So, you have products to sell, and you’ve decided that a website is going to be the best platform for you to do just that. In the world of today, that could be one of the most effective choices you make for your business. It also means you’ll be well on your way to being prepared for the future too…
But you’re here for a reason. You want to know how much it’s going to cost you to get your new website up and running, right? Well that’s what we’re going to look at today. The cost of an e-commerce website can vary wildly depending on a huge variety of factors. But hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll have a much better idea of the costs associated with creating a dedicated e-commerce website for your business. Are you ready to get started?
Deciding on your needs
When it comes to creating any website, knowing your goals and requirements is going to be the main contributor to determining the cost before any of the work has even started.
You can think of it in the same way as a physical store – large and complex stores with lots of different products, areas and infrastructure are often going to be more costly to create (and maintain) than a smaller space with much less complexity.
This means that the first step to reaching that elusive cost figure is to plan out what you actually want from your website. This step isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem either, but that’s why we’re here! Here at Agency51, we’ll always discuss your needs with you down to every last detail so that we can give you an accurate estimate of the cost of building your website.
Let’s take a look at the steps you need to consider and how they can affect the cost of your new e-commerce website…
Your needs – in detail
You’re looking to sell your products, right? For any e-commerce website, that’s likely to be at the top spot of your list of priorities and requirements. But if you take a look at almost any successful e-commerce site, you’ll notice that the functionality of said site is much more than a simple page full of product photos with ‘Add to Basket’ buttons next to them.
Starting out by creating a simple list of things that you want your website to do or have should be your first step. Even if you aren’t sure if those needs are actually possible, write them down. At this point, the list itself won’t affect your monetary costs-this is simply a very basic planning phase that gives both you and everyone else involved a better idea of what you’re hoping to achieve. It’s a bit like a Christmas list for the functionality of your website, but each aspect of your site is going to affect whether your customers have a positive experience when browsing or shopping or not. They’re also going to have an impact on the actual cost of getting your site created. Whatever you have written down, it’s going to help enormously with the next step.
How are you going to approach the creation of your website?
You have your list of requirements and/or desires, so now it’s time to decide how (and if) you’re going to be able to implement them. This is going to be one of the biggest contributors to the cost of building your website, as choosing to go it alone can work out cheaper than hiring professional help. However, it’s important to remember that building a site on your own is going to potentially come with a vast array of problems, difficulties and very challenging barriers to completion that you’ll have to try and combat yourself.
At this point, your list can be used as a reference to determine the best way to actually get things done. By this, we mean that the functionality and requirements from your list are going to affect how your site is built and who is going to build it. Regardless of whether you choose to tackle the task yourself or opt for external help, you will have plenty of options when it comes to getting the functionality you need (some options may just be more difficult to implement yourself).
Building your website yourself
If you intend to go about building your website yourself, your list from the first step can help you find the perfect platform for doing so. If you’ve no web development or design experience, there are plenty of platforms that you can use that give you intuitive WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) building and editing capabilities. Many of them come complete with built-in e-commerce functionality or offer plug-ins that enable people to shop with you.
One thing to consider when contemplating these platforms is the fact that they are likely to take up an enormous amount of your time to build more complex sites and ideas, and they may also require some in-depth research and learning in order to achieve the functionality you actually want.
Opting to build the site yourself in this way can certainly be a good way to save money at the beginning of your e-commerce journey. It’s also a good option if you have existing experience or knowledge in web design or development. However, alongside the previous point regarding the excessive time and research investment that may be needed, sites such as these aren’t always the most suitable or accessible for bespoke solutions or larger requirements without the relevant experience. You’ll also find that without the implementation of custom themes, designs and coding, your site may struggle to stand out in the already-established crowd that exists today.
These platforms can be utilised to work with more complex ideas and custom work, but without the correct knowledge this may be difficult to work on by yourself.
Having an agency or freelance designer and developer handle the creation of your website
When it comes to big ideas, getting others involved is always a sensible option. If you’re thinking of going down this route, that list from the first step is as equally important as it would be if you undertook the mammoth task of building your site yourself.
Now, having other people working with you or alongside you is going to introduce some costs. At this point, those costs are still heavily based around your needs, as well as the people you intend to work with. As we mentioned earlier, when building a website with Agency51, you have the benefit of being able to sit down and go through your ideas and requirements in detail with our experienced team, which allows us to give you a more accurate representation of the costs associated with the project.
Whilst costs are higher when bringing in external assistance of any agency or freelance developers/designers, you do also gain a wealth of benefits from investing that money in professional assistance:
- Years (and often decades) of combined experience – all of which is injected directly into the creation of your website. Professional teams are specialists in their field, and more often than not they know exactly how to achieve what you want to from your site. You’ll also gain the benefit of a group of individuals who spend each and every day creating bespoke solutions that help people and businesses stand out with tailored designs and creations, meaning they’re a great option for putting an effective personal stamp on your brand.
- Problems are easier to tackle – professional help doesn’t take away all problems that may arise throughout the process, although it does mean that those problems don’t directly lie on your shoulders. Due to the experience of the developers and designers you’ve chosen, they’ll know exactly how to fix any potential issues with the site build when they do come up, speeding up the process and taking that stress away from you.
- New perspectives to expand your horizons – you’re investing in a team that can not only design and build your website, but they’re also able to help you round out your existing ideas as well as helping to enhance your potential performance through new concepts and implementations that you might not have thought of beforehand. The extra set of eyes can give a different perspective on things, and this can go a long way towards producing a site that can achieve your goals and a lot more.
- More than just development and design – getting your site built is one hurdle, but it’s not the only one. Particularly in the case of an agency, you’ll also be able to make use of a team’s knowledge on UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design to smooth out the entire shopping experience of your customers. This is crucial for helping site-wide conversion rates, and actually enabling people to shop and build trust with your brand. You’ll also find that other services, such as SEO expertise, marketing and more are often available to increase the reach of your business and bring in new custom. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of these services could potentially result in additional costs on top of the website build, but the return on investment from a properly-marketed website is sure to provide benefits much quicker than a business who fails to market their brand properly.
- Professional ongoing support and site maintenance – most of the time, you’ll find that external developers and designers are able to provide you and your site with consistent high-quality support from the get-go. This is incredibly important for ensuring that your site remains functional and any potential problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently. The last thing you want is to be inundated with issues that end up overwhelming you, as this can sometimes result in dramatic revenue losses and abandonment by even some of your most loyal customers. Long-term support is often charged at a monthly or annual rate, and can be scaled based on your needs.
Opting for professional assistance in the building of your site may add to your costs, but it’s important to view this as an investment that will go a long way towards your success. Getting it right the first time will be significantly cheaper (in terms of both time and finances) than having to re-do everything in the long run to fight problems and potentially poor performance. For example, doing designs yourself may be workable if you have professional experience, but if you do not and the website’s pagespeed is also slow due to improvised functionality solutions, then your conversion rate may be considerably lower than it would be with professional assistance. In this instance, it’s very likely you would lose out on large sums in lost sales as a result.
As a reference, the costs of hiring professional help could set you back anywhere between £500-1500 for some basic designs or a simple WordPress website with no additional functionality, and tens of thousands of pounds for a bespoke, large-scale ecommerce solution. It all depends on your needs, the complexity of your site, and the team you decide to go with. It will also depend on how you and your hired team intend to go about the building process.
Off-the-shelf solutions, or a bespoke design?
You can think of an off-the-shelf website as a physical entity. These solutions come ready-packaged, much like flat-packed furniture in a way. The general product is there with everything you should need for basic functionality, but you or your chosen team must still put the work in to make the site fulfil the desired needs.
Off-the-shelf solutions are an excellent way to build yourself an online presence and still provide a few built-in options that can be used to help you and your business stand out to a certain degree. In fact, many of the websites you use today are likely built from these. Out-of-the-box solutions such as Shopify are a great way to create a functional online store where the intent is to sell a smaller variety of products. For larger inventories, you could also look into WooCommerce for WordPress. You also have the option of utilising Magento (which can offer more than an off-the-shelf solution in a similar way to BigCommerce, which we’ll talk about later) for even larger stores.
However, one thing to note is that off-the-shelf websites are generally an open-source option with pre-built themes and templates. Because they’re used by so many individuals and businesses, this means that there can be some serious concerns surrounding a variety of different areas. Support wait times can be long and drawn-out, there’s much less flexibility available, and you may not be able to achieve certain things without serious customisation and work.
If you’re looking for more functionality, or you have ideas that are unique to your specific situation but you don’t quite want the costs and work often associated with an entirely bespoke solution, there are options…
The hybrid option
You want the most out of your site, and you’ve decided that you want the intuitive nature of an out-of-the-box build, but you want more functionality and customisation than these would otherwise offer. Luckily, there are options for incorporating both into the building process and management of your site. But how does that compare to the cost of going with a purely off-the-shelf option?
Well, this is where those costs can creep up a little more. There’s obviously a little more work involved to build and configure a more personalised option, and utilising certain platforms can often have different pricing structures.
However, a hybrid build doesn’t mean that everything has to be built from the ground up. This is the beauty of a hybrid design, as many bespoke sites these days, particularly in the realm of e-commerce, are built around an existing CMS (content management system). These provide extremely powerful features with the scope to adapt and build a completely custom online store for almost any business, without having to worry about creating every little thing from scratch.
One of the most popular e-commerce content management systems on the market currently is BigCommerce. This SaaS solution is one of the most powerful platforms for an e-commerce site today, providing incredible flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of business models and website ideas. BigCommerce offers you the following benefits:
- Responsive and intuitive platform design that enables fast, responsive websites to be built
- Includes a full range of design and UX features that can help to increase sales across all devices
- Substantial product and order management functionality
- Build-in marketplace functionality for multi-channel selling (Amazon, eBay etc.)
- Headless functionality for integrating your store into a WordPress website
- Multi-language and currency compatibility for international operations
- Seamless, one-page checkout with quick PayPal, Amazon and Apple Pay integration
- Exceptional customisation and bespoke features to suit your business requirements
- Built with SEO fundamentals in mind, ensuring technical best practices are in place
- All marketing graphics and promotions can be managed by you
- Integration into back office systems for seamless connectivity of your sales channels and operations
BigCommerce comes in various different subscription formats that provide access to a diverse array of different features. The more features you need, the more the subscription will cost. Some of the features of specific plans will be entirely dependent on your needs, even down to the revenue you expect to make from your store.
Also, particularly when it comes to larger and more complex requirements, it’s advisable to employ the skills of BigCommerce specialists to build a site that meets those needs. They’re able to work with you to customise your BigCommerce store to fit you, and can save you a lot of time (and even money) getting everything right.
A bespoke solution obviously requires more work and can take a lot more time than simply setting up and configuring an out-of-the-box or hybrid-type website. Unless you have extensive development and design experience, going bespoke is likely going to require outside assistance. Because of this, going bespoke is going to put the biggest dent in your bank balance out of the three options we’ve spoken about. However, this is the ultimate solution for complete flexibility and freedom with creating your e-commerce website.
With a bespoke e-commerce website, every aspect of your store is tailored to your exact needs. They can be created for businesses and stores of all shapes or sizes, but are most often utilised by larger organisations and brands who want to make their mark and stand out from the crowd entirely.
When deciding whether or not to go down the bespoke route, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, as mentioned above, the costs. These kinds of sites and stores require a great deal of time and effort to complete, meaning a hefty investment is usually involved to get the job done. Bespoke sites also require a great deal of planning and a strong idea of what’s needed and what isn’t. The plus side of this is that any agency or freelance team will be by your side throughout the entire process, and can even help you develop your initial ideas and plans to create a fully-fledged store that’s entirely unique to you.
Making the choice between how you’re going to build your site and who is actually going to do it are going to be the biggest factors in the cost of your site. We mentioned the wide price range earlier in this article, so making your decision is going to rely heavily on your needs and your budget. It’s definitely worth considering which option is best for you at this point, as the remaining cost considerations are a little more set in stone. Let’s take a look at those next…
Your domain name is your online address. This is unique to your website, and it can pretty much be whatever you want it to be. However, it’s always best for your domain name to be relevant to your business, memorable and easy to type, simple to read and to the point.
The cost of domain names can vary based on different factors, but that variation is significantly less open-ended than the previously-mentioned price range for the actual site building options. Typically, a domain name could cost you anywhere between £1 and £20 annually. This is generally an ongoing cost for each year that your site remains active, but it’s certainly a much better alternative than using a free domain that often comes as part of certain free website building platforms (this almost always includes the platform name as part of the URL address, which aside from looking poor from a customer’s perspective also severely impacts SEO and functionality).
For your website to go live, you’re going to need to host it on a server. With regards to hosting, there’s a little more to it than just finding the cheapest option…
In this day and age, website speed and performance is incredibly important. Not only does having a fast-loading site mean that your customers are less likely to give up and abandon your store and their potential purchases (meaning lost revenue), it can also affect SEO, which means a slow site is going to potentially hurt your chance of achieving high organic rankings on results pages.
When looking for quality hosting, you also have a few different options which typically have different price points:
- Shared hosting – This is one of the cheaper options. Shared hosting basically means that your website is ‘sharing’ space on a server with other websites. Whilst this more affordable option can still provide you with the performance you need (although not as good as other options), you could potentially run into issues if any of those other websites become compromised or blacklisted. If this happens, your site will also be affected too, meaning this type of hosting can potentially leave you with some security vulnerabilities. If you choose this option, it’s definitely worthwhile to thoroughly check the reputation, performance and security of your chosen hosting service before committing to anything.
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting – This option enables your website or store to benefit fromhaving its own space, which is a big plus over the shared hosting option. You won’t have to worry as much about the security downsides of a shared hosting service mentioned above, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of quicker speeds. This is a step up from shared hosting, and is a more favourable alternative in most ways.
- Cloud hosting – Cloud hosting offers some unique benefits. Firstly, you gain all the benefits of VPS hosting (better security, faster speeds etc.), but you also gain the ability to scale up your hosting package as and when you need to. This is incredibly useful when it comes to business growth. You can start out on lower-cost packages that enable your site to be hosted and function effectively, and then as you begin to grow it’s a relatively straightforward procedure to upgrade your hosting package to accommodate your needs. The biggest benefit of this is the flexibility – if you experience a sudden traffic surge, you can up-scale your hosting package to fit your needs, and then return it back to normal straight afterwards. Generally, with a cloud hosting service, you’ll only pay for any of the space you’ve used throughout the month.
- Dedicated hosting – This is usually a service utilised by large or complex sites who handle high quantities of traffic on a regular basis. Dedicated hosting can be quite costly, and this ongoing cost can soon start to add up to quite considerable amounts of money. However, dedicated hosting is possibly one of the strongest options as the server your site is hosted on is (as the name suggests) dedicated entirely to your website. This option gives you the best performance and exceptional security, and is highly recommended for enterprise-level e-commerce operations.
Hosting can cost you anywhere between £2 per month and £300+ per month depending on the hosting option you choose, and the service provider. This is a recurring cost (usually on a monthly basis), meaning this could cost you anywhere between £24 and £3600+ annually, on average.
E-commerce/site platform functionality and themes
Depending on the route you chose to take for creating your site, certain services may require additional payments to implement e-commerce functionality as well as certain themes and aesthetic attributes. If you’ve chosen to go down the route of utilising an agency or freelance developer to work on your site, many of these functions and themes will most likely be baked into the price of the site build itself depending on what yours and your developer’s plans are. However, if you’re tackling the build yourself, you’ll need to take into account the cost of complete (and legal) e-commerce functionality which can often add a significant amount on top of other costs.
Support and maintenance
We touched a little on this earlier, but having proper site support and maintenance is incredibly important. Without it, your site will inevitably run into problems later down the line, meaning you will either have to fix said problems yourself or find someone who can.
If you’re building your site yourself using a website builder, you’ll find that many of the builders have a dedicated support team who can assist you. However, due to the extensive number of people and businesses utilising these platforms, you may find that wait times for support can be lengthy and frustrating.
With an agency or freelance team, you’ll have people on hand to handle any issues at a much quicker rate. You have people who are actively invested in your website and business, and who know your website inside out-they are the ones who built it after all! This means that your problems are much more likely to be fixed quickly and effectively.
Support costs are another variable factor. They are often dependent on the organisation who you have chosen to entrust with the building of your website. However, these support costs are rarely hidden, and should always be discussed during any consultation or planning period.
Copy and content
Having a functional website is one thing, but having the right content is a whole other ballgame. When it comes to copy (the writing on your site), you want it to be effective. There’s an entire industry dedicated to creating great copy, and it’s an industry with wildly fluctuating price points.
Good copy is essential for helping to convert customers from simply browsing your site to actually making a purchase (other factors are just as important too). Bad copy on the other hand can do more damage than good, potentially causing your customers to lose trust or have an unfavourable opinion of your brand, so it definitely pays to get it right.
If you feel confident in your writing abilities, you can always write your website’s copy yourself to save yourself some money. But outsourcing this task to a professional copywriter will save you time, stress, and a whole world of problems. Many agencies will have an in-house copy and content writer who you can utilise for your site, but this will generally add extra costs to your bill. It is definitely something to consider though, as great content can bring in some seriously valuable benefits for your site…
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
You want your site to appear on search engines, right? Getting your site listed as close to the top of those search engine results pages as possible is going to be one of the most effective long-term strategies for bringing in traffic to your site.
The SEO process is one full of complexities and constantly-evolving considerations. Many site builders and platforms often come with SEO tools built into them, meaning you can potentially attempt to optimise your site yourself if you’re feeling up for it. However, particularly in the realm of bespoke and hybrid websites, an SEO professional is one of the most valuable investments you can make for ensuring that your online presence is successful.
There is an absolutely huge amount of work involved in effective SEO, and this can be an extremely time-consuming process for you to tackle on top of all of your other tasks and commitments. Professional assistance can help you achieve your goals without the associated stress and workload that comes along with it. Again, similar to copywriting and content creation, getting external assistance on board is generally available through agencies (who may be building your site) and often mean additional costs. But the ability to grow and gain substantial organic traffic without having to pay for advertising or similar marketing will enable you to bring in significantly more revenue than a site that is poorly optimised or not optimised at all.
‘Further marketing’ is a bit of a broad term. There’s an entire universe of marketing strategies and resources available today. What we actually mean by this term is the continued promotion of your website and business. Freelance and agency marketing professionals are able to offer a wide variety of services that can help you to build your business, and many of them will involve your newly-created online store. These services are invaluable, and they enable you to gain new customers as well as enhancing the loyalty of any existing ones. The costs associated with these services do vary but many agencies will work with you to meet your needs in a flexible manner.
All in all, building an e-commerce website can vary dramatically in price. It all comes down to your needs and ideas, and what you intend to do with your website. We would highly recommend making a solid plan of what you want as a starting point, as this will enable you to make further enquiries surrounding the different methods of building your website (be it by yourself or with an agency or freelance developer).
If you’d like to know how we can help you here at Agency51, get in touch with us!
We’re always on hand to answer any questions, and we will gladly sit down and go through your ideas. We specialise in creating powerful e-commerce solutions for businesses in a wide variety of industries, as well helping them to grow and succeed in the long run with effective digital marketing strategies.
Give us a call on 01904 21 51 51 today and see how we can help you.