The 4 Factors That Determine the Cost of a Website

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You’re in the midst of choosing a website agency and the most confounding thing is happening…

The quotes you’re getting are all over the place.

Creative firms are quoting you anywhere from $20,000 to $300,000, and one random guy even says he can do it for just $3,000. How the hell can the cost of a website vary that much? They’re just pixels, right? So what’s up with the extra zeros?‍

Why is this?

Let me compare the journey you’re on to one that I’m currently on. My husband and I are having a new house built. And just like you’re having to choose a web design firm, we had to choose a contractor. Of course there are a lot of contractors out there, and they will all give you a different price for building the same house.

We discovered the reason for that came down to four main factors — and it turns out they’re the four same factors that determine how much your website will cost.


1. Budget

In building our house, our first step was to talk with our banker to see how much financing we could get for a construction loan. Then we met with an architect to design a house that would fall within that price range.

We put together a Pinterest board of houses we liked for the architect. They were all gorgeous modern homes like the ones you see in Dwell magazine. The architect smiled and nodded: “You guys have great taste! However, something more like this is going to be a better fit for your price range…”

Does our new house have a traditional gable roof instead of a sexy flat one? Yes. Did we also have to nix the garage and the fireplace? Yes (ugh). But is the resulting house still going to be a huge upgrade and a great investment for our family? You bet.

So just like there’s a house for (almost) every budget, there’s a website for all of them too. And as an agency, we can’t tell you what kind of website you can have, or which bells and whistles you can afford, unless we know your budget first. ‍

That’s why some of our websites cost $50K and others cost three times that. The higher your budget, the more website we can build for you — the more complex it can be and the more fancy stuff it can have (sweet animations, engaging functionality, custom copy, etc.).

2. Expected ROI

Companies don’t get new websites just for the hell of it. A redesign is a strategic business decision and major investment — just like building a house. And when you do either, you expect a return on that investment. ‍

For our house, we expect it to appreciate in value over time, becoming a valuable asset for our family. And for a website, your desired outcome is likely an increase in lead generation, sales conversions, or outside investment that’s maybe three, four, or five times your spend. ‍

If you’re looking to generate millions of dollars in leads, and your website is your primary lead gen tool, the stakes are high and you won’t want to skimp on that investment. If you can, pull out all the stops so your agency can spend the time to build more elements that engage, convince, and convert. Your company will benefit from it for years to come.

3. Team Experience

We could have found a cheaper contractor with less experience, or (god forbid) tried to be our own contractors. But instead we hired a firm that’s been around for two decades and works with trusted subcontractors that they’ve partnered with for years.

For your website, could you hire someone fresh out of college to build a basic Squarespace site for you? Probably. Or could you hire a full-time web designer and/or developer to join your team? Sure.

But you can also hire an agency like Paper Tiger, where we’ve already gone out and found high-caliber senior talent across design, development, content, and project management, so you don’t have to.

As an agency, we pay these folks a premium to work at Paper Tiger full-time (instead of outsourcing projects piecemeal to freelancers); as a client, you get access to their brainpower for a fraction of that cost. And the higher your budget, the more time we can give our team to think about and work on your project — to make something truly groundbreaking for you.

4. Level of Service

One of the reasons we hired the contractor that we did for our house was their responsiveness during the initial process, and the fact that they assigned a dedicated project manager to our build to keep things on track and be our main point of contact.‍

Surely this means our cost is a bit higher, but that PM has been worth his weight in gold by keeping everything running smoothly so we don’t have to do much of anything. Our house is half-way built and, incredibly, it’s been a stress-free process for us.

We offer a similar level of service at Paper Tiger. Many clients come to us with horror stories from working with other agencies that have flaked on them, do a half-assed job, or simply don’t communicate. We assign an in-house project manager to each of our clients who provide a high-touch service of keeping the project on track, and the client informed. We collaborate closely with our clients and solve problems proactively, instead of just taking orders. Even in initial discussions, our leadership team takes as much time as necessary to answer questions, discuss processes and deliverables, and make sure the partnership is a good fit for both sides.  

All of this takes time, which of course costs money, but we wouldn't have it any other way. And trust us, neither would you. A website redesign is a big undertaking for your company, and you're putting a lot of trust in an agency like ours to do right by you. So do your due diligence, and make sure that agency checks all your boxes — starting with these four.

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