Small business owners probably receive the most outrageous quote ranges from web developers than from any other industry. We have compared quotes for a standard 12-page website, consisting of a simple quote request form and a blog, that ranged from $499 to $19,550? Why the insane price tags? What are you really paying for?

Let’s start by breaking down what you’re probably getting for $499 and for $19,550 respectively.

The small business website for "$499"

Assuming you're providing all of the website content - logo, copy, photos, images, and perhaps even a portion of the graphics, $499 is still likely to come with a catch. There will be minimal to no tweaking included; change orders, add-ons, or customizations, forget it. The website will likely have insane bugs you'll notice later - especially on a mobile device. There are three categories of “cheap websites.”

  • The cheap website created generated by a free template/website builder.
  • The cheap website created by your sister’s friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law who “knows computers”.
  • The cheap website outsourced to Rajesh from India.

A very cheap website is usually generated by an automated template editor, online website builder software, or some cookie cutter web tools that put together something that resembles a website on the surface. It might even look half decent at first glance. In fact, it is entirely possible for a $499 website and $19,550 website to look equally valuable when presented side by side initially. So how do you justify the massive price difference? Well, one of them is going to bring in the traffic, customers and revenues and the other one is not.

Editing and customizing cheap websites is severely limited. There might be 1000 other businesses that have a site that looks identical to yours. A cheap website only allows you to work with a very rigid and narrowly defined framework. Chances are, you probably don’t even have ownership rights to the website but are renting it from an online website builder or template factory at an additional monthly cost. Such websites often have zero marketability online so they’re often scrapped when the owner realizes there’s no return on investment.


Custom cheap websites designed by well-meaning relatives, acquaintances or outsourced to another country are often just not up to par on the quality scale. Such websites need time, energy and money to maintain over time. If the website does not look and feel professional, it will be detrimental to your business’s reputation. On the positive side, the traffic potential for such a cheap website is minimal so not that many people will look at it in the first place.


The small business website for "$19,550"

What could a small business website possibly have that would justify cost $19,550 (and that doesn't even include any marketing!)? The answer is simple - customization. Lots and lots of unnecessary customization, and probably a proprietary content management system (custom CMS), so that not only did you just dump almost 20 grand on a website, but because the whole website platform is custom coded from the bottom up, you are locked in with the same web development company in eternal bliss forever and ever, in sickness and in health (unless of course, you’re lucky enough to find some rogue developer willing to sift through your 100,000 website files for a good price).


When you invest too much into a web development company that promises to deliver a state of the art, fully custom website, be careful what you wish for. They’ve got you locked down. After that site is built, the company will “own” you. They will dictate the maintenance fees, the timelines, any additional customization costs and the entire future of the website and possibly your business, because you’re not going anywhere else, unless you pay the price.

So what should a small business website really cost?

On average, $1500 - $4000, depending on the industry, the size of the website and the add-on features included.

You can achieve the same look and feel of a 100% custom website at a fraction of the cost using an open source content management system (CMS) and fully customizable themes.

These two websites were built on the exact same framework for less than $2000



Anna Gondzik

An accomplished full-stack web designer / developer, Anna excels in creating immersive digital experiences. Her expertise lies in combining aesthetics with user-centric functionality, crafting responsive websites that captivate and convert. With a strong WordPress command, Anna's work spans various industries, transforming concepts into stunning digital realities. A University of Toronto Digital Enterprise Management graduate, she's committed to enhancing the web's interactive appeal.