The cost of owning a website can be tricky to figure out. It may seem overwhelming to consider so many options and the different ways to bundle them. What exactly is needed and what does it cost? The short answer is: It depends! However, all of these things can be broken down into four main elements. These are web hosting, domain name registration, website design and development, and maintenance.
Let’s start by defining these four items using a brick and mortar store as an analogy. The web hosting provides the hard drive space where the website will be stored. This is like the land that a store would be built on. The domain name is what people enter in to the address bar of their browser when they go to your site. This would be like the sign that is put on the property to let people know the name of the business on that lot. The website design and development is everything that people see when they visit your site. It is analogous to the building and everything in the building. Maintenance is keeping the site up to date just as a building would need to be repainted, repaired and restocked.
Now that we know what we are talking about, we can take a look at each of these four items in more detail. The first thing we will look at is the web host. Strictly speaking, a web host can be a basic computer with web server software that is connected to the internet and has an IP address assigned to it. It is possible to host your own site, but it involves purchasing hardware and software, as well as maintaining it.
A better solution for most websites is to find a web hosting company. There are many such companies that offer many plans. Prices range from free to $20/month. Free web hosting generally has limits as far as how much hard drive space is available, how much traffic is allowed, and how much up time is promised. They also tend to put advertisements on your web site. Paid plans tend to have more hard drive space, allow more traffic, have more up time, and they will be less likely to put ads on your site. Most small businesses can find a web host that suits their needs for about $5-7/month.
Next up is the domain name. It is the sign for your business, and it points to the space provided by your web host. For example, DJWellerWebDesign.com is the domain name for my website. It is what is typed in to the address bar of a browser in order to view a site. You can obtain a domain name from many sources. These sources can be an accredited domain name registrar or one of their agents. Their job is to register the domain name for you with ICANN. Web hosts often act as agents of a registrar, and they often offer specials for the first year of domain registration. These specials can be as little as $0.99 or even free for the first year. After that, prices are typically between $8 and $20 per year.
The actual website is where the most variance in cost exists. This is the building and everything inside of it. It can be something simple, such as a tent with a table; or it can be complex, such as a sports stadium where people can pay to enter, buy food, buy apparel, or socialize. A website can be a simple, one page site that has a simple message. It can also be complex, offering several products or services, including a paid for members only area.
For a simple site, it is possible to create the website using a simple text editor to create the code, and then upload it to your web host. This method is free, but it involves a working knowledge of HTML. A complex website can require hundreds of hours of programming. It is not uncommon for these websites to cost tens of thousands of dollars. To get an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to design and program a website, it is important to contact a web designer or developer and discuss the needs of your website. Beware of any prices that are quoted before you have had this discussion.
The last part that is needed for a website is maintenance. This is often overlooked. Just like a real building, your website will need occasional maintenance and remodeling. Just like the original design, there are many options when it comes to maintenance. A simple page may just require infrequent updates that can be accomplished by editing the HTML file and uploading it. Another option would be to have the site set up in such a way that you can log in to an administrative section and make changes. This would cost more at the design and development phase, but could cost less over the lifetime of the website. The other option is to have a web designer or web developer make changes on a regular basis. This can be set up at the time of design and development and paid on a regular basis, or it can be where you would call when you need an update and a price will be agreed upon at that time.
I know that many of you who are reading this article were hoping that there would be a figure or even a range on which you could base your decision. Unfortunately, there are too many variables in the equations to give a one size fits all answer. You should be able to secure a domain name and web host for between $60 and $100 per year. Other than that, the cost is going to depend on the complexity of the website, the programming that will be necessary, and how often it will need to be updated. These costs can start at under $500 and easily reach $10,000. The key is to talk to a web designer or developer and figure out exactly what you need. Some things to consider would be whether or not you want a shopping cart or how frequently you will want your website updated. Only then can you know what it is going to cost.