I get this question a lot, and if you’re a web design or development professional I’m guessing you do also. Here’s how I usually answer it:

Well, that depends.

When I say this to clients (and I do often), I’m not trying to be smug, or avoid the question. The answer truly depends on a host of variables. But in the interest of providing a solution (and a somewhat coherent blog post), I’ll try to outline a few of the variables involved when I price a web site project.

1. Type of Website
Are we talking a small company, product or service site that’s under 20 pages, with minimal content and photos? Or a large corporate site with hundreds of pages, secure password-protected areas and database or software integrations? A small boutique e-commerce site with less than 10 products? Or a large online store with hundreds of products? There are many kinds of websites, what kind is yours?

2. Special Functionality
This is one of the more important considerations when I price a website, and where the biggest price variances can occur. Special functionality can include interactive customer features, special content display functionality, database and software integrations, custom document or software download functionality, and many other possible functionality requirements that can affect the overall price of the site.

3. Development Platform
Does your site need to be built using a specific development language? Examples include HTML/CSS, PHP, ASP and .NET among others. Is your site hosted on a server that has specific development requirements? The cost of your site could go up or down depending on the answers to these questions.

4. Content Management System
A Content Management System (CMS) allows a user to easily control site content without any specific programming knowledge (although having some development expertise can make it easier at times). At the time of this writing popular CMS’s include WordPress (I love WordPress and am heavily biased toward it, we use this particular CMS in a lot of the sites we build), Joomla, Drupal, Expression Engine, SilverStripe and Squarespace among others. Using a CMS a great way to manage a site, and your choice of whether or not to use a CMS (and if you do, which one) can affect the price.

5. Overall Complexity
“Complexity” can be interpreted somewhat subjectively, but things like these can affect the bottom line price of a web site:

  • total number of pages
  • number of different page layouts
  • number, type and organization of different sections
  • number of different form layouts and functionality

6. Deadline
It seems like the practice of charging rush fees for expedited project delivery might be going the way of the dinosaurs (in the interest of businesses focusing more on customer service in today’s difficult economic climate). However, if your web site project’s deadline warrants bringing in extra resources in order to accommodate a specific schedule — depending on the above factors and your deadline — plan on additional fees to cover the costs of those resources.

7. Client Organization
Clients don’t like to hear this, but things like accuracy of initial client-supplied specs, input and content, as well as client responsiveness to questions, reviews and approvals can also affect the final price of a web site. Discrepancies between initial specs and what’s actually needed, additional time spent organizing content (and especially creating new content), and extra time rescheduling the project because of missed client milestone dates, all can result in change orders and additional project fees. The more organized a client is in regards to client-supplied content (copy, artwork, photos, documents, etc.) and responsiveness to necessary input and feedback helps make the project run more smoothly and keep the project on budget.

So as you can see, there are a number of factors that can affect the price of designing and building a website, and the list above is by no means comprehensive. But by knowing what some of these factors are, hopefully you can more effectively plan your next website design or redesign project, and know why it costs what it does.

What other factors not mentioned above do you think are important in pricing a web site project?