The Hidden Costs of a Cheap Website


As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to save money, but there are times where cost-cutting can come back to bite you.

We all know the expression “you get what you pay for.” This is particularly true with websites. Often, your attempts to save a few bucks on one end will wind up costing you more on the other.

What kinds of costs am I talking about?

It could range from small things like needing to pay a freelancer to make every minor update — to big things like getting stuck in an expensive contract that keeps your website itself as collateral. 

If you’re a business owner or marketer looking for a new website, you’re already at an information disadvantage, and a mistake can be costly.

Because I’ve been a website strategist for more than 10 years, I’ve got a good sense of what you need to know before you get tempted by a too-good-to-be-true cheap site (that’s got a ton of hidden costs associated with it.)

Let’s dive in.

How a business gets a new website

No matter your size of your industry, if you’re looking for a new website, have three real options for how to get it:

  • Use a template-based website builder like Sqarespace or Wix. This is the quickest and the cheapest of your options. You can get up and running in a few hours. 
  • Use a freelancer. This is second-cheapest, depending on the size of your project, the number of freelancers you work with, and other factors.
  • Use a web design agency. This is typically the most costly and the most involved, and makes the most sense for teams with larger sites and more complex needs. 

(For a full rundown of what you can expect to spend on a new website you can check out this article: How Much Does a Website Redesign Cost?)

The process looks a little different depending on which option you’re going with, but there’s generally a planning and strategy phase, a edesign and development phase, and the launch and data gathering phase.  

Unless you’re going the Squarespace route, the whole process usually takes months. And most businesses plan on their new website lasting them at least a few years.

4 hidden costs of a cheap website 

So how does that cheap website hurt you in the long run? Just like cheap shoes, cheap furniture, and cheap food, some of the effects are immediate and some emerge over time. Here are a few ways — but know that this is not an exhaustive list. 

1. You’ll pay to make updates — even minor ones

Your business changes all the time. New team members, new products, new locations. What happens if you change your hours — but it’s not reflected on your website? What if your old pricing is still up on your site?

An outdated website is a liability. Often, cheap websites are hard to update, which means you’re calling up a freelancer or paying your old agency to do minor upkeep. This adds up quickly.

2. You’ll get stuck in long-term agency retainers

Often, agencies will tell you that you’ll have to keep them on a retainer indefinitely to keep the site up and running. 

In some cases, agencies build sites on their own proprietary frameworks, and you end up leasing that framework from them month after month, year after year. This means, in essence, that they own your site, and it can be very hard to extricate yourself. 

3. You’ll be forced to double down on guesswork

Gathering visitor data is expensive and time consuming. So most website designers skip it. They rely on a whole lot of guesswork, then, when the new site launches, pretty much hand over the keys to the client and move on to their next project. 

But when you ignore user data, it’s difficult to build a site that best serves their needs. That means more bounces, fewer conversions, and less revenue — and probably another costly redesign in your future just to try and get it right again.

4. You’ll be losing money the longer you go without a strategy

The greatest cost of a cheap website is the time you spend without a better site. If you spend months or years with a site that’s not really built for your unique needs, you’re leaving money on the table at every turn. 

Questions to ask your web designer

Whatever route you go, asking the right questions is vital to avoiding buyer’s remorse. For example,

  • What are the ongoing costs associated with your process?
  • Will you teach my team how to do updates?
  • What happens after the new site launches?
  • Will you gather user data after launch?
  • What do you know about my industry and customers?
  • What outside tool costs should I be aware of? 

The more you know ahead of time, the better you’ll be able to make sure you don’t get stuck with a cheap site that’s actually expensive.

The website your business needs — and your customers want

I was talking to a business owner last week who spent $108K on a new website last year. That’s a lot of money. Now, less than 12 months later, she has to have the entire thing redesigned and relaunched. She might as well have lit that money on fire. At least it would have meant fewer headaches. 

How did things go so wrong? The company that built the site did it in such a way that the company couldn’t actually edit anything. They were stuck in a proprietary framework that no one else was allowed to update.

That was a painful lesson that will set her business back years. But it didn’t have to be that way. 

Look, websites are costly. But they’re an investment in your future. The best websites are round-the-clock salespeople that attract visitors and convert leads all day every day. The worst ones are money pits that cause endless frustration.

And while I’m arguing against skimping on your site, I also don’t want you to spend more than you should. Remember, spending more does not always mean you’re going to get more. 

Do what you can to educate yourself beforehand. Talk to experts and see what they have to say. Do your homework so you can ask for what you really need.

If you need help, reach out to the team at IMPACT. We offer a web design approach that’s all about building the site you need — and then training your team to use it. 

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