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A modern business needs a website to stay connected with its customers; the average person is online for 40% of their waking life. What’s the best way to stay connected with customers? Give them a website they can use at any time. 

Though WordPress and other website builders have taken the hassle out of making a website, website development can still be overwhelming with the number of choices and costs to consider. 

But you’re about to understand it all. This guide will walk you through the steps of your website-building journey and the associated costs so you don’t have to go in blind.

How much does it cost to make a website?

The short answer? Between $150 and $150,000. That’s probably too big of a price range to work with, especially for a business owner. The exact cost will vary based on your requirements. If you don’t have strict requirements regarding website design, you can build a website with a sub-$200 budget. 

Realistically, an entrepreneur’s costs will increase as they add factors like customization, scalability, eCommerce functionality, hosting and security.

Let’s go through the making of a website to understand how individual choices affect your costs. 

Website costs: Essential components

Whether you’re making an online portfolio or an affiliate marketing website, you must invest in the essentials. 

Domain name

Your domain name is what visitors enter on their web browser to access your website. For instance, is the domain name for a popular search engine.

The average cost of a domain name ranges from $10-$20, but premium domains cost more. For example, you can snatch by paying $10.99. But if you want, you must pay a premium cost of $298.00 for the first year. 

A normal domain costs less than a premium domain.
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When you buy a domain, you must list your personal information on WHOIS, a database of who owns which domains. If you opt for privacy protection, the domain registrar will hide your personal information, making you less likely to receive spam and phishing emails from malicious actors. Privacy protection typically costs around $12-$15 per year. 

You might encounter registrars offering domains at even lower prices. In that case, read the fine print before finalizing your purchase — they might increase the price significantly after the first year, which will hurt you in the long run. Buy domains from a trusted registrar like Bluehost for the most transparent and affordable price.

Use the Bluehost domain tool to find and buy domains at a great price.

Website development

Next, choose how you want to design and develop your new website. Typically, you have three options, each with a different cost of building from scratch.

Open-source content management systems

An open-source content management system (CMS) lets you build a website for free, with innate features and third-party integrations. 

For instance: WordPress, the most popular CMS, powers almost 43% of the internet. Start by installing WordPress, selecting a free theme and adding essential plugins. This approach won’t cost you much; WordPress websites typically have low costs

An example of a WordPress website.
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WordPress gives you access to a massive range of free third-party plugins, so you can rest assured you’ll get a highly functional website up and ready, even if you do it yourself. 

Website builders

An example of a website made with a website builder.
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Website builders like Wix, Shopify and Squarespace offer an all-in-one bundle package with the essential components of a CMS. Naturally, this comes with a price. You typically get simplicity at the cost of flexibility — you don’t have the freedom of a large third-party marketplace. 

Website builders typically charge about $16-$500 monthly, depending on your desired features. If you want a business website or an online store, the enhanced features will cost you.

Besides that, consider the money you’ll lose in fees if you use the website builder’s payment processor — they typically take a chunk of transactions.  

Custom websites

This multiplayer browser game is a custom website.
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If you have a specific design in mind or unique functionalities your business relies on, employ a web designer or developer to build you a custom website. 

Web developers don’t use traditional website-building platforms, so limitless possibilities exist. However, even a basic custom website based on HTML can cost you above $5,000. 

Add in online shopping and other complicated systems, and you can imagine coughing up more than $15,000 in web designer costs. 

Only opt for a custom website if your business relies on implementing a unique functionality, and:

  • The function is not offered by website-building platforms.
  • The function cannot be replicated using add-ons for an open-source CMS.

Web hosting

You’ll usually need to choose a web host before consumers can see your website.

A hosting provider stores your website content on a data server. Whenever someone enters your website’s URL into their browser, the data server sends your website’s files to the browser, which constructs a visual webpage like you’re seeing now.

Custom websites and CMS websites both require a host. In contrast, website builders include hosting in their bundles, so the cost is factored into your subscription.

The web hosting costs vary depending on your requirements for storage and bandwidth. For a basic blog or a small business website, the most efficient pickup is shared web hosting — which means other people’s websites are hosted on the same server you’re on. This costs about $10 monthly. 

Still, most web hosting providers offer a 12-month plan for shared hosting, so you might have to pay an upfront sum of around $120. 

On the other hand, you’ll save up to 50% on shared web hosting for WordPress if you use Bluehost. This includes a free domain, a free SSL certificate and a free content delivery network.

Bluehost offers amazing discounts for long-term shared web hosting.
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Your website will use more resources as you accumulate add-ons on your website, and your web traffic increases. That calls for more robust infrastructure. Eventually, you’ll be suited to a dedicated hosting plan, which costs about $100-$350 monthly. 

If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out Bluehost’s dedicated hosting plans, which start at $90 per month.   

SSL certificate

Whether you want a hobby website or a full-blown eCommerce store, visitors need to feel safe navigating your website. That’s where SSL comes in.

An SSL certificate encrypts communication between the visitor’s web browser and your hosting server so a malicious agent can’t eavesdrop on the information exchange. 

If you’re running with a CMS website or a custom website, your SSL certificate will come from your web host. Most hosting providers offer an SSL for free if you sign up for their long-term plan, but some may charge extra for it. And after the first year of service, many providers start charging for the SSL. 

In contrast, Bluehost offers you a free SSL certificate for a lifetime. The service is called Let’s Encrypt, and setup is as easy as clicking a toggle.

How much does it cost to make a website — Bluehost offers free SSL via Let’s Encrypt.

Website builders typically offer a free SSL in their default bundle, so you don’t have to worry about SSL costs with them. 

Comparing essential costs for the first year of a website

WordPress Website builderCustom website
Domain name$10-$20$10-$20$10-$20
Website development$0$200-$6000$5,000-$15,000
Web hosting$120-$200$0$100-$350
SSL certificate$0$0$0

Website costs: Optional features

While the above essentials will help you create a basic website, you’ll likely need additional customization and functionalities to perform valuable tasks online. 

For example: If you want to sell products on your website, you’ll need to add eCommerce tools to your website. In contrast, an exclusive community website would do well with a paid membership plugin.

Let’s cover the optional features that extend your website’s functionality.  

Templates and themes

If you don’t opt for a web designer, you must DIY your website from the ground up. That sounds like a lot of work. The good news is that you’ll find templates and themes you can use, and they’ll give you a head start. 

Templates and themes customize the appearance of the website. As you create your homepage, landing pages, and information pages, simply look for themes befitting of a professional website. You can then personalize it with your brand’s colors and images.

If you’re making a WordPress site, you can access over 10,000 free and paid themes on the WordPress theme directory. Besides that, you can explore additional options by visiting marketplaces like ThemeForest

Free themes typically get the job done. But if you need additional functionality and premium support, you may want to spend $30-$100 per year on a premium theme.

The WordPress theme directory is home to nearly 11,000 themes.
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Website builders typically include themes in their bundle offers. However, you’ll have limited options. For instance: Wix offers roughly 800 templates, and Squarespace’s template browser comes up empty after around 110 templates. 

In contrast, a custom website isn’t limited by themes. If you hire an experienced designer, you can almost go for any design you can imagine. It shouldn’t cost extra since that’s what web designers offer: Creativity and customization. 

ECommerce tools

One-fifth of global retail sales will happen online in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence. If you’re a business owner, why wouldn’t you want a share of that pie? Well, you’ll need eCommerce functionality on your website. 

With WordPress, you can set up an online store using WooCommerce, a popular plugin. WooCommerce offers every common eCommerce feature, from product management to payment processing to shipping options. To get even more from a specific feature, use WooCommerce with a third-party plugin like USPS Shipping Method

USPS Shipping Method, a popular WooCommerce plugin.
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In contrast, website builders charge extra for even the most basic eCommerce functions like enabling online payments. That usually means subscription fees increase by 50%-200% compared to the basic plan.

What about a custom website? Well, that can be a messy can of worms. Creating an eCommerce platform from the ground up is often challenging for developers. Depending on the system you’re looking to construct, it could cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 and beyond.  

Performance add-ons

Whether you operate an eCommerce website or a blog focused on how-to guides, you will want your website to load fast. 

First, the load speed of your website is a ranking factor for Google and other search engines.

Google has made Core Web Vitals a major ranking factor.
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Second, Portent found that B2C eCommerce websites that load in one second have a 2.5 times higher conversion rate than those that load in five seconds. Slow websites lose out on sales.

With a WordPress website, you can improve performance by using caching plugins. There are both free and paid solutions. WP Rocket is often considered the best investment, costing about $50 per year. 

In contrast, website builders often offer content delivery network (CDN) service and caching support by default. However, you might not have room to troubleshoot if you’re struggling with a particular problem related to website slowdowns.

When it comes to custom websites, your performance should usually be acceptable from the start. After all, that’s one of the reasons why you go with a custom website — you can decide to use only the necessary web architecture. But if the website is slow, you can sign up for a CDN, for which you’ll be charged upwards of $20 monthly.  

SEO features

Search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t end at website load speed. You can draw a lot more traffic to your website by carefully adjusting its content and structure. For example, to customize how your page appears in the search results, you can edit metadata and add schema markup to your webpages.

If that sounds complicated, then you’ll need SEO feature add-ons that simplify the process and enable features that get your website seen.

The WordPress marketplace offers loads of third-party plugins that help with SEO. Yoast SEO is a free plugin, yet an industry standard. Use it to manage both on-page and technical SEO with features like SEO analysis, scheme support, metadata edits and sitemap creation. You can optionally pay $99 annually to get additional features.

Yoast SEO is both a free plugin and a premium plugin. It’s your choice.
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Website builders offer almost all basic SEO features for free, but you’ll find options lacking when it comes to advanced SEO. That’s because website builders don’t allow you to edit or customize as deeply as possible in WordPress or another CMS. 

Custom website SEO varies by tech stack. For example, Next.js websites typically fare well since Next.js offers server-side rendering, metadata management and lazy loading of images. But even then, it’s hard to beat the flexibility of WordPress SEO plugins

Security add-ons

What if you want security features for your websites — including backups, malware scans and robust firewalls?

Website builders typically offer basic security features in their packages. That can be somewhat limiting because it doesn’t come with the level of control and customization you need to implement additional security measures. For instance, you can’t access the host server to install the automation program of your choice. 

With WordPress, you can use plugins to extend your security functionality and get services like daily remote backups and web application firewalls. Free plugins typically perform well, but you can also invest in a premium plugin like Jetpack — particularly if you’re creating a website for a large eCommerce brand. 

Jetpack plugin — WordPress security plugin.
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In the case of a custom website, you won’t have dedicated plugins and extensions per se. Instead, have your web developers follow secure coding practices to prevent common cyberattacks. 

Typically, the best way to ensure this is to opt for experienced developers with a portfolio of successful websites.   

With both a CMS website and a custom one, choose a web hosting provider that offers robust security for online stores

Customer support

Website builders offer customer support in their package deal, so you can contact them if a problem arises. 

In contrast, you don’t get similar support with WordPress since it’s open source. To compensate, WordPress boasts a large community with active forums where you’ll almost always find answers to your questions.

If you side with a WordPress-recommended host like Bluehost, a 24/7 support team will answer your questions as well, whether you’re a beginner or you’re advanced. If you need in-depth website design or digital marketing support, you can avail of Bluehost’s professional services.

In comparison, custom website maintenance costs are a lot higher. Even if problems arise years down the line, you’ll likely have to track down the same web developer and pay a few thousand to fix the issue. 

An even costlier solution would be hiring a freelancer or in-house developer to maintain your website consistently. 

Comparing total costs for the first year of a website

WordPress Website builderCustom website
Website essentials$130-$250$210-$6500$6,000-$16,000
Templates and themes$30-$100$0$0
Online store$0-$100$15-$400$4,000-$100,000
Performance add-ons$0-$100$0$0-$100
Security add-ons$0-$50$0$3,000
Customer support$0-100$0$3,000-$50,000
Total costs$160-$700$225-$6,900$16,000-$169,100

Final thoughts: How much does it cost to make a website in 2023?

Website costs vary from case to case. If you just want a basic website for your startup, you can incur yearly costs of less than $150. But as you add in more requirements, the costs accumulate as well. Not to mention, the expenses differ depending on the type of website and what you make it with. 

Need a cheat sheet? Here are the best ways to minimize your website development costs:

  • Opt for website builders if you prioritize ease of use and all-in-one solutions.
  • Go with WordPress if you want a scalable and flexible solution. 
  • Plan for a custom website if the WordPress plugin marketplace lacks a functionality or feature you vitally need. 

Bonus tip: WordPress is even more affordable if you opt for Bluehost, as you’ll enjoy discounts on hosting. 

Website costs: FAQs

How much does a website cost per month?

Monthly website costs vary from website to website. Depending on your method of making the website, you may need to pay for a web builder subscription, web hosting, premium plugins and associated services like content delivery networks. These monthly expenses typically total $10-$50.

What costs are associated with making a website?

Website development involves several costs; some are essential, and others are optional. Essential costs include a domain name ($10-$20 per year), website hosting ($10-$50 per month) and an SSL certificate. The optional costs include premium plugins and templates, add-ons for performance and security, eCommerce tools and customer support.

What’s the cheapest way to set up a website?

WordPress is open-source, making it the cheapest way to set up a full-featured website. Simply pair that with a domain name ($10-$20 per year) and a web host ($10 per month) that offers free SSL certificates. If you sign up with Bluehost, you can get hosting for as little as $2.95 per month with a free domain name for the first year. 

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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1 Comment

  1. A Better You by Twannetta Reply

    Fantastic blog! My company uses the WP BlueHost combination to host my website. The costs are manageable and I love the simplicity and speed of loading. I think it’s a great price point and product for my prospective customers to use when reviewing my content.

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