How to budget for a website

Happily I get to do the copywriting for lots of websites and I’m often asked how much a client should be paying for ‘website design’. In suggesting a ballpark figure, I’m quick to add that it really depends on what’s included…

As with any creative design process, there’s always plenty of alternative options to consider. And it’s the upfront decision-making that’s going to govern how much in total you’ll ultimately need to pay for design.

And I confess a vested interest here as I will often project manage website design and development for any copywriting clients who decide they’d also prefer me to handle everything else on their behalf.

So whether you’re a start-up on its first website or an SME on its second, here’s my own personal checklist of the basic things you need to consider when approaching your website design and development.

All of these things have an impact on how much you need to budget for your website:

Copywriting

So yes I’m biased, but I’m going to start with copywriting as I do believe it’s something you really need to consider very early on in the process.

By first choosing a copywriter who can come up with a plan for the website structure, the number of pages that’ll be needed to effectively tell your story, the working page titles and page structure, it means you have a far more accurate and clear creative brief for the design and development process that follows.

And make sure too that your copywriter can handle all the search engine optimisation (SEO) stuff as well. This should not be an after-thought. You don’t just need your copywriting to appeal to prospective customers, it also has to grab the attention of search engines as well.

So you need copywriting for your web pages and for displaying on Google’s search engine results page (SERP), and both need optimising around carefully selected keyphrases. Keyphrase research should not be overlooked.

Also be sure that your copywriter has sufficient experience and knowledge of your type of business and its market sector. S/he needs to be capable of positioning you correctly against your competition. A good understanding of marketing here is a real advantage.

Ask him or her for an all-inclusive fixed price project quote, one that gives you financial certainty. UK copywriter rates typically range between £30 and £90+ per hour and you’ll generally have to pay 50% upfront.

Design methodology

Depending on the scale and complexity of your website and how differentiated you want it to be from your competitors, you have a number of choices.

DIY: If it’s a small, very simple website that you need, then you might just want to do-it-yourself. If you’re up for learning how to use one, there’s a whole bunch of online website builder tools around that’ll deliver a reasonably professional looking site based on standard design templates. The most frequently advertised services, like Wix, 1&1 and Weebly for example typically only cost £10/month and include a domain name too.

Bespoke: At the other end of the website design spectrum, if you want a website that’s completely unique and full of custom functionality then a bespoke design approach is likely the way to go. Building a website from scratch and ‘hand-coding’ needs real experience and expertise and is quite naturally the most expensive approach to website design.

Semi-custom: Take WordPress for example, the world’s most popular website content management system (CMS), it’s an open source design platform offering a wealth of standard design themes and plug-in functionality. It’ll provide a professional looking website that can be customised to suit your brand and the particular functionality required. A more cost effective route for start-ups and SMEs.

Designer

So let’s say you’ve chosen to take either the bespoke or semi-custom design approach and you need to find someone to handle the website design. It’ll either be a website design agency or a freelance website designer.

Generally speaking the former will be more expensive, and the bigger the agency the greater will be the cost; they like all of us have overheads to cover.   The freelance route is most often the more cost effective option for a start-up or SME.

Now I didn’t provide indicative pricing in the previous section as it really does depend on the scale and complexity of the website. But do consider that if a basic semi-custom website design including copywriting was say £1,500 then a bespoke solution might be more than double that.

Branding

Whatever the design methodology and whoever’s designing it for you, your website needs the right branding, and it simply isn’t all about your logo. It’s also about the colours, the fonts, photography and illustrations, the copywriting. It’s about everything that shapes a customer’s perceptions and feelings about your business. It needs to be right.

So if you have a very clear idea of how your brand should look and feel then you just need to be sure that your web designer has the creative skills to make it all happen. If you’re less certain, then you might want to have someone (like me) to manage it for you, briefing the web designer and handling his creative work to ensure everything stays on-brand.

And how about even before any web design takes place you have me first create a simple ‘brand identity guide’ that lays down all the ‘ground rules’ for your visual branding wherever it might appear, online or in-print. It’ll specify logo usage, colour palette, the fonts etc. making it much easier for you to ensure solid brand consistency over time.

Depending on the number of options and iterations, consider that a new logo might cost £300-£500. And depending on what’s included in a concise brand identity guide, its cost might range between £750-£1,500.

Photography

And photography is an important part of your branding. There’s no doubt that poor quality, low relevance photography, in a mix of different styles can have an adverse effect on your brand identity. It needs to be of a consistently high quality that directly reflects your business.

More often than not a good web designer will be able to source the right kind of photography for you from stock photo libraries. Some are free, like Pixabay, Pexels or Unsplash, and some are paid for, like iStockphoto, Shutterstock or Getty Images. Either way, it takes time to find the right photography which affects the overall cost of website design.

Alternatively, you might want to create your own photo library by hiring a freelance photographer to take the exact shots you need. Plus of course if you’re selling products online then you’ll need a whole load of ‘pack shots’ (product photos) and a photographer with a studio to take them all.

So photography for a small website might well be ‘free’, or £50-£100 for a decent bunch of stock images, or £300-£600 for hiring a professional photographer for a half or full day.

Translation

And if you want your website to directly appeal to overseas sales territories then you’ll need to provide a multilingual website. Translation accuracy is vital of course and I’d always recommend a translation agency that has in-country translators with a good knowledge of your business sector and SEO. Cost depends on total word count and varies significantly by agency.

Maintenance

Website development platforms like WordPress for example periodically provide updates which add functionality or remedy minor bugs.   To keep your website squeaky clean and up-to-date, then you might want someone to attend to core software updates.

At the same time, you might want occasional changes or amendments made to your website content and want someone to do them for you, rather than you having to learn how to do it. If this is the case, then you may need to consider a monthly maintenance contract with your website designer. Typical cost say £50-£100/month.

Hosting

You also need somewhere to put your new website, in simple terms it’s a memory space on a computer server with a unique address that’s connected to the internet.

Well publicised services like 1&1, Go Daddy, 123-Reg etc. offer website hosting for £5-£8/month, though you will be one of thousands of websites sharing an overseas server so response times might not be the fastest.

Alternatively, your website designer might offer a hosting service on a dedicated server at a UK datacentre for say £20-£30/month.

Domain name

Finally, or firstly in fact, you also need to buy a domain name (website address) for your website and ideally, it needs to match or very closely match the name of your business. For many, domain name availability determines the company name.

Domain name registrars including those mentioned in the last section, and many more, will typically charge £13 a year for a .com domain address, with .co.uk domains being slightly cheaper though less international in flavour.  And indeed there’s an awful lot more domains to choose from.

And so…

So yes there’s lots to think about when you’re budgeting for a website. And no, it is simply not just about website design. There’s lot’s more to think about before that. Copywriting and branding, photography and domain names, they all need to be included in your thinking. Take a step back, a deep breath, consider it all together and you can’t go wrong. Or leave it to me if you prefer 😉