Why are websites so expensive?

Your conversion rate

If you’re asking yourself why websites are “so expensive”, it’s not your fault. Chances are, a dozen people have told you how cheap web design is. After all, you could “just get it done in India, by your nephew, in an afternoon on an iPad…”

Aside from this blustering advice, you use the same internet as the rest of us. That internet is awash with ads for “drag-and-drop websites”, “cheap web design”, “rock bottom hosting prices”…

So it’s confusing when you start making calls and find there’s no such thing as a “cheap website”, not compared to the pennies you’d been expecting to pay. Turns out we’re talking about thousands of dollars. And it makes no sense…

After all, this is just digital marketing. It’s not like a web design agency is actually building something physical. It’s digital. On a computer. Surely it can’t be harder than a bit of cut and paste. Yes, they tell you it’s going to be a “custom design”, but you think that’s probably bullshit.

Then they try to tell you there are going to be costs for ongoing maintenance. Ongoing maintenance? What the hell is that when it’s a website. It’s just there on the screen. What needs ongoing maintenance?

And it’s all so frustrating because a website is a necessity for any company looking to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world.

We understand you because we’re Sydney-based website copywriters who talk to people all the time who’ve been led to believe that the price of a new website will be no more than we used to keep in a petty cash tin. And while we can’t tell you that your new website will be as cheap as you hoped, we can help you to understand what goes into getting a website built.

The reality is there are a lot of elements of a good website When you understand what real digital marketing is and what a proper digital agency will be doing, you might believe that your website is cheap after all, even if the budget isn’t what you hoped.

But what exactly does it take to build a website? How much does a website cost to build? We’re going to break down this process so that you can better understand all that goes into designing an online presence for your business or organisation. 


How much should a basic website cost in Australia?

When you’re ready to start your own website, the price varies depending on:

  1. What you need your website to be able to do
  2. Whether you need a domain name
  3. What sort of hosting you need
  4. Whether you need custom design to fit with your brand
  5. How much room for growth you need

What do you need your website to be able to do?

Picture of a functional website
What you need your website to do will affect how much it will cost to create

First of all, what kind of site do you need? If it’s a simple static site, you might be able to use a Squarespace site. With Squarespace, you can drag and drop elements around by yourself. That way, you can expect to pay about $22 per month.

Before you do that, you should factor in the amount of time you’ll need to spend working out how a Squarespace project works. Depending on how you value your time, you’ll need to factor that into the budget. Although you’re not paying a web design agency, you do have a designer: it’s you.

But what if you want your website to be able to do more? Are you going to want to be able to sell products in an online store (ecommerce)? Will you want your customers to be able to log in to accounts? Is yours, in fact, an online business? If it is, your target audience might have higher expectations of a website.

As you need your online presence to do more, you’re going to need features that you won’t find in a $22/month off-the-shelf web builder. You could now be looking anywhere from $7,000 to $30,000 to more.

The cost of a domain name

If you don’t have one already, you’ll need a domain name — like Taleist.com or Taleist.agency. Domain names are low price, usually less than $20 for a year. (You don’t actually “own” a domain name; even Google only rents Google.com.)

Godaddy is a popular source of domain names, but there are even cheaper providers.

The cost of web hosting

A website is a computer program so it needs a computer to run on. That’s what web hosting is — you rent some space on a server (a computer) that “hosts” your website.

You’ll see plenty of offers of hosting for $7.99 per month or whatever, but there’s more to it than choosing the cheapest price.

If search engine optimisation (SEO) matters to you, you need your website to be fast. That’s in the control of your host because the speed of your website will have a lot to do with:

  1. The speed of their internet connection
  2. The speed of their computer (server) that

Also, are they going to back up your website for you or are you going to back it up for yourself. (Do you know how?)

Do they have good support for customers or, for $7.99, are you not going to get much help.

Room for growth in your business online

The less you spend on design and development when you get started, the less elastic will be sewn into your site. What looked like a cheap website when you commission it will start to look very expensive when the site can’t do what you need it to do.

Your eventual web design cost will include the cost of the false start and the cost of the site you should have built in the first place.

Where to start when considering web design cost

Website design and function
Website designers have to consider multiple devices and screen sizes

Nobody wants you to overspend on your website design cost by spending on unnecessary features. So before asking a web design agency to tell you how much does a website cost, ask yourself these questions to scope the project:

How much are you looking to spend on your website?

You can talk to a design agency and ask about prices, but you’re best off starting out ask yourself:

If my website did everything I wanted it to do, what would it be worth to me?

From there, you can calculate what you would be willing to spend on a website that could deliver. And when you know that, you know:

  1. What type of website you need
  2. What you need your website to do (a good start when briefing a digital marketing project)
  3. How much you’d be willing to spend if the agency could deliver what you need from the project

Does your website need custom tools?

Hiring a developer to work on your website can be costly. Instead, you can save on those expenses by buying a pre-built WordPress theme.

But if you want a site with unique features not found in the standard WordPress templates, you’re going to have to pay extra.

This might not be the kind of question you’re qualified to answer, so you need to find an agency you trust. A good agency can introduce you to another business owner like you who could vouch that no one is trying to pump up your budget for no reason.

What features does your website need?

When you launch your website, it’s important to know what your goals are going to be in the long term. That will give you some idea as to how many features and upgrades to add down the line. 

Write a list of features you need for your website. This way, you’ll know which ones to prioritise and ensure they don’t slip through the cracks. This helps to streamline your web development while keeping you from spending too much on upgrading your website.

How many page types does your website have

Once you’ve chosen the pages your website must have, you’ll know how many types of pages you’ll have:

  • Services pages
  • Product pages
  • Blog post
  • About Us page, etc.

Each page type will need its own template, and that will affect the cost.

How much does a business website cost in Australia?

Images on a website make a first impression
A website needs to function well and look good while it represents your business

The cost in Australia of designing a business website will depend on who builds your website and the features you want on it. Will a simple 5-page static site be enough? Or will your business require a highly interactive ecommerce platform? 

Static business website

A static website is the perfect option for a small business looking to quickly get its name out there. For as little as $1,000, you can showcase your products or services on an informational site. This gives potential customers an easy way to learn more about what you offer without you having to splurge on interactive web features.

For that price, you’d be doing a lot of the work yourself and bringing in junior help with some knowledge of online business.

Conversion-focused website

A conversion-focused site is designed to generate traffic, convert leads and increase online revenue for a business. The design cost of this type of business website starts at around $7,500, depending on the functionality it provides. 

If you need conversions from your website, you’re going to need a website copywriter, too. And if that’s you, we have a whole post on how to choose a copywriter for your website.

Ecommerce websites

An ecommerce site starts at closer to $10,000 for web design and build.

Sites like this require additional features such as payment gateways, shopping carts and product databases. Popups and other conversion optimisation tools are also commonly used on ecommerce sites to persuade customers to complete their purchase or cross-sell items.

All of these features will significantly impact your website design cost.

You can go with a site like Shopify, but as with Squarespace, eventually you’re going to hit the ceiling of what a template site will allow you to do.

Enterprise website

Large websites for enterprise-level companies can cost anywhere from low six-figures to seven figures. So if you’re a small business asking why the hell websites cost so much, bear that it mind.

So why do websites cost so much?

Regardless of what kind of business you’re in these days, having a website has become necessary. It’s expected by clients and investors alike. But novice business owners are often surprised by the high design cost associated with building a website.

Some may have tried to hire a cheap web developer on a per hour basis to help them with their site, only to have reality slap them in the face with a hefty price tag. (Either because the per hour rate was great, until the developer charged thousands of hours. Or because the project needed to be started from scratch with a professional agency.

Other things impact the investment level too…

User and site owner expectations

The website-building process is far more demanding than it was a few years ago and for good reason. An interactive and mobile-friendly website design has become the norm. Users expect business websites to be built to cater to their individual needs and wants. Businesses have to keep up with user demands, which means they need options to customise and manage their content.

You’re probably used to seeing aesthetically exquisite websites like Airbnb or Apple. And you probably imagine that your own website should be just as user-friendly for visitors. But that can be hard for businesses that don’t have an unlimited budget. Creating a website like that is a tedious process that requires careful planning, coding and refining before launching for public consumption.

Your problem as a small business is that your users don’t give small businesses a pass. Users are being trained by big businesses and they want the same convenience on all types of websites.

Optimised content

Good copywriting is the lifeblood of your website. The words on your pages are what will convince people to buy your products or services. Without compelling content, your website is nothing more than a pretty but empty shell. 

It’s not enough to throw some text on a page that spews out the facts about who you are and what you do. You need to be persuasive in a sea of choice.

And in order for your copy to reach and persuades humans, you need it to be optimised to persuade Google to show you in the search engine results. SEO-optimised content requires careful strategising and research into keywords that are relevant to your target audience. Like any other aspect of a customised website, SEO copywriting takes time and expertise, but you can learn SEO content marketing yourself.

How much does website copywriting cost?

The cost of hiring a website copywriter can vary wildly. The amount you pay to hire a website copywriter will depend on a few things:

* How much experience the copywriter has

* How many people are involved in writing your website

* How much copy you need for your website

* Whether you need a brand new copy or just a revamp of your existing copy

Why is website design so expensive?

A good web designer can bring your website to life. Web designers are tasked with finding and incorporating the perfect colours, textures and fonts to create an aesthetically pleasing site. They create cohesive elements that enhance both user interaction and visual appeal so that every visitor will feel welcomed on your website.

Most of the website design budget is typically spent on:

Ideas and concepts

Just like copywriting, website design begins with extensive research. A web designer can spend hours searching for the perfect layout and colour scheme to match their idea. They have to navigate through libraries with thousands of typefaces and colour palettes to find something that fits their clients’ brand.


Revisions are an integral part of the design process. A web designer will likely go through revisions from their project leaders before presenting concepts to clients. The clients may ask for a number of edits as well. 

The time spent on a design project is highly dependent on the number of revisions requested by the clients. Some clients might think that small tweaks don’t take long, but they can quickly add up while going through the different layers of management. An otherwise quick design could easily turn into a project that takes weeks or months.

Mobile-friendly features

With more and more traffic brought in through mobile devices, designers have their hands full creating multiple versions of each page on a website. This is to ensure clients can enjoy a much better user experience on various browser and screen sizes.

Interactive qualities

The way clients interact with a web element can alter the layout being displayed on the screen. Designers need to keep this in mind and account for how the website’s aesthetic elements react to the viewers’ input at every level.

The cost of web development

A website consists of two parts: the front end and the back end. Both components have a responsibility in creating the perfect site experience for your users.

The front end of a website

The front end consists of what your users see, which includes the user interface and user experience. It’s kept up and running by CSS, JavaScript and HTML code.

The backend of a website

The backend is the hidden software that ensures the shiny front-end runs smoothly. The backend connects your database to your website through programming languages such as SQL or Python. Hundreds of thousands of lines of code are required to work seamlessly to run a single web application.

Here are some aspects of web development that affect the cost of building a website:

Purpose of your site

For any website to be successful, it needs a clear purpose. Web developers need to take time to understand their client’s intentions as well as the goals of future site users. The site’s purpose and function have to be well-defined before any development can be carried out.

Mobile support strategy

What’s the one thing that turns a website into an interactive, enjoyable experience? Responsive design. With the rapid increase of smartphones and tablets, it’s imperative that your site is accessible across all screens. Web developers need to consider this as they’ll be designing for a plethora of browsers and device settings.

Content management system

Web developers have a tough decision to make when deciding on the platform for their website. There are many different factors to consider, and each platform has its unique advantages and drawbacks. 

When considering these options, you should research your website requirements. Think about how much customisation is needed to fulfill those needs (For example, if there’s complex functionality involved). 

Weigh which one will best fit with what you’re looking for based on that information. This includes aspects like ease of use, maintenance required, accessibility and custom coding.

Why is SEO so expensive?

SEO (search engine optimisation) is an important part of all business websites. Writing content that satisfies what users want but is still readable by search engines helps build up the groundwork for organic rankings. A strong SEO foundation can bring in more visitors and will result in a higher ranking on Google. However, this process doesn’t come cheap. 

There are several SEO tools like Semrush that offer keyword analysis and topic research. But that software could run your business hundreds of dollars every month. A more cost-effective solution is to get an SEO copywriter who can also provide SEO services. This would save you money while generating traffic and revenue through your website’s improved ranking.

How much does it cost to maintain a website?

Your website is more than a button that you push to launch before calling it a day. If you want your website to flourish, it requires committing time, effort and money. There are a number of expenses you’ll need to be aware of before investing in your own site.

Annual hosting and maintenance fees are just the beginning. Depending on your site’s features, you’ll probably need to commit to annual licensing fees for premium plugins and services.

You’ll probably buy high-quality images for your website as it grows and expands. Finding images for blog posts doesn’t have to be expensive if you don’t know where to look.

You’ll also need to invest in ongoing technical maintenance for your website. This includes installing updates and security plugins to protect your site.

For your website to be up and running at all times, you need an offsite backup system. If your hardware or software ever crashes, you’ll be able to quickly restore your website. You may not realise when these things happen, but they do. It’s important that you protect yourself against these disasters.

Web site maintenance plans are a convenient way to keep your website running smoothly without having to worry about whether you’re up-to-date on the latest security patches. Plans can start at $30/month and can cost upwards of $400 depending on what services they include.

Can you build a website for free?

Can you build a website for free? Of course. Can you get a quality site for free? Probably not. There are hundreds or even thousands of website builders offering to create free websites. But those sites are usually no use to anyone seriously looking to start a business or promote themselves online. Building a website is just like building a house. If you want a high-end product made to last, it’s going to cost you.

Here are five compelling reasons to invest in a website:

1. Your website will become a host for advertisements

If you want to use a free website builder to host your site, you’ll have to allow ads to run on your site. You might think a few ads is a small price to pay for a free site. After all, the Internet is chock full of them. But the truth is, having ads clogging up your website could hinder its performance by:

* Slowing down your loading speed and ruining your site’s user experience

* Cluttering up your website and making the design worse

* Making your site appear untrustworthy

2. A free domain name is not SEO-optimised

SEO-optimised URLs are great for helping users and search engines determine the purpose of your site. But you won’t have that option with a free website. You could end up with a complex and lengthy URL attached to a string of numbers or letters. Not only does it look unattractive, your users will probably also have a hard time remembering your URL. Plus, a complicated domain name could harm your ranking on Google.

3. Free websites reduce bandwidth

Free website builders offer only a limited bandwidth for the sites they host. That means your website is only able to support a small number of users at any given time. If that limit is exceeded, the server could shut down temporarily. You’ll lose access to potential customers and generate unhappy users who won’t bother returning in the future. 

4. Social media platforms aren’t good alternatives

Social media sites such as Facebook offer businesses the option of creating a quick and easy-to-use site for free. Many people may see this as a good substitute in place of websites themselves. 

However, social media sites don’t have as many features as a website builder. Your Facebook business page will also have a harder time ranking well with Google. That means you’ll be missing out on a potentially important traffic source. 

5. It doesn’t cost much to build a good website

Having a good website doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. Many business websites get by costing only a few dollars every month. Having a paid site will guarantee you an SEO-optimised URL and better features. You’ll also be able to avoid disruptive ads that can ruin your content’s experience for your users. A paid-for site will also enjoy higher visibility from Google and other search engines.

Got more website questions?

If you’ve got website questions, we’ve got a website FAQ.

Invest in a value-driven website

Building a website is not as easy as you may think. There are many parts that go into making your site function and look good, all of which cost money. Before you commit to developing a site, it’s important to do your research and get quotes from different developers. Asking the right questions will help you find the perfect web builder that matches your budget. When considering how much a website design costs, keep these things in mind so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your company budget-wise.