How To Budget For Quality Website Development

Price will vary by the choices you make and your specific business needs. But, for the sake of simplifying it, we will categorize organizations like this: Non-Profit/Start Ups, Small Businesses and Mid-Sized Businesses and above. Here is a guide to help you  understanding why a great website costs money and where you can cut corners if resources are tight.

Non-Profits and Start Ups

A lot of times the budgets for these segments are very similar – Free or ridiculously low. “Can we get it for free, or donated?” But there are times to use a free WordPress theme or a service like SquareSpace Wix.

HOWEVER – Keep in mind that many of your supporters who give donations to your non-profit will visit your website and it needs to show legitimacy. Your users will judge your business’ credibility from your website’s design. This is HUGE and maybe some of your budget might actually be best invested in your website. Start Ups need to consider this as well. If you’re in an industry where you’ll need to “look the part” to gain an audience or be successful quickly – you’ll want to spend a large portion of your start up budget for your website and branding!

If you fall into either of these segments – you’ll want to budget anywhere from $1,500 – $15,000 for website development . This is such a wide range because most web design companies charge by the type of code they have to develop on, how many pages you’ll need and what type of features you want. In this range you can still get a great looking website (perhaps using a template) if you spend wisely.

Small Businesses

This segment includes the smaller companies who have invested in a small office space or some sort of brick ‘n mortar and have already started to sell. Your business can really take a huge step forward in your industry if your website is impressive and can be found on Google’s search results.

If you’ve already got a website that was a freebie or built by your nephew then you may consider investing in a re-design.

Budget-wise expect to invest anywhere from $7,500 – $40,000. Again – this price range will be influenced by your desired type of code, pages and features that you’ll need. Remember this is your livelihood, so don’t skimp. If you’re looking to sell products online – that budget could jump significantly based on the amount of products you’ll be listing. E-commerce is NOT cheap. For this price range you should be able to get a responsive website with 10 pages or more. Your social media links should be included with maybe a dynamic feed, a blog and perhaps even a custom theme to perfectly match your branding.

Mid-Sized Businesses and above

Businesses in this range typically have a marketing director to a whole department or team to manage their marketing online and offline. These companies typically already have a solid website but it may be out-of-date and needs to be coded to be mobile-friendly or more secure. 2 years is a lifetime in today’s Digital environment and businesses like this can’t afford to lose traffic or be hacked.

Even for a redesign you’ll probably need to budget anywhere upwards of $25,000. This budget may include custom coding and be affected by the amount of content you have on your existing site that needs to be migrated to your new site, plus whatever new features and content you’ll be needing.

The 4 phases of website development and the costs involved

Most firms only do 3 phases of web development, but that leaves out perhaps the most important part. Driving traffic. A great looking website is useless if nobody sees it. It’s a little like buying a brand new Armani suit and sitting alone in your bedroom on Friday night.


Strategy is the big difference between working with a freelance web developer and an agency. Of course nobody is good at EVERYTHING, so most one person development teams focus on the mechanics of building a website and not so much on how well it will sell products, build communities, get donations or generate leads.

The key components of Strategy are the Competitive Analysis and Messaging. The way this works is an organization identifies who their competitors are.  Be careful, the big mistake many organizations make is that it’s not about who YOU think your competitors are, but who your CUSTOMERS think your competitors are.

Then once you have identified your competitors, you need to look at their strengths and weaknesses, then create messaging for your website that communicates what it is that you do differently and more importantly BETTER than your competitors.

Non-Profit/Start Ups: $0 – $2500

Small Businesses: $2,500 – $9,500

Mid-Sized Businesses and above: $10,000 +

Design and Content Creation

Design has several components. The first thing people think of with design is the look and feel of the website. This is VERY important because your website is the first point of contact people have with your business. Nobody comes down to your office, attends an event, or buys a product without visiting your website first.

Equally important is Content Creation. This is comes in 2 forms. Imagery and text. One big mistake many inexperienced designers make is they use images to explain. The purpose of the imagery is to get people’s attention and the text is for explaining. Both are vital to a successful website. Often Creative Directors and Copywriters are the highest paid people in an agency because great content makes big money.

Then there is what goes on behind the scenes. UX/UI. These words stand for User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI). Web Design is how pretty the website looks. This of course is VERY important, but even more important is how the website performs and how much money it makes. UX and UI Design factors in elements like Call To Action (CTA), Buttons, Pop-ups, Bounce rate, Time on page, Color Theory, Gamification and much more.

Non-Profit/Start Ups: $0. – $2,500

Small Businesses: $2,500 – $12,000

Mid-Sized Businesses and above: $12,000+


The two parts of the coding process are Front-end Development and Back-end Development.

Front-end Development is where we make the website look like your designs. It involves everything website visitors see and interact with. It starts as soon as the design is ready and often requires QA testing to ensure the quality of the product. The main factors influencing the front-end cost are website responsiveness, how it displays or adapts to tablets and mobile devices and the complexity of the design and animations.

Back-end Development or server-side is the heart of your website that makes all the main features work. Back-end comes into a play – for example – when users click a button to finalize their registration and returns completed or failed registration attempt. That form is really just a bunch of code that’s visualized by browsers and not able to perform the end function. If you want a website that’s something more than just a group of great looking pages, the back-end will take a great portion of the final website creation cost.

Content management systems like Shopify, WordPress, Drupal, etc. can reduce development hours and reduce the required cost to build a website.

Non-Profit/Start Ups: $1500 – $9,500

Small Businesses: $2,500 – $14,000

Mid-Sized Businesses and above: $15,000+.

Marketing, SEO and Maintenance

This is the most overlooked part of the development process. Once the website is launched many people feel like they are finished. But without marketing and SEO to drive traffic, having a great looking website like buying a brand new Armani suit and sitting alone in your bedroom on Friday night.

Website maintenance is VERY important too. This is the act of regularly checking your website for issues and mistakes and keeping it updated and fresh. This needs to be done on a consistent basis in order to keep your website healthy, encourage continued traffic growth, and strengthen your SEO and Google rankings.

It’s easy for small businesses, non-profits and startups with limited budgets to cut corners and let a few tasks slide. Website maintenance can easily become one of those things as it doesn’t always present immediate issues. However, just like your health can fall apart if you go too long without a regular check up, so can the health of your website.

Non-Profit/Start Ups: $99 – $1,500 per month

Small Businesses: $1,500 – $30,000 per month

Mid-Sized Businesses and above: $15,000+