Why is web design so expensive ?!?


Have you ever contacted a web designer for a quote and quickly became discouraged because the expectation was set that you would have to pay thousands of dollars for a simple web site? Have you ever seen designers offer the same web design services for $100-$300? The cost of having someone make a web site for your business varies so much, I thought it might be beneficial to take some time to talk about how much a web design should cost, and what determines the cost of a web site.

Cheap Web Design

I have seen people offer to do simple brochure style web sites (4-6 pages, a contact form & image portfolio) for less than $300. Having a cheap average quality web site is better than having no web site at all, but here are some important points to know when you are considering buying cheap web design services.

1)      It’s a frankensite. Thousands of web site templates exist on the internet. A web site template is essentially a design that has already been created for another business. It is sold in bulk to people who have similar businesses. A designer may not be using the exact same template, but they can take portions of one template, and portions of another along with some custom work for your own site to create a final product. You can often see the difference in quality and professionalism in a web site that is essentially pieces of a few projects put into one.

2)      It’s a beginner. Tons of students around the world are looking to build their portfolio. In addition to that, many people pick up a limited amount of web design experience through previous work experience or school classes. When you are looking to gain more experience or are simply trying to make a few bucks because you know the basics, you don’t have the luxury to charge full price for your web design services. The quality in these web sites can also be poor or average at best.

3)      The costs are hidden. Some web designers will charge a very affordable price for a web site but will build the cost into web hosting, maintenance, or future upgrades. For example, a web designer might charge you $300 for a web site + $25/month web hosting and $50/month for web site maintenance. In reality, web hosting for most small businesses should only cost around $7-$12/month and they also don’t require $50/month in web maintenance services. Over time, the web designer will earn considerably more profit through monthly fees or required upgrades.

Expensive Web Design

I have seen web designers offer to do the same 5-6 page brochure style web sites for $1000-$3000. Sometimes spending thousands of dollars on a web site can result in a top of the line product that will prove to offer a huge return on investment, but here is what you need to know about expensive web design quotes.

1)      It’s their rate. An average web designer will probably charge around $40-$60/hour. However, if the person has a lot of experience, a unique skill, or generally targets higher end clients, I have commonly seen web designers double this rate to $80-$120/hour. If the company boasts a portfolio of high end corporate clients, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that rate double again to $160-$240/hour. If you are in a large city such as Toronto or Vancouver, you already know you will be on the higher end of these numbers.

2)      Extras are included. It is not uncommon for clients to under exaggerate their needs which leaves a situation of potentially disappointing a client with a final product that is less than what they expect at the quoted rate. As a result of this, web designers will commonly just quote a high amount so it leaves lots of extra time if the client wants changes or ends up being fussier than they originally described. It can also include extras the client might not actually need, but they are built in simply because it will help them meet or exceed the customer’s expectations… at a price.

3)      They charge for quality and time. It takes a lot of time to create a high quality design. A designer might plan on taking a lot of time to create a really high quality product for you, even if you are a new small business who might not need that high of a quality product yet.  

4)      Supply and demand. A web designer who is established and has a relatively full schedule might continue to offer services, but at a higher rate. The designer already has enough work and they are happy with their schedule and income however almost everyone will accept more work at a higher price. Think of it as web designer over time.


Generally speaking, you get what you pay for in web design. The important thing is to take the time to think about what you really want and need in a web site versus how much you are willing to invest. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. Here are some final tips and information to consider.

1)      Poor Quality Vs Average Quality. While having a cheap average quality web design is better than having no web site at all, please take the time to consider the message you send with a poor quality web site. When a potential customer is searching online to find your products or services and they see a poor quality web site, think of it as the equivalent to a dark and dingy restaurant. You might quickly find yourself checking out the competition.

2)      Pay More Than $375. Unless you have received a credible reference from someone, don’t go with a web site that costs less than $375. A web designer should expect to put at least 12 hours into a design. Anything that takes less than 12 hours is unlikely to be the quality you need.

3)      Experience Vs Cost. Think about the experience level versus cost you want for your web designer. Of course, a college student or someone who picked up some web design skills from a previous employer will charge a low rate. A recent graduate with a portfolio or a business that has only been around for a few years might charge a higher rate that is still reasonable. An established web designer will start to become more expensive. A person who clearly boasts a high quality portfolio of corporate clients will expect the highest rate.

4)      Effort Vs Cost. Think about the effort versus cost you want for your web site. If you are a new home based business and your goal is just to have something simple that is professional and does the job, tell designers this when you are getting quotes. You can always upgrade to a higher quality web site once the business is going well. At the same time, keep your expectations at that level or expect that the budget for your work could rise. If you think it’s important to have higher quality work for your business, be prepared to pay for the quality you want. A good designer who is creating a high quality web site will want to take lots of time to make sure everything looks and functions great. Creating a nice quality design alone can take 10-30 hours with tweaking. This doesn’t include the time to program, optimize, and test the web site.

5)      Try my instant web design quote. I have created a tool which provides you with an instant web design quote for common high demand projects. My prices are fairly average, but are based on the quality and effort versus budget model I previously mentioned. The process will also introduce you to things you might not have thought about that you may or may not need in a web design project. You can use this tool and if you don’t want us to contact you, there is an option to opt out of a follow up. Please click here for an instant web design quote.

A Note From Derrick:

If you’re in the market for a website or know someone who is, you might also get value out of the following articles. Hiring a Web Designer off of Kijiji discusses things you should be aware of when hiring a web developer off of a classified ads website. The article was created with Kijiji in mind, however there is information relevant to all classified ads sites, such as CraigsList. You might also want to know the 3 things I think web designers should be doing, in order to optimize your website for search engines. It gives you an understanding of the very basics of Search Engine Optimization, and a good web developer will also understand SEO basics.

About The Author


At LOWD Media, we specialize in supporting entrepreneurs. We understand inspired entrepreneurs and business minded individuals. We then use this understanding to learn about your business and help you create a look and feel for your business – your brand identity. Our business startup packages provide everything you need to begin marketing your business effectively and at an affordable price. Once you begin marketing and growing your business, we strive to support you and grow with you. Long term success for your business means long term success for our business. Let your brand be heard loud and clear with LOWD.

1 Comment

  • Elisa

    Reply Reply March 1, 2012

    You blame this all mlosty on the employers (the companies) but that’s not completely fair. Web development and design is, like everything else, a matter of supply and demand. There simply isn’t much demand for the kind of quality that us web developers / designers CAN provide. It’s like offering a computer that is guaranteed to work for a 100 years by using top notch components. Cool? Yep. Does anyone ask for it? Nope. Throw-away products are good enough for everyone. Same thing goes for websites.Even though I’m a standards advocate myself I think what we’re trying to sell isn’t deemed relevant by 99% of the clients. And it’s getting worse. I blogged about these issues a while ago in my article . Finally, I see myself as kind of a Jack of all Trades guy and I like to think my stuff doesn’t suck in any department

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