How much does a website cost?

Matt Obee 6 min read

It's a reasonable question but a little like asking "how much does a house cost?" - the answer can vary a great deal depending on how big you need it to be, what you want it to look like, and how you plan to use it. The cost of a website can range from zero to hundreds of thousands of pounds, or even more.

I built my first website in 1998 and it cost me absolutely nothing. I designed it using a free copy of Microsoft Front Page and uploaded it with a free FTP application to free hosting provided by GeoCities. It was called "Mattz Place" and it was absolutely terrible, but it was mine.

You can still build and host a website in pretty much the same way for free today if you're willing to learn the skills and find the right tools. But let's be honest, if you're busy running a charity or social enterprise, there are far more worthwhile things you could be doing with your time. And you probably want your website to look more professional than Mattz Place!

So what are your options?

DIY with a website builder

It's certainly much easier to build your own charity or social enterprise website and get it online today than it was when I was playing with GeoCities in school.

Cloud-based DIY services like Squarespace and Wix provide the design tools and hosting service in one package, for a reasonably small monthly fee. You can choose from a range of pre-designed templates and customise them to meet your needs, changing things like layout, colours and fonts, then adding your own pages of content. Wix even offers what it calls "Artificial Design Intelligence" which, after asking a series of questions, claims to do most of the design legwork for you.

These services offer a quick and relatively easy way to get a decent looking website online, particularly as a temporary solution when you're just starting out. It might be a good solution for your charity or social enterprise but there are some downsides to bear in mind.

Your choices will be limited to those that the platform provides, which might not be enough to achieve what you have in mind. Equally, you might be surprised by the number of things you need to consider. It's your responsibility to know which choices are right for your charity or social enterprise. You might be comfortable with that if you have some design or marketing experience in your team but otherwise, you'd be forgiven for being overwhelmed.

You could hire a designer to help you make those decisions or to build something using the more advanced features of the service (both Squarespace and Wix have networks of professionals available to hire) but then it's worth considering whether it would be better to bypass those DIY platforms altogether.

Use a WordPress template and page builder

If you'd like to do it yourself but don't want to be locked into a proprietary platform, consider a WordPress theme. I recommend WordPress for most small charities and social enterprises, in part because it's [mostly] free and open source. There are lots of free themes to choose from as well as some very popular premium themes that offer lots of customisation options. If you want more creative freedom, a page builder like Elementor offers similar design tools to those found at Squarespace and Wix. You can choose your own web host and install your own copy of WordPress or use the hosted version.

Hire a professional to design your website

If you don't fancy the DIY approach and you have a little more to spend, you might prefer to hire a professional to design and develop a bespoke website to meet your specific needs. This does increase the cost in the short term but also affords more flexibility.

A professional designer will take the time to understand your requirements and make the most of your budget to build a custom solution that supports the unique aims of your charity or social enterprise. What's more, instead of being tied to a particular platform, you'll be free to shop around for the best deal on web hosting.

Remember the ongoing costs

Even the smallest websites need some degree of ongoing support and maintenance to keep them up-to-date, secure, and reliable. You can do this work yourself or pay someone to keep an eye on things for you. Your designer might offer a support and maintenance contract that includes things like installing updates, making backups, monitoring uptime, and fixing problems. If you pay for 'managed WordPress hosting', some software updates and backups will often be done for you automatically.

While WordPress itself is free, some third-party themes and plugins do have ongoing fees. They will normally keep working even if you stop paying but you won't receive any more updates. If you pay your designer for a support and maintenance contract, they might cover the cost of these renewals at a reduced rate.

Choose a reliable web hosting provider

One of the benefits of the DIY builder platforms is that they include web hosting in the monthly fee. On the other hand, that doesn't give you the freedom to shop around and compare suppliers. If you choose to work with a designer, they might offer their own hosting or be able to make a recommendation.

Goodcircle doesn't sell hosting because it's a specialist business and I know that you can get a better service for a lower price by going directly to a company like SiteGround or 34SP. You should generally expect to pay at least £10/month for fully managed WordPress hosting but 34SP kindly offers a free service for registered charities.

How much do Goodcircle websites cost?

Broadly speaking, Goodcircle websites come in two flavours.

For clients with basic needs and smaller budgets (i.e. a simple website with a few pages of content and basic functionality like a blog and a contact form) we start with a collection of standard components, combine them to provide the required functionality, and customise them to create a unique look and feel. It's a bit like the service provided by the DIY builder platforms but an experienced designer does the work. These websites cost £750 and are yours to keep, modify, and host wherever you like.

For projects that are larger and more complex, we use many of the same tried and test building blocks but often modify them or build things completely from scratch. More time is dedicated to discovery and research to work out exactly what is needed. These made-to-measure websites cost at least £3,000.

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