The Magic of Custom Web Design (& the Cost of Web Design Today)




  • by Jess Hall February 1, 2016
    February 1, 2016

    Custom web design magic comes at a price. Understanding the cost of custom web design.


    We get this question every day: “How much does a new website cost?” But it’s impossible to have just one answer. Websites aren’t like pencils or hammers. Each site is handcrafted according to a business’s unique needs. Some clients just want a platform to publish content; others need back-end portals and e-commerce; still others need to attract key decision makers for complex contracts and sales. No two are ever the same.


    What we can tell you is that to build a website in a content management system (CMS) and make it totally responsive takes between 100-150 hours for the average small site. (Under 40 pages with minor animations, no back end or commerce) Responsiveness is a key factor. Mobile, tablet and desktop versions are designed and coded into one fluid experience, and the site is tested in 4 modern browsers with 3 versions each. Sound complex? It is!


    Here’s the important part to consider about your web and brand experience:


    Your website and brand experience can make or break your company. This is where your customers find you and come to form an opinion about whether or not they will hire you. It’s not the place to cut corners. Your website and overall brand experience may in fact be the biggest influencer of gross revenue for your organization.


    Hourly Rates vs. Project-Based Cost:

    Hourly rates for top-tier web design vary. Offshore contractors with low skill sets may offer $ 50 per hour and seem like a bargain. That is until you get a less than stellar design, clunky user experience and snails-pace speed. Professional service companies, in most industries, who provide top tier talent and results charge from $ 100-$ 250 per hour. (Except lawyers who manage to get $ 500 per hour plus, ouch!). Fixed cost projects usually wind up in a problem. Either a contractor underestimates the time and suddenly won’t return phone calls, or the project is rushed with little thought or creativity. It’s just a bad model and most reputable agencies have abandoned it.


    Our rate, if you’re curious, ranges from $ 135-$ 150 per hour depending upon the amount of time contracted. We are fast and efficient because of our team approach. Any reputable agency with top talent should be in that range or higher. Remember, if you hire a firm or individual who does not work in a creative team environment, in a real office with art direction, a project manager and collaboration you cannot count on getting the best results, nor efficient or accurate use of time.


    Alas…there are options for smaller budgets:

    Here is the good news: If you are not in the place to invest in a custom website designed just for your business and your customers desired experience you can start with these options:



    1. Use a template to save money. These are sites that are pre-coded with generic designs that we can alter to create a more custom feel. Sure they are limited, but they are an excellent option for businesses on a budget.
    2. Optimize and improve the UX (User Experience) of your current site within your current HTML structure. We can quickly and cost effectively fix basic usability errors and enhance the design.

    Want more details?

    To fully understand our creative process, here is a breakdown of the most important phases:



    • Discovery & Strategic Planning
      Without getting to know your business from the outside looking in, we can’t possibly begin to understand your story, goals, and – most importantly – why consumers should care. We then take your goals and create a roadmap to achieve them. Strategy is at the heart of all that we do. We spend a minimum of 20 hours on your project in this phase.
    • Storytelling
      Without effective storytelling, your message just doesn’t go very far. Part wordsmithing and tone, part visual imagery and interactive design, your story is what resonates with existing and potential consumers. After all, people buy on emotion. Are you connecting with your clients on that level? We spend between 10-20 hours in storytelling, not counting services or product pages.
    • Design
      Each consumer touch point with your business online has a certain feel – together, these form your brand style. We design each of these varied interactions and create style templates for your use. Not only are your homepage, subpage, header, footer, and call-to-actions designed, but also part of this critical phase are illustrations, animations, custom photos, and typography. We spend 40-80 hours in design on most sites.
    • Coding & Testing
      Once your brand is styled and all designs are approved, we code and migrate your content into a CMS like Drupal or WordPress. We then design and code styles across mobile, tablet, laptop, and desktop screens. This is called “responsive design” because it automatically adjusts to the user’s device for the best possible web experience. Coding time ranges from 30-100 hours pending the size and complexity of your site.

    We’ll need to budget additional time if you require complex functionality, third-party API incorporation, software integration, or app building. Sure, you can get a site at commodity website brokers like web.com for “free” (but read the fine print…) or hire an offshore contractor, freelancer, or your cousin’s nephew for a lot less. But this isn’t a viable option for most enterprises that take their image, strategy, goals, and customer experience seriously.


    Your website is your most important brand asset. Hire a team that will make you look like the rock star you are.

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