Published: 27th February 2020
Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash
A complete guide to the average cost of a small business website in the UK
There are thousands of conflicting articles scattered across the internet tackling the subject of how much a website should cost, so why, we hear you ask, are we writing another? Most of these articles have an underlying bias towards some kind of self promotion or commission based affiliation with certain service providers. And this article is no different, apart from we’re going to be upfront about ours.
Who are we?
We are an independent team of two web designers with a background in creating websites for small businesses and startup companies. Between us, we have gained over 15 years industry experience holding various positions working for well established UK based design agencies as well as heading up the in-house web design team for a FTSE 100 company.
Why are we writing this article?
Throughout this article, our intention is to share some of our insights to give practical guidance on the various web design options available for small businesses, how much they can cost and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Although we provide a web design service ourselves, it is only one kind of option and it is never going to be right for everyone.
The purpose of this article is to guide you through the often overwhelming number of options available for creating a website so you can make an informed decision based on your unique requirements and budget.
So how much should a UK website cost in 2020?
To be honest, you may as well ask how much should a building cost? The quick answer is that a website can cost you nothing, it can cost £200, or £10,000, we have also been involved in a global web design project that cost over £2 million! This answer doesn’t help anyone so let’s break it down and look at the various options available.
Let’s start with the obvious/cheapest option…
DIY Website Builders:
How much does a website cost if I build it myself?
The rise of DIY website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace have completely disrupted the web design industry over the last 10 years. These new, exciting tools have enabled anyone to be able to build their own website without any technical skills and for very little or even no cost. All aspects of setting up your website are taken care of including hosting.
Are website builders free?
The short answer is… they can be but we wouldn’t recommend it!
Many website builders offer a free option but they come with some major drawbacks…
- Your website’s domain name will be branded with the name of the website builder you have used, for example: myusername123.wixsite.com/mycompany
Any serious business should consider upgrading to a paid option in order to at least use a professional looking domain name, for example: mycompany.com
- Your website will usually include adverts that you can’t control or remove.
- You are only given access to a small number of basic templates to choose from with very limited functionality.
Many website builders offer very affordable pay monthly options which provide a much better service than the free options. These usually range from around £10-£20 a month.
Website builder cost comparison
The following table compares the current prices for the most popular DIY website builders in the UK.
Please note: some website builders require you to pay for 12 months upfront (billed annually) unless you are happy to pay significantly more to be billed monthly.
|Website Builder||Free Option||Basic Price||Premium Price|
Billed annually (£72+VAT)
Billed annually (£264+VAT)
|Squarespace||No||From £10/month Billed annually (£120+VAT)||£30/month|
Billed annually (£360+VAT)
Billed annually (£108+VAT)
Billed annually (£216+VAT)
Reasons to use website builders
- Lowest cost option
- Quick, easy setup – you could potentially have a website built and live within a few hours of signing up.
Reasons to avoid website builders
- High cost of your time to completely manage your website’s initial construction and ongoing development.
- Relies on your own design skills, copywriting skills, knowledge of SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing expertise.
- Poor performance – website builders tend to generate bloated code and provide very basic shared hosting which can mean your web pages load slowly. This can seriously increase the number of visitors who abandon your website out of frustration. For more on the importance of website performance, please read our article on sustainable web design.
Why doesn’t my website look as good as the template demo?
We’ve spoken with many people who were confused as to why, after choosing a stunning looking website template, they found themselves disappointed after adding their own text and images. They couldn’t work out what they’d done wrong? Apart from trying to cram too much text into places the template didn’t allow, the answer is often simple…
Imagery can make or break your website
An often overlooked aspect of designing and building your own website is the importance of imagery. The images you choose will determine your website’s overall look and feel.
It’s recommended to commission original photography for your website or alternatively, high quality stock photography can be used. Always check the licensing restrictions on images before using them and never use images you just found through a Google image search as they are usually subject to copyright. There are some great stock photography sites that provide free images for commercial use such as Unsplash.
Photo formatting, retouching and treatment is often essential to help the imagery blend seamlessly with the rest of your website’s content, colours and layout. If you are serious about building your own website then we highly recommend becoming familiar with Adobe Photoshop. There are many tutorials online explaining how to use Photoshop but it is a complex tool which takes many hours to grasp and can take years to master. Also, Photoshop isn’t cheap, a subscription to access the software costs around £20 per month.
In order to build your own website, it’s also very beneficial to have good copywriting skills and a decent grasp of basic graphic design such as typography, composition, complimentary colour schemes and effective use of negative space. A sound understanding of effective visual communication and user interface design will also help.
Website builder summary:
Cheap and useful – in the right hands
Choosing to use a website builder is like buying paint brushes and a canvas. If you are naturally creative and have the right skills, then they can provide you with the basic tools to create a decent looking website with no coding knowledge. So if you have a good eye for design and a passion for digital marketing, opting to build your own website can certainly save you money.
On the flip side, we have come across disastrous examples of websites created using website builders, it all depends on the skills of the person behind the tools. Your website is a critically important business asset which is worth investing in. If you don’t feel comfortable building your own website then a professional approach could provide you with much better returns while freeing up your time to concentrate on what you do best – running your business.
How much does a professionally designed website cost?
Many think a website is something you simply pay for and walk away with like a new TV for instance. This misconception is why there is so much confusion around how much a website should cost. We find it helps to think about web design as a service, similar to accountancy, photography or commissioning artwork.
The initial cost of designing and building your website will depend on many factors including the number of features you’ll need and the type of website you’re after. The table below provides some very rough average costs based on using a small web design company or a freelance web developer.
|Type of Website||Features||Design Cost||Ongoing Costs |
(domain, hosting, updates)
|Basic||1-5 mobile responsive pages||£200 – £500||£5 – £60/month|
|Small Business||5-10 pages|
(plus additional features such as live chat)
|£500 – £1,000||£5 – £80/month|
(Order management system)
|£1,000 – £2,500||£10 – £500+/month|
|Large Corporate |
(Unlimited sub pages, bespoke design, database population)
|£2,500 – £10,000 +||£10 – £500+/month|
Regardless of the various website packages and prices on offer from different size companies and freelance developers, they always boil down to an underlying hourly rate. Any web design quote you receive or website package you see advertised will have been carefully costed based on the estimated amount of time your website will take to design and build plus the amount of overheads involved.
Web Design Agency:
How much does a website cost using a UK based design agency?
If using a web design agency, the cost of your website will be based on the various hourly rates of each of the team members involved in the project such as a web designer, a web developer, a copywriter, a creative director and an account handler. Not to mention higher overheads such as large office spaces.
The hourly rates of those involved when using a web design agency can vary from around £30 an hour for an account handler to £150 an hour for a creative director.
The advantage of using a design agency is the powerful combination of expert specialists working together to create your website. This is often the most expensive option but the quality of your finished website should reflect this. If you want the best and you have the budget available, a well established web design agency should deliver the results you’re after.
Choosing the right web design agency is vital so make sure to research them thoroughly, compare quotes, check out examples of their work and the clients they have worked with. Also look for testimonials and past case studies of similar website projects to your own. Committing to a design agency will be a significant investment so make sure you’re completely satisfied that they can deliver the results you’re after.
Freelance web developer:
How much does a website cost using a UK based freelancer?
Quotes from freelance web developers tend to come in cheaper than a full design agency due to lower overheads. Freelance web designers and developers usually charge around £30-£60 an hour.
Unlike using a design agency, the disadvantage of using a freelancer is that the development of your website will be limited by the skills of one person. Every freelancer will have their strengths snd weaknesses. For example, some will be great at technical website development but may lack creative design skills.
When choosing a freelancer it is very important to thoroughly assess their portfolio of work to judge where their strengths lie. If you need a relatively simple website with basic functionality but you need it to look stunningly beautiful then you would probably choose a freelancer who’s strengths lean towards creative design rather than technical web development.
Every website project is different so finding the right freelancer for the job is vital.
Ongoing website costs
It’s important to remember that your website is never finished, even after you’re completely happy with it. Your website needs to continually adapt, fresh content needs to be regularly added and your site will need to evolve with your business over time. Combine all this with ongoing hosting costs and the total ongoing monthly cost of your website can be anything from £10-£150+. These ongoing costs are on top of the hefty upfront cost of the initial build.
How often should I get a new website?
As a general rule, it’s recommended to completely redesign your website every 2-3 years to keep up with fast developments in online technology. This is another substantial cost which businesses need to budget for on a regular basis.
An alternative option:
Pay monthly website packages
In order to avoid large upfront costs, some web design companies now offer pay monthly subscriptions which spread the cost of the build of your website across set monthly payments. These packages often include all other ongoing costs such as domain name registration, hosting, ongoing updates and maintenance, and in some cases regular redesigns.
Unfortunately, many of these companies provide very poorly designed websites based on a mass production line of nothing more than basic template customisation. These packages can appear suspiciously cheap, sometimes as low as £15 a month. Ongoing customer service can be very frustrating when large, overseas call centres are used. Be careful of large upfront setup fees and long minimum term contracts that are often hidden. As with any subscription service, the terms and conditions need to be read carefully before signing up.
The challenge is finding the right package
It’s unfortunate that so many ultra cheap, pay monthly website services have saturated the market. The subscription model can enable small businesses and startups to be able to afford a level of ongoing service that would be unaffordable if paid for upfront. The challenge is finding the right company who can offer a good balance between high design quality and affordability to give smaller businesses and startups a chance to punch above their weight and disrupt their larger competitors.
This is where we can help!
We saw a gap we could fill in the market for a unique managed website service offering leading design agency quality, sustainable hosting powered by 100% green energy, ongoing updates and regular redesigns of your entire website at a price small companies and startups can easily afford.
Why are we different?
The main difference with our monthly subscription service is that it is completely risk free. There are absolutely no upfront costs, no setup fees and no minimum term so you are free to cancel at any time.
We even offer a design mockup of your website’s homepage completely free!
This allows us to prove what we can do and you can try before you buy. If you like what you see then we’ll continue with the build and we’ll set up your direct debit. If you decide you don’t like what we’ve designed or that we’re not the right fit then that’s completely fine, you won’t be billed at all and there is absolutely no obligation to continue with the project.
We only take on what we can handle
We hope to build long lasting collaborative partnerships with our clients so we are selective about the projects we take on. We only build websites for small businesses and startups that we really believe in and are up against tough competition. As a small startup business ourselves, we understand the challenges you’re facing and are eager to help you succeed and achieve your online goals.
If you feel we may be the right option for you then you can find out more about our pay monthly website packages here.