Small Business Website Cost Considerations

by | Nov 5, 2018

“How much does a small business website cost?” is a question I am asked all the time. The answer, of course, is: it depends. The cost of a website for a small business varies depending on the needs of the customer; however, there are some general factors involved in all website designs. In this post, I provide an overview of these cost considerations for a small business website.

Set Costs Vs. Operating Costs

The main thing to understand about the cost to build a website is the difference between a set cost and an operating cost. A set cost is paid once for a specific service or product while an operating cost is charged at repeated, regular intervals.

In the world of small business website design, common set costs include design fees, graphic elements costs, one-time software fees, and specialized costs. These fees are charged by the respective vendor when they provide a specific product or service. These fees are incurred during the initial build of the site or for specific site changes.

Operating costs are incurred on an on-going basis. These charges include domain registration, hosting, website care to keep your site up and running, and software license fees.

Set Cost Considerations

Design Fees

Design fees are charged by the builder/designer of the website. These fees are negotiated up front and are part of the web design contract agreed upon by both parties. The design fees are usually the most expensive part of the design for a small business website.

A design fee is a generic term for the work that is done by the person or company responsible for building the website. This work is very encompassing and includes things like incorporating stock photography, icons or graphics, installation of plug-ins, addition of analytics tracking, and many other aspects. It is important the web design contract clearly lays out the all the work to be completed to avoid further fees down the road.

Graphic Elements

Graphic elements are the visual aspects of the website design. These can be in the form of a pre-built graphic template or theme, your photos or stock photography, icons, logos, and other graphics. Depending on the arrangement with the website builder, some of these elements are done by the builder, outsourced to a third party, or purchased directly.

Small business website cost factors heavily on the extent and source of the graphic elements. Serious consideration is needed when deciding on how to approach the visual design to the site. Using custom graphics and photography can quickly strain the project’s budget if they are not addressed during the initial design phase. A good website designer reviews your needs with you and has a good understanding of your budgetary constraints when it comes to graphic design.


Websites require software to operate. Some software, referred to as plugins in WordPress, are purchased for a one-time fee. Most set cost plugins perform specific functions on the site like installing sliding images, calendar systems, or email functions.

Plugins often come with free versions. The free versions are less robust and not updated as frequently as their paid counterparts. In some cases the free versions work perfectly fine. Plugins that perform higher-end functions usually require annual or monthly licensing fees and are covered under the Operating Costs section of this post.

Other Set Costs

All set small business website costs include design fees, graphic element costs, and software costs, but there are other costs that may require consideration. While these don’t apply to every situation, they can increase the cost of a small business website when they are required. Some of these potential added costs include consulting, programming, content development, and legal fees.

Operating Cost Considerations

Domain Name Registration

All websites need a domain name and registering the domain name for a small business is a standard operating cost. Domain name registration is completed through a registrar. Registering a domain name is easy and not terribly expensive but there are a couple things to consider.

First, most normal extensions (.com, .net, .org, etc.) are reasonably priced and cost less than $20 per year. Some of the newer extensions like .photo or .tv are more expensive. These domain extensions are specialized and will probably be more popular in the future, but for now, the standard extensions are still the best.

Another thing to consider is whether one domain name is adequate or if registering multiple domain names makes more sense. Most small businesses will only need one domain name, but there are few instances where having multiple domains registered provides a business advantage.

The most common instance is when the business wants to protect their name from being used by someone else. The business may want to register the .com extension as well as the .net and others. This prevents someone else from capitalizing on the business name or using the second domain to damage the business.

Another reason to register multiple domain names is to protect future business needs or developments. It’s a good idea to register the domain name of a trademark or product name even if the company doesn’t plan on using the domain name itself. A business can also obtain domain names for specific marketing campaigns they may wish to run.

Regardless of the number of domain names, each of them require a yearly renewal fee and is part of the cost of keeping a website running.

Hosting Costs

A small business website cost analysis must include hosting. Hosting is what actually runs the website. Hosting can be extremely confusing for people unfamiliar with what it is and what the differences are between hosts and plans.

There are too many hosts and too many different types of plans to go into great detail here, but the important thing to realize is the cost to host a small business website can be substantial and choosing a host is very important.

For most of my clients, I am able to provide excellent hosting service for a reasonable cost. My of my clients choose this option as long as it fits their needs. Get more information on my hosting here.

For clients that have specialized needs or very large sites that exceed what my hosting service can provide, I research the best hosting option. Costs can vary greatly depending on what the specific needs are, but fortunately, many hosting providers offer discounts (sometimes up to 30%) for multiple year plans and for new customers. Monitoring these discounts can greatly decrease the costs of hosting a website.

Website Care

A website requires regular care or maintenance to continue running smoothly. The extent of the maintenance varies greatly from site to site depending on the requirements. Some small, static sites only need the back-end systems to be updated on a regular basis. However; other sites not only require back-end updates but also content updates, product updates, and other types of maintenance.

The maintenance fees are typically charged on a yearly basis and are negotiated and incorporated into the website contract. Since these costs can be high, it is imperative to get these costs settled upon prior to completion of the site to avoid any potential conflicts. I offer a ‘Core’ care plan that provides the base level of service needed to properly care for a website but couple that with an extensive array of add-on options to customize the plan to meet each client’s specific website care needs.

Software Licensing Fees

As mentioned previously, software plugins are needed to perform certain functions on a website. Sometimes plugins are free or can be purchased for a one-time fee, but most plugins require a subscription.

These software subscriptions can really affect the small business website cost. The needed plugins who pays for them should be agreed upon prior to purchase and installation. Some designers have agency licenses that allow them to resell the software to their clients directly. Others require the clients to pay the individual software companies directly for the plugins. A good designer outlines these payment structures and expectations clearly for the small business owner.

Other Operating Costs

Domain name registration, hosting, maintenance, and software license fees are the major operating costs for a small business website. While these are some of the factors, this is not an all-inclusive list. Virtually every small business website will incur the operating costs mentioned above, but there are other optional operating costs to consider as well. Some of these include website security monitoring and malware protection, content management, and search engine optimization services.

This is a general guideline of set costs and operating costs affecting a small business website. Feel free leave a comment below with any questions. As always, if you are looking for a small business website, contact me directly for a free consultation.

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