How much should a new website cost?

Various coins on striped fabric.

In this month’s column, we’re going to attempt to answer a question that many people have but few find an answer to: “How much should a new website cost?”

The quick and easy answer to this question is… it depends.

But this is a bit of a vague response, so we're going to start tying things down to give a more specific answer. The first thing we'll do is focus on a business type which we know a bit about: recruitment and HR. This will help us to better illustrate the kinds of factors contributing to the cost of a website. 

(If you’re in a different sector, don’t be put off by the fact we’ve chosen recruitment and HR specifically — odds are that all this information will be a useful guide for your industry too.)

As with all types of websites, the scope of a recruitment website itself can vary, from a small brochure site to something suitable for an international, multi-sector giant. Obviously, the costs associated with each type of website differ dramatically, and here are some of the top factors which affect them...

 

Factor 1: Existing Infrastructure
Will the website be built from scratch? Or will you be able to reuse some existing assets for your new project? Do you already have a back-office system to plug leads into?

As you can probably guess, building a site from the ground up (content, images, code and systems) will cost more than if you have some of these pieces ready to go.

 

Factor 2: Content Generation
Well-crafted copy and attractive imagery are two fundamental parts of a great website. From copy that's optimised for search engines through to team shots that don't look like you've stood someone up against the wall and taken a snap with your phone, this is an important website asset to budget for wisely.

In particular, getting high-quality images for your site can be expensive — particularly if you have to hire a professional photographer to take custom shots. Discuss your needs with your design agency: they may be able to suggest alternatives (e.g. relevant stock imagery) to minimise your expenses in this area.

 

Factor 3: Hosting
As well as capital expenditure on creating the new site you should also factor in ongoing expenses. Depending on the purpose of your website (and how much traffic you expect it to get), your monthly hosting costs can vary substantially.

If you’re a larger company you may need to pay for dedicated hosting which can be quite expensive — unless, of course, you already have dedicated hosting available from your IT team, in which case you won’t incur any additional costs.

Smaller firms may find that a cheaper “shared” hosting plan meets their needs perfectly, which will minimise the expense dramatically.

 

Factor 4: Software Licences
There is a whole range of systems and services that can be used to deliver an effective website, some of which are essential, some of which are nice to have. A typical list can include:

    1. CMS licence
    2. Software to connect the website to the CRM
    3. Analytical software
    4. Website health checking service
    5. Live chat

Depending on your needs (and on the services offered by your agency), these costs can vary substantially. Some systems are licence-free, whereas others can be quite costly.

 

Factor 5: Training Costs
This is a hidden cost that many businesses fail to consider: once their shiny new website (complete with a powerful CMS and convoluted CRM) is in place, they may have to spend even more money training their staff to use those systems.

 

Factor 6: Human resources
It is only natural for us to assume you would be using an agency to create your new website, but there are obviously other resourcing options which may or may not be available to you:

    • Build an internal digital team to handle this task
    • Work with freelancers to bring the project to life
    • Take a DIY approach using one of the many online website building services

There are pros and cons to each of these choices. Discussing them all in detail is outside the scope of this post, but whatever you choose, be sure to analyse the true cost associated with your decision (including time, the cost of further amends down the line, etc.)

So, make sure you look closely at your needs, your current systems, training requirements and on-going costs. Getting clear on these items upfront will help you to accurately price a project before you’re too far in to turn back.

 

Let's start putting some figures together...

OK, this is the tough one, trying to estimate how much something will cost without having any clear requirements.

There's no point trying to give a “complete” build price, due to the huge potential range of websites that can be created: instead, we’ll look at the different components of work that can go into any project. As you’re reading through, you can pick and choose which ones apply to your needs, easily figuring out a rough cost at the end. 

Let’s start by examining the general features that can be part of any new website project.

 

General features...

Prototyping
We believe that all website projects should begin with creating a prototype version of the final delivery. It’s a quick and cheap way to figure out:

    • What the website needs to do
    • How it will work
    • How it will look

Additionally, creating a signed-off prototype design will allow you to evaluate the final delivery against what you originally agreed (i.e. match the scope to the deliverables).

Typical time needed: 1-2 days
Cost: £750 - £1500

 

Interface Design
If you’re happy using a templated design on your site, then you can disregard this cost. However, if you want a custom-designed website (or even if you just want to “tweak” a template), you’ll need an interface designer to complete the work for you.

Note that this is NOT the same thing as hiring a graphic designer. Working with interfaces is a unique challenge, best left for those with experience in doing so.

Typical time needed: 2-3 days
Cost: £1500 - £2250

 

CMS Setup and Page Template Creation
Depending on your needs, this can be the most expensive part of the process. Some CMSs are easy to set up, while others will need a dedicated development team to rollout. We specialise in using Umbraco (which is licence-free), but other systems can come with BIG licence costs.

Solid page templates are the building blocks of a great website. Once you’ve designed a few good options, you’ll be able to use them over and over again as more content is added (which will reduce costs in the future).

Typical time needed: 4-10 days
Cost: £3000 - £7500

 

Content Creation
When it comes to creating content for your site, you have two main things to think about:

    • Written content (i.e. copy)
    • Visual content (i.e. pictures)

The scope and quality of content you need on your site will depend on your SEO goals. If you’re looking to rank organically for competitive keywords, you’ll have to spend more than a business looking to just create a website that reflects what they do.

As for photos, these can be taken by a professional photographer, or else purchased from a stock repository. Depending on your business, you could choose either option (or use a combination of the two). Your agency should be able to recommend good options in any case.

Typical time needed: 3-5 days
Cost: £2250 - £3750

 

Recruitment features...

Job Search and Applications
Many of our clients want their website to be able to:

    • Pull job details from their CRM
    • Allow visitors to apply for jobs by uploading their CV or using LinkedIn
    • Send this application data back to the CRM

Assuming the CRM has a good set of connectors (web services) that the website can attach to, this is generally a straightforward task.

Typical time needed: 1-2 days
Cost: £750 - £1500

 

Application Form
Staffing recruiters and HR firms want a comprehensive amount of candidate data in a specific format, and an online application is a great way to capture that information.

These forms are often multi-page, provide save-and-return features, and contain many compliance declarations. Once completed each application form is compiled into a document and stored in each candidate's record in the CRM.

A simple one-page form is relatively quick and easy to create, but a multi-page, multi-user, multi-pathway form is much more challenging (and expensive) to create, as reflected in the range given below.

Typical time needed: 1-15 days
Cost: £750 - £11250

 

Timesheet Management
Timesheet management is a core functionality many recruitment and HR firms look for in their sites. This requires integration with both a live CRM and a payroll system (to process the timesheets and pay directly into workers’ bank accounts).

Additionally, the content of these timesheets will vary for different classes of workers. Nurses and other shift workers will have different needs than, for instance, contract IT workers.

Typical time needed: 3-5 days
Cost: £2250 - £3750

 

We’ve covered most of the common pieces of a website project — both general items that will be relevant for all industries, as well as some more specific ones for recruitment and HR firms.

To get an idea of how much your website will cost you, simply add up the cost associated with whatever components you need to get an estimated cost range.

Remember that all of these figures are just guidelines. There’s a big difference between the minimum and maximum cost for each: you’ll have to supply more specific requirements in order to get a more precise quote.

 

Tips to help you build the right website

Lastly, we’d like to give you five quick tips that will help you get the best value for your new website project. Each of these is applicable to pretty much any business, but we’ll also discuss how they relate to recruitment and HR projects specifically.

 

Tip 1: Pick the right CRM
Picking the right CRM is critical. Choose wisely and you’ll be well-set for the months and years to come. Choose poorly, and you’ll be saddled with the burden of expensive integrations, long development lead times and difficulty upgrading again in the future.

The hallmark of a good system is one that has its own API (application programming interface), which makes creating recruitment-specific features much easier. Without this API, development is far more expensive (so it’s worth considering this before you start).

 

Tip 2: Build Incrementally
There’s nothing more disappointing than spending a small fortune on decking out your site with every possible feature only to soon see that you didn’t need half the things you paid for. Building a comprehensive solution all at once is expensive, and oftentimes, not even worth it (as you might learn that a certain feature gets no use at all).

To counteract this problem, build in phases: your first development phase should focus on features that will make a big difference to the business. For instance, taking your application process online (vs. accepting paper-based applications) will likely have a big impact on your recruitment business.

Once your biggest problems are solved, you can then decide whether you need more features. Doing things this way will allow you to save your money until it’s actually needed, rather than simply throwing it away.

 

Tip 3: Discuss Your Budget Up Front
Many people like to keep their budget vague while searching for quotes in an effort to avoid getting charged more than they should. This is a problem because it makes the process of selecting an agency to work with dependent on price — not on value.

Everyone knows that “cheapest” is not the same as “best value”. Getting clear on your budget from the outset gives you an easy way to figure out who can deliver you the most value at a given price (rather than simply focusing on the lowest cost overall).

If you’re dealing with a reputable agency, it helps to be upfront about your budget. At the very least, they’ll be able to help you figure out what should be part of your digital strategy and what would merely be a waste to include (at your given level of investment).

 

Tip 4: Consider Using a Licence-Free CMS
As we’ve mentioned before, some CMSs come with expensive recurring licence fees. However, in our experience, some licence-free CMSs are just as good (if not better) than their costly counterparts.

An open-source solution will usually need some features set up with it (which will be an additional cost), but you’ll get to avoid ongoing payments for features you don’t even use, making these licence-free CMSs an excellent option for savvy businesses.

 

Tip 5: Work with a Specialist Agency
Our fifth and final tip is to work with people who know what they’re doing.

When you hire a specialist agency to design your website, you’re getting access to a firm with a deep understanding of your needs. They’ll have templates to work with, pre-written code to utilise, and specific tools to add valuable features to your site.

Don’t be afraid to go niche with this: look for an agency partner that can give you exactly what you’re looking for. For instance, we’re specialists in integrating with Erecruit Adapt CRM, as we’ve been doing this for over 15 years. Our specialisation in using this software allows us to offer even more value to businesses who want to use it.

This is a good example of how you can find an agency that can give you precisely what you’re looking for. Examine your needs, then go with a specialist that can deliver precisely what you need.

 

These five tips will help you to save money where it matters so that you can spend it where it counts: creating a high-impact website that adds value to your business.

Keep these things in mind when you’re considering potential agencies to work with. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. When all is said and done, you need to find a solution that works for your business.

About the author

UX fan and well-travelled digital architect. Helping people create much better things online. It's not that hard.