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How Much Does It REALLY Cost to Build a Website?

So, you want to build a website and you have no idea of how much it will cost. Do you know that no one can give you a definitive cost of building your website without knowing what you want?

To find the answer to your question, start by asking three simple questions to yourself:

  1. What do you want to build?
  2. What do you want to achieve with your website?
  3. Do you have the necessary skills to build the website you want?

The answer to your question about the cost is hidden in the answer to those three questions.

You may want to build a simple blog or an ecommerce site, or perhaps your online resume. Your purpose to build a website might be just about your hobby where you don’t care about who visits your website and who doesn’t. On the other end of the spectrum, you may want to earn money from your website, making your website visitors a vital factor.

If you don’t possess the skills you need to build a website of great complexity, you may need to get help from a professional developer, and that is going to cost you money.

Since there are multiple scenarios that come in, determining the true cost of building a website is very difficult.

That’s why, this article will work with a few basic assumptions that include:

  • You want to build a blog or an ecommerce site.
  • You want to convert it into a money-making tool, which means that your website’s visitors matter, and more visitors you get, the better it is.
  • You are not a developer, and hence, you will need something basic and yet powerful enough to build your website without any professional aid.

The Tools You Will Need to Build Your Website

Here is the list of the tools you will need to build your website:

  • A domain name.
  • A hosting server.
  • A website builder.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

A Domain Name

A domain name is essentially the URL of your website. For instance, when you want to search something on Google search, you type in Google.com in the address bar of your web browser such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, etc. Google.com is the domain name that identifies the search engine that you try to access.

Similarly, this website’s name is Cloudzat and its domain is Cloudzat.com. The domain name refers to the address at which a certain website can be located on the Internet. You need to purchase a domain name, and you need to renew it every year.

So, a domain name brings in a recurring cost that you cannot avoid. The moment you stop renewing your website’s domain name, the website will cease to exist.

You can buy a domain name from any of the many domain registrars that exist. I usually opt for Namecheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to opt for same. You can go for options like:

  • Bluehost
  • Domain.com
  • NameSilo
  • Gandi
  • BigRock

There are many more! It is absolutely a matter of choice.

Cost of registering a domain: The cost of registering a domain name will vary depending on the TLD (top level domain). TLD refers to the extension such as .com, .net, .org, .edu, .info, .me, .blog, etc. The price can range anywhere from $8 to $20 a year. If you are settling for a .com domain, you can expect to pay something around $11 a year.

A Hosting Server

Just purchasing a domain name will not help you. You need a place to store your website files and folder from where your website will be served to a browser requesting your site. The place where you store your website files is called server.

You should not even think of buying a server. That’s too expensive! Instead, do what everyone else does! Get a web hosting plan from a company that offers server space on rent. There are different types of web hosting solutions to select from.

Here is a quick list:

WordPress hosting is a type of hosting solution where you can host only WordPress sites. Similarly, WooCommerce hosting will allow you to host only WordPress sites with WooCommerce plugin. Essentially, they will allow creating on ecommerce sites using WooCommerce plugin. If you want to use Magento, you can use Magento hosting.

Shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, and cloud hosting are all generic forms where you can host just about any type of website.

Generally, for starter websites, shared hosting works well, because they are under-powered. New websites will anyway not get enough traffic, and hence, an under-powered shared hosting solution will work just fine.

When the traffic starts increasing, you may think of moving to a VPS, or a dedicated, or cloud hosting.

Though it is a popular notion that shared hosting is the least expensive of all, it is not true. Shared hosting companies will offer massive discounts when you signup for the first time. Such humongous discounts apply only when you purchase a hosting plan for a long term.

When time for renewal comes, the prices jump up, almost skyrocketing to two or three times the initial offer price.

For instance, you can get a shared hosting plan for less than a dollar a month. However, you will get that price when you commit for two or three years or more. When you renew, the price can reach up to three times.

A good example will be Hostinger. You can buy a hosting plan for $0.99 a month provider you commit for 4 years. From the fifth year, the price will jump up to $2.99 a month!

I, however, never recommend going for Hostinger. There are much better options like GreenGeeks, HostPapa, ScalaHosting, FastComet, InterServer, & IONOS.

You can go for shared hosting for the few initial years, because it does take time to build an online reputation and get some traffic. Likely, by the time your website’s monthly traffic outgrows the monthly bandwidth allocation of your shared hosting server, you should be in a position to move to a VPS hosting, or dedicated hosting, or cloud hosting.

Assuming that you are going for a shared hosting plan, in particular, GreenGeeks, you need to pay $ 2.49 a month, if you are purchasing the package for three years. This means that you need to pay $89.64 upfront. From the second billing cycle (renewal), the total you need to pay up front for three years is $394.20.

You must renew even a web hosting package after the completion of every billing cycle. It is also a recurring cost you need to absorb.

A Website Builder

Since you are not a developer (if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this article in the first place), you will need, you will most-likely opt for a website builder that already provides the basic structure. You can then click around and customize your website.

There are various options that you can use. WordPress is by far the most famous option. However, if you want to get away the problem of buying a web hosting server and then installing the website builder software, you can look for options like:

  • Wix
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly
  • Shopify, etc.

These solutions are known as hosted solutions in which they will provide you the web hosting server and you need to build your website using their platform and website builder. There will be no choice at all! However, you will have to get your domain name if you don’t want to use a ridiculously awful URL that they offer.

It is natural to think that by eliminating the need for buying a server space you can reduce the overall cost. That’s not true. These platforms charge you for hosting. The price for hosting is included in the package you buy. You can get it for free, but the free website you build will have very limited customization capabilities, and on top of that, those website builder platforms will place ads on your website, and trust me, those big banner ads look unprofessional.

What more? If you need more customization capabilities and increased functionality for your website, the cost of using a website builder platform increases significantly, with package pricing exceeding $200 per month for a few website builders. For instance, the most advanced plan from Shopify comes for a price of $299 per month, which translates into $3,588 a year!

This is one of the reasons why millions of people globally use WordPress. WordPress is extremely versatile and powers nearly 40% of the web.

WordPress is so versatile that you can build almost anything from a simple blog to a complex ecommerce site, from a membership site to a QA forum and even a full-fledged social network. The good news is that you don’t need to learn coding. There are themes and plugins that can achieve this with ease.

However, you might have to purchase some of them. You can find themes and plugins for one-off purchase and then there are some that will require you to pay a yearly subscription fee. That doesn’t mean you cannot get free themes and plugins.

Here is a quick list of some of the most famous free themes and plugins that you can use:

Themes:

There are many more! What’s interesting is that you will find a premium version for almost every free theme you find. The premium versions come with more advanced functions and more customization options.

Plugins:

There are thousands more! Many of these are completely free (no premium version available) while other have premium versions available.

Honestly, you don’t have to purchase a premium theme or premium plugins to start. You can always start with the free alternatives and when your website starts earning a decent amount of money, you can start investing in the premium modules or versions.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Build a Website?

Cost of building a basic blog:

Here is my estimate:

Element Cost
Domain Name Approximately $15 a year
Hosting Approximately $90 for 3 years (shared hosting with discount)
Website Builder Free
Total Cost 90 + 15 + 15 + 15 = $135

So, you should be able to get away with approximately $45 a year. Now, the total cost included $15 three times because you will have a hosting plan for three years, but you will have to renew your domain every year.

If you are lucky, your hosting provider may offer a free domain for the first year as a complimentary gift. This will bring down your total three-year cost to $120. So, your yearly cost will come down to $40 a year.

This calculation has a few assumptions, which are:

  • You are not building a very complex website that requires custom development. You are building a simple blog.
  • You are using WordPress.
  • You are opting for a shared hosting solution.
  • You are using only free themes and plugins.

We know that purchasing a domain name straight away in addition to a web hosting plan purchase can be expensive, especially when you are starting out. That is the reason why we recommend using GreenGeeks that will offer you free domain for the first year, thereby give you some respite. Buy GreenGeeks hosting today to save significantly on your hosting package for the first three years.

Buying GreenGeeks hosting will entitle you for a free CDN and free nightly backups. You can also enjoy domain-based emails for free.

Cost of building a custom site:

The cost can dramatically change if you want a custom-built website with custom designs and custom functions. In that case, the cost can very well reach $30,000 or more! If you don’t have a budget, you shouldn’t even think about it.

However, if you want to get a realistic estimate, here is what you can expect:

  • Cost of developer – Anywhere within the range of $20 to $100 per hour. You will be charged on an hourly rate. You can get a developer from websites like UpWork.
  • Cost of hosting – If your custom-built site is complex, it may need a powerful server. In such a case, shared hosting may work for the first couple of years, but you may have to upgrade to a VPS hosting or dedicated hosting or cloud hosting at a later stage. If you are building a custom site, it is natural to think that it will have advanced functions that will require more server resources. In case you to go for a shared hosting, I will recommend you look into GreenGeeks’ Premium hosting plan. Alternatively, you can look at their VPS hosting with dedicated resources.

Do not forget that in the case of a custom-built website there will be recurring cost for everything including hosting, domain, and website maintenance (updates to ensure that your website doesn’t break with WordPress core updates). Remember, the website maintenance charges can add up very quickly.

Cost of building an ecommerce site:

In case you want to build an ecommerce site and you are running low on budget, I will recommend going for WooCommerce and Storefront theme. Of course, the basic version of WooCommerce doesn’t have advanced functions. If you need those advanced functions, you will have to purchase additional modules that can increase your cost.

WordPress itself is a powerful CMS. If you install WooCommerce, you will need more resources to ensure that the website works flawlessly. In such a case, I will recommend WordPress hosting from GreenGeeks.

Their WordPress hosting servers are optimized to run WordPress and WooCommerce without any issues. All servers are backed by SSD storage.

If you are building an entry-level ecommerce site, the annual cost can be around $50 assuming that you are settling for their lowest WordPress hosting plan.

If you want advanced functions for your WooCommerce store, you will need various paid plugins that will cost extra.

In case of an advanced ecommerce store, I will suggest that you get their premium plan that has 4x performance and give you a Premium SSL certificate for free. In case you are settling for their premium plan, you can expect the annual cost to be slightly over $100.

Cost of building an advanced site:

What is an advanced site? It refers to sites like membership sites, forums, QA sites, etc. Such sites have specialized functions and require enough computing power to handle constant postings from thousands of users.

Of course, your advanced website may not get high traffic at the beginning, but when the site grows, you will need more and more server resources.

In this case, you may need:

  • A highly advanced premium theme.
  • Powerful premium plugins.
  • A proper firewall.

I cannot tell you how much a theme will cost because that will depend on your requirements. You can find some advanced themes in marketplaces like Themeforest (from Envato). There are thousands of premium themes that you can buy. The average price of premium themes on Themeforest is $60. However, you can get themes for as little as 30 USD, while some themes will cost well over $100.

The same happens for plugins. I cannot give you an estimate because the price of premium plugins will depend on how complex the plugin is, and what functions it can perform. For instance, if you are thinking of building a full-fledged social media site, you can look at the plugin called Youzer.

Some sites will tell you about essential plugins, marketing plugins, etc. But hey, who determines what is essential for you? You will decide that!

My recommendation is that you perform a complete analysis of what you want to build. Depending on your needs you will get the most relevant plugins and themes.

For instance, you may want to build a Q&A site. I don’t see how Beaver Builder or WPForms can factor in as vital or essential plugins in such a site. You can always look for a theme such as QAEngine. When you are building such a site, plugins like Beaver Builder doesn’t make any sense.

The bottom line is that for advanced sites, you will need advanced themes and plugins that will cost you money. Which plugins and themes you will need will depend on your purpose.

The price for an advanced site is difficult to gauge, but I can assume that the cost of building such a site will range anywhere between 100 and 500 US Dollars just for the themes and plugins. Then there will be additional and recurring costs for hosting, domain, firewall (from Sucuri or CloudFlare), which will cost you around $100 a year depending on various factors.

For advanced websites, I will always recommend that you opt for a powerful shared hosting plan. Such advanced websites usually have complex functions that can be efficiently handled only by powerful hosting servers.

Things You Should Ask Yourself

Here is a quick checklist of questions that you should answer before you set out to build a website:

  • What type of website you are going to build?
  • What will be the eventual purpose of the website?
  • Are you happy with premade theme templates? (Premade themes can help you to quickly roll out a new website).
  • What is your budget?

When you have answers to all these questions, go forward and conduct some market research. You market research should involve the following:

  • Cost of premium themes and what functions they offer.
  • Cost of premium plugins and what they can help you achieve.
  • Best hosting companies and how much they charge.
  • Type of hosting is best suited for your needs. I generally recommend going for cloud hosting (specifically, DigitalOcean), but if you want to settle for a shared hosting company, I recommend GreenGeeks. If you want to settle for WordPress hosting, I will recommend GreenGeeks or WPX Hosting (managed hosting).

Everything you find in your research will take you one step closer to create the website of your dreams. So, don’t hurry! Take your time!