Costs Involved In Developing And Running A Business-Website

website development cost

The general perception is that there’s no set standard for website development costs. This perception has built up because of claims of many website developers who share this opinion. However it also stands true that the prices you are quoted vary from developer to developer, for the same very project because of:

  1. Unclear request for proposal (RFP).
  2. Developer’s inexperience in establishing the clear requirements, scope and the amount of work involved.

And due to the huge variation in website design pricing, the customer doesn’t know what to expect and whom to hire. This results in a lot of frustration for the client and eventually affects the success metrics of the website.

Also if the expectations are clear from the customer’s end, the quotes still differ in pricing. This primarily being due to the reason in point 2 above also depends on some other factors:

  1. The customer segment (as we’ll see in a little bit).
  2. Fierce competition between web developers results in bigger promises and lower prices.

The customer segment decides which type of developers you hunt for. If you are starting small, you’ll be looking at freelancers of whom there are tons and then some wanting to deliver pro bono and earn their first testimonial. If you are established you’d be looking for professionals or an agency or a team of professionals who will charge based on the projects scope of work and their internal running costs of the firm.

The fierce competition between web developers is one major challenge to which customers fall prey. The learning curve in website development is way too low. Thus you have many budding shops trying to make a living working part-time. In order to sustain themselves they often take projects, promise the world and then struggle to deliver. They eventually end up botching up the project or outsourcing it to service providers like us as white-label work.

But the final costs come out to be the same. Here’s how:

  • Customer hires an inexperienced developer, for peanuts, project is mishandled, scraped and money lost. It’s rebuilt by another one from scratch for more money.
  • Customer hires an experienced developer, project is executed as per plans and delivered. Comes out to be slightly more economical and easy on peace-of-mind.

I’ll let you in on a little known secret: verified, tested and proven:

A professional website costs the same as a camera. But read on…

And this stands factually correct for any website development project from free to enterprise portals regardless of whether you get it coded in the US, Canada, UK, China, India. And the same stands true if it’s developed by us. Here’s what it’s going to cost.

So, how much does a photography camera cost? This will not only help you relate and put things in perspective, it will also give you a very precise figure and set your expectations. Much of the costs depend on what fits your requirements. Are you looking for a consumer level camera, do not care for RAW, just want to point and shoot and don’t care about the battery life and any other bells and whistles? Well the prices could be as low as $50. The price for a website at that level is coincidentally $50 too. This $50 includes a free website. Here’s how:

  1. You buy a domain for $15: You need a domain to be able to type in in the browser and pull up your website.
  2. You buy a hosting $5: You need a hosting to store your website so that when you type in in the browser, it pulls up the HTML files and shows them up.

But that’s just $20. Of course! The point is, someone will be putting in the rest of the $30 towards their personal time and effort to build their portfolio building you a free website. Just that you wouldn’t have to pay those 30. And then 2 months later you’ll be looking for improvements, hunting for someone more competitive. Or you’ll scrap your website and find something better that deserves your time.

Are you looking for a prosumer camera? Something a little more advanced that the bare basic; something a little more functional, configurable, stable and presentable? Such cameras cost anywhere from $800 to $2000. The same is the cost of this type of a website.

Let’s cover the professional cameras while we are at it. Nikon puts the D750 at $1,800 which is the starting range of professional DSLRs. The costs are roughly the same with Sony and Canon, globalization-competition and all.

With this established, it’s still a wide range. Unlike the cameras which are backed by brands and come in pretty much standard pricing across the globe (ignore the currency conversion math and taxes), there is no set standard to measure the quality of a website at least from a customer’s standpoint. This results in two things:

  1. You end up paying the same price for a website developed by a rookie in India. You don’t have any idea about what has been done to the website. All you can do is request additional fixes to get the thing going.
  2. You end up playing smart, hunting for the right person on UpWork or Freelancer and get a cheap website. Cheap is cheap. And it will be so until you find a professional developer who will deliver you something that you will only be able to realise and appreciate when it’s delivered. It’s like holding your first iPhone or MacBook. Until then you could put up with anything.

The kind of website that you want (and that’s why you are reading this) would fall into one of the two segments.

1. Websites with a great User Interface (UI) and design

Build Tasks: If you are struggling with budget and just want to get a website, some cost saving is the call of the day. Most of the cost saving is done by employing pre-made templates. If there are graphics then the work will involve coding for the most part to turn these graphics into a functional website. If the templates are pre-made themes then most of the work will go into customizing it for your requirements, branding and functionality and will go into the sub-$1,000 category. But it would still hit north of the $1,000 mark depending on the complexities of the functionality required to be implemented — additional landing pages, contact forms, sliders, stock images, paid plugins, etc.

Costs: Same like we established earlier — $800 – $2,000.

What you get: A waterproof website which will kick-start your business.

Pros & Cons: SEO performance depends totally on the ready-made theme. The design typically lasts 2-3 years max when you’ll realize that your requirements have grown or at the very least you need a better design for a change. The user-experience and search performance are the weakest link in the chain.

2. Websites engineered after assessing business goals

Build Tasks: Discovery, keyword-content mapping, identifying requirements and scoping; wireframing and creation of design mockups; coding and functional-implementation including technical-integration with other solutions, content architecture, infrastructure planning, QA, validation, testing, bug-fixing, pre-deployment optimization & configuration and final deployment.

Costs: $2,000 & upwards.

What you get: A website custom tailored to address your business goals. Value of investment can be established by performance in search-engines, traffic-growth, conversion rates and sales.

Pros & Cons: Business success delivered. Typically takes a longer time to go live and collaboration.

These two segments define what price segment your website falls into. You can further dissect the development into minor phases and specific tasks. Some website owners choose to phase it out and spread the work across independent agencies that address specific niches. For example the work for wireframing and graphic design would go to one party and another party will be executing the coding and implementation part.

The pitfalls in the above are mostly with the strategy as there’s no central strategy and planning involved. Website owner will need to take this all under one’s own umbrella for a higher-level understanding. With one agency looking over the entire project, the entire planning and architecture falls on one head. The architect plans the project into a waterfall or agile project methodology whatever the project warrants.

Domain & Hosting

Domains typically cost about $15 depending upon your domain registrar and the chosen TLD.

At Convertica we offer cloud hosting plans in shared as well as VPS tenacy. Both plans make use of robust, performance oriented server stack and software configuration as well as airtight security. Shared hosting plans start at $40 per month. Here are the details:

  • Fully managed hosting: Full access to WordPress.
  • Powered by high-performance Enterprise Cloud Services infrastructure: Fully scalable with greater than 99.9% uptime.
  • Optimized for WordPress: Performance optimized and engineered specifically to speed-up WordPress.
  • Fully WordPress compatible: All WordPress plugins following WordPress coding standards are fully supported and work flawlessly.
  • 2 Website installs: Production as well as staging.
  • Automatic weekly backups.
  • Unlimited visitors per month with 100GB of data transfer.
  • 20GB local storage.
  • Free SSL certificates: Helps website communication secure and also gives SEO boost. Must read: Why do you need SSL / HTTPS at all?
  • Optimized with MamcachedMod Pagespeed for fast loading times. This helps cache and optimize the website on the server-side to handle high-traffic situations as well as Google Pagespeed Insight scores.
    * Powered by latest and more recent updated versions of PHP7, Fedora / Debian , mariadb, memcached, mod_pagespeed, HTTP2, Apache running Event MPM, Selinux.
    * Server access is limited to server administrators.

VPS cloud plans have a fixed one-time setup fee charged at $200 and then a recurring fee of $40 per month onward depending on the server resources you opt for.

Frontend Development (PSD to WordPress or Pre-Made Theme)

Frontend development involves converting the design files provided by the client into dynamic WordPress templates including adjusting and prepping the design files for conversion, slicing the design into web-optimized graphics, implementing the functionality required, QA compliance, pre-launch caching, SEO optimization, social media integration and deploying on the live server. The starting range is $800 and the prices go up as the functionality requirements expand. Ecommerce and membership sites typically go for around the $2,000 mark and the costs vary by the number of templates to be coded and detail-oriented implementation.

PSD to WordPress conversion involves implementing the design using a base theme framework like Hybrid Core, Underscores, Genesis, Thesis or a custom theme built from scratch. Some of the pre-made themes limit the flexibility and functionality that can be implemented. Also suitability of the framework and long-term upgradability and support is assessed per project and advised. Costs typically don’t vary between the implementation powered by theme frameworks but do come down slightly if you go with a pre-made theme. This however limits the flexibility and customization required.

Backend Development (WooCommerce, Forum & Membership Integration)

Adding functionality to your design will substantially alter the costs involved. Ecommerce websites require integration of a sales platform along with payment gateway integration, product import, etc. The same holds true for membership websites and forums. Depending on the functional requirements, this could involve purchasing one or more paid plugins or creation of custom plugins to achieve the desired functionality. This would put the development costs at the $3,000 mark excluding the charges for plugins and other subscriptions.

Some website projects require integration with CRM, third-party platforms or task management and ticket management systems. These could further raise the costs of a website to $5,000 at the starting level and will see huge variation in costs subject to the project complexity and the technical scope involved.

Security Audit, Website & Server Hardening

The threat of having a website compromised because of security holes looms large. Security audit and website hardening should be a part of the core strategy of the planning and architecture. A thorough multi-tiered security audit covers security audit of the IT infrastructure & hosting along with the website software as well as configuration. The same requires an audit of the current setup, environment to identify gaps in the security. Addressing them is a part of a separate phase subject to customer consent. A typical security audit costs $800 and is a good (and necessary) investment that will prevent loss of customer data, your investment till date, site blacklisting, loss of brand value and even leakage of customer data. All these are serious scenarios to land into and security hardening is a must for any website selling any kind of product, service, memberships, e-courses or storing customer data.

SEO Audit

An SEO audit covers off-page SEO gaps to identify gaps as well as on-page technical SEO opportunities. A complete SEO audit costs about $200 and goes up with the site and age of the website. This is done by engaging various SEO tools like SEO spiders, keyword research tools, off-page link value assessing software as well as manual technical audit. Most of these tools are premium, annual subscriptions that cost money and require expertise to make accurate findings.

Our digital marketing plans are customized to each customer’s unique requirements to address business challenges specific to each use-case and there’s no on size fits all. This is essentially because each website is different and has unique customer base, market segment and sales targets.

Website Maintenance

Website maintenance usually starts at $100 but much depends on the exact maintenance requirements. Retainer plans are tiered into segments addressing the particular requirement. Website maintenance plans include routine hosting maintenance, log rotation, software updates, database-optimization, backups as well as CMS, plugin and theme updates. Higher plans also cover content / product updation and tweaking as well. While updating the CMS and plugins sounds simple, for more business critical sites it’s not a straight forward process. Backups are taken, verified-good with provision and preparation of rollback to limit downtime and outage in case things go south. Also the sanctity and integrity of the website’s technical ecosystem has to be ensured so that various software continue to play well in a cohesive environment without throwing errors causing breakage and failure.

What goes into a $50,000 website?

Higher costs are just about a bigger team and bigger management. It’s just like managing a town vs managing a state. More requirements warrant detailed planning addressing a wider spectrum of requirements. Accordingly the work scales. The prices grow linearly with time and work. Sometimes bigger projects are executed on a time and material (T&M) basis and resources are hired at an hourly basis from an agency to execute the work.

Quality-wise there’s little difference from a $5,000 website. The workmanship is the same, but experience does play a huge role in success as well as contingency management.

Long term costs of a website

In the longer term you’ll be paying for renewals of domain, hosting, subscriptions for software, plugins, website maintenance and ongoing marketing campaigns. A typical domain costs $15 while professional grade hosting is available for $40 per month on the economic end. Premium hosting is typically marketed at $100 and higher whereas cloud hosting these days would require a one time investment and offer very economic recurring costs like covered earlier.

Ongoing marketing campaigns start from a basic plan of typically $100 and upwards. This would include technical-SEO and off-page organic SEO. Paid marketing campaigns like PPC ads etc. depend on the kind of sales targets you have.


At Convertica we provide solutions in the range of $800 and onward for website development, $100 onward per month for maintenance and $100 per month onward for digital marketing. These prices are economical and competitive without compromising on quality of engineering, support and service. Other service providers typically charge in the same range. Difference in charges can be explained by variation of requirements, the assessment of your requirement by the service provider, their experience level and the quality of service. Technical competence costs the same around the globe to build and master. Professionalism and experience aren’t commodities and take time to build. In the end everyone from China to the US ends up charging more or less the same. The costs can only be verified after a comparative assessment of costs involved in similar projects regardless of losses incurred with a faulty hiring and botch-up or a professional at work and doing it right at once. The only variations are in the wastage incurred and the peace-of-mind delivered.

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