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True cost of building a website


There are different routes to choose from when it comes to building a website, for corporations, enterprises and institutions, the most common options are freelancers, local web development agencies, and off-shore agencies. If you are looking for a one-page brochure website or a barebone eCommerce website, there are even more options such as Wix or Shopify.

Different routes of building a website will have different costs, the range of the prices are significantly different. Generally speaking, larger agencies cost more as there is usually some administration cost associated, free-lance contractors cost the least and mid-size agencies are somewhere in between. Regardless of how much the proposal quotes you, here are some of the hidden costs that are associated with your website that you might want to consider.


No matter which route you choose, your website will be built on some type of framework, it might be open-source cms such as Drupal or WordPress, or it could be a proprietary platform.

Your website will undoubtedly require maintenance and support after the initial launch. Open-source platforms generally have free updates while proprietary platforms might require some licencing fee on top of the labour cost associated with updating the website.

Different platforms also come with different scalability and flexibility. Is it easy or possible to expand as your business requires? How much effort does it take to add new features? Is it hard for another web agency to take over if you decide to change the service provider down the road? The general answer is that open-sourced platforms are usually more scalable and flexible than proprietary platforms. Regardless of the platform, you should always keep this in mind and ask the questions before you invest your money.

Security Risk

Depending on your business type and business needs, you might need to store user information or sensitive business data on your website. In these instances, building your website securely and keeping it that way is not only crucial but in some instances also a legal requirement.

In addition, when vulnerabilities are discovered, being able to apply the security patch quickly and confidently is essential when it comes to choosing a web development agency.

Best Practices

Best practices are methods and practices that are easy to maintain, update and less security risk. Yes, best practices often take more effort and will be more expensive initially, but when best practices are followed, it reduces maintenance costs and improves efficiency for on-going support of the website.

When best practices are followed, the chance of having bugs are relatively low, and when bugs are discovered, it will be quick to fix and require less effort.

Best practices don’t only apply to code and configuration, but also the design. You might want a design that is visually appealing with great graphics and photography. However, when replacing photos, updating graphics or introducing new products, it would cost more to have consistent quality of photos and graphics.

Although the web trend is changing constantly, a website that follows best practices on both design and development tends to last longer. The longer your website can stay in service, or have the flexibility to be future-proof, the lower the overall cost is.


This ties closely to the best practices point above. If a website follows best practices, it usually has better performance, such as faster loading speed. A fast loading website not only will keep users more engaged and more likely to stay on your website, but also increase your search ranking. You might be surprised that one extra second of loading time makes a big difference.

Slow-loading websites may also increase hosting costs, as well as opportunity costs.

Opportunity Costs

If the website was not designed or built correctly, it might restrict leads, sales and revenue. As mentioned above, a low-performance website can drive customers away, reduce search rankings, and decrease quality leads.

We learn about opportunity cost in economics 101. Combined with the increase in hosting costs, it might quickly turn a low initial cost project into something fairly expensive. Although opportunity costs might be difficult to calculate, it is very real and you should always keep this in mind when choosing a web development agency or a freelancer.


All the different criteria above factors into the total cost of a website. Some costs are not reflected in the initial development price tag. Set a goal and a budget for your website. Find an agency that will work with your goals. If your goal is to get a website up quickly to start generating revenue and invest in expanding or adding extra features down the road, find an agency that would ask to cut some features for the first phase and still do things correctly. If your goal is to invest more in the beginning and have less long term cost, find an agency that would tailor to that. A good service provider will provide professional advice on how to reach your goal and what to look out for down the road.