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How much does a website cost?

By Harry Robbins, 14 Jul 2014
Websites in the UK cost between £0.00 and £105,000,000. We recommend trying to keep costs down.

How long is a piece of string? Between one Planck length and 33cm in the case of super-string, apparently, but super-string has zero mass and may not exist at all. Similarly, lots of brilliant websites are completely free.

Open-source content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal make it possible for someone with minimal technical skills to get something up and running for free. We recommend this option to lots of people who ask us to build a website for them usually because a) they don’t need anything more complicated or b) they don’t have any money.

We recommend the following approaches to making your website meet your budget. Also remember that a successful website is one that acheives its goals, not one that super-flash with loads of spinning and fading bit. Have a look at motherfuckingwebsite.com for inspiration although your website can be a little shinier and much less profane, whatever your budget.

£0 websites

If you don’t want to spend any money on your website then good for you. If you’re prepared to put in a bit of work yourself then you can make an excellent website without any faffing around worrying about which features to build or which user-journey to optimise. We recommend that you:

  • Sign up for a free account on wordpress.com
  • Write some great content
  • Choose a theme you like from themes.wordpress.com
  • Send your site to people via email/social media/paper airplane
  • Worry about building the world’s most amazing website with all the bells and whistles once you’ve got a few users/readers, learned some lessons by trying yourself, and got as far as you can on your own

We recommend against:

  • Using a closed platform such as Wix or Moonfruit. These tools are OK, but you’ll quickly find that there are things you can’t do with them, and it’s hard to get your data out so there’s a big risk you’re going to have to start again from scratch.
  • Coding it yourself unless
    • you already know how to do this, or
    • your main aim is to learn to code as opposed to making a website.

We can help by:

  • Giving you some free advice by phone or email if you get stuck (assuming you’re nice, or a charity or something)
  • Hosting you at Outlandish HQ in Finsbury Park and giving you some pointers and advice face to face

Give Harry a call on 07738 536 552 to arrange either of the above

£5 websites (best value)

If you can afford to pay a tiny bit for your website then you get a few things that aren’t included with the free WordPress package. We’d recommend:

  • Find a host that does cheap WordPress hosting (GoDaddy is currently offering hosting from £0.69 per month, though they’re not the world’s nicest company)
    • If you can afford to pay a little bit more we recommend Gandi which is a bit more tricky to set up, but doesn’t extract its energy from the ground-down tears of children. Their prices start at £4 per month for simple hosting.
  • Buy the domain you want – go for something that says a bit about what you do if you can, rather than a snappy brand name
    • Domaintyper can help you find good ones that are available
    • Again, Gandi is a good place to buy domains if you’d rather not use some evil mega-corp

The advantages of this over WordPress.com hosting is that you can choose from millions of themes or plugins which make your site look good and do cool things respectively. It does require a bit more technical involvement though.

£50 websites

For £50 you can buy yourself a premium theme such as this shiney, shiney parallax theme. Basically, you do all the steps of a £5 website, and then spend an extra £45 on a theme that someone has put a lot of time and effort into creating. It is important to note that:

  • Paid-for (premium) themes are not necessarily better than free ones
  • Try some free ones first – try searching for “best free wordpress themes smashing magazine” for some good examples
  • Premium themes are often coded in a very specific way to make extra functionality such as portfolios work, and it may not always be easy  to change themes later without a lot of copy and pasting

£500 websites

All of the options above are going to take a bit of your time. If you want a great site, they’ll take a lot of time. For £500 you can start thinking about getting someone who knows what they’re doing to make you a site though not, unfortunately, us. Options include:

  • Find a freelancer who’s young/inexperienced/cheap to make you something from scratch. On the plus side this is likely to be the way to get something closest to your brief, on the down side it’s quite high risk as it might all go horribly wrong and the guy/gal might not have a clue, or disappear off to Thailand half way through.
  • Run a competition on 99Designs or similar. This will usually get you a one page website designed just for you, but you probably can’t edit the content unless you know a bit about HTML. You also need to sort out the hosting, etc (see £5 websites)

Bear in mind:

  • Half-decent freelance programmers cost £250-£750 per day
  • Even really cheap ones cost £100 per day
  • 1-5 days is not much time to carefully hand-craft something, especially when you take into account meetings, email, misunderstandings, explanations, etc.
  • If you try to force the freelancer to do too much work for £500 you’ll more than likely end up with a bunch of not-quite-properly implemented features and an unhappy freelancer.

We recommend against:

  • Offshoring your project – unless you really know what you’re doing. It’s hard enough for me to get a very talented developer sitting next to me to do the thing I have in mind. It’s practically impossible if they’re on another continent, are hidden behind a call centre and/or account manager, and don’t necessarily speak the same language or have the same cultural references.
  • Buying an off the shelf solution that doesn’t use one of the main open-source CMS (WordPress, Joomla or Drupal) as you’ll find that you’re locked into a particular vendor and it will be a pain at some point

£5,000 websites (call us)

If you have £5,000 then you can start to get all creative because at last you have enough money that you can get someone else to do the hard work for you. Or some of it at least. For £5,000 you are still looking at building a pretty simple website – it can have a few special/unique features, look super-swish and/or work on every imaginable device but it probably can’t do all those things brilliantly. It definitely can’t redefine the web, become the centre of free speech on the internet or be TripAdvisor, but better. At Outlandish, £5,000 translates into about 7 days of an expert’s time, or 10 days if you’re a charity or good cause. For junior experts who’ve been doing what they do for a year or two you get about double the days but it’s similarly efficient because they need more management and haven’t done everything before. With us the typical project might break down as:

  • 1 day of basic setup (see £5 websites)
  • 1 day of design
  • 2 days implementing the custom design
  • 4 days building the special features/integration that you need
  • 2 days of meetings/management/discussing content with you

You can make your money go further by:

  • getting everything ready before the project starts so that we can hit the ground running and reduce the project management overhead
  • give us plenty of time – this way we can have fewer people working on the project which is more efficient
  • assign someone at your end to help us source pictures/wrangle content/etc.
  • give us a long lead-time so that we find a student/intern/similar who we can train up and who will cost less. We subsidise this as it’s a good way of finding new Outlanders (Matt, Sam and Hanna all joined this way)
  • be really clear about what you are trying to achieve and be prepared to cut some corners on features that aren’t really key (does your document repository really need to look like Pinterest or is the search function more important?)

Like John Lewis, our employee-owned mentors, we’re never knowingly undersold, so we don’t unfortunately know a better/cheaper way of making websites (we’d use it if we did). That also means, however, that if we do know a better way of achieving your goal we’ll point you in the right direction. We’ve always got tonnes of work to do so there’s no point in wasting time on stuff if there’s a better way. If you’re extremely nice, a shrewd negotiator and really dedicated to what you do, then you might be able to get a site like traffickingculture.org out of us for around £5,000. It cost us nearly twice that to make, but Drs Donna Yates and Suzie Thomas did all the “make your money go further” tips with bells on and we like to reward good behaviour at Outlandish. If you have an amazing cause, or are doing something super innovative then you might also be able to apply for an Outlandish Innovation grant. We’re writing some stuff about this for this website, but email us if you’re confident that you deserve one.

£50,000 websites (call us)

If you’ve got £50,000 then you can really start making a polished web product that does the special new thing that you need. It’s probably not going to be “TripAdvisor, but better” but it might be able to be a specialist travel site that’s better than TripAdvisor for planning scuba diving holidays or similar. It might have really fantastic search, a bunch of specialist mapping functions and a really fabulous responsive design. It might support hundreds of thousands of concurrent or allow people to interact with each other using a fancy Node.js server with Socket.io. It might be ultra-secure, allow the manipulation of hundreds of millions of lines of data, or harvest 1% of all the world’s tweets. It might overcome a complex NP-complete scheduling problem using ultra-fast bitwise calculations. It might win an awardsave you tonnes of time or provide new insights that would have been impossible to gather otherwise. It’s probably not as complex as Facebook, as fast as Google or as popular as Twitter.

It probably doesn’t trade stocks with millisecond latency, because that is a bad idea as Knight Trading found out when it released a software bug that bought high and sold low very efficiently for 44 minutes until someone realised the error. At 25,000 trades per second and a cost of $440m that makes mixup between “<” and “>” in the code the worlds most expensive typo.

£500,000 websites (call us)

If you have half a million pounds to spend on a website you need to find yourself a project manager/strategy person who knows what they’re doing. We’re big fans of Thought Smiths for arts and charity sector work, ChromaTrope for bleeding edge technical/community stuff and WorkingEdge for highly technical stuff with lots of complicated data and legacy systems. If your need doesn’t fit into one of those categories feel free to give us a shout – we may know someone with all the perfect skills. For half a million pounds you’re getting a lot more than a website – you’re probably getting a whole load of business system integrations, user testing, brand consultancy, etc. You might even be doing the much vaunted ‘digital transformation’ of your business, product or service.

 £5,000,000 websites

Talk to Accenture who will do you a Website > Delivered for as much as you like.

£50,000,000 websites

Try Serco who built the now defunct BusinessLink website at a cost of £35m per year.

£500,000,000 websites

Not really sure who to try in this category. Probably worth having a chat with Accenture.

£5,000,000,000 websites

Try one of the companies that worked on NHS Connecting for Health. They spent just shy of £20bn, but then the project was very complicated. Somewhat disappointingly, they failed to actually deliver anything that worked for that money. Silly NHS.