The Nitty Gritty of Website Design Costs

Website costs for design, hosting, and maintenance vary widely and mine are among the most affordable. The basic charge is $500 for initial design and setup. This can be so low because I limit my design work to simple and sturdy websites that are also attractive.

The $500 Package includes a clean simple website with individualized type and colors that presents everything people need to know to understand who you are and what you do and how to contact you. This involves a lot of under the hood stuff that is itemized below.

The basic package doesn’t include searching for photographs, making videos, streaming movies, slide shows, or musical score composition. As you may have already guessed from reading the front page and visiting other websites I’ve designed, I don’t think they are necessary unless you happen to be a videographer or musician, and often just a distraction. They are complex or take a lot of time so they are also expensive.

The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How Much


I do the website design myself and consult with other professionals when necessary.  I’ve been designing websites since 1995. I have an MFA degree in painting and printmaking and taught at SUNY Empire State for 25 years. In addition to being a designer, I am a writer with publications in education, governance, literary criticism, and more (as they say). In addition to designing , I enjoy writing and editing text for websites and have a diverse background that allows me to write about many subjects.


I will use WordPress to design a website with 3-5 pages of information, and if you desire, set up a simple blog or newsletter using the features included in WordPress and its primary plug-in, JetPack. There are more complex programs available but you probably won’t need them if this is your first site. I can provide additional services at additional charge, including using plug-ins to connect your site to Constant Contact, PayPal, and other service providers. I charge $40 an hour and will give you an estimate of the time required.


I live in Washington DC but location is not an issue when working on the Internet. Timezones are also not a problem because either of us can respond to email on our own schedules. I much prefer working by email. It avoids time zone issues, provides a written record of agreements, and allows each of us to sort out our thoughts clearly before sending them to the other person.

I can host your site on my account, set up an account for you, or work on your current account if you have one. If I host your site on my server, there will be an ongoing charge for maintenance and hosting, and you will have less access to the site to modify it yourself. If you don’t plan to do any work on the site, this is a good option for you because sites do need regular maintenance. In any case, you will own your domain name.

I have chosen Bluehost as my Internet Service Provider (ISP) because they provide excellent service,  clear instructions and controls, and excellent support. They are also the most cost effective because they offer a huge range of options and have far fewer add-on costs than other ISPs. BlueHost is routinely listed as one of the top providers in reviews and rankings of ISPs, particularly for WordPress websites. Thus I prefer to work with Bluehost.

If you already have a website on another server, I will consider working with your ISP. I would have to look at their “back end” to see how intuitive it is. I don’t want to start a site for you if I don’t understand their system—it takes too much time and I would have to charge additional fees.


It usually takes a month to complete a website because I need to work with you on ideas and content. I like to work in “real time,” however, so I put up the site right away and then develop the design. This means the design would be immediately available but the design would change as the site develops. If this is a new site, you won’t have visitors yet so only you and I would see the changes. If you are uncomfortable with a publicly changing site, I can develop the site offline and move it when it is completed.


The Why of having a website is that I believe everyone who is doing anything they want people to know about should have a website. A website not only brings you recognition and business, it gives you credibility. The Why of the low charges is simple: Most people don’t need a $3,000 website, which is the price most designers start with. By limiting the software I use to WordPress and designing text and image based sites I can work for a much lower fee, still enjoy my work, and be of service to you. For information on WordPress see the WordPress About Page or the more technical Wikipedia Page on WordPress.

WordPress is also easy to learn so you can maintain the site yourself with minimal training. There are good books available and training videos on

How Much?

Very cheap.

  • Basic Package: $500
  • Subsequent Design Work, Changes, and Other Services: $40 an hour.
  • Ongoing Maintenance is variable depending on how often you update your content and the amount of traffic. The minimum is $25 to check for program and plug-ing updates, routine link checking, and email troubleshooting.
  • Hosting the site for you or maintaing the site on your ISP on an ongoing basis is

What Is Included?


A functioning WordPress website with 3-4 pages of information and a blog or newsletter. This includes a search engine, a subscription service, up to 5 email addresses, and the plug-ins listed below. An online log of accounts, passwords, plug-ins—the information required for someone else to begin maintaining the site.

Search Engine Registration

Registration and confirmation with major search engines Google and Bing, and with Alexa, a website tracking service.

SEO Optimization

A website is of little value if no one can find it. SEO means “search engine optimization.” I use what I and many others think is the best SEO program on the Web: WordPress SEO Plugin by Joost “Yoast” de Valk. It provides the features needed by search engines to properly classify your site so it drifts to the top of searches when appropriate.

It is also possible to have a private site that is not listed with search engines. Organizations often have these for members only. Or you may want a special site for your clients.


I use Slimstat which provides complex statistics on visitors: what countries they are from, what browsers they use, how long they stay, what words they searched to find you, which pages they visit, etc. It graphs the number of visitors each day in the current month compared to other months and other years. This is on the back end of your website. I also set up Google Analytics which you can consult yourself more easily, perhaps.


WordPress is constantly improving its own security and will upgrade your site whenever a security improvement is developed. I also use Better WP Security which one of the best security plug-ins and provides a wide range of protections. In addition it allows you to choose the level of protection desired. This is important because security is two-edged sword. It is very easy to build in so much security you easily lock yourself and your legitimate visitors out.

Backup and Repair

WordPress is a database in which each page is a record. This allows the records to be searched and sorted in an infinite number of ways. WP-DBManager backs up, optimizes, and repairs the database files on specified schedule. These back ups can be stored on the server or emailed to you and used to restore the site if necessary.

Protection from Spammers and Sploggers

I use WangGuard to protect the site from identified spammers  and sploggers. It will mark them for you to delete or automatically delete them from your subscriber list. Spammers and sploggers can do various things to overload your website by using it for their own activities. Your site could also be blacklisted as a spammer if it continues. This is a free plug-in until you have more than 500 registrations a day.

Broken Link Notification

Broken Link Checker will check all the links on your site at specified intervals (every 3 days, a week, etc.). If they are not working. It will notify you. Broken links are very frustrating to users and indicate that the site is not being maintained. Visitors who find broken links are less likely to return.

Tags and Categories

Suggested lists of appropriate tags and categories—those that most people use to find services similar to yours. Categories are like subject headings and tags like keywords or items in an index. They are useful for directing readers to information when you have a site with multiple pages and posts. I use Ninja Pages, Categories and Tags to extend their use to pages and the Ultimate Tag Cloud Widget to show tags in appropriate colors and sizes.


If  you allow comments on your site, you will need Akismet which protects you from spam and from hidden content in messages. There is a charge for using Akismet on business sites but not on personal sites.


There are thousands of other plugins for particular uses. Those listed here are the ones that make the site sturdy and maximize functioning and use. We can discuss which other plug-ins you might need. Depending on the plug-in, charges for installing them might require an hourly fee because it sometimes requires trouble-shooting conflicts.

I do not negotiate the fee for the basic package. $500 is a set price for the services listed. If you decide you don’t want Akismet or WangGuard, the fee is still $500. Payment must be submitted before I start work, though we will discuss what you want and need before we agree to work together. 

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