No matter who you are, no matter what business you have, no matter whether you’re operating locally or on a global scale – if you don’t have a website, you’re competing with one hand tied behind your back. Not only can a website be your business’ main marketing tool, but it can also form an integral part of your client relationship management and daily operations.

While CMSs, such as WordPress, Shopify, etc. have made developing a website easy and affordable, there is only so much you can do in terms of custom features and design. For a real bespoke solution that matches all your requirements and business goals, a custom-built site, thanks to a professional website development agency is the way to go.

However, a lack of clarity regarding how website development costs are calculated might leave you wondering whether it’s worth the price. Read on to find out more about what goes into building a website and why some sites cost more than others.

What factors affect the cost of a website?

Although estimating the cost of a website is highly dependent on the situation, several influential factors affect the scope of the project and thereby narrow down the cost.

Using a CMS/website builder

CMS makes updating a website easy to update even for non-technical people. And, if it’s something you want to do and have time for, it’s easier to manage your website content using the CMS interface. Expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 and up for a typical site with several pages, features, and a robust design.


However, the big downside is that a CMS inevitably limits you in terms of customizability and complexity. Even with a top designer, the website could still have a familiar feel to others built using the same themes, plugins, or platform. While you can develop custom widgets or implement custom styles, these will drive up your end price and make ongoing management of the site harder.

Website features:

A modern, professional website does not just consist of a number of well-designed pages with enough text and images to fill the blanks. Even the most uncomplicated websites may use many features. Common features for most websites today include:

  • Multiple contact forms for newsletters, subscribers, etc.
  • Profile registration which includes login, profile, settings, and other pages
  • Live chat or chatbot widgets
  • Community forum
  • Database integration
  • Social media widgets or sharing buttons
  • Mobile responsiveness and features, such as click-to-call
  • E-commerce capabilities

Each of these may add to the overall development time, increasing the cost of the website. Certain features, like e-commerce or account management capabilities, are massive, taking a lot of time and effort to implement. Depending on how extensive you want them to be, they may make up the majority of your website cots.

Website design

This is probably the hardest quality of a website to quantify. As a rule of thumb, the more time and effort goes into the design, the more polished, professional, and unique it will look. Of course, the more time and effort goes into your design, the higher the cost of the website will be.

However, even when it comes to design, there are specific features that can affect the price. For example, do you want animations or loading, hovering, and scrolling effects? Do you want to move 3D graphics or haptic feedback?

After consulting you on the type of look you’re after, the design team can come up with an estimated cost per page or hourly rate. Specific boutique web design agencies focus on delivering groundbreaking designs, and with services like these, the overall design might carry more weight when calculating the total costs.

Another factor is whether website design will also include branding, such as creating websafe logos, banners, etc.

Enterprise-grade web applications

Depending on your business requirements, you may need a website that integrates with new or existing business applications, such CRM, ERP, or BPM software. Examples are Microsoft Dynamics 365, Netsuite, or SAP.

You might also need a built-in portal with different security levels or features for employees, clients, management, etc. Needless to say, this type of product is orders of magnitude more complex than simple business websites meant to funnel traffic, blogs, or online stores. It may require various cycles of consultation as well as an in-depth assessment of your existing technological stack, obstacles, and goals.

How much should I budget?

Now that we’ve established some of the most influential factors when it comes to the cost of building a website, let’s try some hypotheticals:

  • Basic business website using a CMS: $5,000 to $10,000.
  • CMS website with e-commerce and account management: $10,000+
  • Custom-build website business website with professional design and basic features: $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Custom-built website with e-commerce capabilities: $10,000+
  • Custom-built enterprise-grade solutions or custom integrations: $30,000+ depending on development complexity

While these are upfront costs, there might also be ongoing costs, depending on your agreement. Any website requires ongoing maintenance to stay secure and to remove any bugs that might emerge.

Unless you have an in-house team, you’ll probably also want some kind of technical support service. While this is also variable, expect to spend at least $2,000 a year in ongoing costs for a typical business site and $5,000 to $10,000 for an enterprise solution. This figure may or may not include your hosting, SSL certificates, and domain, although these aren’t typically major expenses.

What about SEO? Online Marketing? Content Development?

While entirely optional, many businesses and individuals today want to use their website as a marketing tool. Content is one of the primary ingredients of an SEO strategy, and the cost of the content itself can depend on several factors as well:

  • The number of articles or total word count
  • The types of content, such as blog articles, white papers, infographics, videos, etc.
  • The technical detail and complexity of the subject matter

You may come up with an agreement where you pay for an upfront delivery of content with your site, ongoing new content delivered consistently, or both. You may also want your website development agency to run PPC (pay per click), email marketing, or other campaigns for you.

For an all-encompassing, ongoing marketing service, you can expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 a month.

The bottom line

Because of all the possibilities of what can go into a website today, there is no way to accurately predict what a custom-built site will cost without knowing your exact requirements. Anecdotal evidence suggests you should put aside in the region of $5,000 for a feature-rich and professional website with onboarding and initial maintenance expenses.

However, for a large online store or enterprise-grade solutions, the picture can change dramatically with initial costs upwards of $10,000 and thousands to tens of thousands a year in maintenance and ongoing services.