How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website? Your 2021 Guide to Developing Web Applications

Marija Nestoroska Marija Nestoroska
April 7, 2021

What you get out of web design depends mostly on what you put in. And what you put in depends entirely on your idea. So how much will it cost you? Well, the price for a website depends on many factors, and we will go over them one by one and explain them. For example, you can go as low as $100 using a DIY method with templates. But if you hire a professional, expect the price to increase.

If you want to get more out of your website, consider hiring a professional. Let’s talk about functionality. Have you heard the maxim “form follows function”? It is a principle in architecture from the 1940s. The meaning is that the purpose comes first, and it dictates the look of the building.

Today, we can define web design as an umbrella term that incorporates a couple of different fields, and they tend to overlap. They are user interface design, graphic design, and user experience design. The first one applies to navigation — how easy it is for users to move around and interact with the site.

Graphic design incorporates the ability to communicate through visuals. Think of buttons, icons, and images on the website. Graphic design also displays the brand’s personality. 

And the user experience is something we have to prioritize. How does the user feel using the website? Does the website deliver an intuitive or frustrating experience?

So, when you want to know how much does it cost to develop a web application, you have to think of many factors. Don’t worry — we’ll go through them and help you understand the website cost calculation.


Table of contents | HIGHLIGHTS

You Have an Idea. Now What?

Understanding the Difference between Small, Medium, and Advanced Web Development

Top 11 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website or Web App for Your Business

Factors That Drive the Price

Website Builders vs. Hiring a Developer

Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Website

Difference Between a Website and a Web Application



You Have an Idea. Now What?

There are two approaches to getting a website. Let’s talk about how much it costs to build a website. Will you use your idea or improve upon an existing idea?

Nowadays, everything starts with an idea. Napoleon Hill, an American self-help best-selling author, once said, “Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.”

So, do you have an idea for your website? As we said, there are two ways you can go at it. You can come up with a unique idea, or replicate and improve an existing idea.

Using your own idea

If you want to develop a custom website design from scratch, get ready to answer various questions about it. You will have to discuss it with the developers, answer their questions, and let them see the whole picture of your idea. This is your unique idea, and developers will try to bring it up to life. But you can’t just say something like “I want a website that looks and feels like Airbnb.”

The most important part is to describe the end result precisely. How do you want the website to look? How do you want the website to feel? And try to describe the ways to get to the result. Ideally, you can make an iconographic model. But try to provide as many details as possible.

Improving on an existing idea

This is an alternative solution if you want to use something that is already out there. Some would say “you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” Taking a ready-made idea and adjusting it to your brand and needs saves money, time, and effort. It is much easier than developing a website from scratch.

But there is a tricky point here. Sometimes, minor changes in functionality and design may require major code revision. That can make this website design more expensive than an original project.


Understanding the Difference Between Small, Medium, and Advanced Web Development

One of the main factors influencing your website design price is the complexity of the website. There are three levels of complexity, each designed for a different company type. For example, small companies can get away with basic web design.

For comparison, the website for a small company ranges between $1,000 and $10,000. A website for a medium-sized business can cost between $10,000 and $30,000. Websites for enterprise-level companies require complex and advanced features. Their price starts at $50,000 and goes up, depending on your preference for features.

What is the difference between each website? Let’s explain each of them.

Basic web design

This type of design delivers a simple, yet effective web application. You get a website specific to your brand and goals. Think of it as a cost-effective option for small businesses and startups.

What do you get? A credible, user-friendly website you can use for quote requests, phone calls, and purchases. It incorporates elements such as format themes, basic HTML, and JavaScript coding. You can use it for basic websites that don’t need dynamic functionality. You can’t use it for e-commerce websites.

It doesn’t incorporate advanced techniques, such as XHTML, CSS coding, cascading style sheets, and more. To put it simply, it is a design for static websites. Think of one-pagers, landing pages, and online stores with standard design and a bare minimum of features.

Intermediate web design

This is the middle ground between small businesses and enterprises (for example, a company with 20 to 30 employees). You get a well-designed and performance-driven website.

This type of website provides some additional features, like a content management system (CMS), which is a tool that will support your content marketing strategy. This is primarily designed for medium-sized companies, as they need lots of interactive elements that you can integrate into the design. Another important factor that can influence the cost to build a website is the volume of content. Medium-sized business pages have more content.

Advanced web design

The highest level of complexity delivers a custom website with several features and add-on services. For example, you get database integration, e-commerce functionality, and much more. This website will also maximize your conversion rate and return on investment. And in the competitive market we have today, these two factors carry a lot of weight.

In advanced web design, designers can use techniques that deliver a more dynamic and interactive website. Another important factor is that the designer has an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO), a feature you can use in the design, including metatags and written content.

Notable features in advanced web design include responsive web design, advanced security measures that meet SSL encryption certification, and customized design.

Small, medium, advanced web design comparison table

Basic Web Design
Medium Web Design
Advanced Web Design
Simple, effective, website
Well designed, performance-driven website
Custom website, dynamic, and interactive
Website specific to brand goals
Great for companies between 20 and 40 employees
Designed for the competitive market we live in
Basic HTML and JavaScript code
Higher volume of content
Designed with SEO in mind
Used for websites without dynamic functionality
Has a lot of interactive elements
Maximizes conversion rates
Lacks advanced techniques like CSS coding, XHTML
CMS supports content marketing
Notable features like responsive design and advanced security measures
Priced between $1,000 and $10,000
Priced between $10,000 and $20,000
Price can go as high as $50,000


Top 11 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website or Web App for Your Business

Before you even start thinking about building a website for your business, you should check some important things about your business. You’ve heard it before for sure: Preparation is everything. Without proper preparation, your plan might —and most probably will — fail.

Unless, of course, you are Captain Cold (Leonard Snart) from “The Flash” TV show and you live by the “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan” mantra.


The key here is to properly prepare for a website design or redesign. This will help you define your project, define your goals, and avoid any scope creep. Or, to put it simply, avoid getting more tasks than you can handle at the moment.

Yes, as you move along with the project, you will understand that you need some additional features, and you might want to throw away some features. But it is always better to determine as much as possible upfront.

So, let’s get on with some of the questions that will prepare you and your business for the website you want to have.

 1. What needs and goals do you have that your current website (or no website) does not meet?

If you do not have a website, this is an easy one. But if you have a website, you have to identify the problems with it. For example, does your current website fail to maintain the attention of your visitors? Does your current website deliver low conversion rates? Find out the problems with your current website so you can understand what to improve.

2. What goals do you want your website to achieve?

The first and second questions go hand in hand. What do you want to happen with your new website? What do you want to achieve with it? Better conversion rates? More traffic? More time spent on the website?

3. How well do you know your customers?

You might have done this before you started your business. You identify your target group. But you need to go through the process of understanding your customers again.

Or to put it simply, create a buyer persona. What is a buyer persona? It is a detailed description of someone who represents your target audience.

What are your customers’ needs? Do you have more male or female customers? What do you sell that your customers need? Why do you target these specific customers? And so on.

4. What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

What makes your company stand out from the crowd? Why should your customers should buy something from you rather than from your competitors? What makes you better? Do you offer something that nobody else offers?

For example, Nike’s USP is that the “company provides the best quality shoes for athletes and fitness in general.” Another example: FedEx’s USP is that when you need something delivered overnight, they can do it.

5. What will your customers get on the website?

Or to put it in another way, what will they accomplish when they visit the website? Why should they visit the website in the first place? Would they get more information than they would if they called your business on the phone? Does your website take them to special promotions? Narrow down all the advantages you want your customers to achieve.

6. How will you measure success?

This is an important part of the process. We can measure everything in life. But the trick is to find specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals you can measure. Yes, that is the long explanation for SMART goals.

What is important for you to measure? Do you want to measure traffic? Subscriptions? Conversion rates? Sales? Time spent on the website?

7. What kind of brand image do you want to convey with your website?

In other words, how should visitors feel when they visit your website? Do you want to convey a professional and serious brand image? Or do you want to go the friendly and open way? Do you want to convey a personal or corporate brand image?

Think about the message you want to send to your visitors.

8. What do your competitors have that you like?

We’re not suggesting you steal something from your competitors. But if there is something you like about their website, think about how you can get that feature, and make it better. How can you improve on their success? How you can build on something they came up with?

After all, we live in a world with fierce competition. Check the websites you like and see if they have something in common. How can you use that?

9. What features and pages do you want to include?

There are millions of features and pages you can add to your website. But do you need all of them? For example, pages you can have include:

  • Homepage
  • About Us
  • Contact Us
  • Newsletter Sign-up
  • Products
  • Services
  • Promotions
  • Testimonials
  • Photo Galleries

And the list goes on. Do you need all of them? Think about the pages that are necessary for your business.

You also have to choose from a long list of functions:

  • Interactive map
  • Contact Us form
  • Videos
  • Online shopping
  • Payments
  • Customer accounts
  • Interactive elements
  • Slide shows
  • Billing
  • Invoicing

And many more functions. Then you have to consider search engine optimization (SEO), structured data, social networking, and sharing functions (do you need Facebook “like” button?), advertising, online advertising, and on and on and on. Remember, your website can do so many things. But not every website should do everything.

10. What calls to action (CTAs) do you want?

We are getting to the important part of the website. After all, we want our users to take action. And your website should inspire action. You should come up with the CTAs you want to achieve. Once your website reaches the last phase, it is a good idea to test the CTAs.

11. How much traffic do you expect?

One of the mistakes businesses make is they start with a light website, and when their traffic spikes, users don’t get a reliable experience. For example, if you have a website about entertainment, what happens if millions tune in at the same time when Marvel releases a new movie?


Factors That Drive the Price

Warren Buffett once famously said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” In that regard, depending on the price you are willing to pay, you can get a higher quality website and web application. What factors influence the price? Well, let’s see.

Does it matter whether you buy a Mercedes or a Volkswagen? For example, do they have the same engine? Does horsepower matter? It’s the same way in the world of web design. Many factors can make the price go up or down.

The cost to develop a web application is the number of work hours put into it multiplied by the hourly rate the web development team charges. But the number of hours the team has to put into your website varies. It depends on the complexity of the website, as we mentioned earlier, but also some other factors.

For example, what custom features do you want to include? Previously, we touched on the topic of complexity and features. Now, we will dig deeper, and explain how they can increase the cost of your website.


Let’s start with a brief intro to the subject. Complexity plays a large role in the cost of your website. The simplest version of a web application is a website with only one person managing content, no online payments, and no integrations (for example, a simple informational website about a small company and its services).

But the complexity and the price will increase depending on if you want the following features:

  • Ability to sell online
  • Option to allow users to register on the website and add content
  • Allow users to buy or sell on your website
  • Integrate your web application with other apps
  • Localize website for geographic locations

And the list goes on. Don’t worry, we’ll get into these features later on.

Factors by Type and Purpose

Now, let’s talk a bit about your website. What do you want to accomplish? What type of website do you need? What is the goal of your website? When you answer these questions, you can categorize websites by type.

  • A personal website and blog is a website where you can share news and advice with customers. You can consider building a website as a personal blog.
  • A brochure website, or, as some call it, a landing web page, is a website ideal for small businesses. On this website, companies can display contact details, add an “about us” page, and more functionality and call-to-action buttons. The main goal of this website is to attract new customers and drive sales.
  • A corporate website engages people and delivers your business goals, values, and message to the clients. These websites integrate a lot of ideas for marketing purposes. They achieve your company’s need to communicate your goal and show off your portfolio. As an example, you can look at telecommunication companies, such as Verizon and AT&T.
  • An e-commerce website helps you receive payments in exchange for products or services you sell online. The main purpose is to serve as a platform for suppliers to sell their products. Think Amazon and eBay.
  • Educational institutions can work with an educational website that offers online courses.
  • Complex websites like Yahoo and AOL have web portals. These are websites that bring resources together, but they also offer services like forums, search engines, email, and more.
  • Last, but not least, we have community-building websites. Or, to put it simply, forums and sharing websites. These are thematic platforms. Think Facebook and LinkedIn.

Features Your Website Offers

How many features do you think your website can offer? And how many features are there? Try to think of a number. No matter what number you came up with, there are more features available. All these can influence the complexity of your web application and drive the price up.

Here is a quick breakdown of the common features:

  • E-commerce features: Listings creation, online payments, payout, withdrawal, online bidding, reviews, recommendations
  • Social networks and e-learning features: A personal account, the interaction between users, leaderboard
  • Management and operational features: Admin panel, dashboard, statistics, analytics, multiple user roles

And then you should consider some other custom features as well. For example, third-party system integration allows you to integrate your website with another web service.

Another custom feature you can add is web app performance. Developers need to take special measures if a lot of users use the application at the same time. If you expect high traffic and usage, developers need to optimize the website for the high load. For example, an event website might have more than 1,000 people using it at the same time.

Let’s talk about increased security measures as well. The website development covers basic software security requirements. But if you want to process online payments, you need to add even more security. Check the price of the SSL certificate.

User Interface and User Experience

These two go hand in hand. You need to deliver a stunning user interface that provides a smooth and seamless user experience if you want your website to drive sales and make customers want to spend time on it.

Front-end development deals with the interface. It provides the first visual aspect that clients recognize when visiting your website.

Back-end development deals with user interaction and how visitors interact with your website. Think buttons, links, clicks, and more. It is the core of the website and helps deliver a smooth functioning site. The cost of back-end development can increase depending on third-party integrations, data processing tasks, complex queries, and more.


Website Builders vs. Hiring a Developer

Nowadays, anyone can build a website. That is the pitch of website builders. But can you rely on a website builder for your website? Do you think you have the knowledge and skills to make your website stand out from the crowd? Or should you trust a team of professionals and experts to do their magic? Let’s talk about when you can use a website builder, and when you need a professional.

What is a website builder?

Simply put, it is a DIY tool that allows you to build a website. You can use premade templates, and you don’t have to design the website or write the code. There are many builders out there, such as Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace, and so on.

These offer a variety of design templates. Some of the top builders feature a few more options. Each website builder has its pros and cons, and often specialize in certain industries and provide industry-related templates.

There are both offline and online platforms for building a website. And as you can imagine, for an offline platform, you download it to your computer and design the website. With online platforms, you do everything through your browser.

Using a website builder is cheaper than hiring a professional. And in some cases, it might serve as a working solution. For example, website builders are great for technical novices, personal websites, and someone who needs a website to go live as soon as possible.

The price of website builders can range from free up to $500 per month. Most of the new websites fall within the $10 to $50 per month bracket. So if you want to know how much a website costs per month, that is the price for a website builder.

Don’t fall into the trap of a free website, however. The free plan comes with advertisements displayed on the website, a non-custom domain, no e-commerce features, and almost no other features.

The free plan is something you can try just to see whether you should use a website builder. In addition, if you want to look professional, a free website will give your business a bad reputation. You look cheap, and your website will have poor quality.

When you pay for a website builder plan, you pay for a monthly subscription, domain name, and some optional apps.

Here are the top reasons to use a website builder:

  • The main reason to choose a website builder is the price.
  • Wix and Squarespace deliver a clean and ad-free website.
  • Some builders offer a business plan with unlimited bandwidth and storage.
  • You can build the website yourself within hours.
  • You do not need any previous design experience.
  • Website builders come with built-in tech support.

Hiring a web designer

Hiring a web designer is the best route for businesses needing a complex website, entrepreneurs with little free time or technical confidence, and companies with budgets that need a custom website.

When you hire a web designer, you can talk with the freelancer or the company about the web design price list. What do you pay for when you hire a web designer?

Well, you pay for the website plan, hosting, domains, plugins, ongoing maintenance, templates, features, and the pages you need on your website. These factors all play a role in the total cost of the website. For example, do you need the website team to carry out ongoing maintenance, or you can do it yourself?

One of the important factors when hiring a web designer is you have a certain number of revisions. The company/freelancer building your website might not get it right the first time. Some companies offer one or two revisions. But for any additional revisions, you’ll have to pay extra.

Why hire a web designer? Well, the main reason is that you want your website to look as impressive as your business itself. A weak website will put you behind your competition. And when you hire a professional, you work with an actual human being, not a tool. Here are the top reasons why you should consider hiring a professional.

  • Web designers will help you create and maintain your brand identity.
  • Web designers can help you create a custom website with a company logo.
  • Hiring a web designer will make you stand out from the competition, delivering a unique website.
  • No matter how you want your website to look, a professional can help you achieve that.
  • Web designers apply finishing touches and pay attention to every detail on your website.
  • Collaboration with a website developer will help you find a trusted person for any changes and tweaks down the road.
  • There are no limits on the design solutions when working with a web designer.
  • You can sit back, relax, and wait for the website of your dreams.

Why hire a professional vs. web builder table

Web Builder

Website Developer

Affordable; for a small investment, you can get a website up and running

Many factors drive the price up; can cost between $1,000 and $10,000

You can have it up and running within days

Usually, a web development team needs time

Decent, but not great design; lacks design that understands marketing and visitor conversions

Web designers understand the practices, fonts, colors, harmony, and balance of your website

Looks like a template, and even visitors can notice it; too generic for success

Hiring a website developer results in a unique design that will stand out from the crowd

Website builders have terrible search engine optimization (SEO)

Website designers will design a website with all the tools, but also identify keywords you need

Not optimized for visitor conversions; appeal to a broad number of user types

Designed for clear conversion; tailored to the specific user path

Poor customer support

Ongoing support for your website


Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Website

Building a website is not cheap. Sometimes the price can go higher than your actual budget. So, what can you do? Well, in the past few years, companies and businesses have taken the hybrid road. What is that?

Well, it’s a combination of a website builder and hiring a professional. You buy a premade theme, and then ask the developer to customize it for you. You get the advanced functionality that comes with a built-in platform. And, at the same time, you get a custom design and extra features thanks to a website designer and developer.

This in-between option works great when you are not ready for an entirely custom website, or when such a website goes over your budget. You can pay by the hour or by the project. The price ranges between $300 and $1,000 for template customization. But that doesn’t include the features you want to add.

Another option to lower the cost of the website is to ask the developer to reduce some of the complexity. As we discussed earlier, ask yourself which features you must have. Are there any features that you can live without? Or reduce the page amount from 30 to 10, for example. Don’t forget to ask the developer how the changes will affect your end product.


Difference Between a Website and a Web Application

Let’s try to explain this simply. A website is a group of globally accessible and interlinked web pages. They have a single domain name. A web application, on the other hand, is a software or program that you can access from any browser.

Web applications can perform a wide range of functionality. They are customizable, and as such, are more difficult to build and develop.

Another explanation is that a web application is a responsive version of a website. You do not need to install it and you can access it from a mobile browser, computer, or any operating system.

Difference between a website and a web application table

Why do you need a website?

Why do you need a web application?

An effective way to showcase your products

Can be used on any platform

Helps in branding

Supports modern browsers

Helps you achieve your business goals

A cost-effective option for organizations

Creates a social proof

You can access data from a computer or mobile

Improve and increase customer support

Easier to maintain than desktop applications



So, now that we’ve explained most of the nitty-gritty factors about the cost of a website, what do you think? Is it easy to estimate the website development cost?

Entrepreneurs and business owners often ask for the actual dollar figure. That is what concerns them. However, there is no simple answer to how much does it cost to develop a web application.

Let’s try to make an analogy. Let’s say you want to build your dream house. You have to take into consideration the type of the house, the layout, total floor area, number of rooms, materials you will use, interior finish, exterior finish, and so on. It’s the same idea with a website.

Yet, we can give you a fair estimate of some prices. For small businesses, the price runs between $1,000 and $10,000. If you want a typical one-page website, you might get one for as low as $500. But for a feature-rich website, the price goes much higher and can reach $30,000.

Here is a quick summary of all the factors that can drive the price up or down:

  • Number of web pages, between 1 and 100+
  • Domain name (customized domain names cost more)
  • Style or theme (the simpler the design, the lower the price)
  • Responsive design (the ability of your website to adapt to the device)
  • Interactive multimedia
  • Website maintenance 
  • Website hosting
  • SSL certificate to make your website safer for users