A loaded question, yes, but one which answer is going to vary depending on who is asking and what exactly they are looking for.

Asking a web designer, ‘how much will it cost for you to design and build my website’ is a little like asking an architect how much it would cost to design your dream home and have it built.

No house build is the same as any other and the same is true of web design – at least, bespoke web design.

If your business is centred around your website, and these days that is invariably true, then you should be prepared to put in the same kind of investment for your online presence as your bricks and mortar business.

Building a website is like fitting out a shop
The cost of physical shop far outweighs the cost of an online shop

You would not say to your shop fitters, ‘here’s £500, make me the best store on the high street’. Or at least, you would not expect it to actually happen! We all know what would happen – you would get exactly the kind of work your team would be prepared to do for that amount of money – not a lot.

That kind of money would, just, pay the wages of one of the fitters for a week. But what about everybody else involved? The electricians, plasterers, surveyor, labourers, standards inspection, Health & Safety… the list, of course, goes on. Then there are materials to source, suppliers to pay and not forgetting the planning stages are going to push everything beyond just one week of work.

With a physical property everybody accepts that a large investment is going to be needed to get things done, and done the way you need them to be done. A website is not much different, but instead of shop fitters and suppliers you have designers, developers and technical architects. Instead of rent to think about, you have hosting fees.

If you want your business to truly shine in today’s world, and what sensible business person doesn’t, then you are going to need to hire true professionals.

A strong, beautiful website which attracts and retains customers is not an easy thing to build. You are not looking at a small investment – both of time and money – to tap into the expertise to make your project a success.

Pay bargain basement prices and hope for the best!

Websites say a lot about a business and instantly communicate a message to your customers. Do you really want to pay bargain basement prices for a website, that is going to represent the bulk if not the entirety of your business and reputation, and hope for the best? Generic, modular websites that can be pieced together in a couple of hours are a penny a dozen, and there are plenty of sites and companies that offer these for free.

If you are trading out of your bedroom, with little to invest other than time and energy, then these services are perfect for you – however, for more established or serious businesses they will fall far short of your needs.

If you do intend to sell services or products from your site, then you are going to require e-commerce functionality; including payment gateway integration and shopping cart functionality.

Another thing to consider, and one that people very often forget, is that website design is a service and not a product. There are many elements involved in website design, that come together in such a seamless way as to make it seem as though the finished article is one polished piece – which, of course, is it how it should be.

Bespoke website design services

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to web design, so simply asking the question, how much does a website cost will very likely return blank stares or just more questions than you were probably prepared to answer yourself. The first question, of course, is not how much it costs, but what do we need?

An important distinction to also keep in mind is that designing a website is not the same thing as ‘theming’ a website – effectively taking a pre-existing solution and slapping a logo here, a little brand colour there.

Professional website themes can bring some very nice aesthetics to an existing site, and can even bring added functionality if done correctly, but the thing to remember is that they are just themes; and generic ones at that.

Themed websites are like wearing the same dress to a party as someone else.
A themed website is like wearing the same dress as somebody else

No matter how much the theme designer allows for customisation and tweaking, there are going to be multitudes of other sites that have the same or similar setup. And if you happen to be in the same niche as them… Well, you can imagine how unprofessional that would look. You think it’s embarrassing turning up a party wearing the same outfit as somebody else? Imagine how it would look if a prospective client visits your site after checking out another provider, just to see that your approach is just the same? And, of course, it opens the legal minefields of copyright and plagiarism – it could all get very uncomfortable.

Bespoke websites take time and extremely careful planning, and the whole process is something of an art form in and of itself.

Ultimately a website is worth the time, effort and expertise that is put into it and at least two of these are going to depend rather heavily on the needs of the customer.

Whatever your specific needs, every business is after the same thing from their website that can take time and effort to properly implement.

  • · Easy management. First and foremost, almost before any other consideration, you are going to need to be able to update your site yourself or a dedicated member of your team rather than forever depend on a site engineer. This is where a content management system (CMS) will come to pay dividends.

Implemented properly by your web design team, your CMS solution will be everything you need to update and edit your website yourself (or at least, pass it off to your mate Barry in return for a biscuit).

  • · SEO ‘Compatible’. Everything on the internet is SEO compatible, but what we mean here is that a professional design team will make it as easy as possible for you to implement your SEO strategy yourself, and populate the most important elements of your site with appropriate tags and descriptions for your business niche.
  • · Marketing. Making sure that the search engines can find you, and making it easy for them to index your website, goes far beyond simple SEO techniques. Search engines like HTML code to be written in a certain way, and are now favouring responsive websites – sites designed to display across different devices.
Responsive web design built to look beautiful on an iPad and iPhone
Responsive web design built to display across different devices

Ensuring your site code is clean and properly constructed is going to help your marketing strategy because the search engines are going to index your updated pages that little more quickly.

Answering the big question then, as you can see, is a little more complicated than first thought. How much you are going to spend, is going to be governed by your needs and there is no quick answer for you.

What should you budget for your website?

But let’s not kid ourselves, an all performing website with all the trimmings (social sharing implementation, commenting systems, contact forms with a working backend, responsive design so it looks just as fabulous on smartphones and tablets as it does on a PC screen) is not going to be ‘dirt cheap’. You should be looking to invest something in the region of £3-£4k.

If you need an online shop then you should be planning for a budget of around £7-8k.

This will give you a good E-commerce website, enabling your customers to purchase your goods or services online with merchant services such as sagepay or paypal.

If you are looking toward the future, and wanting to give your business the best possible advantage with an all singing, all dancing website then a full feature package is what you are looking at. And all this extra functionality will need to be factored in as additional work to the above costs.

When you look at the above figures, keep in mind that most successful businesses would be looking to easily recoup that kind of investment within the first few months. With a professionally designed and developed website, you should be too.

Going back to the bricks & mortar example, you wouldn’t expect the build team to just take your money and walk away once the job was done. Would you? You shouldn’t expect your web designers to do that either.

If you invest in the expertise of professional web designers and developers then you and your business will reap the rewards and see your website flourish. Like most things in life, you ‘get what you pay for’ – and a professional web presence will give you a huge advantage.

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