Everyone is different. Some people want a Lamborgini, and some people want a car that will serve the sole purpose of getting them from point a to point b. Just like buying a car, the cost of website design is no different, and the requirements can vary from person to person, and really, neither decision is more right or wrong.
It really depends on what you and your business needs are going to be. Even though, much like the car example, nobody can provide you a 'one size fits all' price for a custom website. By the end of this article, you should have a relatively good idea of:
1- Cost drivers of using a developer to custom build your website.
2- What type of website is more costly to build.
3- How you can save as much money as possible while getting your site built.
Your initial step should be deciding on the reason you want to have a website in the first place. When you have a website, it needs content, and unless there is some purpose the site, it's going to be challenging to come up with content. Unlike when the internet first came out, and anyone could start a website, and developers could just stuff keywords anywhere and everywhere, and it would get traffic, a site now needs to provide value to your visitors otherwise you mine as well just leave everything in a word doc on your desktop. Seriously, you have to deliver value to your visitors.
BUT! This isn't an article over Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or content creating, but it's essential to consider when thinking about how much you're going to be spending.
So, you've got your site idea, and a solid grasp on all the great content you're going to put on it. The next question is, how do you plan on taking the content from your desktop to your website?
Are you savvy enough to FTP the files down from your server, add CSS, and modify your sections to add the necessary information and then FTP your data back up to the server? Are you able to avoid downtime by finding/fixing the inevitable mistakes that happen where you accidentally misplace a comma and the entire site goes bonkers? Well, if those two last sentences sounded like complete jibberish, then it might be better to avoid handling web design on your own. I mean, most likely if you can do that, then you would have built at least something yourself, and you wouldn't even be reading this article.
A static or dynamic site?
A static site
A static website has individual pages for every section a user visits. When they go to the home page (which is technically www.yoursite.com) where they see the main face of your website. The homepage is usually called 'index.html' and is added proceeding the '.com.' When a person purchases a product, they see the 'thank you,' and there is a 'thank-you.html' file for that page, and this pattern continues throughout your entire website. For each link, a user clicks on takes them to a different page. Every page typically contains all of the elements such as the nav or header and footer to maintain the fact that you're still on the same site and you're just viewing a different area.
A static site is a site that never, or is very rarely modified. This is because usually the website is created, and then the developer uploads the files to the server (it's often tested on the localhost before going live), making it so that now all the world can see your most fantastic site!
There are options to be able to add/modify/edit content such as using a web builder like Wordpress (which we never recommend), or other CMS options.
1: Set it and forget it, no coding experience required (if you never want to change anything).
2: You have a site.
3: If you're willing to learn to code, you can make as many edits as you wish.
1: Whatever is on your site, is whatever is on your site typically for a long time until you decide to pay a developer to modify it.
2: Some coding knowledge is necessary to alter the site without developer intervention.
3: You're responsible for maintaining and updating your website to avoid security issues.
4: Can be costly hiring a developer to update even the smallest amount of content.
5: Security vulnerabilities due to deprecated coding theories or libraries.
6: SEO will suffer greatly
The real issue is that the faster you grow, the more debilitating it is to have a completely static website. If your company continuously changes/ adds new inventory, you're going to have to continually be getting your site modified, and if you're paying a developer, the cost can escalate quickly, and web developers aren't cheap.
How to get the most flexibility out of a static site.
A static site can still be somewhat dynamic. You can use a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress (to see why we don't suggest WordPress read this article), Wix, or similar. Another option is to have a custom website built that incorporates an excellent CMS that is built specifically to your needs where you have an admin panel so you can add/update/edit/delete the crucial content elements that you foresee requiring modification in the future. A quality content management system is built in a dynamic framework that will still maintain the layout no matter if it holds 2 products or 500.
You can see an example of one of our CMS examples and how it works here.
The only downside to this is that you need to know precisely what is going to be required to be changed/modified in the future, or you'll have to have the framework redesigned.
A Dynamic site
A dynamic site is a single page website that adjusts each element according to who the viewer is. These are typically more advanced websites and aren't exactly necessary for every company.
Instead of switching pages within the website, www.zeusforge.com/index.html -> www.zeusforge.com/pricing.html for example, what is changed is the elements within the website. These pages are usually for more advanced sites such as Facebook, Yelp, and so on. There is typically a lot of data exchanged to show different users different views.
1: Usually faster
2: Every view can be completely custom to the user (you can display their username, their preferences, etc..)
3: Can be custom integrated and designed to incorporate and simplify corporate project management within the company, and in-tern make your team work more efficiently.
1: Usually much more expensive to have developed because it takes a higher level of understanding (both the back-end and front-end)
3: Updating requires a more tech-savvy individual
So if you want to save money getting your website up and running pick a static site with a good CMS. However, you have to decide if that will suit your needs, and again, don't use WordPress (see why here).
When you purchase a domain name, you know, that fancy www.mysuperawesomedomainbyJimmy.com, yea that one. It has to be connected to a server. This involves messing around with what web developers call the 'back-end.'
This is the part of the site that 'just works,' and is not seen by most people. That domain name has to have its DNS (domain name servers) modified to wherever you're going to be hosting your site.
If you want to save money when having your website built being able to do this yourself and getting the infrastructure done can possibly help you save. I say possibly, because you have to ask if having this already done will deduct from the final price. Should it? We think so, but some development companies just consider this part of the entire process.
Nothing is worse than believing it'll cost you $50 to have a website built then getting slapped upside the head with multiple 1,500 dollar estimates.
There are a couple of factors that you can take into consideration to help you decide how much you should pay.
If you have a lot of money, don't be cheap on the one thing that is arguably more important than a brick and mortar storefront location. That's just a bad idea. Unless you have a business that requires a brick and mortar location to operate (as in you wouldn't have a business at all unless you had a brick and mortar location) than your website is the first impression people will have of your company and first impressions are of the utmost importance. It kind of goes without saying, that if you have no money, very little expendable money, or you just want to test out your business idea you can always use a web builder.
These can initially be great starting points for your business. However, we wouldn't suggest investing in any long term (paying up for more than six months or a year in advance) commitment when it comes to time or money. Websites created with web builders, more times than not, look like templates where someone just threw in their own text. Customization is extremely limited, so you can forget about doing anything fancy to differentiate your website from your competitors.You want a video playing in that one area to try to increase your conversion numbers? Forget about it.
If anything, we'd suggest making an extremely basic website that is simple and clean on a web builder, dedicating as little resources to it as possible, and then get a professional website built that is exactly to your liking.
Do you have a ton of money sitting in the bank set aside to pay your bills for the next three years? If so, than your best bet is to probably learn how to build your own website. However, you have to weigh the opportunity cost that it'll be costing you in order to do that. Building your own website isn't going to be one afternoon sitting down at the computer to learn how to code. This is due to the fact that for everything that you learn you end up having to learn about something else that you never even thought about. You may be able to learn how to code a simple website in a month, but now you have to learn how to actually get it up on the internet, which means you now have to learn about the back-end, which means learning about hosting services, changing name servers, Google Analytics implementation, adding a Facebook pixel for advertisement tracking purposes, how do I make the necessary updates so that my website remains secure, and I don't compromise the security of people who visit my site, and so on. So building a website isn't as simple as 'ok, I built that and now I'm done', it is a constant learning process, and educating yourself. If this is something that you aren't even close to considering it's best to source this out to a professional so that you can focus your time on what actually makes your business money. Unless your business is actually building websites don't waste your time building your own.
You could always use a web builder such as Square Space or Wix, but those have their own pitfalls which we highly suggest you read about here.
If you're already making money with your business then do not even think about wasting time creating your own website. You're already ahead of 90% of everyone else. Don't waste this momentum distracting yourself by learning how to code, and for the love of everything that is awesome do not get a Wix site. You're making money, show your customers that you're committed to this by creating a legitimate website, and not using the same template that the twelve year old kid Jimmy who sells lemonade from his driveway uses.
This is the answer that nobody likes, and that is, that it depends on what you want. Do you want a shopping cart? That's going to cost extra. Do you want fancy wiz bang things going on to create an engaging experience? That's going to cost you. Our websites start at $1,200, and that may appear like a lot to some people, but we take care of every single thing from purchasing the domain name to implementing Google Analytics and Search Console. Some companies charge extra for these features, but to us that doesn't make sense because you need those things to become successful, and if you're not successful than we're not successful. That's why we include all the basic SEO elements needed to get up and running.
The old adage "you get what you pay for" exists for a reason, and getting a website designed isn't immune to it. Can you get a website built for $100? I'm sure you can, but you also have to consider the value you're getting. If quality and customer service isn't something that is important to your brand then you are probably fine going with a $100 website to be honest.