First, there’s no scientifically valid way of determining how much a website costs. Yes, we can look at averages and market expectations, but even within the industry, everyone uses different cost structures.
What we can do is look at the bare-minimum of keeping a website online. One thing is certain: inflation and the never ending demand for faster, more data intensive websites will increase websites costs over time. I wrote the body of this article ~3 months ago and I can already tell you my server costs have already gone up.
The good news is, bare-bones website hosting cannot get much cheaper than it already is for quality service offerings.
Initial Website Costs
Domain Name Purchase Costs
Each site requires a unique domain name.
Generally, a domain requires a one time purchase fee (usually around $12) and then a recurring payment of the same amount each year. Monthly hosting usually ranges between $8 – $15 depending on the number of domains and monthly data requirements. That generally includes essential, integrated security protocols which have become a web standard over the last few years.
That’s not to say you can’t host a website for less than $5 a month, but over here we like fast, responsive internet experiences that go online and stay online. I’m not going to go deep into the metrics of website costs/performance here, but you will get what you pay for (and be punished accordingly if you skim on the most critical asset of your website).
Remember, that if you build your website on something like Wix, SquareSpace, or WordPress.org, you’re going to be ‘taxed’ in perpetuity and get really mediocre server performance. (WordPress.com is a different thing)
So, the good news is, once you’ve found a name for your website that isn’t taken, it will cost you only $10-12 a year to secure the domain, and another $8 – $15 a month for something that’s zippy fast with multi-site support.
Server Hosting Costs
The files of every website require a centralized server which stores the website’s content infrastructure. The cost of server hosting varies based upon the sites requirements for speed, file transfer, and number of users. More users means more file transfers, which means a faster server is required to maintain site speed.
Generally, server hosting for my average customer is between $10-$20 a month for a 1 – 3 domains (website addresses). That’s because I don’t use the cheapest, slowest servers. I prefer server hosting with prompt and well trained customer service because if issues arise, they can identify and resolve problems faster without having to rip the metaphorical motor out of your website and remachine the pistons. The saves a lot of costs from being passed down to the customer.
Most websites do not require extraordinary security measures, server side caching, or massive file traffic and file loads, hence 99% of websites will fall within the above data tier. Server hosting is provided by many companies you’ve likely seen advertisement for: GoDaddy, Hostgear, Dreamhost, Rochen, ect. (Again WordPress.com, SquareSpace, and Wix are “all-in-one-hosting” solutions that you’ll pay extra for based on convenience)
Personally, I’ve been working with Rochen for roughly the last 10 years and while they are not perfect, they’ve also been more than helpful with working out an issues and have a ton of value added services that make my life easier, and my customer’s websites less expensive.
Value Added Services
Hosting companies provide many value added services to win your business by making the deal sweeter (and your life easier). Some of these services include free registration of a domain name, transfer of your old website to your new domain, or installation of content management platforms like WordPress.
The thing about those services is they usually get baked in to a recurring monthly fee. Thus, you can end up paying 25 – 30% in monthly fees over the life of your website.
My customers enjoy me handling all of their mission-critical recurring payments that keep their website online and I just pass along the invoice. Most people don’t realize that if you forget to renew the license for the name of your website every year, people can steal it from you. It’s not joke. Google once paid a guy $10K because they forgot to renew their .com domain. Luckily, he was a very nice guy and they simply gave him a reward for returning it to them.
Considering File Size and Video Bandwidth Limitations
A website which hosts unlimited movies and music for user download, or one that sees overs 100K users each month requires more storage, faster speeds, and higher file transfer rates to maintain stable function and prevent crashes. Sites with large volumes of visitors, extensive media downloads, or integration of many sites into the same account may exceed $100/month or more, if not hundreds-of-thousands-and-millions per month for enterprise level media sites (Netflix, Amazon, Ect)
Website Administrative Costs
Website updates are an essential task in maintaining the functionality of a website. Just like updates for your phone, a fast, safe, and functional website requires maintenance. Developers must respond nimbly to changes from many sources and ensure cohesiveness for the device in question: Tablet, iPhone, Desktop, ect.
Administration and Website Updates
Some clients have the internal resources and skill sets to update their website on their own, while many prefer the ease and “worry-free” option of hiring a developer for web and security maintenance.
- Changes to fix bugs and security loopholes
- Changes to improve website speed and page load times
- Updates to the Content Management System (CMS) platform (Ex: WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, Drupal, ect.)
- Updates for evolving regulation and legal compliance (Ex: Europe’s new privacy requirements)
- Security certificates and protocol updates
Website Updates that Stem from External Forces
Continual updates for the latest best practices ensure compliance with updates to various search engines like (Google algorithms), regulatory compliance, page speed improvements, and core infrastructure updates from framework and plugin developers.
- Changes in user behavior or customer preferences and suggestions
- Updates for new and legacy support of device platforms
- Adding checkout options for new payment technologies (Bitcoin, Apple Pay, ect)
- Updates and changes required by partners or affiliates
Initial Ecommerce Costs
The initial costs of getting your products online and ready for sale varies for each business. The number of products, complexity of the products, checkout features, security requirements, and extent of customer information management all have implications,
Recurring Ecommerce Costs
Just like doing business in a retail store, each online transaction incrues a marginal expenditure, generally between 1 – 3% for each transaction when using payment platforms like Stripe, Paypal, or Shopify. Some payment platforms simply require a one-time fee to purchase the service, while others like Shopify require a recurring subscription free.
Recurring Ecommerce Management Fees
While online transactions have never been easier, facilitating online checkouts requires a significant extension of developer responsibility. Particularly, maintaining a secure place for transactions and ensuring that the customer has a simple and easy path to purchasing your products online. This also includes troubleshooting checkout issues such as failed transactions, invoice propagation, and revising page designs for better user experience. A painless online checkout experience is the absolute most important feature of an ecommerce website in today’s market.
Total Monthly Cost of Website Ownership
For most of my business-orientated customers, basic hosting costs are covered by $15 – 20 a month which supports up to three websites and about 100K visitors a month.
I only do maintenance plans for websites I’ve built personally, as the only way I can keep costs so low is because I intimately understand each and every gear, knob, and lever of the websites critical assets. Maintenance fees are just too variable to address in full here, but my plans start around $100 a month per-site for upkeep and maintenance with a pre-allocated number of service hours included. The best part for customers is that they don’t spend extra on one-time services and recurring fees at initial start up and get all of their web services bundled into a single invoice.