $999 to $20,000+

Focuslab Dribbble

If you want the best web design money can buy, and you have the budget, you should choose an agency (also depends on the agency in question). Hiring a design agency that specializes in custom websites and development is in our opinion the best option and here is why.

With a freelance designer, you get a single person with a core talent and maybe a few other skills, but with an agency, you get the power of a whole team. That means you have the specialist like a user researcher, user experience designers, visual designers, content writers, search engine optimization (SEO) experts, developers and so on. Think about one person building a house verse many people constructing a house. You will get a stellar product in the end.

Unfold Dribbble

Remember in the other options like DIY you had to entirely do it yourself and then hiring a freelancer you still had to manage the project, but when hiring an agency, you pretty much can sit back a relax. You will have to provide your requirements, outline, brand files (or have them do it) but you won't have to deal with any of the hassles.

Like hiring a freelancer, you need to find an agency that best fits the style you are wanting and the budget you have in mind.  If you are looking for a content management system (CMS), user experience, a professional design, that might be too much for a freelancer to handle.

Hiring an agency works best for...

You will find a lot of enterprise level companies working with agencies, but that's not all. Small to large companies also use agencies depending on their need. Some agencies have a business model designed to work with smaller companies with tight budgets to get agency level work.

Agency tips

Make sure to ask the agencies if they have any user researcher or include user experience design into their process. There are many types of agencies that focus on different things, for example, you might find an advertising agency that deals with a lot of print mediums and still offers web design as a service. They might not be the best option to go with because they don't specialize in web design. They will often jump into form, and the site won't have an excellent functioning user experience.

High-quality work
Easy to work with
Hands off
Multi-discipline team

Some can be pricey


We broke down the main directions people go to get their custom web design built and showed what the web design cost would be. There's no doubt that the level of quality varies from category to category and it could cost as much to hire a freelancer than it would be to hire an agency and it could cost more to build from a template than hire a freelancer or agency.

Keep in mind if you want to stand out from the rest, your website needs to be unique, and it should have a personality. We are at a point in the web design industry were there are so many websites that look just like one another and have no personality what so ever. If you want to strike your customers emotion, think about putting personality into the design.

It really depends on the project requirements and platform you end up going with to determine what option you might end up picking. If you are interested in starting a web design project, feel free to contact us and will help you make that decision. Whether you want to do it yourself, hire a freelancer or work with an agency we are here to answer any questions you have.

Ready to get your beautiful website created?

Posted on

January 19, 2019