Building a Website
17 min read
Updated: October 28, 2020

How Much Does a High-Performance Website Cost?

What, exactly, is a high-performance website? For starters, it is quite different from the vast majority of websites out there. And the main difference is that 72% of new websites fail to deliver measurable improvements over their predecessors, which high-performance websites produce meaningful, measurable, and, most often, revenue-driving ways.

What’s the difference between a good and high-performance website? 

As I mentioned in another article, “The Best Examples of Website Objectives,” you can hire an agency to build a snazzy new website because your old one is outdated and just isn’t performing the way that it should, but the new website might not perform any better. Yes, it might look modern and ultimately way better than the old one, but the traffic volume is about the same, as are the number of leads, opportunities and/or sales your new website generates.

So the new website fails. It fails to deliver on your expectations. Worse, it fails to deliver a return on your investment of money, time, and the energy spent building it. And worst of all is that it incurs massive opportunity costs (opportunities you miss because your website doesn’t generate as much business as a high-performance website would). 

What is a high-performance website?

A high-performance website, on the other hand, is quite different. And it is different because it is built to deliver on very specific end objectives. The end objective must never be to simply have a website that looks better than the previous version. The end goal should always be to deliver meaningful, measurable results.

What are the objectives of a high-performance website?

Typically, those results are as follows:

  • To generate more relevant traffic. This could be people who are part of your target market, or in the market to buy the product or service you are selling.
  • To increase the rate of conversions. The greater the number of people who visit your website, the greater the number of people who end up converting into qualified leads or sales. In other words, through your website, visitors will end up converting into a lead (a person at any stage in their buying journey, which I’ll explain further in another post); or into a direct sale, particularly if your business is e-commerce and actually sells products.
  • To support your sales team and process. If you are selling a complex product or service, a high-performance website can provide additional support for your sales team, enabling it to be more successful.

These are the most crucial goals that a high-performance website can and should help your business achieve. Let’s explore  how much a website costs to build.

Website goals

Factors that impact the cost of your future website

Website Size

The first factor that impacts the cost of building your new website is size. How large is it going to be? Some websites are only five or six pages and might have a blog. Other websites could house hundreds of pages and a blog and whatever additional functionality the business requires. Keep in mind that a big website with many pages will cost more than a one-page website. But don’t use this alone as a factor in trying to reduce your website cost.

Functionality 

Functionality is the second major factor that impacts the total cost of your high-performance website. Functionality refers to the type of tasks a user should be able to perform on your website. In the web development world, we call every task that a person should be able to perform on your site, a “user story.”

A user story answers three questions: 

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Why?

Who is the person using your website? There may be several different types of visitors including prospects, existing customers, prospective and current employees, suppliers, and so on. All of these people must be able to perform various tasks on your website. 

To determine what those tasks are, think of each type of person using your website and what you need for them to be able to do. Sometimes developers will ask for clarification on why a user might need to perform this particular task on your new website. 

In a nutshell: the more complex functionality your website needs, the higher the cost to build; the less complex functionality your site needs, the lower the cost will be.

Scope

The third factor that impacts the total price of your website is the scope of your project. Here’s what that means:

What will the agency you’ve hired to develop your website actually need to do? Will it just build the site infrastructure or also produce copy (written content)? Will it need to produce images? Will it need to develop any special functionality? Can your own internal team fulfill any of these content requirements? 

Your answers to the above questions dictate the scope of your project and impacts the cost of your website. 

Who will build your website?

The final factor is equally if not more important than the first three in determining cost. Who will build your website? Typically, when people and companies hire web development and/or marketing agencies to build a new website, they are faced with three of the following options: 

  1. DIY / freelancer
  2. A “doer” marketing or web design agency
  3. An expert agency

Here is the difference between the three.

Website cost - Web development

DIY/Freelancer

Do it yourself or freelance websites are built using services like wix.com or squarespace.com. There, you can buy a very inexpensive template and use the templates provided to create a new website. Chances are, it’s not going to look the way that you want. Chances are, it’s not going to function the way that you need it to. Chances are, it will be impossible to find that website using search engines because it’s not going to be optimized for search engines.

But on the plus side, you will have a website to serve as a digital brochure — something to prove to people that you’re actually a legitimate company. It won’t serve much greater use than that, and there are many downsides, but if you’re just starting out and have no budget at all, this option will cost practically pennies (well, not really pennies, but you get the gist)! 

The other option that falls into the same category, is hiring a freelancer. Chances are, hiring a freelancer will yield a similar, but slightly better outcome. The website may end up looking better than if you did it yourself and a freelancer may be able to produce your website faster. The cost is relatively marginal.

In our experience, we know that most freelancers will produce a website for generally between $2,000 to $5,000. In some cases, you can find a freelancer to produce a site for less than $1,500. But a professional business that is competing with larger companies in the same space should never choose the DIY/freelance route as it is always a losing proposition. Your website simply won’t be competitive. So unless your competitors are all using DIY-websites, which is highly unlikely, it is advisable to skip Option #1.

Your second option when choosing how to build your website is to hire what we call a “doer agency.”

What’s a doer agency?

A doer agency takes orders from a client and does them the way the client has specified. Meaning, if you tell a doer agency that you need a new website, they’ll ask you what business you’re in, how many pages you need, how you want the website to look, and they will produce that website.

The price for such a website typically ranges between $5,000 and $15,000. The reason why it’s higher is because a doer agency probably has a better design skillset. The website will end up looking better. But while it might be crisper looking than the website you or a freelancer could build, there’s a downside.

Web design and web development company in Chicago

Doer agencies are not focused on the end result (i.e. getting your website to achieve certain goals). Doer agencies are focused instead on the project deliverable. If you ask a doer agency for a website, they will deliver that website and it will look okay. But that website will not achieve the objectives you’ve set (which I describe in detail in “The Best Examples of Website Objectives”). 

There have been hundreds of times clients came to us with a website built by a doer agency, dissatisfied with the end result. It’s not that they didn’t like the website’s look or hated the way it functioned (although many times that’s the case also), it’s that the website failed to deliver on the business’ objectives. Most companies and organizations build websites to get more traffic, more leads – ultimately, more business. Websites built by doer agencies usually do not perform in this regard, they simply deliver a product that looks nice.

Hire an expert agency

If you are in business and need better results from your website, you need to hire an expert agency. Expert agencies can charge anywhere between $15,000 to $25,000 for a midsize website.

They will build a website that:

  • Looks phenomenal
  • Functions well
  • Is competitive; can stand toe-to-toe with your bigger, better, stronger competitors
  • Is search engine optimized so it will be easy/easier to find on Google and other search engines
  • Will help generate new business

These are high-performance websites and they are typically built by expert agencies.

How to get the website that delivers great results

Whichever route you go: a freelancer, a doer agency or an expert agency, talk to them about the actual, meaningful and measurable results that you want your website to accomplish. You should have these results in mind at every step when building a website.

Best websites for reaching your business goals

Once you’ve outlined those desired results on paper, ask the agencies you’re interviewing to tell you, specifically, how they will build a website that delivers those results. Ask them to give you the plan. Ask the agency if it can help your website accomplish your objectives. If it can’t illustrate a clear path from where you are today (point A) to where you want to be to meet your objectives (point B), do not hire that agency. 

Your website is the center of your marketing ecosystem and just about every prospective client or customer is going to look at it. Just about every prospective employee is going to look at it. Your suppliers, vendors, affiliates, will all look at it. Your website needs to look as good and function the same if not better than your top competitors’. If it doesn’t, you will incur an opportunity cost as people may give their business to a competitor.

I have repeatedly seen the scenario in which people saved a little bit upfront but lost exponentially more in the long run. Instead of spending $15,000 to $20,000 on their website, they spent $5,000. They feel like they saved $10,000, but in reality, over the course of five years, they lost so many opportunities – people who came to their website and left because the user-experience gave the impression that the business wasn’t legitimate or simply wasn’t as good as others out there. 

Those opportunities can be measured. In some cases, the losses equate to literally millions of dollars, or at least hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that is the ultimate truth. You have to really think about your website in these strategic terms. It is an investment in your business. Plain and simple. Are you investing in a business tool that will help you generate and grow more business? Or are you trying to get a digital brochure that will just look nice?

If you have any questions about all the factors that go into building a website; if you’re unsure which route to take; if you have talked to other agencies but they have not shown you a clear plan to achieve your goals (which should be more traffic and more business), talk to us.

Schedule a consultation where we’ll discuss your business and current website (if you have one) and we’ll look at your competitors. From this discussion, we’ll confer with the rest of our team and strategize a plan to help your business reach its end objectives and deliver the results that you actually want.

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About the Author
Sasha Berson
Sasha serves as Managing Partner and VP of Client Solutions for Comrade Digital Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing agency dedicated to solving client’s most pressing digital challenges.
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