You’ve decided to start a website, but you’re still at the stage of figuring out what the costs of doing so are. While pricing can vary for each website builder, using one of these tools can be extremely useful if you’re trying to create a professionally designed website. Determining how you’ll design your website is a key factor in what your overall costs will be. You have a few options, the most cost-effective of which is using a website builder.
With drag and drop features, a variety of templates, and several other helpful tools to try, using a popular website builder will offer you endless ways to build your dream site. For website owners considering a website builder, here’s what to plan on when working up a cost estimate for your website.
How Much Does a Website Builder Cost?
The short answer is: it depends. There are a number of different types of website builders and even within each of those categories, you’ll find an array of price ranges based on factors like the features included in each platform and the type of plan you choose.
To get into actual numbers, website builders typically cost somewhere in the range of $5 to $20 a month.
On the low end you can find website builders that are technically free (but usually with a catch). On the high end, for eCommerce website builder platforms with a lot of features, you can pay over $100 a month, but most website owners that use a website builder will find what they need somewhere within the typical price range provided above. Regardless of which type of plan you go for, using a website builder to create an online store can help you make a professional looking website in no time at all. If you don’t want to hire a professional and you don’t have a lot of web development experience, using a website builder will be a suitable option for you. Since pricing can vary, make sure to do your research before making your final choice.
The Types of Website Builders
When considering your website builder options, you don’t want to compare apples to oranges. To better understand how different website builders compare, you should know the three main categories they fall into.
Note that, in some cases, there’s overlap between these categories, or the option to easily upgrade from one to another with the same hosting provider.
Basic Website Builders
Many new website owners have simple needs. If you want a website that looks good, but don’t need any complex functionality or even that many pages, then a basic website builder should do the trick. These provide website templates you can use as a starting point for creating your site, and functionality that makes it easy for you to customize.
Basic website builders will fall on the lower end of the price range, costing around $4-$10 a month.
Some basic website builders will put a limit on the number of pages you can have. These also won’t include eCommerce functionality, so any business planning to sell items or accept payments through the website won’t find everything they need at the basic level. But if you don’t need advanced features, there’s no reason to pay for a yacht when you just need a rowboat. Basic website builders will make it easy to create a simple website that looks professional.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Content management systems are a popular option for building websites because they don’t require any coding knowledge to use, but they can potentially be very powerful. With the use of CMS extensions and plugins, you gain almost endless options for customizing and adding functionality to your website.
Even if you’re not familiar with the term content management system, you’ve likely heard of the most common example: WordPress. Drupal and Joomla are other examples of popular content management systems. Each of these are technically free, but you still pay for web hosting at a minimum. You’ll also have to pay for a domain name.
Plus, many website owners that choose to use a CMS will also end up paying for premium WordPress hosting, plugins or themes, and may end up needing to hire a designer or developer to help get the website working to your satisfaction.
eCommerce Website Builders
If you’ll be selling products on your website, then you’ll need a unique set of eCommerce features. In some cases, you can get eCommerce features by choosing the premium plan of a basic website builder. But there’s also a whole category of eCommerce website platforms that provide both the most basic eCommerce features required, as well as advanced ones that can help you sell more.
eCommerce website builders predictably cost more than basic website builders. These start at around $10 a month, and can go up to over $100 a month for more premium options. The most typical price range for these is $10-$25 a month.
Any eCommerce website builder should provide at least the following features:
- Shopping cart functionality
- Checkout functionality
- Secure payment processing options
- Inventory management
- Product pages
- Responsive themes
Those are the basics, but more advanced options to consider include:
- SEO (search engine optimization) features
- Advanced security options
- Ability to offer coupons
- Shipping and tax calculator
- Customer account creation
- Compatibility with marketing tools like email software and social media
- Order management features
- Apps and extensions for additional functionality
eCommerce websites have more complex needs than other websites, so if you’ll be using your website as a selling tool, this is the category of website builders to look into.
What About Free Website Builders?
Nobody wants to spend money if they can get the same thing for free. When researching website builders, you’ll find that there are free options out there. But as mentioned previously, “free” inevitably comes with a tradeoff.
Free website builders need to save or make money on the service they provide somehow. There are a few different ways that plays out:
If they’re not making money by charging customers, the most common alternative for profiting from offering a website builder is to serve up ads on all the websites people build with it. To be clear, these aren’t ads that you’ll make anything off of yourself, all proceeds from them go to the company behind the website builder.
And you won’t have any control over which ads show up, so could find your content showing up alongside something unrelated or, at worst, offensive. Besides that, ads bring clutter to your website and distract from the information on the page you most want your visitors seeing. They can also slow down load times for your visitors, creating a negative experience for them when visiting your website.
A branded domain
Another common tradeoff with free website builders is that your website’s domain will carry their branding. For example, instead of a website called myawesomewebsite.com, your name would be something like websitebuilder.myawesomewebsite.com.
Having their branding included within your domain name can cause confusion for visitors. It makes your URL lengthier and harder to remember. And it makes your website look less professional.
Free website builders often put strict limits on what you can do with your website (especially as many are hoping you’ll upgrade to their paid plans for that functionality). That can mean a limit on the number of pages you can create, the types of multimedia you can add, or your ability to add eCommerce functionality to your site.
Limited space and bandwidth
A way free website builders save money is by limiting the amount of space and bandwidth you have access to. That means you can only add so many images or media files to your website before you hit up against your maximum. And your visitors are likely to find your website and any media elements on it slow to load.
No customer service
Paying customer service representatives costs money. Using a free website builder means that you can’t count on fast, helpful customer service support when you encounter a problem. The best case scenario is that you spend a lot of time tracking down the answer to the problem yourself. Worst case is you never figure out how to fix it and your website’s reputation suffers.
No long-term promise
When a company offers a service for free, there’s little incentive to keep it functioning for the long term. The free website builder you use could cease working within a matter of months or years, at which point you’d lose access to your website and any work you’d put into up to that point.
And if you start with a free website builder and decide you want to move over to a paid one with better features down the line, you’ll be starting from scratch. Free website builders don’t generally provide a way for you to take your website with you.
If you’re building a website to share photos or experiences with friends and family, a free website builder may work just fine. If you’re building a business website or are hoping to build a personal website into a brand, then using a free website builder will hurt you. It looks less professional, gives you less control, and is bad for SEO.
The Cost of a Website Builder vs Other Web Design Options
For most new website owners on a budget, a website builder will be your best option, both because it’s affordable and fast. But it’s not the only way to build a website, and you may still want to figure out how it stacks up against other web design options.
Option 1: Learn to Code
One option you have is learning to code and building your website from scratch. That would save you the cost of a website builder or a web designer. But even if you avail yourself of free online resources for learning to code, it comes with a big cost in time. And if you want to speed up the learning process, or aren’t great at teaching yourself new skills without help, coding bootcamps often cost over $10,000.
Coding skills are valuable to have. And when you’re able to build your own website from scratch, you have more power to make it look and do exactly what you want it to. There are potential benefits to this option unrelated to cost. But once you factor in the cost in time, training, or both, this comes out to a more expensive option than a website builder.
Option 2: Hire a Designer
How much does it cost to hire a designer to make you a website? That’s a hard question to answer because it varies so considerably. It depends on the designer, as well as the specifics of the website you want.
For a very simple site, you may be able to get away with paying less than $1,000. But for a more experienced designer or any more complex design desires you have, the costs can easily get up to over $10,000. The only way to get a more specific answer is to research web designers you’d want to hire and get in touch to find out if they have a web design price list, or will provide you a tailored quote based on your needs.
Hiring a designer does provide you more power over what your website will look like in comparison to using a website builder, so this option may be worth the additional cost for you. And it’s worth noting that having a designer build you a website is a one-time cost (until it’s time for a redesign anyways), rather than a recurring fee like a website builder. But you’ll generally spend significantly less if you go with a website builder.
Option 3: Use a website builder.
As you’ve already seen, a website builder is likely to cost you less than $300 a year, and potentially less than $50. Those are big savings in comparison to your other options.
That doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for every business. But if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, you can still create a website that looks good and is easy to update with a website builder.
Now you have some idea what to expect when budgeting for a website builder, but you still have to figure out which one to go with. When price is a concern, it’s helpful to think about what your website builder payment includes.
Gator, HostGator’s website builder, has some of the most competitive prices out there. Plans start at under $4, and even the premium eCommerce plan is under $10 a month. But even so, you get all the standard features of a website builder, from drag-and-drop functionality to responsive website templates.
And on top of that, you get free web hosting from a respected provider and a free domain name (for the first year) all included as part of your plan. That removes an extra couple of line items from your budget, and frees up money to put toward other parts of building your website.
Whether you’re building an online store, a personal blog, or a website for your small business, Gator is affordable and easy for even beginners to use. And just to show we’re confident it will meet your needs, Gator comes with a free money-back guarantee.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.