What exactly is an "affordable website"?

I see posts on Facebook all the time asking for someone who can build an “affordable website” or one that “won’t break the bank.” Or, “I need a low-cost, basic, simple website, but it needs to be engaging and professional.” Those who want the low-cost, affordable, basic website also plan to bring in revenue from their site – either directly through an online store or by promoting a product or event that will bring in offline sales.

Remember the old saying, “you have to spend money to make money?” That’s a good one to think of right about now!

While you may feel the examples below are a wee bit extreme, indulge me as I provide some analogies…

Would you walk into a car dealership and ask for a brand new, low-cost, basic car that also drives well, has great gas mileage, and looks amazing? That will likely confuse a car salesman until he/she gets more information from you.

Would you talk to a home builder about building your new home and make price your #1 focus, stating that the home needs to be inexpensive and basic, but it should have gorgeous granite, wood floors, Thermador appliances, a Mediterranean roof, etc.?

I get emails all the time where the person looking to have a website built believes he/she needs something “simple” and “nothing fancy.” Then, the email continues with, “I just need the basic pages – home, about, services, testimonials, maybe a photo gallery, and a contact page.”

While the website described above may seem “basic” or “simple”, it is really no different than a standard, informational website. And, a standard, informational website (and ANY website for that matter) should – first and foremost – be professional; aesthetically pleasing; mobile responsive; easy to navigate; have good, clean code; and have a host of other very important features that a professional web designer and developer will ensure are integrated into the website.

What value would you place on the above-mentioned finished product? How much time do you have on your hands to spend researching how to build the website, what software to use, which web host to go with, how to set up your custom email addresses, how to add email opt-in forms, and everything else needed to get the results you want and need? Or, do you need to focus on YOUR area of expertise and spend the money to have a professional build your website?

We hire professionals to cut our hair, fix our plumbing, and cure our ailments. Why would one not hire a professional to build what will be the online face of your business for millions to see?

This brings me to the big question: What DOES affordable, low-cost, and/or inexpensive really mean? How does one answer, “how much does a website cost?” Guess what…the answer will always be, “it depends.”

I need an affordable website”! Can you recommend someone? I’d love to...but what does “affordable” mean to you? TheEssentialWebsite.com

The definition of the term affordable is “inexpensive; reasonably priced.”

OK, fair enough. But, everyone has a different idea of what inexpensive and reasonably priced means to them because everyone is in a completely different financial situation and has a completely different mindset when it comes to money.

It’s like saying, “I want a really nice car.” To one person that may be a Mercedes, to another it may be a Ford, and to another it may be one that simply works as it should.

What if you needed to get wood floors installed in your home and you simply asked a company, “How much is it to have wood floors installed in my home?” There is no way they can answer that question without first knowing how many rooms, the square footage, and the type of wood you want.

When you post vague questions on social media, people will simply respond with suggestions based on their own experience with a company and their own idea of what affordable or low-cost means to them. So how do you ask the question and get the best information that can help YOU make your decisions? We’ll get to that in a bit, but first…

Let’s break this down a bit

I know someone who paid $300 for a website, and I know someone who paid $25,000. One company I saw on Shark Tank said they paid $200,000 for a website. We have charged between $600 for a website (when we first started in this business) and $10,000.

Just for fun (and research, of course), I Googled “affordable web design.” Here’s the range of pricing I found at the companies in the search results (this was the lowest price each of these companies offered, all of which had limitations in terms of pages and features): $600, $900, $1,599, $3,000, $3,570, plus a few that offered a monthly fee, one of which started at $99/month.

Can you see the trend here? There is no “standard” fee for a website. And, the concept of “affordable web design” means something different for everyone and to every company offering it. Far too many factors need to be considered in order to determine how much it will cost to design and develop a website. Here are a few:

  • Is the company you’re considering a small business or a larger agency with staff and overhead?
  • How much experience does the person or company have? Is the person or company only designing and developing your website or are there other services involved like extensive SEO work?
  • Have you already purchased your domain and hosting? Have email addresses already been set up? These are usually handled by the person building your site, or they at least guide you through the process.
  • Is this a brand new website that has never existed or is there already a website and this is a new one? If a new one, will it be built on the same domain with a coming soon page up during development or will it need to be built on a different domain and then migrated to the main domain (which takes extra time and labor)?
  • How many pages will it have? Will each page have the same header and footer?
  • Will there be a blog, categories, tags, etc.?
  • Is there already a logo designed?
  • Will there be ecommerce for products you will sell? A membership feature – paid or free? Multiple, possibly advanced, forms that need to be built? Ticket sales? A portfolio of your work?
  • Will there be opt-in forms on the site for people to sign up for an email list? Will subscribers receive a free download (pdf, video, etc.)? Will the opt-ins appear in multiple places and be the same or will each one be different and offer a different downloadable freebie? Has the downloadable freebie been created? If not, who will create it?
  • Is the content ready or does it need to be written?
  • Do you have professional photos or will you need to buy stock photos or have a photo shoot?
  • Will you maintain the site once it’s complete or will you hire someone to do so?

This list of questions could truly go on and on and on as there is a LOT involved in building a website, no matter how big or small, basic or fancy. For more examples of things to consider when building a website (or hiring someone to build it), read our post titled, Prepping for your Website Design or Redesign.

There is no standard fee for a website. Click To Tweet

Every time I see one of those posts, I want to comment with, “What is your definition of affordable?”

Before I go into some other, more effective ways to look for a web designer and/or developer, I want to point out that the mere definition of affordable is the exact opposite of what you should be searching for when it comes to your website.

Let’s take for example the home-buying process. When you are looking to buy a home, are you looking for an inexpensive, reasonably priced home? Of course you are – we always want something to be inexpensive and reasonably priced, but again, this means something different to everyone. One person may think $300,000 is inexpensive but another may think $1 million is inexpensive. It’s all relative to so many factors that must be considered.

Aren’t you REALLY looking for a home that is built well; in a neighborhood that works for you in terms of location, schools, etc.; hasn’t flooded; has appropriately sized rooms for your needs; and a whole host of other specifications? Plus, of course, one that fits within your budget (which only YOU know and would have to share in order to get the information you are seeking).

Being that every neighborhood and home has different features, location, and costs associated with them, how can such a generic and vague question be asked without giving more information?

When you ask someone for a recommendation for a web designer and/or developer, how about stating it like this instead:
  • “I am looking for someone to build my website, which has basic pages (i.e. home, about, services, blog, content). I have a budget of $x to spend.”
  • “I am looking for someone to build my website, which has basic pages (i.e. home, about, services, blog, content). I have no idea what this might cost, but I know I can’t spend more than $x.”
  • “I am looking for someone to build my website, and I have an online store and membership area.” (or whatever special feature currently exists on the site or you think might need to be added based on whatever it is you are offering). Then, state what your budget is, the max you’d like to spend, or that you have no idea what this might cost and would appreciate any recommendations.

The point here is that we see the generic, open-ended posts all the time, and many times we jump on the opportunity to connect with the person and provide them with information about our offerings and pricing only to find out that they want to spend $500. It’s especially mind-boggling when they need a plethora of advanced features, but have in their mind that this should only cost X amount (and that amount is usually quite low). That could be because they truly don’t know what is involved in building a professional website or because they put price above all else and are not focused on goals, solutions, user experience, growth, all of the details listed above, etc.

Nearly every time we encounter someone who has chosen cheap over quality and professionalism, it is clear that their website was not built for the long-haul or with results and solutions in mind.

The next time you post that you are looking for a service provider and/or see this type of post, ask yourself or the person posting to define what “affordable” really means to them. Challenge yourself (or them) to dig deeper and focus more on the desired outcomes vs. how cheap can something this important can be.

Just like your physical home (and car and computer…), you want your website to last and function for a long time. You don’t want to have to start over every year when/if it breaks or isn’t bringing in new customers/clients/patients.

A wise person we know always reminds us that “cheap is never good, good is never cheap.” Sure, a very inexpensive taco might be freaking delicious. But we aren’t talking about tacos. We’re talking about the face of your business (especially if you do not have a brick-and-mortar business and you rely on your website to inform and attract clients).

Let us know what you think of the term “affordable website” and what goes through your mind when you see people asking for a referral?

About Stefani

Hi there, I’m Stefani Harris, co-founder of The Essential Website. We design and code WordPress websites for ready-to-grow businesses and bloggers, but we do so much more! We are all about helping our clients reach their business goals and see results! I am most passionate about inspiring people to pursue their dreams and to just START! If you can dream it, you can do it! I’m also a big-time dog lover + yoga and fitness instructor.


  1. Adam Bate on May 7, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Love this post! Definitely a relative term. While we don’t DO web design, we have experience working with a lot of different websites. While technology is making it easier to get something online for cheaper, there is a real balance between price and affordability and quality and expectations that I think are not aligned properly for many people.

    Great article and keep up the great work!

    • Stefani and Janet on May 7, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Thank you, Adam! There are a lot of things not aligned properly…that’s for sure! 🙂

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