Why do websites cost so much?


April, 2019

Why do websites cost so much?

We often talk with potential clients who are floored at just how expensive it is to design, develop, host, and maintain their small business website. While keeping expenses low is always a top priority for a small business, it’s key to have a long-term vision and invest in your business along those lines. Your website is a big part of your business landscape, and there are a few ways to approach purchasing, building, and maintaining it. Read on!

Having a long-term vision and investing in your business is key to any small business’ success

How much should a website cost?

There are so many factors that determine the level of effort, and ultimately cost of, creating a site. Sitting down with a business consultant or a fellow small business owner who is a little farther down the road can be helpful. They’ll likely suggest ways to integrate your website into your overall business and marketing strategy. Your website must fit into the bigger picture and help fulfill your vision for your business. Spending time and money on a site and not making use of it doesn’t do anyone any good. This is one of the reasons why we won’t give an exact quote before meeting with a client. A simple three- page site could be quick and easy to build, or it might require a massive level of development effort if you also need a complex web form or user logins.

Spending time and money on a site and not making use of it doesn’t do anyone any good.

What about those build-it-yourself sites?

I’m so glad you asked! In fact, 50% of our clients have had a prior build-it-yourself site. Square Space runs just $216 a year, though there are other add-ons you might purchase to meet your unique needs. For instance, an online store costs $480 per year using their services.

While these build-it-yourself sites have great appeal, especially in price, they usually aren’t a good long-term solution. Clients that have transitioned from these sites tell us they’ve switched for the following reasons:


  • The site doesn’t contain the functionality they need to fully integrate into their business
  • They’ve spent so much time learning how to use the system and configure the site
  • The site is fully customizable, but only for users who know how to code
  • The site doesn’t integrate with other web services
  • Users are completely responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining their site

When would we recommend you use a build-it-yourself site?

Sometimes we do recommend a client use a build-it-yourself site. While we know that this takes away business, we can’t recommend that clients spend money on something that they don’t truly need.
Here are just a few scenarios in which we’d recommend you build something yourself:

  • You’re still solidifying your business plan and need to get a site up quickly
  • You want to include a sign-up form to gauge service/product interest
  • You only need a simple personal blog with a maximum of two other pages

Before you run too far down the road, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding a build-it-yourself site. The biggest issue we see for people just starting out is they want to make major modifications to the preset templates. If you are going to use a drag-and-drop builder site, you’ll need to personalize it. Usually these sites have a selection of pre-made templates for use, but make sure that you select one that looks like 95% of what you want, and ONLY modify the text and switch out the photos to make it your own. Modifying these templates any further usually breaks the design and flow and may leave users with a poor user experience.

When using a template, make sure that you select one that looks like 95% of what you want and ONLY modify the text and switch out the photos to make it your own.


Also, think about the future! If you have a successful business or business idea, you will eventually want to move to a more professional site. In that case, you don’t want to recreate the wheel or lose out on the SEO rankings that your domain has made, so you’ll need a way to transfer to a different platform. Below are a few things to be looking for when selecting a build-it-yourself site:

  • Make sure you can get your content off the site – i.e. photos, logos, etc.
  • Ensure that you can transfer your website domain away from them after 60-90 days
  • Don’t let yourself get locked into a multi-year contract

*Pier5 note – because we know that there are some people who would rather not deal with any web building, we are considering offering a special service just for folks looking to collect feedback/interest on a business idea. If you are interested in this, please let us know!

If you have a successful business or business idea, you will eventually want to move to a more professional site.

Okay I’m ready for a professional site! What do I need?

Believe it or not, building a website is not quite as simple as hiring a “web guy.” It really does take a lot of work on your part to build out your site. After all this is your site, so a website design/developer will need your help to build something that you’ll be happy with! We estimate that it takes about 8 – 12 hours per week of work for our clients while we are building out their site. If you want to get ahead of the game by gathering all the necessary elements, here is what we suggest:


  • Lay out how you would like clients/customers to use your site within your business
  • Write down the feelings and colors that you would like on your site. Feelings might include bold, friendly, adventurous, etc.
  • Develop a personal bio and the “about” text for your website
  • Determine what form fields you are looking for in the various contact forms throughout your site (contacting for more info, opting in for a newsletter, etc.). What kind of information will you need from users?)
  • List out the key words and phrases that when typed into Google, would cause your website to be listed in the search engine (What would a person be looking for if they’re coming to you?)
  • Write out questions you’d like to discuss during your initial meeting with the web consultants

So what’s the bottom line? – What should you do?

Determining what kind of website you should pay for comes down to one simple question: How much are you willing to invest? If your time is more valuable and can be better spent handing off the design and development of your website to a professional agency, do it (and feel free to contact us!).  However, if you have more time than capital, consider building up to quality site by starting with a service like Squarespace or Wix. The experience you’ll gain by building your own website will help you communicate with an agency later down the road when you have ironed out the finer details of your business/company.  We wish you all the best as you work through your business vision and focus on your website development.  Contact us if you have any questions!


I have a passion for using technology to make workflow and the day-to-day easier. Pier5 allows me to help businesses with digital technology, allowing them to focus more on what they love and are good at – their product or service!

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