How to Budget for a Custom Website Design

How to Budget for a Custom Website Design

If you’ve never been involved (either directly or indirectly) in a website design project you probably wouldn’t even know where to start to set a budget for one. This FCSU guide will help you understand what is involved in a custom website project and what the cost factors are.

Custom Website Design Costs

As the title eludes to, this article is focused solely on “custom website design“. So, we aren’t taking into consideration using templates, or out of the box solutions.

So how much should custom website design cost, really? The true cost of a website design project isn’t really something you can determine from a quick search on your favorite search engine. It’s one of the hardest topics to find true information about online probably because most companies are afraid of scaring clients off up front.

Regardless, it’s an important topic to explore because most businesses who need or want a website have no idea what they should be budgeting. They may know what they want to spend, but is that number realistic? Here, we’ll explore this with you and break down what a professional custom website design entails and what it should cost. Be prepared to discover a few things that will surprise you and probably even shock you a bit.

1) Your website should be part of your overall marketing budget

The first thing you should realize is that your website budget needs to be part of your overall marketing budget. So establishing a realistic and appropriate marketing budget is the first essential step to setting a proper website budget. A marketing budget, according to industry experts, should range between 2% and 12% of your gross sales.

So for example: If your company has 1 million dollars in revenue per year then you should be spending in the neighborhood of $20,000-$120,000 per year on promoting and marketing your company. This will vary, of course, on your industry and various other factors.

2) You’re not just designing a website you are building a brand

Think of your website as an integral part of your brand, not just your website or a stand-alone marketing tool. It’s likely the first impression  potential customers will have of your company, so making sure it’s giving the right impression is crucial to the success of your company.

It’s also going to be the place most potential customers will go to form their opinion about you and your company before they take action and make contact with you. In order to truly build your brand you need to budget for the branding you need not only your “website”. Your website will be THE most important element of your brand image
Look at what your competitors are doing – before you begin to build a website you need to know how you compare with those who are competing for your customers. This will help you form a web marketing plan to better place yourself in your customers path.

When most people hear branding the immediately think “Logo”. While that is an important element of your brand, it’s only a small part of the whole.

3) Understand your true needs

By the nature of the word custom, a “custom website” is tailored to your specific “custom” needs. The design, layout, features and functionality match your company’s brand image and work flow to make it an extension of your company. Defining your requirements and how you want your custom website to help your company generate new business is crucial to it’s success.

There are plenty of website templates and features that fit 80% of business website needs, but if you are looking for a custom website you are in that remaining 20%.

4) What drives a custom website’s cost

Above all the major contributing factor to a custom website’s overall cost is time. The time involved here is comprised of the collection of tasks that a design studio is asked to perform, the complexity of those tasks, and amount of revisions those tasks take to complete to your specifications.

Here is a list of tasks that are typical of a custom design:

  • Discovery Process – learning your business, your competition, what is working and not working in your market, etc.
  • Site Map – a visual, hierarchical representation of your websites pages and organizational structure
  • Visual Direction and Messaging – based on your marketing objectives, brand positioning and target audience
  • Custom Design – a digital representation of your visual direction and messaging agreed upon based on discovery and marketing objectives that shape the “look and feel” of your site
  • Copywriting – or content optimization (yes, you need it) which allows your prospects to scan your content and drive them to your calls to action
  • Flash Animation – stimulate interest, communicate large amounts of information in compact areas
  • Content Management System (CMS) implementation & Coding – building & coding the pages and programming & configuring the CMS to manage your content
  • Custom Email Templates – compliments your online brand. email marketing is the best ROI in marketing
  • Custom Designed Blog – this is a critical element, a free PR powerhouse and SEO staple right on your site
  • Internal site search engine – Research has shown that users will abandon a site if they can’t easily find what they’re looking for. Site search enables your users to quickly find information.
  • Online Forms – easy for visitors to contact you, gather information and convert users into leads
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – your site needs to be design and constructed in a way that allows search engines to easily decide what it’s about. By thinking ahead, you’ll be able to more easily place highly in search engine rankings.
  • Calls to Action/Landing pages – the crux of your website, the reason you have a website to begin with is to elicit an action from site visitors. Tell them what you want them to do with visuals and destination pages that lead to specific conversion goals

This list could easily go on for days, but this should give you an idea of some of the tasks that go into planning and executing a custom website. Most of the items on the list above cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars each. So you can see how that could quickly add up to a serious investment to build your online brand.

You have to consider your website and investment because that’s exactly what it is. Any site that is built correctly, and marketing wisely, will grow revenue and visibility for your company as well as awareness for your brand. So, in essence, it’s not about how much you spend, but rather how much your investment affects your revenue growth.

5) Ok that’s great, but what’s it gonna cost me?

Here’s where it gets tricky – there’s not one easy answer for pricing custom website design. The bigger your company is, the more you should invest in your online brand. If you are a $1 million company, don’t invest like a $250,000 company or you’ll get left behind by your competitors who know better.

High profile design and advertising agencies will charge well into the mid to high six figures for a custom online brand. In contrast, you can hire a freelancer that will build you an online brand for a few thousand bucks. The vast majority of companies can’t swing a quarter million on their web presence, and settling for a freelancer would likely do more harm than good.

So what’s left? The best solution for most small to medium businesses is a local full-service agency. Companies like our Fort Walton Beach Website Design Company offer high quality and professional services just like the high-priced agencies, but for a much more reasonable cost.

A reasonable average fee from a local full service agency for visual and marketing direction, messaging, design, coding and CMS implementation, etc would be between $8,500-$30,000 depending on the project requirements. This may shock you and sound outrageous, but think back to our list and imagine (dream really) that each item costs only $500 – you are already up to $6,500 and remember that the list is limited to only a few elements. While $500 isn’t realistic for most items mentioned above, you get the idea.

6) Leveraging the your new online brand

Hopefully if you’ve made it this far in the article, you understand what it takes – and what it costs – to build a custom, and effective online brand.

If you’ve planned ahead and everything was done right you can expect:

  • Increased confidence in your brand from not only clients and prospects, but also your employees
  • Increase in site visits and conversions
  • Site visitors will be more likely to engage you regarding your products and services
  • To be able to measure your results and apply those metrics to further improve your site
  • To Receive more leads and referrals
  • Increased sales and revenue

Get started with your project today

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About the Author

Cecil KillingsworthOnline marketing strategist, web designer, developer, photographer and father of two. I love digital design and marketing, and using it to help my clients finally see results online.View all posts by Cecil Killingsworth

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