How much does a professionally designed, custom built website cost?

Posted by ImageWorks Creative Team October 07, 2013

A guide to understanding the cost of custom web design and marketing.

Short answer: It varies for each client based on specific requirements & needs. But now the long answer:

Often we are asked to give some ballpark pricing based on creating a simple, yet highly professional online presence. After all, realistic  web design cost & pricing aren't something you can easily find online. Cheap offers are everywhere! offers FREE custom (really?) web design. DIY websites and templates are all marketed as "custom web design". These are "hook you in" long term revenue models for sites that literally take minutes to build. Heck, I get an email every other day with a $499 custom web design offer (along with the obligatory "We will rank you #1 on Google" offer). No wonder there is so much confusion (and poorly built, cookie-cutter sites)!

Don't believe the spam. Creating a powerful and influential USER EXPERIENCE (aka: your website) takes careful planning, talent, passion and serious know-how. Your site is where your customers form opinions about your products and's not a place to cut corners.

Nonetheless, custom website pricing poses an important question, because many companies find it hard to even guess at what they should be budgeting.  How can you determine your web design cost and budget if you don't know what goes into creating a great site?

In this article, I’m going to bare all and break down the cost of custom web design for you. Though I can't provide exact web design quotes without a formal consultation, what you learn may surprise you!

The following post walks you through the stages of consideration needed to determine a web design budget for your business.

Step 1: Establish a realistic marketing budget. Learn the standard benchmarks that should be used to set aside an overall amount for the promotion of your business through marketing and branding – as the online face of your company, your website plays a key role in marketing, so you should think about branding when obtaining web design quotes.

Step 2: Determine website pricing for your industry. Take a look at your competitors’ websites from every angle – from design quality and depth of information to usability and range of featured tools – and assess what you need to do to effectively compete against them.

Step 3: Understand the full scope of your true needs. Consider the costs of the foundational elements that need to be developed along the way, to build a website that is optimally designed to attract prospects and drive conversions.  An accurate web design budget will account for all of these needs.

Step 4: Discover the power of your new brand. Experience the difference that a well-executed branding and marketing campaign can make – by returning on the investment you've made on website pricing through a variety of improved metrics.

Let’s examine all of the facts and figures behind the cost of your next website overhaul so you know what to consider when evaluating web design quotes....

Step 1: Establish a realistic overall marketing budget.

Your marketing budget will vary depending on the size of your business and industry – but experts agree it should be between 4% and 12% of gross sales for your business.

For brand-building and brand rejuvenation projects most small businesses will spend between $15,000 to over $75,000 for agency-like results and strategies. (Average from our historic records and reported sales from other small agencies) Some companies will spend a LOT more…some a little bit less…but to do a high quality job from this is an accurate range for a custom web design pending complexity, required technologies and other related services that may be needed such as email templates, copywriting, 3rd party applications, animations, plug ins, blogs, etc. Other key components you may need (listed below) also will add to your total.

Note: This does NOT include any ongoing marketing. Large companies spend millions in branding, so this example is focused on small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), not the big boys.

When I say “key components," I’m referring to the essential branding elements of a custom web design and marketing campaign that most companies need to establish themselves:

  • Strategy & Planning Naming / Logo
  • Custom Website
  • Collateral
  • Messaging / Copywriting
  • Online Brochures
  • Presentations / Videos (Complex videos alone can drive the range beyond what’s cited above)
  • Blog Design
  • Landing Pages
  • E-mail Templates & Designs
  • Social Media Optimization
  • Exhibit Design
  • Ads & Direct Mail

This cost logically adjusts to how many (and which) of the above brand assets are in the budget during the initial branding or rebranding efforts.

You will need to add a monthly budget for ongoing advertising and marketing, also consistent with the size of your business and your expected revenue.

Step 2: Determine custom web design costs for your industry.

Your website is not a stand-alone marketing tool. It is, in many cases, a prospect’s first impression of your brand. It is also the place your prospects go to either form or validate an opinion about your company – before they decide whether to take the next step. It’s the most important element of your brand image, and it sets the pace for your conversion process. Remember this when you're looking into web design quotes!  Your web design budget must include the full scope of branding that you need - not "just" for "a website."

To do this, you’ll first have to assess your industry and look at what your top competitors are doing. Just getting to the “design phase” requires going through an in-depth marketing discovery process and then formulating a web marketing plan. Trying to build a site without this initial investigation and planning is like trying to build a house without surveying the land or creating any blueprints. It's going to fall apart. 

This is often hard to do as most competitors won’t want to share this with you. A place to start is through your professional and industry associations, vendors, employees who may have work experience elsewhere, etc. to get a range or even a percentage of revenue as a starting point for creating your marketing and web design budget.

Step 3: Understand the full scope of your true needs.

To be successful, your website will need to include most of the following components and media. To build a site without them is like going big game hunting with a pocket knife. A solid web design budget will equip your campaign with all of the strategic tools needed to nail your target audiences, including:

  • A discovery process, including the production of a well-articulated creative brief – the essence of your marketing and sales strategies.
  • A sitemap, an outline of your website which shows all the navigation and pages. This should be completely centered around your customer’s needs.
  • Visual direction and messaging, aligned with your marketing objectives.
  • A design and layout for your homepage, based on an agreed-upon visual direction and messaging.
  • A design and layout for an interactive subpage / interior page template, which will inform your visitors, and guide them through your site while maintaining your own brand identity.
  • Professional copywriting or content optimization, which will allow prospects to scan the text efficiently, while offering compelling information to pique their interest and drive them toward your calls to action.
  • Animations or scenes, to stimulate interest and communicate key points without crowding the page.
  • A custom-designed blog, a critical component for the modern marketer, as a free PR machine and an SEO staple.
  • E-mail templates, which match your new online brand. Email marketing offers the best ROI in marketing, making it a must-have!
  • A downloadable PDF brochure or content piece with easily-digestible information—so your prospects can share it, print it, and/or archive it, turning it into viral media.
  • Online conversion forms. Why make it difficult for someone to contact you? Interactive forms make inquiries a breeze and data capture automatic.
  • Search engine optimization. Your site should be designed in a way that’s search-engine-friendly. By thinking ahead, you’ll be well-positioned to appear high on search engine results pages (SERPs) for phrases associated with your products and services.
  • Calls to action through dedicated landing pages, destination pages that lead customers to act on the specific conversion goals established in your creative brief.

This list could easily go on, but you get the idea. There’s a ton of foundational work needed to construct a website that is effectively built to sell what you have to offer.

For most of these items, web design cost will range between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each – so you can quickly see that building a successful online brand via your custom website is going to take a serious investment.

Of course, a site that is built correctly will grow revenue and increase awareness of your brand more than you can imagine! Our clients have experienced revenue growth that has paid back their investment hundreds of times over! It's not so much what you spend on your custom web design budget, it’s about how your expenditure affects revenue growth.

The Bottom Line

If you want a professional online brand that will recoup its value, you need to set a web design budget and hire a firm that is talented and passionate.

Somewhat related to your website pricing is your ongoing marketing efforts. Things like: Landing page promotions, email marketing, lead nurturing, advertising, search & social marketing, etc. These are usually based on your approved marketing and web design budget using the range above. Most are monthly recurring. I recommend you spend 25-45% of your total marketing budget on these advertising and marketing tactics. The goal here is to bring in enough qualified leads to build your business and grow your client base.

Step 4: Discover the power of your new online brand.

By now, you probably realize what it takes – and thus, what it costs – to build an effective and conversion-oriented online brand. Website pricing may seem steep, but the rewards will be tremendous.

Here is what you can expect from a website done right:

  • Increased confidence in your brand from employees, prospects, and clients.
  • Substantially greater numbers of prospects who visit your site.
  • Considerably more positive first impressions on your visitors.
  • Increased interest and conversion for your products and services.
  • Measurable results, which can be used to further improve your online brand and customer conversions.
  • The ability to "nurture" the 90%+ of prospects that have a "buy later" mentality, through a system that nudges customers all the way through the sales funnel.
  • Increased referrals.
  • More repeat visitors, fueling even more conversions.
  • Multiple return on your investment, resulting in substantial revenue growth.

Scott C. Margenau is the founder and CEO of ImageWorks Creative, an award-winning web design and branding firm. Visit or call 800-308-8573 x102 for more information.

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