Building your first website can seem like an overwhelming feat when you take into consideration planning and designing the site, finding a host, setting it up for e-commerce, and more. As with most business expenses, the costs will vary depending on your particular needs. Here's a list of some of the costs you'll encounter:
- Domain name: If you don't already have one, you'll need to purchase a domain name. Domain name registration is inexpensive; you should be able to register your name for less than $15 per year. Many registrars offer discounts for multiyear registrations, which are often a good idea anyway -- the last thing you want to do is lose your domain name because you forgot to renew it.
- Web host: Your Web host provides space on its servers where your site "lives." Hosting costs range from free to as much as $200 per month, depending on the options you need and the level of service you require. For most businesses, a middle-of-the-road site with basic e-commerce functionality, secure socket layer encryption (a must-have feature for e-commerce), and a reasonable amount of disk space and bandwidth will generally run from$10 to $30 per month.
- Design and production: The cost of designing and coding your site can also run the gamut from free to thousands of dollars. Some vendors, such as Microsoft Office Live Small Business, offer free basic website templates, or you could spend $200 or more to buy a premium template. A typical Web hosting company like imSMB offers packages ranging from $7.95 per month for hosting and a free domain name to as little as $34.95 a month for website maintenance.
- Professional designer: If you'd rather hand off the entire project to a designer, you could easily spend anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 on a basic site, with or without e-commerce capability. Your options are myriad at this step, and your needs (and budget) will determine what's within your reach. Our best advice about professional design is to get a crystal-clear idea of your requirements before you invest -- an open-ended Web design project can get very expensive, very quickly.
- Site content: One element of site building that often gets short shrift: the actual words on your Web pages. But well-crafted sales copy is essential to success on the Internet, and you should commit to making it the very best it can be. If you don't have the time or skill level to develop your own content, hire a professional. Writers typically charge per article, per hour, or by the word. You can also consider adding video, podcasts, or other multimedia content to your site, although that will add cost and complexity to your Web design project.
All told, you can expect to spend more than $1,000 for a small, professionally designed website, or as little as $50 if you decide to build it yourself. You'll need to keep in mind recurring fees, such as monthly hosting charges, domain renewals, and merchant account fees (if applicable).
Don't be afraid to shop around for the best deal before settling on a designer, template provider, or Web host. The market is extremely competitive, and you can find great deals if you are patient and do some research.