How to budget for a basic website build | Affordable Website Design

Published Date:  16 Jan, 2023 | Updated Date:  15 Aug, 2023

How can you make sure your website investment is worthwhile? Use these tips to budget for affordable website design during your website development journey.

You’re reading Part 2 of 3 in our How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website? | Website Development Cost Guide.

Step 1

What do I need to build my website? | Website Design Checklist

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Step 2

How to budget for a basic website build | Affordable Website Design

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Step 3

How to calculate website cost | Website Cost Calculator

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How do I estimate the cost to build my website? It’s the question almost all business owners find themselves asking no matter where they find themselves along their online journey.

What too many of these entrepreneurs forget, however, is to consider what goes into the build of a great website. This is a critical part of the planning process.

When you instead understand the different aspects of website development, you’ll have an easier time spending money where it counts, and avoiding all the bells and whistles you might not need.

How to budget for a basic website build | Affordable Website Design

First, remember the Website Design Checklist we talked about in the first article of this series.

Then ask yourself (or your team) whether you want a budget website, a few customizations, or are willing to go fully custom.

Consider the benefits of hiring a developer vs. an agency. Most importantly, explore the future of your business to prepare for future web development expenses when you want to pursue affordable website design.

Once you’ve considered these elements, then you’re ready to do a little consumer research about the digital web development products in which you’re about to invest.

Doing so will enable you to ask specific questions of the agency you hire, plus help you estimate the true cost of building a website for your business!

How Developers Estimate the Cost of Building a Website

When it comes to understanding how much does a website cost, you’ll want to consider a few real-world factors before you begin creating the digital space of your website.

One of the main cost categories you need to be aware of is internal labor, for instance. These are just some of the questions we suggest you ask during the budget phase:

  • Which teams or people will you be working with to provide content for your website?
  • Are you going to use an internal writer? Or hire an external writer?
  • Where do you plan to source your images from? Will you hire a graphic designer, or opt for a photographer to take custom images?
  • Will you hire a designer for your user experience, or buy a UI kit?
  • Where do you plan to get the fonts for your website? Are you fine using free fonts? (Custom font licenses can cost around $500 for a small website plan).
  • Will you hire someone to create your logo?
  • What plugins do you plan to include, and are they paid plugins?

Next, it’s important to consider the life of your website during the design phase, as well as maintenance post-launch.

Here are a few more questions to consider as you budget for your website build after your site goes live:

  • What is the cost for ongoing hosting maintenance and proper backups? (Greatly recommended).
  • How much will it cost to include ongoing payment functionalities?
  • Are you planning on committing to regular content creation and updates?
  • When are you responsible for renewing software, font, or plugins licensing, and how much do those licenses cost?
  • What security or privacy software do you plan to purchase?

To be clear, hiring an agency can often mitigate the need to ask a lot of these questions, as particular elements (like licensing and plugin costs) are included in their managed website service packages or digital product offerings.

In fact, this is how we operate at The Digital Navigator, where about 95% of all the functionalities our clients would need are included in the packages we provide to try and keep things as affordable as possible.

View Our Website Management Service Plans

With that said, there are four basic elements to every website build that you can count on when estimating the budget for your business online.

4 Main Cost Categories for Website Creation Estimates | Affordable Website Design

One question we didn’t mention above refers to the upfront costs of your website setup, as opposed to internal labor and ongoing maintenance. We’re all looking for the cheapest website builder…but we need to factor in a long-term management plan too.

When you opt to build a website, the ‘upfront cost’ for which you budget should include four main elements: front- and back-end development, UX/UI design, and admin panel development.

Let’s briefly explore how each of these elements plays a part in the success of your website during build AND launch–and how investing with a great agency can supercharge your cost-savings per element.

1.Back-end Website Development

If front end-development is the visual interface website visitors actually see, then backend development is the code that will optimize it.

These are the technical elements of your page that hide behind the scenes to make themes and systems extremely usable, and easy to change. They are the cogs that make the whole machine run.

Back-end development is also where agencies like us at The Digital Navigator get a chance to clean up existing code for our clients, or optimize new code to get top rankings through Google search, and therefore, better ad results.

That’s why we recommend you look for an agency that has their own ‘stack’ of technology available to build your website. It’s likely that all are compatible with each other, which will be the most budget-friendly as well.

Be careful about asking for custom code as well; you wouldn’t want to overspend on custom back-end development if you can use something that already exists at a much cheaper price.

For example WordPress offers a plugin called GravityForms that we use with our clients. Fluent forms or Ninja forms are alternative options of course, but we have found a ton of advantage going with the most popular solution.

That’s because we are able to use pre-existing code for a small licensing fee, rather than re-inventing the wheel and trying to develop it ourselves–an option which only makes sense if you’re extremely technically proficient.

Since WordPress has so much of what you need to build a successful website readily available, your back-end development phase can be extremely budget-friendly.

On the other hand, if you choose to go with another content management system, like Craft CMS, you will have to commit to more back-end development time, coding, and costs.

“There’s a risk involved with custom back-end development. You could end up making the same thing you could get in WordPress…only end up paying four times more.”


-Pol Cousineau, The Digital Navigator

2.Front-end Website Development

Front-end development is the pristine result your visitors see once your site is live. Front-end elements boil down to the aesthetic appearance you attach to your branded website.

With a trustworthy web management provider, you won’t have to think about the technicalities of back-end development beyond cost. That’s the true benefit of finding the best website builder for small business!

Ideally, your attention will be on the front-end development process–on the fun parts of choosing the look and feel of your website, including fonts, button styles, form design, and more.

The website creation cost for front-end development therefore revolves around a process of iteration; you work with the front-end developer to fill out different elements of a UI design kit, including templates for various pages, images, and content.

Because page copy content must be created in this phase of development, you may have to hire an external writer, or spend time creating content on your own.

However, most agencies will have a copy-writer on hand to create content for your approval–so make sure you factor that into your cost estimate.

For example, The Digital Navigator recently onboarded a copy-writer who provides web-page copy for client websites in a single day, all from a simple intake questionnaire.

This efficiency benefits us and our clients as we work to iterate front-end development quickly, and bring clients seamlessly to the launch phase.

3.User Experience and User Interface Design

User Experience and User Interface Design

While both user experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design are tied closely to front-end development, their explicit focus on the user at this stage warrants some extra discussion.

At their core, UI elements feed into user experience, and include fonts, buttons, sliders, logo placement, and forms.

Basically, you want to do what you can to ensure that the UX of your website is as friendly as possible. You want to ‘teach’ users where to click through basic design elements they recognize–being proficient in the online world themselves.

This is the simplest way to save money when you’re working through UI and UX issues: to use common patterns your users already know.

Just because you might want to make a button that looks like a bagel for your new bagel shop, doesn’t mean you should!

That’s why we build a UI design kit for clients in the first place, to streamline the creation of interactive elements that speak to the aims of both site owner and site visitor.

It also helps to have a UI design kit when website owners move into that all important growth phase, i.e. when they begin to add more features to their site.

That way, new pages can be created (even by new developers) without having to go into thorough detail about what they should look like. Each design element in your UI kit has its own name, and you can quickly mirror other pages with your design for page consistency.

We explore a lot more about UI kits and UX optimization in How to Use a UI Kit for the Best User Experience | Web Design Principles as well, so make sure you bookmark it for later reading.

Get a UI Kit

4.Administration Panel/ Dashboard

Modern approaches to website design services for small businesses dictate that the client shouldn’t be managing the development of their site’s admin panel, which means you will likely be paying a small fee for dashboard creation.

This dashboard is a net plus, since it is the page you visit to see how your site is performing, and to view analytics on your own time. However, it is not a page you should be in charge of coding for yourself!

WordPress for example has its own admin panel dashboard function, meaning you’ll never be managing your admin panel’s backend.

If we’re being honest, we think your website’s administration should primarily be managed by your developers, so don’t try to reduce costs in this area.

Sure, you can save $30 a month on upkeep, but the thousands it could cost to relaunch your site after a major crash is certainly not worth the risk.

Most agencies or developers will offer a very affordable service that gives you access to an online dashboard. Be wary of those who do not, since attempting to manage your own server can have its own cost pitfalls.

How much does a website cost to build? | Small Business Website Design

Now that you’re more familiar with what goes into building an estimate for creating a website, you’re probably thinking a little more like a website manager!

You know a few more terms, and what to expect when you’re looking at quotes from potential developers.

In fact, we think you’re just about ready to approach a prospective agency or developer, and to consult on the project of an affordable website design.

The last step on the list? Learn how the process works, and then compare the numbers!

The next article in this series explores exactly how far your dollar will get you when it comes to website building, plus gives you a play-by-play of what to expect when you finally get the ball rolling on your website.

Read the next article

You’re reading Part 2 of 3 in our How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website? | Website Development Cost Guide. Once you’ve got the basics down, read ahead to Part 3: How to calculate website cost | Website Cost Calculator. Or head back to read Part 1: What do I need to build my website? | Website Design Checklist if you missed it.


What kinds of labor costs go into building a website?
Labor costs for website building include front- and back-end developers, content creators, writers, graphic designers, photographers, and logo creation.
How do developers build a website estimate?
Developers (or development agencies) will often combine the costs of great front- and back-end development to produce the upfront cost of creating your website. This price should include optimizations for user experience, and access to a developed admin panel for your website.
What is the difference between front-end and back-end development for websites?
If front end-development is the visual interface website visitors actually see (fonts, buttons, forms), then backend development is the hidden code that will optimize it.


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