How much does a website really cost?

The question of the cost of a website is probably one of the most recurrent in the web industry. Every time a company wants to create or modify its website, the subject is obviously broached. And yet, even for a professional in the trade, it’s very difficult to answer this question directly and simply: organize a call for tenders for the creation of a website, and you’ll very likely receive professional quotes, for the same project, which vary in amount from simple to triple, if not more.

So why do prices vary so much? Is it because some providers are dishonest and don’t hesitate to overcharge for services? Or are those offering lower prices unaware of the real difficulty of the work involved? This is a possible scenario in both cases. But beyond the potential dishonesty or proven inexperience of some novice service providers, the subject of website costs is a real question mark for many professionals.

The cost of a website can vary with a ratio of 1:1000

So let’s try to answer this question simply: how much does a website really cost? Well… that depends. So yes, the answer is disappointing, but it’s really the question that’s the problem.

What if I asked you: how much does a car really cost? The answer would probably depend largely on the model chosen, its mileage, age and condition. Without further clarification, you’d be giving me a price range from less than CHF 1,000 (for a small, well-worn used car) to more than CHF 1,000,000 (for a custom-built supercar in a very limited series). To say the least, such an indication is of little use. And yet, the orders of magnitude of prices for a website are very similar; From less than CHF 1,000 for a small amateur site produced by a student, to several million francs for the sites of multinational brands produced by recognized agencies.

The question then becomes: what do I really need for my website project? Once this is clearly defined, the cost of creation is only a logical consequence.

So what I’m going to share with you here is a clear and transparent explanation of the various components of a price, along with realistic orders of magnitude for each of them. This will give you a good idea of the real cost of creating and maintaining a website, depending on your situation and needs.


The complexity of your website obviously has an impact on the price.

This should come as no surprise to you: a simple site composed entirely of text and images on a single page will cost significantly less to produce than a complex site with multiple pages, 3D animations, and a user account system that allows you to personalize content for each user according to their behavior or purchase history. Similarly, for the same level of complexity, an eCommerce platform will cost more than a storefront site.

The next step is to correctly assess the complexity of your website. Let’s take an example: a new company that manufactures electric bicycles. Let’s call it ” New Cycle “. And now let’s analyze this company’s needs in terms of its situation and development.

Creation of a simple startup or small business website

Initially, New Cycle is offering just one innovative bike, and will only need a very simple site with text and images, in just one language. This will consist of a home page, a company presentation page, a product presentation page, and a contact page with a possible contact form.

If we consider a professional level of finish for the website, the set-up costs invoiced by a service provider for such a platform will most likely be between CHF 3,000 and CHF 10,000 (excluding content creation, and depending on the details, the technology and service provider selected, the level of support required, and assuming that the design is professional without being bespoke).

Creation of a modern catalog site with a dozen products

A few years later, New Cycle evolved. The company now has 10 products that the founders would like to showcase on their website. In addition to the functions already present on the previous site, there should be a page for each product, and it should be possible to use an interactive map to find out in which store near the user the products are on sale. No eCommerce yet, but a ” drive to store ” feature to encourage users to visit New Cycle boutiques and retailers. Added to this is the fact that the company is going global, and now wants all site content to be available in 3 languages.

If we were to create this site from scratch, once again the exact price would depend heavily on the details and levels of service expected by New Cycle, the quality of the content provided by New Cycle or the design chosen. However, the budget for the creation of such a platform by an independent professional service provider would probably be between CHF 10,000 and CHF 25,000.

Creation of a classic eCommerce site with around twenty products divided into 4 collections

Time goes by, and New Cycle is now ready to market its bikes directly via eCommerce on its own website. There’s no need for any new features, apart from the ability to buy online. However, this possibility comes with a few extras: users can create an account on the platform, and find all their past purchases and invoices online. The company’s new CRM tool also needs to collect information from buyers on the site. In this way, New Cycle can access all its online and offline customer data in one place.

Let’s assume that we’re creating this new eCommerce platform from scratch. And let’s assume that New Cycle provides all the content for the site, that the new CRM is properly developed, and that the means of payment are provided by a classic PSP (Payment Service Provider). The cost of creating such a platform can therefore be estimated at between CHF 20,000 and CHF 50,000 when a small to medium-sized agency takes on the project. If it’s supplied by an international agency, the price is likely to be between CHF 100,000 and CHF 300,000. For more details, we return below to the impact of the chosen service provider on the price.

Creation of a modern eCommerce site for a multinational company

New Cycle has grown to become the world leader in electric bicycles. Thanks to its hundred or so products, which can be customized at will (thus creating variations and customizations on thousands of existing products), the company is thriving and present all over the world. The company now needs a site to match its size.

This is to be available in over 20 languages, including Arabic (which can be read from right to left, necessitating a complete rethink of the site’s interface), with personalized cross-sell recommendations for existing customers. The site must have a bespoke design that reflects the brand’s unique and innovative character. Of course, CRM needs to collect customer data from the site. Similarly, customers should be able to contact after-sales service directly from the site. Email campaigns are also personalized and adapted according to the user’s history on the website. Analytics data will be accurately tracked and shared in interactive reports. Finally, New Cycle will need a partner present in all its key markets worldwide to support its local teams. It is then necessary to select an international agency.

Of course, the costs of such a project are commensurate with the ambitions shared by the company. The cost of such a project is therefore generally between CHF 400,000 and CHF 1,200,000. And the upper limit could well be higher, depending on the bespoke design or special developments carried out for the project, or the exclusivity requirements of the client company.


The technology chosen can influence the price of the site

In theory, the technology chosen should be a consequence of the needs and choices made by the customer. The reality is, as always, more nuanced than that. The choice of technology may be based on a technological need, a preference on the part of the development team, a financial interest on the part of the service provider, a specific request on the part of the customer who is already familiar with a particular platform, or many other possible reasons.

We’ll be writing a dedicated article on the various possible technological choices and the reasons behind each one, so let’s concentrate here on the different categories of technology and their orders of magnitude in terms of cost. There are a large number of CMS (Content Management Systems) on the market, each with its own specific features. We’ll just mention the main ones here (you can find the market shares of the various CMS in 2021). on the W3Tech website).

Furthermore, we will only deal with service costs for website creation; any license costs invoiced by publishers will not be taken into account here. However, these costs are not negligible: while WordPress is open source and available free of charge, Adobe Experience Manager (for example, but this is not the only one) can cost several hundred thousand francs a year in licenses, not including the costs of a service provider.

   ” solutions

These solutions are designed to be extremely easy to use for users who have never developed a website before. With these platforms, you can create a simple website in just a few hours (days at most). As a rule, these platforms come with a preselection of themes. While these themes are generally aesthetically pleasing and well-crafted, the customization possibilities are very limited; beyond text, images and a few formatting options, you won’t have much freedom. This is both the advantage and disadvantage of these platforms: they’re very simple.

Generally speaking, we don’t recommend using an external service provider to create such basic platforms, as the bulk of the work will lie in creating the content. You or one of your employees can complete the site in just a few hours. Working with a service provider is worthwhile when they have the flexibility to bring you value.

Among these ” basic ” platforms, we find  Wix or Webflow for example.

 Flexible solutions for virtually any need

This is probably the most important category, as it includes flexible solutions that can be adapted to suit every need. Whether you want to create a small showcase site or an ambitious eCommerce site, the same technology platform will support you. And that’s precisely the great strength of these solutions: you can start small and grow with them according to your real needs. In fact, this is the category of platforms we have used in our previous estimates in this article (apart from the specific cases specified).

What’s more, these platforms generally have the advantage of being free or at acceptable cost (compared to ” Enterprise ” solutions). In this way, you optimize your budget by focusing on the elements that bring you value. What’s more, as these platforms are designed for all uses, they are very easy to use even for non-experts, while enabling professionals to work with precision.

Among these ” flexible ” platforms,   is clearly the world leader for content management and eCommerce sites of all sizes. Shopify is an interesting alternative for simple eCommerce sites.

 Enterprise ” solutions for large groups

Finally, there are ” Entreprise ” solutions dedicated to the content creation needs of large groups. These companies have multidisciplinary teams that need access to specific content on the site. They also have extensive internal and external content validation processes with their agencies. In the vast majority of cases, these ” Enterprise ” solutions offer no functionality that cannot be achieved with a ” Flexible ” solution. But they offer an all-in-one package, and above all reassure large groups by providing support and after-sales service on a multinational scale.

Building a site with these solutions rarely costs less than CHF 200,000. The average order of magnitude is around CHF 500,000 per website. That’s why solutions such as Adobe Experience Manager, or Sitecore is aimed primarily at multinational companies. What’s more, these solutions are generally part of an approach that goes beyond the website; they offer additional possibilities for personalization, emailing and asset management.


Services provided change the price of site maintenance

Web technologies are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep your site up to date. Whether it’s ” corrective ” maintenance to correct any flaws or bugs in your website, or ” performance ” maintenance dedicated to constantly improving your platform, your web project doesn’t stop when the site is published.

 corrective maintenance is highly recommended.

Update your website from a technical point of view; make monthly backups of your content for security reasons; adapt your site to the latest technical developments from Google; correct a bug or security flaw in your platform. All these reasons alone are enough to justify the need for ” corrective ” website maintenance.

The cost of maintenance depends largely on your service provider and the way the site has been developed. Generally speaking, if the maintenance provider is the same as the one who developed the site, it is considered that the annual cost of corrective maintenance (excluding additional services) represents around 10% to 15% of its creation cost. So, if your site cost you CHF 10,000 to create, you’ll need to factor in around CHF 1,000 to CHF 1,500 per year (i.e. CHF 83.33 to CHF 125 per month) for corrective maintenance, at least for the first year. Depending on the situation, this percentage may be reduced in subsequent years if the site is stable and undergoing little change.

Even if it’s not compulsory, we strongly recommend selecting ” corrective ” maintenance from your service provider, if only for your peace of mind should a bug occur or the site become unavailable for one reason or another.

 performance ” maintenance depends on your needs

Unlike ” corrective ” maintenance, ” performance ” maintenance focuses on upgrading your site. As such, its cost and scope will depend enormously on your needs: ongoing SEO optimization; continuous improvement of conversions through AB Testing; development of new site functionalities; content creation and publication.

For these reasons, it is impossible to give a total cost for “performance” maintenance. However, you can find the different options on our Pricing page, each with an indication of the costs for construction and technical maintenance of the site.


The choice of service provider also has an impact on the cost of your project.

Whether you choose a freelance service provider, a small agency or a large international agency, the cost of your project will of course be directly affected. But the truth is, you don’t call on these different types of service providers at random; each one corresponds to a specific type of project.

Freelancing, for example, is a perfect option for the creation of small, simple sites. A small agency will be more suitable if you want to find different services such as site creation, search engine optimization, while having a modern, conversion-optimized design. Finally, a large international agency is the right choice if you need coordinated support in different markets.

Of course, there are projects that are suitable for both a freelancer and a small agency. Similarly, some projects can be carried out by a small agency as well as a large one. The choice will therefore have to take into account not only price (as a general rule, a smaller structure will almost always be cheaper than a larger one), but also the quality of the teams involved.


Conclusion

In the end, it’s important that you select the service provider and solution you trust most. Because even if we’re talking about IT, the creation of a website or eCommerce site is still a project carried out by human beings. The ability to discuss and exchange ideas on problems encountered during the project, and above all to find solutions, is crucial. No project runs smoothly or without tension; there’s always a moment when something isn’t understood by your service provider in the way you would have liked. And it’s precisely this ability to talk openly about it that will make the project a success. Conversely, teams that don’t talk to each other make mistakes; this creates tensions, and ultimately leads to budget overruns and missed delivery dates.

The cost of a website is a complex subject. It’s impossible to give a generic, precise answer to this question. However, for simple, traditional projects, we’ve created a cost calculator that you can use very simply. This calculator will give you an order of magnitude, a fairly realistic estimate of the cost of creating your project.

And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, 
don’t hesitate to contact us
 We’d be delighted to discuss your project with you, and provide you with a free, no-obligation cost estimate.

About the author

Pierre Celimene

Pierre Celimene

Avec près de 20 ans d'expérience dans la création web et le marketing digital, je dirige aujourd'hui CS Digital et ses équipes pour optimiser durablement les performances de nos clients.