What’s included in website development costs: breakdown by stages 0 to 10

The very first thing I do when I get contacted by a prospective client is send them a link to my portfolio and my pricing page. The prices listed on my website are very approximate. But I prefer to show these approximate prices so that a client can get an idea of how much I charge. Even though my prices are quite affordable (even for the part of the world I live in), I sometimes get comments like “I’ve seen others offering the same for X euros, why so expensive?”. So today I decided to talk about how website development costs can be calculated and what’s included in my fees.

0. Website brief

In most cases, the prospective client doesn’t have a clear website brief. I have a nice short questionnaire that’s very simple to fill in and that can be used to write a basic website brief if you need a relatively simple site. But if we’re talking a more complex project, we definitely need a detailed website brief. What’s your target audience? What will the website structure be like? How many contact forms, sliders, carousels? How many products in the shop? How will customers pay for products on your website? Any third-party integrations? We need to know all this in order to estimate project costs and also to know where project begins and where it ends. If you don’t have anyone in your team to write your website brief, I can help you with that. This fee will be included in total project price.

Even if you have a website brief, of course we will meet online for a chat or talk on WhatsApp for common understanding of project goals and scope.

1. Design

Depending on project budget, I can provide one or multiple static mockups in jpeg format. Layout, colours, fonts, images… choosing the right ones can take from one day (if you just need a quick-and-dirty solution) to several weeks. The costs at this point will also depend on number of revisions and whether you require mockups for multiple pages or just the front page.

2. WordPress setup

Once the mockups are ready, it’s time to set up a basic WordPress installation on a temporary server, because you don’t want your customers to see the website before it’s ready, right? And also because it’s a common practice to host a website on developer’s server until all payments have been settled. So, at this stage, I create a new database, a new sudbomain, upload all necessary files to the server, install necessary plugins.

3. Website development

What we have at this point is a naked WordPress website. Now the main part of work begins – I create all the pages, menus, CSS animations, buttons, contact forms, write snippets of code and CSS, set up plugins, connect your shop to payment gateways, set up products, build a caching system, crop and optimize images and so much more. Every website is unique, so thie costs at this stage depend greatly on project scope. For example, for an online shop, price can vary depending on whether your shop manager will enter all product data, or you want me to enter it, or you want to import your products as an xml/csv file, how many products you have in your shop, etc.

4. Revisions!

The number of revisions made to each section/page is another factor that noticeably affects total project cost. Perhaps you want to leave room for tweaks and edits even if everything is done in compliance with website brief. So it’s wise to include 1-3 rounds of revisions in the price. Please remember, changes that seem very easy to make may require hours of work.

5. Paid plugins, fonts, images, videos…

You might need to pay an annual or one-time fee for some plugins. Most of the essential WordPress plugins are free, but sometimes a paid plugin is necessary to solve a specific task (like connect to a third-party service, manage products in a very specific way etc). It’s usually cheaper anyway than paying for custom code. Most often there’s an annual fee of USD 20-150 per plugin. You can choose to pay directly to plugin provider or have it included in total website price.

It’s also very likely that the fancy font you’ve chosen can not be used for free. You might have downloaded it from a freebie website, but that doesn’t mean this font doesn’t have an author and it can be used just like that. Many font designers charge a one-time licence fee for their fonts, but sometimes you have to pay a monthly/annual subscription fee based on volume of website traffic. If this is not something you’re ready to pay for, don’t re-invent the wheel and go for Google fonts – they’re free and safe to use. There’re 904 Google font families at the moment of this writing.

If you don’t have your own images or videos to use on your website, and you want something more sophisticated than free stock pictures, you’ll have to buy some visual content from paid stock sites.

Payment gateways also charge for their services, so whether you’ll be using Paypal card processor, Stripe, 2CheckOut or any other service to process payments in your online store, be prepared to pay a small setup fee (and a percentage on each transaction later on).

There can be other external costs related to building a website, but these are the most common ones.

6. Communication!

Another thing that is maybe not so obvious, but it’s also included in website price: communication with the client. Your comments, feedback, answers to your questions, discussing drafts, communicating about third-party integrations, talking to your marketing assistant – there’s a lot of communication going on while developing a website. It can take up to 30% of total work hours spent on the project. Actually this is the part that all low end web developers skip. That’s why cheap websites never look anything like what you imagined.

7. Testing

Testing and debugging includes testing and optimizing website for load speed, checking if all elements are working correctly (contact forms, subscription forms, payment gateways etc) and of course viewing the website on different screen sizes and adjusting the layout. I pay a monthly fee for a service that can remotely connect to real devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops of various brands and sizes. I use it to test and optimize websites for different screens because there’re just so many of them nowadays!

8. SEO setup

Serious search optimization should be handed over to SEO agencies, but it’s wise to technically optimize your new website for search engines from start. This includes setting up a SEO plugin, creating meta tag patterns for different kinds of pages, generating a sitemap, writing alt attributes for images, connecting your website to Google Webmasters service and more. This can be skipped if you want to do all SEO entirely on your own, but if it’s included, it will affect the price too.

9. Hosting, domain, CDN

When the website is finished, it’s time to transfer it to client’s server. I can advise you on choosing a reliable hosting provider, buying domain name and SSL certificate, create mailboxes for you etc. Transferring the website includes uploading website files to the new server, recreating the database, updating URL structure, setting up https, debugging, sometimes making minor changes to hosting settings.

I also strongly recommend using a CDN (Content Distribution Network) like Cloudflare, which improves website speed and protects your website from attackers. Connecting to a CDN doesn’t take a lot of time, but together with other works this also affects total website development costs.

10. Training

After the website has been launched you probably want to learn how to edit pages, add new products to your online store, create coupon codes and so on. So I’m here for you for a live training session on basic website administration. I will also send you some written instructions with screenshots.

And lastly, there’re always some minor tweaks and edits after webite launch. There’s always an image to replace, a bit of text to edit, a content block to move. I believe these expenses should be included in website price upfront, but we can also add them separately as extra maitenance works.


So this was a breakdown of website development costs if you order web development services from me. Other developers might have a slightly different structure of costs, but I believe these phases are quite common for all web developers.

Cheap web designers usually skip step 0, 1 (because they use pre-built templates), 6, 7, 8, 10, and number 4 is very limited. That’s the answer to the common question “I’ve seen websites for EUR 300, why do you charge more?”.

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