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Running a business

The Real Cost of Small Business Website Design

With much of the world online these days, small businesses must operate a website to meet their audiences across the internet. But how much will this essential asset cost small businesses? There are many factors you will need to consider when accounting for website costs.

Putting together a budget for your small business website design will help you identify what's needed to create business web pages and how much it'll cost in total. This article will explore these website expenses, including how much to build a website, average website cost, and cost of web hosting services.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website?

Various factors go into the price of building professional websites, such as the person making them, the hosting services used, ongoing website maintenance and so on. These costs range from one-off payments to ongoing monthly fees or annual service charges.

The average website cost, including website setup costs and maintenance and ongoing expenses, will vary. Business owners can choose to build their own website or hire a professional to do it for them.

It is easy to access web development building tools and services online that are either free or just a few hundred dollars- choosing from templates and themes to outfit a site yourself. However, for a custom-made and professional website, small businesses can look to a web designer, which typically costs over $5,000 and even up to $35,000, depending on the small business website’s size and functionality.

If you have the time and energy to learn how to build a small business website yourself, you can save on these website setup costs. But, you will still need to consider the effort attached to creating and maintaining the website. Monetizing your website is one way to help with the cost of maintaining the business site.

List of Website Expenses to Consider

When budgeting for the cost to build a business website, you’ll need to account for multiple factors. Below is a list of what you’ll need, the average cost of services, and the frequency of these associated expenses.

Templates, Themes, & Design Cost: $0 to $25,000, one-off and then every few years
Responsive Website Design Cost: $0 to $2000, one-off
Website Domain Cost: $5 to $10,000, per year
Website Hosting Cost: $30 to $800, / 10,000, per year
Ecommerce & Secure Payment Functionality Cost: $50 to $35,000, per year
SSL Certificate Cost:$0 to $1000, per year
Content Creation & Management Cost:$0 to $10,000, per month
SEO and PPC Cost:$0 to $1000, per month

Website Templates, Themes, and Design

The cost to build a website ranges in price depending on the service used. Small businesses can opt for a website building tool and do it themselves for a couple of hundred dollars, or they can hire a professional for backend programming and customization for tens of thousands of dollars. Each one comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Businesses can expect to pay the design costs as a one-off, ranging from a few dollars to a few hundreds when using website building tools, or tens of thousands of dollars if hiring a professional. That being said, it's always in the business' best interest to refresh their design every few years. The redesign doesn’t have to be as expensive as the first creation, so you won’t need to budget as much for updated designs.

Responsive Website Design

A responsive website design (RWD) is essential to user experience and your site’s visibility overall. RWD ensures that your web pages adjust appropriately to the user’s screen and window size. Since so many people use their mobile devices and tablets to browse the web, it’s essential to account for their user experience.

Mobile-friendly sites are also an important part of search engine optimization. Search engines, like Google, use RWD to rank sites for search visibility. Therefore, it’s vital that your site uses responsive website design to ensure a good user experience while increasing your search visibility overall.

Current web designs are almost always responsive. So if you are only just building a website now, you shouldn’t have to worry about this expense. However, if you are revitalizing an old website, you will almost certainly need to budget a few hundred or thousand dollars for this upgrade. Luckily, it is a one-off cost.

Website Domain

The price range of domains varies greatly depending on the type of name you want to use for your small business’s new website. Shorter words will cost more, while longer, more obscure names will cost less to secure. It depends on what you’re looking for.

Some website builders offer a free, non-customizable domain name that comes with their services. Then there are domain registrars that you can buy from, who often bundle in other website-related services.

The most expensive domain name was sold for $345 million. Fortunately, small businesses won’t need to shell out that amount of money. Browsing the available domains and domain variations- including .ca, .net, .org – can help you find one that won’t break your business bank account. Typically, small businesses can find decent domains for a few hundred dollars.

Securing domain names is an ongoing expense, as you’ll need to renew the name every year or couple of years to ensure ownership.

Website Hosting

So, how much does it cost to host a website? First, businesses will need to determine who'll host their website to gauge the price. Almost all website builder tools offer additional hosting services for their customers. Some domain registrars provide virtual private servers (VPS) along with the chosen domain. Then there are independent web hosting services that can be used.

On the other hand, businesses can build their own hosting platform on-premises or use cloud-based infrastructures like Amazon Web Services (AWS)Google Cloud Platform (GCP)Microsoft’s Azure, or Digital Ocean , to name a few.

Generally, larger companies build out their own infrastructure as it costs more upfront but offer greater scalability. Smaller businesses are better off hosting the website through their chosen website building tool, domain registrar, or third-party hosting companies. This way, you’ll just need to budget a few hundred dollars each year for this annual expense.

E-commerce and Secure Payment Functionality

Your business will need to possess e-commerce functionality to complete transactions online. Secure payment systems are part and parcel of that. Businesses will need to account for the cost of this functionality to create an online store.

You should anticipate the upfront costs of implementing this feature and ongoing costs for use, including a small, flat percentage charge, per transaction. Some website building tools will implement these costs into various packages. Your business can also look to bank merchant services, which offer integrations on e-commerce and combined physical point of sales (POS) systems.

SSL Certificate

The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate lets your customers know your site is secure through encryption. This is very important for the protection of credit cards and personal information used on your site. Many consumers won't use a site that doesn't have this certificate. All secure payment systems use encryption to ensure the security of sensitive data.

There's an annual fee for the certificate as issued by the certification authorities. Sometimes, the certificate is included as a gratuity by the domain registrar. However, SSL certificates do expire and must therefore be repurchased from the registrar every 3 months to 5 years, depending on the services.

Content Creation and Management

Content creation includes copywriting, photography and graphics, and other digital assets that will fill in the web pages of your site, including the landing pages and services and product pages. Your business will also need to produce content continuously to engage with audiences and keep your site relevant.

Therefore, content creation and management isn't a one-off cost, as there should be an ongoing budget allocated to this necessary part of business sites. To create consistent, high-quality content, you may want to hire someone for the role, use a content management system, or outsource to a freelance writer or marketing agency for website and social media content development. Plan to spend a few hundred dollars on this expense each month.


Optimizing content for high visibility online is key to a great business website. Businesses often use a combination of search engine optimization for organic search visibility and pay-per-click marketing for high paid search visibility.

Creating a marketing plan for yourself can help you identify what content your consumers like and what you should therefore aim to create. Hiring a designated SEO writer or PPC campaign manager who can help with these duties is a good idea if you have the budget for it. Otherwise, you might consider using a marketing agency to help you with these essential tools and social media content opportunities.

How Much Do Web Designers Charge?

Designing a small business website can be a huge undertaking. Many small and medium businesses turn to outside sources to help them with this task. If you don't have the knowledge or experience with programming and don't want to use a website builder, then you can hire a professional web developer to create your custom site.

When hiring a professional website designer, your overall website costs will rise, but so will your website’s quality and capabilities. If you do decide to hire a web designer, these factors will weigh heavily in the overall cost of design and development:

  • Having a customizable layout
  • Package updates/general security maintenance
  • Robust backup/restore for peace of mind/business continuity
  • Bandwidth usage
  • Server storage utilization
  • Page volume of the site
  • Creating custom images, graphics, and logo
  • Customized programming for greater features
  • Maintenance and bug fixing
  • Content development

Businesses can either hire a professional web designer for a finished product and then part ways or contract out the designer to cover website maintenance and troubleshooting issues on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the upfront costs for small businesses generally range from anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 and ongoing charges of $500 to $1,000 each year.

Shop around before settling on someone to take over your small business site design and development. Depending on how much you want to spend or the amount you have available, you can see if your chosen designer has any available financing options.

Consider using freelance web designers found on reputable third-party websites, like Upwork. Look at smaller marketing and tech companies to get the most out of your budget while still gaining all the professional experience and expertise your site needs to succeed.

For a limited budget, small business owners should look to recent university programming graduates or Bootcamp graduates for a website designer. Your business may be able to snag a better deal, saving time and money, as they will need to build up experience and a portfolio of their custom-built products.

How to Create a Website Free of Cost

Website building platforms will often offer a free version or a free trial of their services. However, it’s important to note that a free plan offered by these services is the best way to try out the platform. But for the site to function in the way a business needs it to, you will need to shell out a bit of cash every month to do so.

Free packages let you build your website, but you’ll have to put up with advertisements on your site, as well as a non-customizable domain and a limited number of features, storage space, and bandwidth. Your site will also possess zero e-commerce functionality, meaning you won’t be able to sell anything on your site.

Tools with free or inexpensive packages to consider:

  • NameCheap: When it comes to small business site design, NameCheap offers one of the most comprehensive platforms at the best price. Domain names, web design, security certification, and hosting can all be obtained from this one source. This platform offers one of the best services for startup businesses, with comprehensive packages and low monthly costs to build your desired site.
  • Wix: Wix is another go-to web-building tool that small businesses can use for free or at a monthly cost. The free version will only net you a limited number of features, with ads on your site. Opting for a paid package will allow your business greater functionality and tools. The cost of web hosting services is generally included in their monthly packages.
  • WordPress: WordPress is a popular website hosting and building service that many small businesses currently use to design and run their sites. It is an open-source platform; however, you have to pay for Premium WordPress to gain the themes and plugins to build your site and hosting services and customer support should you need website maintenance or help fixing issues.
  • Network Solutions: This DIY website building tool provides domains, website and e-commerce solutions, hosting services, security, and marketing and IT services. However, to gain all of these features, your business will need to commit to a paid subscription. When you sign up for a monthly subscription, you will obtain a free domain name for one year.

Using the free tools and services provided for your web development and design will only get you so far. You’ll need to consider how best to improve your business website once it has been created. Maintaining a business site and creating new content for its pages is an ongoing endeavour, so it is best to budget the cost to build a website far into the future.

Accounting for Website Costs

No matter how you decide to design and maintain your business' website, you’ll want to track the associated expenses to ensure you have the cash flow to pay for these upfront and ongoing costs. Accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, can help your business track its expenses and monitor cash flow to create a comprehensive view of its finances.

Even better, numerous e-commerce platforms integrate with QuickBooks to make selling on your site easier, tracking revenue and sales in a sinch. Join the millions of other users who have used QuickBooks to help manage and grow their business online. Start your free trial today.

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