Ecommerce success starts with a robust website for your brand. With myriad possibilities for website building—from professional web developers to DIY website builders—there’s an option for nearly any budget. Here’s an overview of the typical expenses associated with small-business websites.
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How much does it cost to build a website?
Website development costs range from free to thousands of dollars. Customization and functionality are the two biggest drivers of cost.
If you don’t require a custom domain name, customizable layouts, or maximum ecommerce functionality, a free website builder like Google Sites may provide all you need. At the other end of the spectrum, a professional website designer and developer can make a totally customized site for you—but may charge top dollar.
4 factors that influence the cost of an ecommerce website
As you begin budgeting for your small business website, plan on accounting for the following expenses:
1. Domain name registration
A domain name is a uniform resource locator (URL) that functionally serves as the address for your website. You can often get a free domain name from your website building software, but if you want a custom domain name, you must purchase it—typically via a domain name registrar. Shopify merchants can buy domain names using the Shopify platform.
2. Website design
The leading website-building platforms have built-in web design tools. These often start with basic website templates (in Shopify these are called themes), to which you can add images, text blocks, and videos. For a totally custom website, you may need the services of a professional web designer or website design agency.
3. Website hosting
The content of your website lives on a computer server, and that server presents your site info to users who type in your site’s URL. Small businesses use a number of different web hosting plans, including shared hosting (where multiple websites share a single server, as in the Shopify model) and dedicated hosting (where your business gets a server all to itself).
4. Ecommerce functionality
If you want your small business website to include an online store, you need a site building platform that supports ecommerce. In many cases, this may require purchasing a premium theme from your website builder. It will also require you to enroll with a payment processor like Shopify Payments, whose fees come on top of your website costs.
Average costs for building a website
You can use the following four ranges to budget for website costs.
1. Domain name costs
Most small business websites use a URL ending in .com, and these frequently cost between $10 and $20 per year. However, desirable names with a .com extension can go for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Other URL endings include .org, .info, .net, .biz, .tv, .online, .shop, .xyz, .vip, .fit, .blog, .co, .website, and .store. These tend to be less expensive than .com.
2. Website design costs
If you don’t require a fully custom website, you may be able to address your web design costs as part of an all-in-one website builder subscription. Website builder prices often run between $10 and $30 per month, but they can be much higher for large-scale enterprise users.
If you need greater customization, you’ll likely pay a professional web designer, and hire a developer to build the custom design. Or, you can hire a full-service web design agency to do both. To hire an agency to design and build your site can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A solo freelance web designer may be more affordable, with hourly rates often ranging from about $50 to $100. Hourly rates for web developers hired on platforms like Upwork are usually similar.
3. Website hosting costs
As with web design, you can get website hosting as part of a comprehensive plan that includes design tools, web hosting, and a content management system (CMS). Your small business could make do with an all-in-one plan in the $10 to $25 per month range, but sites with lots of traffic may pay more in hosting costs.
For instance, the starting cost for a dedicated server may be about $100 per month, but tech-savvy business owners can get similar functionality from a virtual private server, which might only run $20 to $40 per month.
4. Ecommerce costs
The cost of adding ecommerce functionality will depend on your approach. You could handle ecommerce via plug-ins—such as a PayPal plug-in on a WordPress site—and potentially pay fees only on your PayPal transactions. This option might appeal to someone whose ecommerce business involves a service (like online tutoring) and doesn’t need pages of product listings.
If you run a full-fledged ecommerce store with individual product pages, you may prefer a commerce-centric, all-in-one service like Shopify, where plans start at $39 per month. This plan includes an online storefront, payment processing, inventory management tools, an SSL certificate, abandoned cart recovery, and sales reports, among many other features.
Hidden costs to consider when building a website
Your website costs may extend beyond the realm of website builders and web designers. You may find yourself budgeting for additional items like:
Your ecommerce site may use third-party apps and premium plug-ins, like those found in the Shopify App Store. These apps cover all sorts of functions, from shipping to marketing to social media integration, and they may come with monthly fees.
Ecommerce websites need secure connections to handle financial transactions. This starts with obtaining a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate, which creates an encrypted connection between your website and someone’s web browser. Shopify subscribers get a type of free SSL certificate, called a transport layer security (TLS) certificate. Advanced SSLs like an organization validated (OV) certificate or an extended validation (EV) certificate can cost hundreds if not thousands per year.
Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website land on search engine results pages (SERPs). Optimizing for search engines can take time and money. The internet abounds with free SEO tools to help boost your search visibility, but most of these free platforms push you toward paid subscriptions. An SEO strategy can also involve SEO content writing, which may require paying a writing staff or hiring a content marketing agency.
How much does it cost to maintain a website?
Maintenance ensures your site remains functional years into the future. This particularly applies to small-business websites that rely on plug-ins and third-party apps to power their site’s functionality. If any of the apps or plug-ins fail, they can render the site inoperable. In some cases, you may need to pay for newer versions of the apps to maintain functionality.
Website maintenance costs are the expenses associated with keeping your site updated and functioning. Simple sites that require few updates and are hosted on major web development platforms like Squarespace or Wix may incur no website maintenance costs.
If you have a full-service site with a complex content management system, or you built the site from scratch using a private web design service, you may need to dedicate resources (a contractor, employee, or team) to website upkeep. They may add new product pages, check for security threats, scan for dead links, upgrade any APIs and plug-ins that run on the site, and fulfill other tasks that keep the site at maximum functionality.
Given the variability in requirements, website maintenance costs can range from as little as $100 per year for relatively simple sites up to tens of thousands of dollars for major businesses. In total, maintenance for a successful, medium-sized ecommerce site might cost from $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
How much does a website cost FAQ
What factors affect the cost of website design and development?
The cost of your website design and development will hinge on your site’s purpose, level of customization, security requirements, and anticipated traffic. For instance, more web traffic means you need more server space, which increases your hosting cost.
Are there any free website builders available?
Yes, there are free website builders available, including Google Sites and free tiers of popular builders like Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy. Totally free websites tend to have limited functionality, but they can be fine for those who only need a simple landing page with some embedded text, images, and videos.
How much should I budget for a domain name and hosting services?
In most cases, you can expect to pay between $10 and $20 per year for a domain name ending in .com. Desirable domain names may cost substantially more. Web hosting frequently falls in the $10- to $25-per-month range, or you can opt for an all-in-one platform like Shopify that bundles site building and web hosting in with many other ecommerce services. Shopify plans start at $39 per month.