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"How much does a website cost?" – a survey of web designers (folyo.me)
241 points by sgdesign on Sept 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments

What do you guys get out of your smart-ass answers to potential clients?

You do know that they come to you because they know that you are the professionals. Many of them are completely clueless as to how pricing works for dev/design-work. Asking "how much do you charge?" is a perfectly reasonable question for someone understandably uninformed to ask.

You may be skilled at your trade, but from the sounds of it, many of you are absolutely horrible at dealing with customers who need a bit of guidance and direction with respects to the work they want to get done.

Imagine a curious older relative asking a physicist what light is and receiving "Well, it's sort of like one thing, but it's really not" as a response.

I think part of it is the cynicism that develops from bad clients. Some people don't understand that the designer is a professional. Designers just draw all day, and love what they do, so why would I pay big bucks for a website?

After all, my nephew does computers and I can have him make a website for cheap.

There's also the "Of course we want you to have creative control. We just want to be able to tell you how it looks, what colors to use, and what the tone is."

So, I'm not surprised with the responses here. It's the same one I'd have if someone tells me they want to make the next Facebook, only better. Compensation? I'll give a share when it gets big. Details? No, it's a secret...

That's understandable to a certain extent, but there is no need for anyone to be rude about it. Someone wants a Facebook clone for $500? Simply respond "it's a huge amount of work and I won't be able to do it for that." If they press, explain why.

It's one thing to be cynical; it's something else entirely to show that cynicism to a potential client.

Hell, this isn't limited to the tech world: my wife trains horses and gives lessons and she has the same problem with clients making snarky comments and dumb assumptions. If she wants to keep getting business she has to swallow her irritation and answer politely and informatively.

If they press, explain why.

No, as a business person you just walk away. They're clearly not a prospect (ie, in the market to buy your services) because they've indicated a budget that is degrees of magnitude to yours.

One of the wonderful traits of being a geek is the desire to explain and the desire to engage in debate. Digg/Reddit/HN are built on it. An important trait of a successful business person is to zero in on potential customers and cut losses quickly on leads that are going no-where.

Your time is money - which is also why many successful startup folks drift out of HN and other communities once they become successful entrepreneurs.

The same traits can also impact on client work once you get into the project. If you're a geek + business person, these are important skills to learn.

Um, no!

Someone isn't disqualified as a potential customer simply because they don't know how much something costs or assume it costs X when it costs 10X.

A good customer understands value. That means that if they thought something costs $500 but it really will cost $10k, they'll be able to identify if it's worth $10k to them, or instead find out what they can get for the $2k that they can actually afford.

Just saying "no, I can't help you" and walking away isn't doing yourself any favors.

What you said reminds me of something I read from edw512's book ( http://edweissman.com/53640595 )

> Buyers of software products, like small children, hear one word more than any other: "no". "No, it can't be done." "No we don't do that." "No, if you did that it would screw up everything else." "No, that's stupid" It doesn't matter if you're right, all that matters is that you're just another person saying "no".

> You differentiate yourself from others by giving the exact same answer, but with the word "yes" instead of "no".

> "Yes, in order to do that, we'd also want to look at..."


> As I've told my customers many times, "The answer is always 'Yes'. You may not want to do it once you understand what it will take, but the answer is still 'yes'."

> Someone wants a Facebook clone for $500? Simply respond "it's a huge amount of work and I won't be able to do it for that." If they press, explain why.

>Just saying "no, I can't help you" and walking away isn't doing yourself any favors.

You're right. But it's a grey area. There are some real crazies/idiots out there, and picking up a delinquent client is parasitic. If you work a large project, and the client pulls some bullshit to avoid payment, you may need to take them to court. This takes time you could be productive on other projects. A client who signs off on a design, and then complains that it's not what they want, will extend project. Too much of "could you make the yellow more yellow?" "I want people to smell cinnamon and peppermint." results in a poor finished product due to both frustration and a lack of communication.

Just dropping a client has it's own difficulties, and may not be possible depending on the agreement.

"I'll pay you $500 for a large project" is one indicator that could be a difficult client. Of course, it's not a truth, but I feel a good defensive game goes a long way.

It's sampling bias, but http://clientsfromhell.net and http://clientcopia.com/ are entertaining yet frustrating sites to see some of the worst of it. Let's add to the cynicism!

And a decent top ten list. These guys are more common than you'd believe. http://freelancefolder.com/bad-clients-and-how-to-avoid-them...

So I work in a niche consulting area (helping companies build out developer platforms). I like to earn the most money I can, so I tend to only work with public companies, large corporations, etc because they can afford to pay the most.

Startups approach me all the time, given that I'm quite well connected in the startup scene from my other activities here in SF. But they can't afford to pay me what BigCorps will pay me. There's no point in me telling them the value I can provide and doing the dance because the bottom line is they usually don't have the kind of funding to make it feasible.

And for me, there isn't the equivalent of "well this is what I can do for $500" - I charge by the day and you either pay my rate or you don't. Fortunately I have enough business that will.

I came here to say basically the EXACT same thing... even including the "my nephew can make websites" remark.

My method is to try to figure that out VERY early in my discussions with a potential client, and then quote them a "scare off price" whereby they'll likely say no, but IF they say yes, the extra money will make it worthwhile as I KNOW they'll be asking for tons of changes. (Can't you just open Dreamweaver and change the colors and pictures???)

I'm not advocating being difficult. I simply think if we'd size up our client BEFORE deciding "we need the money", there'd be a LOT less horror stories.

The best advice I have received about pricing:

Price your service so that you would not regret it either way.

Before giving a price I usually think of how I will feel if I don't get the job and how I will feel if I get it. If I would be comfortable with both situations, then I know it is the right price regardless of what happens.

In line with this, I have given higher rates to "difficult" people I have worked with before that have asked me to do work for them again. I didn't get those jobs (usually I don't even get a response) but I was happy about it. If the work and person seems interesting, I may quote a lower rate.

Yeah, I hate "my nephew can make websites". I don't doubt that a high school student could put together a full website, with a store front or whatever else. But I'd be willing to bet it's not the most secure.

I'm sure there's something like this, but there should be a kind of Angie's list for clients to blacklist the delinquent ones. If not I'm making one.

EDIT: There's always the better business bureau, but it's not as complete.

The "my nephew can make websites" comment is not necessarily what people seem to think it is.

After all, this is someone who has gone to the trouble of getting in touch with a professional and asking questions. They aren't asking their nephew to do it.

They know it's going to be more expensive, but they didn't realize HOW MUCH more expensive, and that comment is simply part of how they learn why that's the case.

They generally honestly don't understand why it's so expensive -- because they don't yet understand what they're buying (it's non-obvious!) -- so the best route is to keep the tone pleasant ("ha! yup, I get that question a lot") and educate them in a friendly way.

The end result may be that they decide they won't want a professional website -- that's fine. Part of the discussion should be how likely it is that the site will earn them back more than they're paying for it. I have a neighbor that wanted to hire me to build a website for her small-scale manufacturing business, and through our discussions we basically figured out that it wasn't going to be a good investment for her right now. That was a win-win situation, in my book.

I'd call that a win-win as well.

I do take the same approach and try to explain why it's more expensive, they tend to use the 'nephew' excuse to haggle down by a significant amount (A couple hundred for a medium sized site, think school/PTA/church, tree depth > 2, 10+ pages). But my problem is finding a resolution. (This is a short version, I'm usually more friendly about it)

Client: I know someone who will do it for free. You should therefore do it for cheap.

Dev: This is a large project. (Explain expense).

Client: Then I'll just use my free resource.

Dev: Do that.

Client: But I want you to do it.

Dev: Well, this is a large project. (Explain expense).

Rinse and repeat...

There's a gap with some of them that I have trouble explaining. I'm not in competition with whoever you know. Just because they can do it for free doesn't change what I'll charge, which is pretty reasonable and on the low side. I'll hear from other, actual freelancers (I' a student, so I'm part-time) about the same client calling around and getting the same response. Anecdotally, it takes 4-5 conversations for them to understand that the rate is between $1000 and $7000 depending how large/dynamic it needs to be. Whoever the last person is get the job, or makes a referral.

>You may be skilled at your trade, but from the sounds of it, many of you are absolutely horrible at dealing with customers

I don't think a lot of freelancers realize the importance of sales/marketing/customer service. They are more than just easy classes in college and they benefit more than the greasy used car salesman down the street.

Quite often it's the difference between you and the competitor to whom you lost the job.

Oh of course, in the end it's all about 'who you want to work with' and who's 'easy to talk to.' That's why so many extremely skilled engineers go unheard of.


It's useful to try to put yourself in the place of the customer. They're trying to negotiate the purchase of something they don't understand, that apparently can be accomplished by 14-year-olds, and that somehow costs $8K -- what!? That's close to what I paid for my car, a complex piece of machinery with computers inside it and thousands of engineered parts that actually move!

Do you see how this feels? They're pretty reasonably scared of being ripped off. After all, if you went off for 2 weeks and on the last day just copied some other site's design and changed the names... how would they know?

> Imagine a curious older relative asking a physicist what light is and receiving "Well, it's sort of like one thing, but it's really not" as a response.

Hopefully he didn't ask Feynman! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM

It's hard to imagine for most, but I think what is being displayed here is that experienced freelancers learn early on that not every project is a good fit. There are a lot of jokers out there, there are a lot of people who aren't ready to turn their ideas into a reality. To be successful as a freelancer, you have to sift through the sea of prospects to find the situations that are going to be mutually beneficial.

When freelancing I tend to work a simple system.

  £250:  An update to content - an evening or two's work.
  £500:  A tiny static site with some original design. <5 pages
  £1000: A full static site for a SME. Full Design. ~5 pages. 
  £2500: As above with some dynamic elements. ~10 pages.
  £5000: Medium dynamic site. ~20 pages. 2-4 weeks work.
I then slide upwards for jobs I don't want and down for people I like. I've never gone above £5000 for a 'homer'.

I also have a mate-rates scale that appears below this:

  Free: Family. Charities I like. Updates + tiny static.
  Bottle of Wine: As above but close family friends.
  Bottle of Whiskey: As above but good friends.
If I get a request for a bigger job from friends or family I tend to pass them on to a developer chum these days — experience has shown it's for the best.

Having a fixed, doubling scale like this works well. Each next price needs to be big enough to make a difference to me as I am essentially very lazy and I like my free time. Also, I am a terrible soft-touch and would probably charge everyone mates-rates if I didn't force myself to do this.

Sounds very reasonable, I am definitely going to up my rates, but if you've worked with someone before with cheaper rates, how do I try and up my rates?

As for a dynamic site, I mainly use Wordpress as my CMS of choice, usually great for clients as they find it pretty straight forward to go in and add/update content, add pages etc.

Another thing I have found now that I am working full-time is the absolute top-most importance for proper functional specs, as well as proper bug tracking software, emailing constant changes gets to be a real pain, and pretty hard for you to track which ones have actually been done.

Whoa dude, $392.10 for you to just change content on a site? Set up a CMS and let the client change it themselves.

Good suggestion, but many people are happy to pay someone to do a task which they have no interest in, and the process of which may be highly foreign to them.

I've seen plenty of folks use a CMS to completely botch up their site, suck up 6 hours of their time, and end up worse off than when they started.

If someone is making continual changes, the CMS makes sense. If it is a business that does 1 or 2 updates per year, it might be better to outsource the web stuff.

I've had little success with CMSs. People find them too complicated and I end up either holding their hand, fixing their mistakes or just doing the update. For free.

How much do you value your evenings at? £250 would be 1-2 evenings. One evening and it seems like reasonably easy money. Two evenings and suddenly its not quite so generous. Surely any technical person can charge $50 an hour? My day job charges me out at $1000 a day. I have also found that when it is an amount less than that I tend to resent the fact that I've had to give up an evening.

Stand up for yourself. Charge an amount that makes you happy.

A CMS brings in additional complexity of updates and security breaches, which can cost much more than a $400 update fee a few times a year.

Exactly. Some of these sites are hosted on my own server. After having numerous PHP sites hacked (and my machine wiped twice) static html is the only thing I trust these days.

Content changes could require new CSS styles (which would require a new round of cross browser testing), image editing, and cleaning up mal-formed text from an email or Word doc. You also need to factor in how much you should charge to make it worth your time to come up with an estimate, fire off an invoice, etc.

If clients are paying this price then it sounds like his pricing is correct.

I way overpay for my phone plan. I pay for it because i have to, not because the pricing is fair.

If you charge $400 to update your client's web site, you're just price gouging because they don't know any better. Pathetic.

Asking "How much does a website cost?" is a bit like asking "How much does a car cost?", and of course the answer is "it varies, how much are you looking to spend? What do you want of the car/website?". Surveying various designers under the pretense of addressing this question is price fixing.

The fact that the designers were asked their prices on the criteria that "All prices are for design only, i.e. they don’t include any sort of coding (no HTML, no CSS, no Javascript, no PHP, etc.)." is rather telling with regards to experience.

Design doesn't stop at the mockup stage — anyone who has designed & built the front-end of a website knows that the design continues to evolve outside of Photoshop. The nature of the web dictates a website must be flexible so it can accommodate different browsers and resolutions. It's very difficult (read: expensive) to design for a dynamic medium in a static work space, and it's disingenuous to call a static, non-interactive image a website.

This post would be better titled "How much can one charge for a website mockup?"

I know it's trite, but when people ask me, "How much would you charge me to build a website?" I always reply with something pithy like, "Between $100 and $100,000."

What's more interesting are the responses. It's almost like a litmus test for who I'd actually want to work with. A person that I might actually want to work with will laugh and acknowledge that the question was ridiculously vague. A person that I don't want to work with will show some level of frustration and will usually dismiss the remark, pressing for a greater level of detail. I'll talk to the individual with a sense of humor and even a basic level of introspection, but the person who is frustrated with me isn't getting very far.

The client is just trying to figure out your rate. Just like the rate of a plumber, repairmen, etc. etc.

When you call a plumber and tell him that your hot water doesn't work and how much it will cost the tipical response is "my rate is x but I will give you an estimate once I examine the problem". Why can't web designers use a similar answer. Is that so hard?

Because (and this is "formerly" for me, I'm out of this work), I didn't have a rate. The price that I would quote is a mixture of what the project's scope is, how interesting it is to me personally, and how much of a pain in the ass I forecasted the client to be, or knew to be from prior experience.

For a number of my clients, I couldn't come within 50% of an actual quote until I sat down over coffee and talked over exactly what they wanted.

I don't agree. For the client, this might seem not serious.

How do you know the clients that you want to work for?

Get to know him. As simple as that. What's his business? can he afford your rates? Is he ready to pay that rate or does he see the value of your work?

And then ask for details. Give a reasonable estimate. Alert them that your hourly rate is $xxx and beyond the details specified in the estimate you'll charge more.

For the client, this might seem not serious.

Sure, but it's also important to point out that "How much is a website?" is not a serious question. The GP's answer might seem silly, but it brings into relief that you're dealing with a "how much is a car?" or "how long is a piece of string?" situation, and is merely a door-opener on par with the more-businesslike "well, it depends..." and comes down to personal style.

When I ask "How much is a website?" what I mean is, more or less, "What's the average price of the last 100 websites you did, weighted a bit by where you are in the price curve? If you could toss in the stdev, that'd be awesome."

Thinking that a person asking for a price concept has no idea that there may be variables is pretty pessimistic. Some are probably not worth talking to, but others are interested in basically getting a verbal sense of what the curves in the original article look like.

I asked a friend of mine who is a professional animator recently how much animation costs to produce per minute. He didn't come out with a meaningless answer like "From 10 cents to 10 million dollars." He gave me about a 30-second sense of what an average simple and high-end studio looks like and what it ends up costing to run them. That's a good answer, not a dodge.

>>"How much is a website?" is not a serious question

I think is a very valid question. And a valid response is "my rate is X and will give you an estimate once I understand better what you want to build".

Your rate speaks to the cost of your time, not to the price of a completed site.

Do you know what I ask? "How do you usually price these things?"

>>How do you usually price these things?

You mean, how do you price the total price of a website?

The same way that a mechanic, plumber, electrician, contractor, etc.,etc. estimates the total price of the work to be done. i.e. You estimate the total number of hours you think is going to take you, you multiply it by your hourly rate and finally you add whatever additional expenses you incurred when building the site. i.e. hosting service, license fees,...

My point hinges on the difference between open- and closed-ended questions.

If I was shopping for a freelancer and someone said something like that I would choose not to work with them. I don't mean any sort of disrespect. It's just occasionally we have to contract out for things, and when people make comments to me like that I immediately scratch them off the list. Replying sarcastically instead of politely asking clarifying questions back just scares off potential business.

I'm new to the freelancing business and that's a great tip!

A more direct, less cheeky version would be to ask what they are picturing for their website and giving them some estimates.

If a car salesman were asked that question, he wouldn't answer it flippantly because he knows that's a little embarrassing to make the customer feel ignorant to that degree. You're invalidating their question, not answering it.

Instead, the car salesman would say, "That depends on the kind of car that fits your needs. What kind of vehicles are you thinking about?"

There's no harm in making the car analogy explicit, but I'd think prospects would be warmer to more helpful and direct responses at first.

I fail to see how the original post was "cheeky" if it was a factual correct and accurate answer to the question.

What's a car dealer going to say? They probably won't even give you an upper range, just "This model starts at $34k" or something like that.

Because answering a question with a question is not straightforward.

And no, I'm talking about a dealer being asked the question in general by a prospect fresh arrived on the lot.

When it comes to the web app pricing I'm not sure about this:

"For example, the mere fact of supporting user accounts will mean having to design sign up, sign in, and “I forgot my password” screens as well as all the different error states associated with them."

I'd much rather have UI guidelines, which cover how forms are built, what an error state looks like, and how text is formatted. A set of building blocks, rather then a unique design for each activity being undertaken.

In my experience designers who design each page individually usually provide designs which can't be adapted easily, and require each page to have much more work applied then would otherwise be necessary.

By all means provide a full design for key processes, for example the checkout process on an e-commerce site, but for a lost password form I should I be able to put that together without having to call in a designer.

You're right, of course. Maybe this particular example was poorly chosen, but I just wanted to illustrate the fact that web apps are often more complex than you think.

(plus it's been my experience that some clients do want mockups for each screen, even though I always tell them that the "building blocks" approach you describe is much more efficient)

To all those designers comparing their pricing to car sales, consider this: I can wander around a car sales lot and browse the cars and their prices. I don't have to invent a "car spec" or give you a budget, I can see for myself what I can afford. Unfortunately, web designers don't take this approach or else I could browse through example (or previous) sites with their price tags proudly attached. I could see how much $1000, or $3000 or $10,000 would buy me. Unless you want to go down this road, never respond to me "well, how much is a car?"

Most designers have portfolios.

Most designers have portfolios.

Do these portfolios also show prices? I've never seen such a thing (well, aside from off-the-rack TemplatesAreUs.com sort of sites).

If pricing is such a case-by-case matter then perhaps there should be something on the site that explains this.

I've dealt with a number of potential clients for Web development who came in assuming that site building was much like (in their mind) getting a house built. Two bedrooms, 2.5 baths? This much. Three bedrooms? That much.

I've had to explain to people that even getting a house built is not like that, that while there are some common aspects there are also quite a few things that are going to be unique.

Clients are usually well-meaning and earnest when they go shopping for a developer or a designer, but typically have no idea how things work. A little time explaining things goes a long way.

So, if it's not coding, not even HTML coding, then this isn't about websites. It's how much do you charge for a PSD file. In my experience that's a pretty useless metric. Converting a PSD to HTML can be trivial if you just use an export tool, or it can be incredibly time-intensive if you do it by hand and turn it into something dynamic.

I haven't had a straight-up "Design me a website" contract in years - it's always been applications, or a Wordpress theme. Is there actually still a market for simple static web sites anymore?

I'm working on a simple static site right now, but it's the first one I've done in a long time.

I'm also doing some work for another client that's just delivering PSD files... which, again, is not something I have done in probably a couple of years.

Unless you're working as part of a larger team and you each have specific tasks, most people want at least design+front-end development.

"How much do you charge?" = bad

"What is the average of your x previous invoices for x?" = good

Sure I might charge by default $1k for a logo but the chances of $1k being billed every time are slim, every client is different. The average invoice price is the most valuable metric. Every designer will say they charge $5k when they charge $1k because it makes them feel good.

There are several comments here along these lines. I don't disagree that the latter is a better framing of the question, but...

No one wants to hear that they're ignorant. No one wants to listen to a condescending speech about how they don't understand your area of expertise. Take a moment, be patient, educate them a little, try a couple concrete examples, and keep calm. If you can't arrive at an understanding after a few tries you can always walk away. I will assure you, however, that you will secure a lot more clients and referrals if you treat everyone with respect and try to help them find the right solution for themselves.

Median is probably an even better measure here than average.

You might as well ask, "How long is a piece of string?"

I don't know why so many people here feel compelled to act so rude towards potential clients. Why do people get so defensive when it comes to their pricing that they have to offer the prospect analogies instead of direct answers? We all know the pricing is relative to the project. If you're tired of getting emails from people asking how much a site is, don't be afraid to state your minimum price on your site. Setting up pricing filters is good - being rude to those that may be ignorant to our process is not. You might say "Well they should do research!", but their google queries will be met by articles spouting equally obscure analogies on what a site could cost.

Because they are great programmers/designers but shitty business people.

Whenever someone asks me this question, I ask them, "how much does a car cost?"

Well, it depends on the car, they answer.

Precisely. So do you want a used Honda, a new Corvette, a BMW, or a Rolls Royce?

But do you think there are many designers who think that they are anything less than a Rolls Royce? (Just like most programmers think that they are much better than average)

Here you are getting into the difference between the quality of the designer and the issue of setting a budget range.

After all, to put it in those terms, you can rent a Rolls Royce for a day - or you can buy one.

Perhaps a better analogy is a vehicle?

Do you want a skateboard, pushbike, car, ute, truck, van, lorry, bus, juggernaut ...

If you're looking at car brands then you can get the same vehicle priced differently according to the badge on it. Then it looks like you're saying the cost of a website varies according to the pedigree of the designer more than the technical specification. This is true to some extent but not perhaps the answer one is trying to give.


This is my reaction every time I realize how underpriced I was for all my consulting career. I charged $600 top for building websites, including logo and backend most of the time. I think I was good, just very clueless.

Well, the important thing is to learn and adjust. Remember; if you are good but underpricing you are not just hurting yourself. Your potentially hurting every local person in the same space by decreasing the value of those services.

I used to fault the client or prospect for asking such _foolish_ questions, but in many cases this may be the first time they have ever engaged creative services. It seems so obvious to us, but not everyone has worked with an architect or an interior designer or a software developer or an advertising agency.

My tactic is to frame the 'how much does it cost' question into something they can relate to. I compare the website to a house. I explain that the cost is dependent on factors like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. I explain that knowing a rough budget is helpful because the designers would know if they should shop at Ikea or (insert local high end furniture store). I ask them if they want hardwoods or carpeting.

Usually the house example helps the client understand that he/she is asking an impossible question and they then are more comfortable going into specifics about their idea so I can get then a fair estimate.

I really take issue with this:

"All prices are for design only, i.e. they don’t include any sort of coding (no HTML, no CSS, no Javascript, no PHP, etc.)".

I'm sorry, but a design is only a tiny, tiny fraction of a website. Usually it's the most minor and inconsequential part. I've lost count of how many clients thought their apparently simple designs can built for a toothpick and olive.

Coding the HTML, CSS, javascript, and backend (app + database) can be freaking complex and is easily the most expensive part of a site.

This article is mis-titled, since design is the least important part of a site.

It's a little much to say design is the "least" important part of a site. Good design can instill potential users/customers with confidence, ease the sign-up or purchasing process, and give the site a personality.

I've yet to see where a design that's shiny and pretty is more important than a site that is plain yet fast and functional. I'll add an addendum that usability is more important than pretty. The combination of both is, unfortunately, rare.

You're right to say that fast and functional is preferable to pretty, but both are examples of 'design' in the truest sense.

Good design really isn't about making things pretty, it's about enablind the user or customer. Usability is goal number one.

From practical experience using sites as a selling tool, a 20% faster load time won't change my sales figures. Something that's significantly higher production value in look, implying a more successful company, will.

Replying to myself here... Of course, it depends on the original load time. Changing the load time from 2.5 sec to 2sec - not that useful for a sales page. Changing the load time from 25sec to 20sec - well, there's a lot more work to be done, but that WILL have an impact on sales.

How much do you charge for a website?

is appropriately answered by "What do you want it to do?" then a conversation talking about their project.

Thanks for sharing this and I hope Folyo is getting off to a good start. I know a lot of designers who struggle to figure out the market rate for their work and will find this really helpful. Design can add huge value to a business and good work costs money.

But I find the way you've approach the survey to be flawed. The cost of design work is generally a factor of how complex the problem is to solve. Most designers I know charge effort * hourly rate = fee, much like developers and other professional services.

So quantifying prices in terms of a homepage, additional layouts etc is meaningless. I don't find your distinction that only web apps (and not other parts of the web) require both visual and UX design helpful.

@JonWood gets it pretty spot on: handing over a pretty PSD file is getting less common as more design agencies get involved in prototyping and front-end development. Creating a visual language and building blocks is far more useful.

Agreed. I charge by the hour myself (although looking back at the totals for various recent projects, I find that they end up pretty close to the average survey results).

I'll be the first to admit that it's extremely hard to estimate the costs of designing (or even developing) a site. That being said, I think even vague figures such as these can be useful, if only to establish a basic minimum budget for projects.

I always answers like this:

"How much does a website cost?" "It depends". "Depends on what?" "A lot of things".

I am a web developer, not a web designer.

I know that you're right and I know that it is the wrong question to ask, but answering it like that is what makes a lot of non-dev/designers dislike us. Maybe try helping them ask the right question by saying something like: "Well it depends on what you want, what kind of website are we talking about?". It might take a couple of minutes more to answer their question but it has a much higher chance of actually getting a new potential client.

But why do web developers and designers always get these kind of questions? One would hardly go into a shop selling watches and ask how much _a_ watch costs. Why then ask a vague question that just cannot be answered? I think giving an equally vague reply is fair.

I think that's because people just don't know a whole lot about these kind of things, instead of being vague I try to teach them a little about it. Generally people mean well.

But that is completely different. In a watch store, I can point to a specific watch and ask "how much does that one cost?" It's hard to do the same with a website unless the designer/programmer has a portfolio to browse.

Why not point at a website and ask how much would that cost? In the sense "I'd like a website that works and looks like HN. How much would you charge to make it for me?"

Maybe watches aren't perfectly analogous. How about walking into a real estate office and asking how much a house costs?

A good real estate agent would sit that person down and find out from them what kind of house they'd be likely to want. So questions like how many people will live in it, how long a commute can you have, how much can you afford, etc will all come into play. And from that info, the agent will be able to show a few houses and home in on what the person really wants.

I remember buying my first house and that's pretty much how it played out.

The point is that the RE Agent takes the buyer seriously enough to figure out if they are just fishing or ready to buy and doesn't just blow them off with flippant responses.

Building the site is just the start of the process in my eyes. I always give one estimate for the design/development/seo of a site. The importance of keeping the content, SEO and design fresh cannot be undersold to the client. Letting your site anguish for a few years will cost you visitors and business. And today, it happens even faster. A site that sits for more than 6 months is in danger of losing page rank.

For me, the cost isn't in the initial development, it's in the cost of maintaining the site (design/content) and continuing to rank well in the search engines for the life of the site (seo/sem). This also presents the best opportunity to create a long term relationship and an ongoing revenue stream for the developer.

I wonder how templates stock sites like Themeforest affects the designers business. Now to start your web app, you don't really need a designer, but just $20 or less and you get something very good for the little money you put.

As a designer myself, I think templates are great. The reality is that most business don't need a completely custom template, especially if they're still in that MVP stage.

So when you're starting out and don't have a big budget, by all means use a template. I would much rather work with your company when it's more mature and money is less of a concern.

To put in another way, template are in competition with cheap cookie-cutter design (e.g. crowdsourcing sites), not higher quality design.

Like with some of the others here I 'test' clients to see if they're someone/a company I would like to work with. For others who refuse to believe that websites are hard can cost more than $200 I refer to templates.

So, templates are good for some people/companies. It's the same with any product/service, really. There will be those who just want the cheapest x and are indifferent to quality, investing in their purchases, etc, and are happy with knock-offs and things that will break down in a few months.

(native) Mobile apps in the same price range as websites? That's really not my experience; it's most of the time double or triple what a website with similar functionality would cost.

I was surprised by the results myself, I expected the average price for a mobile app to be much higher than for a website.

But more and more designers are focusing on mobile design. Just a year or two ago it was still a fairly rare specialization, but if you browse Dribbble you'll see that most good designers have at least one or two mobile projects in their portfolio. So that might be one reason why prices are being driven down.

It's seems to be the price for the design only, no coding.

I've been quoted $20k+ for a mobile app of any complexity

Just for the design? Was that an agency or freelancer? Seems pretty expensive for a freelancer, at least according to the survey results (and my own experience).

I'm really surprised by the responses here. No one is saying that you should smart off to a client, but the quality of an estimate is going to be in response to the quality of the question. "How much is a website?" is about as helpful as phoning a builder and asking "How much does it cost to build a house?"

(I'm also waiting for commenters to rip me to shreds for the analogy, since HN seems to hate analogies, but it's the best way I can describe it)

This should really just be a graph with two lines: A very small one that says 'As much as I quoted', and a far larger line that says 'Much more than I quoted'.

Some 14 year olds can design pretty well. Plus - logo matters, but not that much. Look at Hacker News...it looks like someone taking beginner programming made it. Nonetheless, the content is fabulous - that's the point

Would be interesting to get some feedback from other freelance front-end devs as well, in terms of pricing. As I known I'm probably completely undercharging.

What's interesting is that these prices are for design only; they do not include HTML/CSS, much less code to make a webapp functional.

Wow nice article, I was wondering if I was charging too much for my recent bid. Good to see other people are charging in that range.

Don't worry what other people are charging, worry what your clients are paying and that they are happy.

If you quote a number and people are happy to pay it straight up, there's a reasonable chance you're pricing too low.

You might not want to scrape out the absolute maximum each client will pay for each job (at the least, it's a very difficult thing to actually determine, and makes for a bad client experience if you're negotiating too hard), but it's always good to have a sanity check that they're not happy merely because you're charging way below market rates for your talent.

Wasn't there a rule of thumb: Unless a sizeable portion of your potential clients think you are too expensive, up your rates.

>How much do you charge for a mobile app?

Why are web designers (as opposed to software developers) being asked about mobile applications?

This is a bit off-topic, but I'm actually looking to build a new website to replace my current poorly-designed one. It's basically just three static pages. Current website and contact info are in my profile. Contact me if you're interested.

i for one am tired of the hourly model. set a price whatever it may be. If you go low, you'll charge more the next time. if you go high, people will go to someone else.

Compared to the amounts i see on TinyProj (that usually are related to a full implementation, not only design) these are way higher...

the worst anyone can do is approaching this as easy.

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