As an Inbound Writer for Lean Labs, Melissa writes about high-converting websites and customer-centric marketing. She's an avid traveler, with trips to Iceland, Ukraine, and Portugal under her belt. She currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with her dog, Morrie.
How did you determine your last website budget? Did you pull a recommendation from a top-ranking site like Forbes? Did you ask your team to estimate the time and resources they would need? Maybe your CFO or accountant told you what you could afford. Unfortunately, all of these approaches are wrong. Because when it comes to setting a budget for a website design, you need your actual website be the North Star.
If you don't base the cost on the type of site you realistically need, you will end up making a guess. Often, these vague estimates lead to overspending, setting an unrealistic timeline or launch date, or cutting corners. Ultimately, the miscalculation will impact the quality of your site. After all of that work and budget spent, you're right back where you started.
So how do you narrow it down, and create a budget that’s pretty close to the mark? Here's how we approach it for our clients.
How To Map Out Your Website Design Cost
There are a lot of reasons website design costs go off the rails. Often, it's a misalignment on which aspects of the website design carry the most weight. Exceptional content will help build a site that consistently delivers ROI, while an aesthetically pleasing website will be that. A site that looks nice.
That's why before setting a fixed web design budget, you need to answer a few critical questions about the website you're trying to build.
#1. What Stage Are You In?
The first consideration for a budget is your current website performance. If you're not seeing enough results and invest too much time and money into a complex site, you'll set your team up to fail. It's a better choice to start out with something smaller, and put a significant amount of energy towards strategy and building out a buyer journey.
In our experience, if you need to improve your performance, you should allocate 70% of your budget to strategy and message and 30% for design and development. You will build a more foundational site that will help you learn about your customer. And at the same time, you can save your budget and prioritize other initiatives.
(Which probably should not include tossing money from the side of a boat.)
To get an idea of how the pricing for foundational sites and more robust sites differ, here are our three recommended tiers and price ranges:
- Foundation - Foundational sites get the job done. These sites can be a great place to start if you’re a newer company, or if you're struggling to acquire traffic and leads. They range around 15-25k, with 12k of that towards brand strategy and copywriting offers.
- Impress - An Impress site will cost between 40k - 60k, with half of that budget to content, and the other half to design and development. These sites look good and drive impact, taking you a notch above your competitors.
Now, the Inspire site may seem like the best choice, but most brands do not need one unless you’re ranking #2 or #3 in your industry. In that case, an Inspire site can help you advance and lead that segment.
#2. Who Will Build It?
Another significant consideration is who will build your website. There are a few options that each have a considerable impact on what the site costs, and how long it takes to create it. Here are the most common choices for a B2B site.
If you hire an agency to build an Inspire or Impress site, they can provide ongoing support. In the future, you can expand the relationship and hire them to drive future inbound initiatives.
You can hire a copywriter, developer, or project manager in-house and train them, systemize them, and manage them. Here's an additional resource on how to build out a marketing team.
If you have more time than money, you can spend it trying to find a good freelancer. While a freelancer won’t get you an Impress or Inspire site, a good one is a valuable low-cost alternative. However, great freelancers come with a time cost to find and manage them.
Niche options such as Inbound Labs, Storybrand, and SprocketRocket can help you gain clarity in your weak spots such as messaging, strategy, etc. From that, you can build a customer-centric site with key pages and a buyer journey at a reasonable cost.
You will also need to select a Content Management (CMS) to build the site on, such as WordPress, HubSpot, etc. We chose HubSpot because our clients are looking to generate leads and nurture them into opportunities. And to drive those initiatives, we see more results from Hubspot versus WordPress.
#3. What's The Brand Narrative?
Often, people skip this step because they run out of time, and they only focus on getting the website up faster. However, building out a dynamite brand narrative and structure can make or break the success of your site. It will inform the architecture, tone, and will determine whether or not your customers will convert.
Since it's one of the most critical steps in web design, you need to account for it in your budget. Creating this narrative will require time and resources to establish a customer-centric strategy and persuasive messaging. You can price this out by considering any internal meetings you need to hold, team members that you will involve on the project, and or time spent filling out website strategy documents.
All of this needs to be fleshed out and budgeted for, which will result in a website that best serves and connects with your customer.
#4. What's The Budget For Messaging?
In traditional web design, people would go into the design phase right after the strategy. Despite accelerating your timeline, going into the design before planning the structure or message of your site can quickly blow up a budget. When you decide to skip these crucial steps, you pay for it later. All of the revisions you will inevitably need to make up for this haste will extend your launch date.
(That's you, trying to make up for lost time spent on design.)
However, when you draft website messaging first, you can get it about 80% of the way there. It sets up the flow and framework for each web page, cutting down on revisions. All of your pages will connect, and you will create a more cohesive experience for your customer. Your designer will spend less time trying to figure out the flow of the page and can focus on the styling.
#5. How Can You Scale Down Look, Feel and Style?
If you have a smaller budget, the web design can be minimal. With Growth-Driven-Design, the goal is to keep the focus on your message, anyway. And rather than spending a majority of your budget on crafting each page, your designer can direct your customer to the essential parts of your website page, such as the call-to-action and headlines.
If you have a larger budget for an Impress or Inspire kind of website, then you can add more special and unique elements to the site. You can include compelling content and embellishments, such as unique navigation, or a persuasive masthead while still keeping the site enjoyable to navigate.
#6. What Happens After Launch?
The final consideration for your website design is the launch period. Even after you finish the site, you should allocate budget towards ongoing reporting and optimizations. With all of the work you put into creating it, it would be a waste to let it sit there and age. Instead, you should traffic run through it, and learn from the performance.
When determining the cost, you should also consider any tools you will need to report and collect data. With HubSpot, you get a lot of these resources already, but other tools such as CrazyEgg and Hotjar can also provide useful insights into customer behavior. From there, your team can make optimizations on the real preferences of your customers.
Sticking To Your Website Budget
When you plan out your budget effectively, you can make wiser investments throughout your website design process. You can avoid overspend, meet your deadlines, and end up with the exact website you need. However, even with the right spend in mind, you still need additional resources to keep your team on the right path. That's why we use a series of strategy documents to keep us on track and budget.
In our SprocketRocket Strategy Kit, we include all of our strategy documents that enable you to go deep into the foundational elements you need to launch a successful website.
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