NewYork2008:What Should a Web Site Cost?

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One of the most vexing questions in any project is “What are appropriate costs for technology and labor?” This session will utilize anecdotal data and participant input to explore costing for different types of web sites, from simple “brochure-ware” sites to custom, database-backed applications and points in between.

Session Notes


Brochureware: $2 - $5,000 + Design Costs

Design: $200 -$5,000

Small Nonprofit - No more than $10,000 for simple CMS site, no custom database/tools

  • Fancy site, interactive graphics, interactive tools: $25,000
  • Full custom web application: $125,000
  • CMS Choice: A well known CMS such as Joomla!, Plone, Drupal gives a wide community of support.

Hourly rates:

  • Friendly rate: $50 -$100
  • Standard rate: $150
  • High end, but questionable whether it is worth it: $300

Flat rate gigs- Can be a great way to get around the pain of hourly relationships. However, scope and deliverables mu st be clearly defined.

NEVER WRITE ANY CODE YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. Bend, adapt, compromise to allow yourself the ability to use standard tools. Custom tools can be a weight around your neck, with hidden costs down the line.

Aspiration- Rolled out their Drupal site via Float Left for $6,000, with $6,000 worth of upgrades over the years.

$80,000 - eCommerce, some database work, complete custom nightmare, eCommerce was getting hacked with cc #'s stolen. Nightmare. - $30,000 - $40,000 six years ago, with a lot of customization and databases.

Legal Aid Custom CMS- $5,000 - $15,000 yearly rate

Project Cost vs Hourly Cost- Justin has always found relationships to be happier when it's hourly. Allows the client to say "no" to a fancy widget, and allows the consultant to say "Ooh, we ran into something hairy." If you spec things out well, you can estimate costs and give a menu of options for the client to pick from.

If you know exactly what you want, it can be cheaper, but often it is worth it to pay a consultant to help organize and plan your website.

Radical Designs- Homegrown CMS named AMP, built specifically for grassroots organizing. Most small to mid-sized non-profits have very similar needs, which a standard AMP site accounts for. Standardization allows them to roll out sites for $8,000.

KINTERA IS EVIL. They vastly overcharge, and have aggressive, poor business practices.

  • $3- $5,000 for small sites
  • $7 - $12,000 for medium sites, with calendar, simple database work. etc
  • $150,000 custom job for State Agency

Drupal sites

  • $10,000 - $12,000 for medium sites
  • $2,000 - $4,000 Brochureware
  • $150,000
  • $75 hour, daily check ins
  • $25,000 - $35,000 budget to do a redesign.
  • $25,000 redesign budget.
  • $300,000 for custom database. 3 year project.

Six years ago paid $6,000 to build a custom CMS in ASP. Designer is also webmaster, all work done in-house.

  • $400,000 for an enterprise class site in Drupal.

Brickolage - Online Newspaper opensource software.

Gossamer Threads - Good Perl shop.

PHP - Drupal, Joomla!, and AMP are all PHP. PHP programmers and hosting are relatively easy to find, and often inexpensive. There is a wide range in skill among php programmers, so be sure to get references.

Python - Plone is Python based. Hosting and programmers are harder to find, and often more expensive. However, the level of competency is usually high.


  • For hourly rates- Ask consultant to give a sample invoice from a previous site (client's name removed), to see how they do line item breakdown.
  • When picking a CMS, you are also picking a programming language.