Why Do Website Design Costs Vary So Much?

Mychelle Blake
Website designers discussing web design

Hiring a designer to make a website can be a confusing process. This is especially true in terms of cost as prices can vary widely.

Website Design Service Pricing

When you receive a quote for a website, there are many factors involved in how price was determined. It's helpful to understand more about the numbers to know if you're getting a good deal. To get an idea of average pricing, you can expect to pay:

  • Up to $3,000 or more for a simple "brochure" site
  • $2,000 to $10,000 plus for a website with a CMS (content management system)
  • $2,500 to $10,00 or more for an e-commerce site
  • $25,000 to $100,000 and up for an enterprise site for a large business

Agency Versus Freelancer

You can hire a freelancer or a full-service agency for most websites. Even a large, extensive site can be done by a freelancer who may subcontract some of the work. The pricing for both will vary as you are paying for one person when using a freelancer. A freelancer usually works remotely and has lower overhead than an agency, which needs to charge more to cover administrative costs, rent, and multiple salaries.

Hourly Versus Project

There are different ways to estimate project costs, and usually this is done based on the designer's preference if it's a freelancer, whereas an agency is most likely to provide a project cost.

  • In an hourly estimate, you are provided with an hourly rate and estimated number of hours it should take to do the work. If the work goes over that period, there is usually an agreement to review this prior to continuing so the project doesn't unexpectedly cost much more than you thought.
  • In a project estimate, the freelancer or agency has looked at the different aspects of the site and determined it will take then a certain amount of time and created an overall price that covers their overhead and the cost of paying their staff.

One method over the other doesn't necessarily mean a higher rate. An average hourly rate for a designer is $40 to $75 per hour, though experienced designers can charge even more.

Custom Versus Customization

Some designers build fully customized sites from "scratch." Others take an existing theme and make customizations to create a design that meets your needs. A fully customized site is likely to cost much more, and it's not necessarily because it takes longer. You are paying for a designer with a higher level of skill and experience with coding. On average, a custom WordPress site can run from $1,500 to $5,000 for a site with basic features, and $6,0000 to $10,000 for a site involving more complex features. Sites for large businesses and corporations can run $30,000 or more because of the level of programming involved.

Front-End Versus Back-End

The front-end of a site refers to what you see when looking or interacting with the site. The back-end refers to all programming and coding going on to run the site, including databases. Depending on the needs of your site, you may have to hire either someone with experience in both or different freelancers who can work on each end for you. If you are using an agency, they will usually have people with both skill sets already on staff.

Website Features

What do you need your website to do? If you're looking for a site that's interactive with features such as scheduling, a login, e-commerce, forums, SEO (search engine optimization), or anything beyond a simple brochure site, your price is going to go up. Likewise if you are looking for a stunning design, you may pay a lot more for a designer with that type of portfolio. Some website features can seem like they are easily added, such as WordPress plugins, and you assume this shouldn't cost as much. However, many of these require customization work and may incur a higher cost because there is more involved than simply activating a plugin. Another feature is design work that may involve software such as Adobe Photoshop or video editing, which requires another skill set you will have to pay for.

What Does a Website Cost?

It's difficult to answer this question as pricing can be all over the map. Every designer charges based on their own needs and therefore, you can solicit bids for a small 5 to 10 page WordPress website and receive prices from $100 to $3,000. A person just starting out, or in a country with a different exchange rate, may be willing to charge less compared to someone very experienced who can charge a premium for their services. Ultimately, you need to look at all the pricing and find the designer who's the best fit for you while reviewing their numbers to understand how their bid was developed.

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Why Do Website Design Costs Vary So Much?