Custom Web Design Costs Explained

If you’re like most business owners, you’re completely lost when it comes to understanding the intricacies of your website. You get how it works, but you’re clueless when it comes to how the pieces are put together, what goes into the process, and where your budget is going.

If this sounds a little too familiar, don’t worry—you came to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll help you plan out your project from start to finish and try to illuminate a few of the costs of custom web design.

Forecasting Your Custom Web Design Costs

Broadly, your custom web design costs will include

  • Design and layout
  • Number of pages in your website
  • Content creation
  • Add-on features
  • Hosting
  • Ongoing maintenance

Below, we’ll run through each of these costs and give you an idea of what they might be.

And before we continue, we have to offer this disclaimer: Custom web design costs vary across each project. It’s the nature of the beast. We’d love to look into our crystal ball and tell you exactly how much your website will cost you, but there are just too many variables to consider.

While we can’t tell you exactly what you’ll end up paying, we can give you a rundown of custom web design costs and what you can expect before meeting with your developer.

The Costs of Freelancers vs. Web Design Agencies

Depending on the size of your project, your first decision will be between working with an individual developer or a team. Smaller projects are typically simple enough that not much project management is required, and the chances that one person will have the required skillset to accomplish everything are fair. But as your project complexity goes up, the scale quickly flips heavily in favor of working with a web design agency.

Solo Web Designers

Solo developers can vary greatly in terms of web development experience. They’re typically affordable for solopreneurs and small businesses, but the final product is limited to the skills of the developer. Because you work with an individual, it’s more hit or miss than when working with a company—ultimately, you’re working with an individual person who has his/her own personality and work ethic and isn’t accountable to other team members. If you find a good solo developer, treat it like gold. As for pricing, that can range greatly, but most often you’re looking at starting prices of about $50 to $100 per hour, but could go much higher depending on experience.

Web Development Agencies

Agencies have the advantage of combining the talents of multiple experts in service of your project. Even a basic website build requires developers, graphic designers, and copywriters, all of whom can be coordinated by the agency.

Pricing varies, but starting prices often range around $100-$150 per hour, whereas more experienced agencies may start around $150-$250 per hour.

For both solo web designers and agencies, pricing is typically based on an hourly fee, but the end project might actually be billed as a flat rate or some sort of per unit rate (e.g., per page, per feature, etc.).

Planning Your Web Design

With your developer options established, let’s dig into the costs of your actual web design project.

Of course, before you can predict your final website costs, you have to understand what your site’s purpose is.

  • Are you a B2B company relying on a drawn-out sales funnel that engages prospects over time?
  • Are you a small business looking to add a simple eCommerce component to your web presence?
  • Will you need a blog? Additional services? Ongoing hosting and maintenance?

Perform these early evaluations on your own time, well ahead of any developer meetings. While a great web development company will walk you through these questions, you’ll want to have some idea of what you need beforehand. With your own evaluations and your developers’ input, they’ll be able to build out a sitemap and give you an estimate of your project’s costs, based on their own pricing models.

In our experience, the most basic web design (without any bells and whistles) starts out in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Costs go up from there, depending on the features you need and what non-basic services you choose.

Website Build and Custom Web Design Costs

With your sitemap in hand, your developers can get to work.

There’s a lot that goes into this process—such as determining a layout, finding an optimal navigation strategy, and picking a visual style that aligns with your brand—all while creating a great user experience.

This is where your costs can really add up. Think back to your site’s goals and what features you need:

  • eCommerce/shopping integrations
  • Animated sliders and graphical elements
  • Custom social integrations
  • Content Management System (for example, WordPress)
  • Add-ons and plugins

Most websites end up using a few elements, but you probably won’t need them all. Remember, extensive functionality increases your web development investment. Look at which components are necessary for your audience and map them into your overall budget.

Content Creation

Aside from the page construction itself, your developers will spend time building out your on-site assets. For most sites, this means website copy, images, and graphic design that ties everything together.

Website Copy

If you’re working with a web design agency, you won’t need to worry too much about finding copywriters. Most web development agencies have trusted writers working in-house and can provide copywriting services for an additional fee.

However, if you’re tackling the process with freelancers, you might find that his/her writing skills aren’t up to par. You might need a dedicated copywriter to bring your site to life. The price of copywriters varies widely, depending on where you find them (e.g., Phillippines vs. U.S.) and the copywriter’s level of experience and ability. They also may charge on a per-word, per-page, or per-hour basis. Here’s a quick estimate of these costs for beginner/foreign writing services, typical professional rates, and top agencies:

  • Per-word: $0.005–$0.02; $0.12–$0.20; $0.50+
  • Per-page: $5.00;
  • Per-hour: $3.00–$5.00; $60–$90; $200+

Graphics and Design

Your designers will incorporate plenty of visual elements into your website, including images and animated elements. They’ll take all of your website content and apply the rules of visual design to create beautiful, eye-catching layouts.

Once again, your web development agency will incorporate these costs into their service rates. Graphic design is crucial to website development, and few agencies operate without at least one or two design experts in-house.

And just like with copywriters, most business websites need dedicated graphic designers to tie everything together. If you go with a freelancer, expect to pay based on either an hourly or per-page basis:

  • Average hourly rates: $50 to $100
  • Per-page: $500 to $1,000

Ongoing Costs

Your website build will be a one-time cost, but it’s not the only cost you must figure into your budget. Here’s a quick primer on the most common ongoing costs.

Hosting and DNS Management

Hosting fees vary widely, depending on the amount of bandwidth you need and the disk space required to provide a stable website experience.
The cheapest options include hosting services such as GoDaddy or HostGator. These lower-level registrars offer domain names starting around $5/month. However, these fees increase as more features are added. Most small business owners going with these cheaper services will pay $60 to $120 annually.

The same applies to DNS management of your domain. Options like CloudFlare and Edgecast are popular, offering basic service packages for as little as $20 per month.

Of course, you can also go with bigger options such as Rackspace, Google, or Amazon Web Services. These providers offer more extensive functionality and are common choices for enterprise businesses, but they do offer some affordable, pay-as-you-go IT solutions for smaller businesses and startups.

We’ve found that the cheapest options for this level of provider will cost you about $5 to $10 per month, with a high upper limit. But remember, cheaper is not always better. You ultimately get what you pay for and by spending a little extra ( hosting starts at around $35/month), you can get a much better hosting environment and support.

API Fees

Depending on what additional features your website has, there may be other fees to consider. For example, Google APIs (such as Google Maps) charge variable fees based on usage. In short, the more demand you put on their servers, the more they’ll charge.

You’ll also have separate fees for your payment-processing APIs. Stripe, for example, charges a flat rate for every transaction made. There are many ongoing fees like this, depending on the type of website.

Some of these costs can be tough to swallow, but we’ve found that it helps to think of your web presence as more of an ongoing investment rather than a product that gets delivered. Ongoing fees are a part of the process, so shop around for the deals that keep your costs low.

Summarizing the Costs

With all the above in mind, let’s recap.

  • Planning and Setup: Planning your strategy, determining your target audience, and coordinating with your developer to create a sitemap
  • Page Creation and Add-on Integration: Building out each page, integrating custom features
  • Content Creation: Creating web copy and assembling graphic design elements
  • Ongoing Costs: Calculating hosting, server, and API fees

In web development, you get out what you put in. It’s not easy to predict the cost of a website, but you can get an idea by looking at each piece individually and factoring each cost into your total budget. If you’re interested in going beyond estimates and receiving a more detailed quote, contact us here.