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How much does a brand’s website cost?

A simple overview of the real costs of building a functional and attractive website with real value — for your brand and its customers

Websites are EXPENSIVE! No wait, you can build them yourself for CHEAP! The reality is: both are true. But how much does a brand need to spend to get a practical, functional website that builds the brand and drives leads and revenue? There is no one-price-fits-all. If you’re in the market for a brand new branded website, read on!

What do you need your website to do?

The cost of a brand’s website really depends on what you expect the site to achieve for your business — and whether or not you have the time and ability and to build it yourself. 

There are a lot of things websites can do for a brand:

  • Inform visitors about your brand
  • Allow for two-way communication between your brand and its customers
  • Display your products or services and proof of their value 
  • Distinguish between your brand and its competitors in a compelling way
  • Sell your products or services and collect money
  • Guide users through an interactive creative experience that is informative or inspiring
  • Provide calculations or information to help customers perform specific tasks themselves
  • Capture leads for your business to nurture into sales

First determining the functions of the site that are critical to the business is essential. With this decision made, you can then consider the right tools for the job, and how they’ll fit into your budget. As you can imagine, if you need your site to simply explain who you are, what you do, and how to contact you, that could potentially be done with a do-it-yourself, drag-and-drop website builder. However, if you are selling products that must be custom configured from a host of other parts, that could demand some rather complex coding, especially if you’re taking those orders online in concert with an ERP or CRM. 

Now that you’ve decided what’s most important for your business, let's consider if you can do it yourself or if you’ll need to outsource.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional or a Digital Agency

Drag-and-drop platforms won’t break the bank

Template-based, do-it-yourself website builders have not only proliferated in recent years, but they’ve also become much more sophisticated. Tools like Squarespace and WIX work for small businesses with straightforward website needs with budget concerns. On the high-end, these platforms are around $50 a month, which is a bargain when you consider they usually include hosting, unlimited storage, and limited integration with popular web applications. So, why wouldn’t you take the rugged individualist’s route with pricing like that? 

Associated activities and their costs

Building a website is only one part of building a digital ecosystem, which has become essential in our business culture. This is where the “it depends” part of the equation hits hard. 

DIY website builders will definitely allow you to integrate video, social media channels, and ways to offer an online store, but do you understand how to build this architecture?

What about getting your website found by customers? Building a fantastic website is not unlike throwing the most fabulous party imaginable — out in the desert. You may have a killer band, top-shelf drinks, and a celebrity chef on hand, but how are you going to ensure that enough people know about the party? How will you coordinate all the logistics to make it a thriving, self-funding event? This is where mastery of search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. SEO isn’t something you build after you create your website, it’s something you plan for before and during your website development. 

And what about website design and language? If you’re in a crowded industry segment, being unique, distinct, and compelling is no small task. Are you going to rely on a library of template solutions to craft something “unique?” Of course not. Do you have graphic design skills? Better said, do you have digital design skills that understand how to parlay a brand’s identity across various platforms on this digital ecosystem? Are you going to rely on Canva to create your digital assets? On a fundamental level, do you know what content is going to go where and why?  

Of course, this assumes your brand already has a research-backed, customer-centric, well-designed and considered identity. 

Let’s be clear here: The hard costs for building a DIY site can be very low; less than $100 a month. But the time involved can be massive; time that you will be spending away from your core business tasks. How much of that time will be time you (or team members) will spend learning the basic functionality of tools, the underlying principles of SEO, collecting high quality stock imagery or commissioning a creative to develop, or how to integrate all of these assets together? In this case, time is money. Perhaps, a great deal of money. 

The Case for a Digital Agency

A basic website with a home page, “about us” page, a way to deliver blog posts, a contact page, and a feature page or two with basic integrations could cost as little as $500 to $3,000 with a competent digital freelancer. A digital agency, however, with demonstrated proof of developing SEO-compliant, creatively relevant, and scalable websites with multiple integrations could quickly run from $8,000 on up. If you have sub-brands, multiple product lines, or other layers to your brand that require many pages, you’ll be well into five-figures. Layer on top of that an integrated marketing and communications technology stack, data basing needs and advanced animation and motion graphics and you’re looking at six. Layer on top of that multiple languages and world-class highly competitive SEO and you are at the million dollar mark. 

Why so expensive? You’re dealing with a team, first of all, each of whom will have specialized expertise: the SEO expert who also understands analytics as well as front and backend strategies will most likely not be the designer. The designer will not necessarily be responsible for architecting the user experience (UX) of the site or engineering its CMS. However, these teams are designed to function as a cohesive unit; in other words, they all work within a context defined by your brand's need.

You’ll also get a completely custom build, not a commoditized solution born of a template. Even if you already have strong brand identity guidelines created, the experience your customers will have will be unlike other experiences on other sites in your industry — assuming you’ve selected a needs-focused team.

How do you keep those costs under control? 

Limiting the number of hours the agency spends on “discovery” (getting up-to-speed on your customers and industry) and brand design will go a long way toward keeping the costs reasonable. Limiting the complexity of the experience, the number of pages or page-types and the amount of content will help reign in cost as well. But first, always consider goals and objectives. 

  • Start with a clear statement of intent
    • Remember our first big question at the start of this article? If you’ve clearly and succinctly defined what the site needs to accomplish and how, this will limit the time the agency spends getting you to articulate it. Many agencies (BS LLC, among them) will charge for workshops and discovery sessions to help clients who struggle with this definition. The less clearly stated, the more work for all of us. 
  • Have a clear customer journey defined
    • Work with your sales team to clarify how your most successful sales originated and how they flowed through the marketing and sales funnels. How and where did customers find you? What problem did they have that you solved? How did your solution beat out competitors? What were the final details in the purchase process that you made easy for the customer? Clarifying this will help minimize the time the agency will need to design the UX and workflows. 
  • Define a comprehensive brand identify
    • This is actually a separate business for many agencies, but one that is often blended into a website project out of necessity. It’s also potentially very expensive; you can expect to pay from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the market your brand inhabits. Ideally, you’ll at least have a brand style guide that dictates how your brand should be represented across various media. Brand guidelines should cover every visual element of your brand and also address essential language elements such as your specific features and benefits. If you don’t have this critical resource, be prepared to create it “on the fly” through the website creation process, or be equally prepared for an agency to quote you a separate cost and timeline to define it before the website project begins.
  • Define brand messaging
    • At BS LLC, we view brand messaging as an integral part of brand identity. However, not all brands come to us with this component defined. Brand messaging should begin with a clear customer definition, what their problem or need is, how your brand addresses that need functionally, and how you speak to it conceptually. Without this information, any copy written during the website creation process runs the risk of speaking with a different “voice” than the rest of your brand’s materials. This is bad because a brand that sounds different across social media, sales literature, and their website will appear scattered at best and untrustworthy at worst.

You pay for differentiation, relevance, and convenience

There you have it. Doing it yourself means a  relatively meager monthly expenditure with a high amount of internal time and a potentially steep learning curve. A competent freelancer will get you a functional site that may or may not be differentiating, that you will need to shepherd and “feed” after it's built. A site built by a proven digital agency will be unique and relevant to your business and customers but come at a premium.

At BS LLC, we’re focused on business-building strategy and design; that means everything we build is informed by thought and purpose. We value highly-engaged customers that have answered many of the questions we’ve posed at the outset but who are open to discovery as we dig deeper into the market. 

We invite you to give us a call, write us an email, or ping us on Instagram or LinkedIn if you’re exploring a new digital home for your brand. See why clutch.co pegged us as the No. 1 B2B branding agency in our home state of Ohio. We’ll happily deliver the same effective work for you, no matter where you live or work!