How Much Should I Pay For A Website?

  • By Rob Balla
  • 21 Jul, 2015

It's a timeless question.                                                                                                                       The question is: How long is a piece of string?......that depends. How will the piece of string be used and who will be using it.  There is a reason  we didn't answer the question head on.....if you want to do it the right way and avoid deep frustrations, keep reading to learn more...

First, think about how the public may perceive your business for a moment. Now, think about how people make decisions about who they will do business with.  Next, think about your competitors......not just the ones who have a larger market share than you, but the smaller ones who would love a piece of your pie.  For a business, your website  comes down to competitive edge, an opportunity to build relationships and showcase value and demonstrate your unique selling position to your customers.

Your website is the perceived image in the marketplace when it comes to your products, services and the way you do business. 

These are the 7 basic factors which come into play for website design costs:

-Template site or partial template or full custom design

-Database for content (not all databases are created equally)

-Number of pages

-Number of images: Provided Images, Stock Photography, Professional Photographer Required?

-Content Writing - Important for Search Engines To Crawl Your Site and Index Your Site's Pages in relevance to actual searches

-Hosting, Emails and Maintenance

-Project Management: Time spent on planning and development 

"My cousin or friend can build me a cheap website" - All web development companies have heard this.  I can't count how many times we've had to rescue sites from businesses who have entrusted  non-professionals or amateurs to take care of it for them.  Would you have a plumber do your dental work?

So How Much Does the average Business Website Cost? (Small to Medium Sized Business Projects)

The range in design costs to develop and launch range from $2000- $8000. Using the a la carte estimates above you can see how they can add up quickly. Another way to break the budget down is to assume:
  • 15% Planning - Includes Consultation and Blueprint
  • 25% Interface design - Layout and Creative
  • 20% Programming
  • 20% Project Management  
  • 20% SEO (Writing and Optimization)

  See the breakdown of pricing and costs below:

Basic Website Components and Costs - The Breakdown and Elements

On average, the following figures can be applied to estimating the cost of a small business web site

  • Domain Name – $10/year - $49 per year depending on the extension
  • Server Space Hosting – $50to $200+ a year (depending on traffic & hosting services)
  • Web planning, design and development time – Determined By Scope of Project
  • Continued website Maintenance, Security, Back-Up, Content Updates – $500 a year and up (depending on number/type of updates required - some companies may include hosting in this price)
  • Marketing your website online – Determined by your budget
  • Custom Content Management System - The Ability For You To Make Changes To Your Site Based On Your Sites Requirements

Important Factors that Contribute to Website Cost

When trying to budget web design costs there are a number of factors to consider:
  • Is this a brand new site or a redesign?
  • How prepared are you – do you have a detailed requirements document?
  • Do you need a blog or content management functionality (CMS)?
  • Image Galleries or Blogs, Content Writing for SEO
  • Do you have graphics already created for the site?
  • Design with mobile in mind first. Site must be natively responsive and adapt to all platform devices.
  • Do you need multimedia or social media feeds (video, FB twitter 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 channels, SEO, ecommerce, or something else?
  • Who is going to maintain the site after it has been launched?
Below we go into greater detail regarding these items and an estimate of how much you should budget for them. The prices listed are based on 18 years of experience. Prices will most probably be higher or lower depending on your specific requirements. Be sure to contact us for an estimate.

New Sites Often Cost More Than Redesigns

When you’re starting from scratch, so is the web designer. They have nothing to work from, they can’t look at your existing site and get an idea of your online brand or features and functionality requirements.  All new sites really should require a “discovery and documentation” process.  This process will help define the online brand, website structure and functionality. We think this process is critical because it helps set expectations on all sides and reduce potential frustrations. Simple business websites, where the client has a solid idea of what they want, can get by on a minimal amount of discovery and documentation, perhaps one day’s worth of effort.   BUT … more complex websites may require weeks of meetings and the creation of many detailed documents to fully define the project.

Interface Design

Interface design is also referred to as the look-and-feel or visual design. The interface design will incorporate your branding, all your photos and images, even your page layouts. Don’t assume that if you’ve already got a pre-made template you won’t need any images or layouts re-done. Interface design is usually an iterative process, this means that the designer will show you several options and then modify those based on your feedback to arrive at an approved design.  For a small business website, the average budget $1800 – $4,000 to get you from concept through to the final design that will be handed off to the developers for programming. Don’t skimp on the interface design or visitors won’t give your website a second glance.

Images and Graphics

Website graphics are tricky because they can range from $10 each for cheap stock images to $100′s of dollars each for custom or high-end stock images. Compelling and appropriate graphics can make a huge huge difference in the effectiveness of your website. On the low-end, budget at least $100 for stock images.  If you have a good designer they can make a cheap image look like a custom one.
But that’s not all. You will probably also need stock icons and buttons to compliment your design.  Budget $50  for them as well.

Mobile and Responsive Design Cost - (Should be included in overall price)

Mobile devices are swiftly becoming critical to online success and your design should at least be mobile-friendly. The best designs are “responsive“, designed to automatically adjust their layout to look good on multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. Creating a responsive design can cost 20% – 30% more than a site for a desktop web browser (the price of progress). This cost is because the interface designer needs to design how the site will look on the various devices, the programmer will need to program the designs and finally more testing is required before the site is ready to launch. Almost all our projects these days include responsive programming.

Costs for Content Creation and Insertion

The least expensive way to go is to create all the content yourself and insert it into the site yourself.  Most designers have no problem delivering a blank design template that you populate with text and images. But if you want the design firm to add your content and adjust the layout of the text, you should budget $100 – $150  per page.

Programming Special Features (Costs To Consider)

There are a ton of extra features that web developers can integrate that will improve your business but can also up the price. Sometimes these features are “included” in your website framework – but beware, just because they are “included” doesn’t mean that they look or work the way you want. The estimates below reflect the general requirements we have seen, however there are many factors that can push these costs higher. If you don’t see your add-on here just give us a call and we can provide an estimate.
  • Custom Content Management Systems- for clients who want to manage their own content we integrate and customize content management systems (CMS). We work with PHP-based open-source CMS solutions like Drupal and WordPress.
  • Training and documentation – You will probably need some instructions and documentation on how to maintain and edit site content.
  • Blog- Many clients want a WordPress or similar blog within their website, customized to their website branding and design.
  • E-commerce shopping carts, catalogs, payment processing e depending on requirements.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns- Clients that want to gather emails and send out branded email blasts for announcements or newsletters require an Email management tool. We integrate 3rd-party tools (graphicmail, mailchimp, constant contact, etc.) and create an email blast template design, we can even manage your email blasts.
  • Branding/Identity Development- Logo design is something we are often asked to do. On the low-end, we start with an 8-hour process that generates about 6 rough logo concepts. If one of these is chosen we go through several rounds of edits to arrive at a final version.
  • Style Guides- An online style guide is important because it establishes brand consistency and provides a guide for all your print collateral and online marketing. .
  • Targeted Landing Pages- Landing pages are pages that promote a specific product or service. They are usually part of an email, social media, or banner ad campaign. We can design and create these pages starting at
  • News feeds of both your content (outgoing) and adding content to the site (incoming)
  • Contact forms and surveys
  • Newsletters
  • Advertising integration (Google AdWords)
  • Photo gallery
  • Metrics: Google analytics, custom reports, etc.
  • SEO: on-page optimization, off-page optimization submission to search engines, etc.
  • Social media: Create and manage social media network profile such as Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn etc.

Websites don’t just maintain themselves, and the best are changing all the time. Maintenance is something that most businesses forget to budget or think that they can do it themselves. But the first time you delete your entire home page by mistake and lose 8 hours of sales trying to get it back up and running, you’ll wish you’d spent the extra money on a maintenance contract. Make sure your web developer offers post-launch maintenance, many don’t because they can’t be bothered by clients calling with small requests.
Maintenance contracts vary greatly depending upon what you expect from the firm. You should budget monthly to have a designer/developer on call if you have a problem that you can’t fix. And if you expect them to do additional work such as creating new images, adding new content, maintaining social media or newsletters, etc. expect the price will go up.

Final Note

A final note: If this website will be a significant part of your business PLEASE DON’T SKIMP on the design and development. If you’d expect to pay $100,000 for a brick and mortar retail shop (inventory, interior design, furniture, rent, utilities, staff, equipment, insurance, etc) – then don’t balk at paying reasonable rates for the creation of your online business.   Your budget should be based on what your business needs.
By Balla Media 20 May, 2017
I just need to clarify the headline of this ad blog when I refer to this statement as applying to local media reps and not national media reps.  This ad blog will touch the nerve of only a few sales reps,  because it holds validity. National media reps LOVE ad agencies because it's those ad agencies which drive their revenue and bonus money.  As an agency we will have the odd local client tell us that the media rep has relayed to them not use an agency because they will save money by buying direct from them.  When I come across this comment it's usually  from a business owner who has been in touch with a radio or print sales rep, and you'll see why.
As agencies work for the best interest of the client in terms of how ad dollars are spent most efficiently, an agency does not represent any one media but rather consults for the best fit based on a list of factors ranging from budget, type of campaign, creative, location, target audience etc.
The agency's job is to get more for the same amount of money a client would spend or less. When I refer to "More" it could apply to a more efficient schedule, bonus commercials, promotions or better rate.

Overall the agency acts as a strategist, gate keeper and negotiator as a partner with the client on their behalf.  As an example, a local radio rep represents usually 1 - 3 radio stations which are either independently owned or owned by a conglomerate.  Not only are radio reps in competition with people on their own team, they are in competition with other stations in the market. The rep may typically have the viewpoint that everyone is in competition with them for those available ad dollars from a business in the marketplace. Now you can see how an agency can be a bee in the resp bonnet ensuring the client's ad budget is not being over-killed and driven to the reps own stations. In many small to medium sized markets there are typically more radio and print options in the marketplace, hence these reps are slightly more pugilistic in nature when vying for ad dollars. 

As opposed to writing a long dissertation as to why some media reps prefer businesses not to use an agency to media buy allow me to bullet point it:
  • Media reps get 3 - 5% less commission if the business buys through an agency.
  • The rep is now in more competition with other stations to win the business of that client, because the agency will provide the client's criteria and will determine which station provides the best fit based on target demo, frequency, reach, added value, bonus or promotion. If a media wants the business badly enough they will go the extra bit to make it work.  Not all reps like to do the "Extra Work"
  • Some media reps will provide a proposal which is either overkill or under kill in frequency. This basically means that the business owner may be spending too much and wasting ad dollars which could be placed elsewhere or they could not be spending enough which equates to an ineffective campaign.  Those reps who overkill campaigns don't typically like an agency's involvement because it takes dollars away from their sales budget because an experienced and knowledgeable agency will compose a campaign to deliver the right frequency for the client based on the objectives. 
  • If a media grosses up the campaign when working with an agency the logic is to offset the decrease in sales reps commission and since the sales reps just needs to write up the order it's less work for them. Reps don't like it because they are making less. Station owners like it because they are making more because they pay the sales rep less. Is this logical? No it isn't, from the reps standpoint...but that's the way it is.  Those stations which sell to agencies with no gross ups make it more favorable to work with which in turn can give more value to the client.  Buying on a CPP, CPM or GRP basis is the right way to go.  

I'd just like to once again reiterate that not all local media reps look at an agency as an adversary. There are many admirable media sales reps who see the value an agency delivers to a client and station and will work relentlessly with the agency to ensure  results driven campaigns are delivered for the client. To those sales reps, the client and agency salute you and value our relationships!

By Balla Media 05 Feb, 2017
If you come from an accounting background, advertising is a necessary evil. If you think you can rest on the merits of your physical location alone to grow business think again.  Over the many years of working with businesses I find it fascinating how many people calculate their ad spend or don't even think of requiring advertising until it is too late. Here's what I discovered. There are businesses who may not understand the value and residual value of advertising.  

Opening a brand new business . So you have a dream and you've invested your blood sweat and tears or someone else's money to open up the most amazing shop in town. Your money has been tied up into rent, inventory, employees....the basic stuff to get you going but haven't put the money aside to  let people know what an amazing business you have.  I'm not kidding when I say that 7 out 10 new business people I meet with haven't mapped out and set aside an ad budget for their business.  These businesses need to extrapolate their annual sales and calculate what they need to spend to build awareness. 

The Old 3-5% Rule. This 3-5% rule of gross annual sales is a number financial analysts threw around in the 60's and 70's and it stuck with businesses and corporations as the norm. Here's the kicker. A ton has changed since the 60's with exponentially so many more advertising channels/outlets/streams which are available. It's harder for businesses to make noise in the market place with all the ongoing influx of distractions from news, information, entertainment delivered my digital technology. Businesses need to stand out and should be looking at a minimum of 9%-12% of annual gross sales blended with an intelligent strategy.  See below how to calculate your ad budget. 

Advertising Only During Certain Times Of The Year.   Yes there are a minute group of businesses which don't require consistent advertising all year round(e.g. ski resorts), these account for 1% of the businesses out there. However whether  you are a seasonal or year round business you still fall into 99% of businesses who need to be advertising   ALL THE TIME.  Advertising by branding all year round is essential and is the lifeline to maintain and build your business's presence in the marketplace. 

The goal for all businesses whether you want to maintain or grow market share is to stay and remain at the top of the consumers mental shopping list of options. People like to do business with names that they recognize, businesses which fit their needs, and products or services which fulfill an emotional need. It's important to push your businesses presence on a light level all year round and during your seasonal peak periods to increase the frequency of your advertising to win more market share by call to action.   Watch How To Advertise  - 7 Factors and Formula. 

Advertising Your Business Based On A Physical Location.  Watch How To Calculate Your Ad Budget .
If you are looking to maintain business then consider the lower end of the budget scale because you will always have attrition. Attrition is part of every business and you need to maintain a flow of new customers to offset customers who drop off, repatriate the old ones and maintain touch points and connectivity with existing ones. 

Use this spreadsheet:   Ad Budget Calculator   Adjust fields B2 (gross sales) B8 (Annual Lease or Cost Of Occupancy) to come up with a recommended range budget to work with.

Non-Physical Locations.
Let's say you work out of your home and you want to grow your business. You now have less overhead and more margin to build business.

Selling Products / Services On-Line:
There is a totally different approach and formula to selling products on-line. You should not use the above calculator to determine your budget for e-commerce or on-line conversions from your google campaign.  There is a whole other formula of metric based selling and it is determined by  ROAS (Return on ad spend) and CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). In many cases it's not as simple as the above calculator as there are many more variables for driving on-line sales conversions whether it's forms, sales or phone calls. Your going to be looking at Conversion Rates, Average Order Of Value and CPC.  You can utilize the following formula for calculating your on-line goals/conversions and budget which is incorporated into your overall ad budget from the Ad Budget Calculator Spreadsheet. Check out  View Google's Metric Based Selling Formula Here

Advertising - An Exciting Investment. That's right. It's an investment and it needs to approached in a way that you know it's one of your most important tools in your business's journey of growth. To not advertise is like winking at a beautiful woman in a pitch dark room.

Rob Balla

By Balla Media 07 Sep, 2016
I've worked in media for over 20 years and it doesn't cease to amaze me how some media channels haven't changed in their approach to creating value when at times there is no or little value. When you are buying advertising here are some red flags to watch out for:

1) The media rep says we are so busy and running into sold out inventory but we still have some avails.
This is a common tactic. Albeit there will be times when a radio, tv station or billboard is in a sold out situation. However this is not the case all the time especially not when you happen to show interest in a buy or request a proposal. When I worked in radio as a sales rep we had 2 inventory structures. The sales managers inventory to the team and the REAL inventory. A sales manager would say to the team we are 95% sold out when in reality we would be 50-70% sold out... real estate development housing works in the same'll see a sign which says a 70% sold out display on the lawn....sometimes that sign doesn't change for over a year. When a media says they are in a close to sold out situation it could be they want you to move quickly to avoid disappointment....if you ever come across this statement that "We are close to sold out" or "Ou inventory is filling up fast" you should think twice. First off do you want to be on a station where the commercial islands are just jammed packed with other sponsors and your message gets lost?? Secondly, by walking away you are sending a message that you do not buy under these conditions. When a media creates a false sense of inventory they have a self justified right to increase rates. It's a false value created by a false demand. As an agency we know there is always a way to negotiate a better rate or more efficient schedule for the same investment. There is always an alternative to the main streams to deliver highly effective cost per thousands without falling into the trap of tactics. If the station is still a good fit for your business and the investment is in line with your ROI and the CPM or CPP is in line then start your branding campaign at a timeline when there is no price pressure. Wait til the price is right. If your campaign is based on urgency or a sale you may have no other option than to but pay the piper.

2) A media may sell a sponsorship with an exorbitant value attached to the promotion or'll be apprised you can have it for a fraction of the cost. Decide with caution and don't fall into this pressure trap either. Radio, TV stations will typically run a promotion using their promotional or programming inventory. At times there may be an opportunity for clients to piggy back as a sponsor or to "own" the promotion. A station will place a value up to 2 to 3 times of there promotional inventory based on their top rate card price for a If a 30 second commercial spot is sold at top rate card for $100, the station will place a value of $250 on their promotional occasion...
Within this promotional spot as a business you may receive a name mention or a tag no way is it worth a $250 value based on this case scenario. So a tv or radio station will offer a client a category exclusive sponsorhip for "XX" amount of dollars based on the promo value. If the media is providing this promotion in exchange for product for prizing then it could be worth it depending on the exposure....each opportunity needs to be assessed on an individual basis based on awareness ROI. Don't pay for a promotion until you consult with an unbiased party such as an advertising agency to determine the true ROI value. The amount you invest in whether it be cash or product investment (cash) may be better invested in a regular airtime schedule with that media or in another media.

3) We are the number 1 station with seniors who love to ride bikes on a Tuesday while eating hot dogs. you get my point. Every media is number 1 in something. You have to carefully compare apples to apples when considering where to place your ad dollars. An experienced agency has the knowledge and expertise to analyze media schedules based on target demographic, location, reach, frequency while dovetailing your specific creative and marketing objectives.

4)Selling you more or not enough for an efficient campaign. There are sales reps which will sell you too much and reps who won't sell you enough. Buying and selling media is an art form. It's a delicate process of understanding weighing a number of variables from budget, audience, reach, frequency and of course the message. If one of these are out of kilter it could mean a waste of time and money.

Media can create awareness and drive calls and traffic to your website or retail location...just remember it can't close the business...that's what your business and your people are supposed to do. Contrarily, I have worked with clients who said they "Tried" a certain media and had no success. No response. Once I dig a little deeper I eventually find out what the real issue was. Sometimes the campaign works and the client's phone rings but the business has poor front lines, or there is a customer service issue or no one is there to answer the phone...or sometimes it's the schedule where the rep didn't give them enough frequency or the campaign ran short. Sometimes it's the creative. Creative needs to be compelling creating an emotive response....remember it's not always about price as we know...customers do not always pay based on price they pay based on convergent factors where emotion meets logic...when your business has solved a problem for the consumer or has created an emotively empathetic response which at times is priceless.

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