To make your mark online, you need to create a business website. Your website will be most people's first interaction with your brand, and the quality of your website can mean the difference between getting a new customer or losing them to a competitor. While it may sound difficult and expensive to start a business site from scratch, there are options for all budgets and levels of expertise.
What are the basic website building costs?
It's difficult to estimate how much your small business's website will cost from the outset. Numerous factors, at multiple stages in the process, can affect the final price. For example, the hosting company you use may charge differently based on how big and successful your site becomes. Website designs and premade themes can cost upward of $100, while the actual construction of your site could end up costing $4,000 or more, depending on the features you want. The costs will ultimately depend on what you want your site to achieve.
How much does it usually cost to build a business website?
Before you start building your site, you should know that the associated website development cost could be massive. The total cost of your site depends on a wide range of factors, including the domain name and web hosting company you choose, the amount of server space and bandwidth it takes to operate the website, what features you want, and how much it costs to build the site.
Web design and customization: $50-$100
Then, there are the costs for the web design and customization. Unless you have website design expertise and access to your own server, you're going to have to pay for someone's help if you want a bespoke website. Even on platforms like Squarespace and WordPress, which offer pre-generated templates, you'll likely have to pay for those templates, said Samantha Phillips-Varneke, search and social specialist at Kiwi Marketing Group.
"Website designs aren't free," she said. "There's a pretty wide range in theme pricing, but a decent budget is $50 to $100."
Domain name: $10-20 per month
The domain name identifies your business site to potential customers. Users type in a URL (the domain name) and are directed to your website. Although some web hosting providers offer domain names for free, most users pay an annual fee. On average, you'll spend between $10 and $20 per year for a domain name.
Web hosting: $2-$10 per month
Web hosting refers to the server that stores your business website and makes it accessible to those browsing the internet. When you pay a hosting service, the company keeps your content live online.
Functionality: $23-$30 per month
Functionality refers to how your business website works. For example, if you plan to run an e-commerce business website, you will pay a monthly fee for a shopping cart and checkout tools. According to eDesk, you can expect to pay about $23 to $30 per month for e-commerce tools.
CMS stands for content management system, which is software to create and publish content to a website. Businesses can either invest in an on-premises software program or a cloud computing option. On average, a CMS will cost a single investment of at least $2,000.
Though that may seem like a reasonable price, Phillips-Varneke said many templates do not include additional features, like e-commerce functionality or a way for people to subscribe to a newsletter. With that in mind, she said it's important to "know what you're signing up for with any given platform."
Should you hire a professional to build your site?
If you don't know how to build a website from scratch and you don't want to rely on templates, you will likely need to hire a professional to build it for you. Just as with the rest of your site, the ultimate cost will depend on the features you want.
When hiring a professional to build your site, go over your expectations. Phillips-Varneke said the clearer and more thorough you are with the website designer, the more accurate your price estimate will be. This discussion will also ensure that you get all of the features you want on your website, although those features could drive up the price somewhat.
"It might be possible to find someone to set up a WordPress or Squarespace site using a pre-existing theme for as little as $500 to $1,500," Phillips-Varneke said. However, "complex websites can be far more expensive and need to be priced on a per-project basis, after requirements have been identified," she added.
When all is said and done, Phillips-Varneke estimated that a custom-built site without too many bells and whistles could cost "anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 or more depending on functionality."
What are some other costs associated with building a website?
SSL certificate: $200-$300
Along with the bigger-ticket costs like domain registration, monthly hosting fees and website construction costs, you should be aware of some other costs that may come up. According to Website Builder Expert, the SSL certificate (which creates a secure connection between the web server and the browser) can cost up to $200, while app integrations and any special WordPress plugin you use could increase the overall price by an additional $100. If you want to market your site or have other people produce content for the site, you're likely also going to have to shell out some money.
Email functionality: $5-$10 monthly
Another potential cost is the addition of email functionality, Phillips-Varneke noted. If you want your business email address to use the company's URL, your host may charge extra for it. Many companies charge per user for email functionality with an anticipated cost of around $5 to $10 monthly.
"Many website hosting services include this for free as part of website hosting, but these services can be difficult to set up and come with minimal features," she said. To skip the cost and get better functionality, she suggested using Google Workspace (formerly called G Suite) or Microsoft 365, both of which will be easier to use, provide better spam protection and ensure more reliable delivery.
How do you build a business website?
Although there are many tools that can make it easier to create your business website, you should be familiar with the process before you get started. You'll need to follow these steps to build a business website:
1. Consider the website's purpose.
As a small business owner, there are many reasons to build a business website. For some businesses, a website acts as a landing page that provides basic information about the company, such as the kinds of products or services the company offers and the business's location and hours of operation. For others, a website acts as a robust e-commerce solution.
Try to plan how visitors will find the information they need. Be as upfront as possible about the important details, like your business's address and contact info. Even at this early phase, you should consider whether you need professional help from a design agency, said Kae Kohl, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Kiwi Marketing Group.
"Planning and creating a strong website is really time-consuming," she said. "If someone's just getting off the ground, they'll need to devote a lot of their attention to their business, which is what they are best at, and get help from experts who can create a great product while you do other things."
2. Pick a URL.
Once you know what your website's function will be, it's time to get down to the details. The first step is to choose and register a unique domain name. Your domain name, or URL, needs to be descriptive and easy to remember, as it's one of the first things you're sharing with customers.
You also need to pick a top-level domain (TLD). For most companies, that suffix is almost always .com, though there are some reasons you might want .biz, .net or a more interesting TLD. Certain TLDs – like country codes, as well as more official options, like .gov and .org – come with requirements. The cost of your domain could vary dramatically depending on its viability and the TLD you choose.
The longer and more complex your web address is, the harder it will be to share it with others. Once you have a non-trademarked domain name and a TLD picked out, you can register it with a domain registrar, most hosting services include domain registration in their hosting packages.
3. Find a web host.
If you have a plan and a web address, the next thing you need to do is find a digital home for your site. All websites need a physical server to store their data. Though it's possible to build your own server to host your page, that can be extremely expensive, and any mistake could result in long downtimes that could hurt your business. If you're still operating as a small business, it's best to leave the hosting to a third-party service.
Many companies, sell space on their servers for customers looking to put their sites on the web. When searching for a host, choose a provider that can promise good access speeds, excellent cybersecurity measures and top-notch customer support. That latter part is particularly important, because your website will undoubtedly go through some growing pains. It's important to note that most hosts charge by the amount of traffic your site generates, as well as how much space it takes up on the server.
Depending on your company's needs and budget, you may also have to choose between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. Shared hosting means your site will exist side by side with other sites on the same server, while dedicated hosting means your site will have a server all to itself. While dedicated hosting is usually much more expensive than shared hosting, it also promises faster speeds, since your website won't be competing with the others for bandwidth.
Here are some well-known web hosting options:
- GoDaddy: GoDaddy has been selling domains and hosting websites with a litany of features for more than 20 years. With SSL encryption for sites on its servers and prices ranging from $4.99 per month for VPS (virtual private server) hosting to $129.99 per month for dedicated server hosting, GoDaddy has a solution for most use cases.
- Squarespace: Aimed at letting its users "build it beautiful," Squarespace seeks to give you the tools and templates to build a nice-looking website. Whether you want your site to serve as an information hub for your business or an online store for goods and services, Squarespace has easy-to-use templates that can handle it. Business plans start at $18 per month if paid annually and $26 per month if paid monthly.
- InMotion Hosting: Thanks to its range of services and hosting plans, InMotion Hosting stood out last year as our best pick for small businesses. Whether you need to host a WordPress blog or want to sell goods online, InMotion's shared hosting plans are affordable, at $7 to $20 per month, with dedicated-hosting options available at a higher price.
- DreamHost: As our best pick for WordPress hosting, DreamHost offers shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting options. If your company's site will use a WordPress website as its content management system, you can't go wrong with this company's feature set and reasonable monthly prices starting at $2.59. [Ready to choose a provider? See the rest of our best picks for web hosting services.]
4. Start building.
You likely want a website with more than a single homepage. If you've envisioned what your site will entail and how people will get to its various pages, then you're already part of the way there.
At this step, you have to make a potentially expensive decision: Do you use a site builder or premium theme to build your site, or do you hire professionals to handle the project? Both options have pros and cons, so consider this decision carefully. Your choice will ultimately depend on your end goal.
"Honestly, I suggest using a professional for anything beyond a simple website – about page, services and contact page – if budget allows," Phillips-Varneke said. "I would say hiring a professional is absolutely necessary if there needs to be e-commerce capabilities beyond allowing someone to pay with PayPal, do standard shipping and have single variations of a product."
Tips for building a business website
Phillips-Varneke offered the following pointers and criteria to keep in mind when building the site yourself or contracting someone to build it for you:
Know your audience.
If your website is more likely to cater to new customers, you want to get them engaged with your brand and encourage them to come back. If your website is meant to sell your products, make sure the online storefront is the main feature that catches the visitor's eye.
Think of your site's "call to action."
As visitors to your website make their way through each page, you should be gently nudging them to do what you want them to do. It doesn't matter if that's to make a purchase, look at the next item they may like or ask them to sign up for a newsletter – you want to give your visitors a reason to stay on the site for as long as possible.
Consider secondary functionality.
If you're planning on letting certain subsets of visitors interact with the website in different ways, consider how those interactions will take place. If your clients need a dedicated place to log in and check project work times, that space will need to be built. If you want to let users search through a list of items in your store, you may want to have a searchable database installed. Again, it depends on your goal for the website.
Decide how you will process payments.
How you receive payment from your customers is important. This kind of add-on usually comes with processing fees. For instance, PayPal charges between 2% and 4%, with an additional 30 cents per transaction.
Embed social media feeds.
In today's digital world, people expect you to be on social media and use it to provide updates and answers. If you want visitors to be kept abreast of your company's social media presence while surfing your page, you can integrate social media feeds into the site.
Choose an e-commerce platform.
Small businesses looking to enter the world of e-commerce have a choice of how their goods are displayed and processed. There are numerous options, like Etsy and Shopify, that can let your website handle your products and shipping options. Many hosting services also offer support for e-commerce functionality.
Make sure it's mobile-friendly.
If you want to have your products available at your customers' fingertips, make sure your site works on mobile devices. Many website builders come with built-in support for mobile devices.
Once you've completed these steps, all you have to do is test and publish your site, market it on social media and take the necessary steps to make sure it's maintained.