Web Design Prices & Return on Investment

Calculating the cost of a website


The most common question I get asked as a web designer is “how much does a website cost?”. My answer, depending on my current mood and who I'm talking too, is either “It depends...” or “The same price as a length of string”.

Websites, like my Gran's old bag of string, come in all shapes and sizes from single page micro-sites to online stores with millions of customers every day. A website for a local electrician or handy man service is going to be considerably less involved than a corporate website or online store.

So how much does a website cost...

Doing it for yourself

The cheapest way to build a website is to do it yourself. Anyone with a small amount of IT knowledge can get a presence online using website builders like Wix or by using off the shelf website templates and themes.

Building your own site can give you a terrific sense of achievement, the opportunity to learn new skills and get you online for a small outlay. The downsides to doing it yourself include the time it takes and technical headaches. The big question is will the website do it's job and get your message to your target audience?

Hiring a professional

A website for your hobby or personal blog is less of a critical investment than a website for your business. Making mistakes on a site that only has a couple of visitors a month is fairly inconsequential but overlooking something on a website that is central to your business can effect your income drastically.

That is where hiring a professional comes into it's own. A professional designer knows what works and what doesn't work, they know how to get your message or product out to the world.

The challenge in creating a new website is not in how awesome the website looks it is how the website performs.

Freelance or Agency?

Working with a professional doesn't need to be expensive and the long term benefit to your business can make the initial investment worthwhile. A good agency or freelancer will be able to develop a website that attracts customers, increases your conversion rate and boosts revenue.

Before you contact design agencies or freelancers think carefully about the website you need. Are you after a simple four or five page website advertising your business or do you require a complete ecommerce solution? Do you need to add content like blog posts, articles and news stories yourself, in which case you will need an easy to use Content Management System.

When you contact the agency explain to them exactly what you want to achieve from your website. If you are working to a limited budget be upfront about it. Agencies and especially freelancers may be able to offer a low cost web design package to get you started or help you tailor your requirements to fit the budget.

Freelance & Agency Prices

Generally the cost of a website relates to the time it takes to design and develop the website multiplied by the hourly rate of the designers. The length of time a website takes to complete depends upon a number of factors including:

  • Design: Is it a bespoke design or a customised off the shelf template? Do you have branding in place, for example logos, images, colour schemes and typography?
  • Content: Will you provide written content or do you need to hire a copywriter? How many pages will there be on your website? Do you need photography or will you be able to provide stock images?
  • Development: Will your website be a simple brochure style website, have a complex structure or require custom programming? Do you need image galleries, online sales, database and search functionality or third party software integration?

Freelance Prices

Freelance designers and developers can be a cost effective way of getting your project completed. Using a freelancer has the advantage of a single point of contact and the benefit of a personal touch from a one-to-one relationship.

There can be downsides to using a freelancer for your project as freelancers are usually focused on one or two areas and may not have all the skills necessary to deliver complex projects.

Hourly rates for independent designers can vary tremendously from £20.00 per hour for a junior designer to £50.00 - £80.00 for an experienced individual (source: Cole Henley's Freelance Survey Rates 2014).

Design Agency Prices

In comparison with freelancers, an agency will usually have a team to work on your project. Different members of the team will handle different aspects of the project including designers, developers, content writers, search engine optimisation specialists and marketers.

The downside to an agency is the cost. Agencies have higher overheads such as office space and staffing costs. Websites created by an agency will typically cost at least 50% more than the price from a freelancer.

Website Return On Investment

Websites, like other assets, can be an expensive investment but they can also be a huge benefit to your business. Whether your business is investing in a new website, purchasing a vehicle or renting property you need to be able to measure the cost and benefit of your purchase.

Calculating the cost of your website

The first step in calculating the value of a website to your business is to ascertain the total costs of the site. The total cost is the initial design and development plus any ongoing costs including web hosting, domain name, SSL certificates, marketing and admin.

Let's take Bob as an example, Bob has commissioned an agency to design and develop a website for his new Replica Football Shirt business. The total costs for Bob's website can be broken down as:

Website Cost: £4500.00
Domain Name: £10.00
SSL Certificate: £190.00
Web Hosting: £100.00
Marketing: £1200.00
Total Cost: £6000.00

Calculating your Return On Investment

Return On Investment (ROI) is used to evaluate the profit earned from your business investments or assets. The ROI formula is calculated by subtracting the Investment Cost from the Investment Revenue and then dividing it by the Investment Cost.

ROI = (Investment Revenue – Investment Cost) / Investment Cost

Going back to Bob and his Replica Football Shirts, after his first year of trading Bob has made £15,000 from the sale of his shirts. So his ROI can be calculated as follows:

ROI = (£15,000 – £6,000) / £6000

Which gives Bob a Return on Investment of 150%.

Investing in your website and your business

The challenge in creating a new website is not in how awesome the website looks it is how the website performs. Does your website bring in new customers and increase your revenue or have you spent your time, effort and money on a white elephant that doesn't provide a return on investment?

Whatever your budget you need to carefully consider the costs and benefits of your new website. A website built for free by you friend's sister's son who “knows about computers” may sound like a better proposition than paying £2000 to a professional designer but will the site ever achieve it's potential?

The difference between a cheap website and the price for a bespoke website might seem high on the face of it. Over time, however, the extra expense for a great site will produce dramatically better results, which will translate into increased profit.

Design is that competitive advantage that sets a company apart in the global market. Within the global economy, the highest performing companies see design as a strategic asset. It becomes the core to their businesses. For those companies, design is more than aesthetics—it’s competitive intellectual property.

Monika Conway

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