Custom website development costs can be hard to figure out. A website cost estimator would be nice, but to our knowledge, it doesn’t exist.

Don’t despair about the cost of custom website development. We build effective websites using WordPress, and we can help you understand and determine your costs.

In this post, we will describe the factors that influence WordPress website development costs.

Generally speaking, custom website development costs fall into three large buckets

  1. Functional requirements
  2. Design requirements
  3. Content entry

With this information, you will be prepared to manage your next WordPress website’s budget.

Functional Requirements are the Primary Cost Drivers

To figure out your functional requirements, ask yourself, what does the site need to do? This is an onion question. It seems simple on the surface, but there are many layers.

What needs to be under the hood of your website? Are there third-party integrations? Some integrations are simple, like connecting a form to MailChimp. However, others can get quite complex, like deep integration with Marketo or HubSpot.

Planning for all of your integrations will save you time and money. For example, we’ve seen that job listing resources are a third-party integration that often comes in at the last moment, and it can lead to overspending your budget.

“Oh by the way, Human Resources wants us to post job listings on the site. They, ‘HR,’ use software we’ve never heard of to manage job listings. Can this be done before tomorrow’s launch?”

Make sure that you think ahead and plan for all of the functionality your site will need, or you’ll hurt your budget and your timeline.

The easiest way to control website development costs is to plan for them in the beginning, and by being careful about the third parties you select. Is an API offered that can make things easier, and is it well documented? Are there already WordPress plugins available for the third party? Do the plugins function as required by the site? Never assume that integrations will be simple.

Major functionalities including e-commerce, event management, listings, and store locators will impact WordPress website costs. Even when existing plugins are used, setting up them up requires work. Styling the output requires work. This is especially true if the designer hasn’t reviewed the plugin and based their design on its natural output (more on this below). The more sophisticated the plugin, the more work it will require.

Consider how content will be managed on the site. Said another way, how will the pages function?

The following are questions you might want to consider for your custom website development project:

  • Will the content be published in multiple locations? For example, will post excerpts and featured images be used on the home page, the archive page, and elsewhere?
  • Will custom post types be required for content? If so, how many?
  • Will custom taxonomy be required?
  • Are filtering and sorting needed?
  • How will press releases and press notifications be handled?
  • Does the site need a search function? And, does the search need to be superior to the WordPress default?

When you’ve jotted down these answers, ask yourself if this piece of functionality is really needed. Does this bit of content manipulation support the website’s primary objective? If not, save yourself time and money and don’t use it.

Mobile Responsive or Mobile Adaptive

Custom Website Development Costs - Tahoe DesktopCustom Website Development Costs - Tahoe Mobile

Here’s another essential question: is the site mobile responsive or mobile adaptive? They aren’t the same, and each has a different objective and price tag.

An adaptive site changes the content and often the functionality for mobile devices. This can lead to superior user experience for people visiting your site on a mobile device, so it may well be worth the investment. However, adaptive sites are more expensive to build.

A simple example of an adaptive technique is the ability to control how images are displayed on mobile devices.

In a responsive site, an image with a horizontal aspect ratio will either be shrunk or cropped to fit a mobile device. An adaptive site allows you to add two images, one with the horizontal aspect ration for desktop and another image that’s been cropped to an aspect ratio appropriate for mobile devices. Then WordPress uses the appropriate image depending on the device being used to view the site.

Virtually anything is possible with enough time and budget. The question is, what fits your needs and constraints?

Design Requirements also Impact Costs

First, let’s talk about templates. Templates are the underpinning of a WordPress site and are used to control content layout and page-specific functionality. If each page of a ten-page site has a different layout or functional requirements, it will cost more to build than a thirty-page site that uses five layouts.

Even if the layout is the same, if the page requires different functionality, it’s a new template. For example, if you have two pages in the design with the same layout, but one page pulls content from a custom post type and the other page uses its own content editing options, there are two templates. The number and complexity of these templates drive custom website development costs.

Design Factors that Influence Custom Website Website Costs

Custom Website Development Cost- Is the juice worth the squeeze?

An effective custom website design needs to consider the default layouts and screen flows of any plugins that will be used. We can certainly customize how a plugin displays content, and in many situations, we can also adjust screen flow. But ask yourself: is the juice worth the squeeze? We frequently see designs that depart from the default plugin flow for no apparent reason. A successful plugin is built to satisfy the majority of users, and that’s why it’s successful. Is your site really so different?

Animation, a common design element, can also impact WordPress website development costs. Parallax scrolling is similar to animation and is cool, but it doesn’t happen automagically. It’s also impossible to show exactly how you want it to function in a mock-up, which means you will have to budget for more back and forth. “Would you please speed the shift up a bit?” Exactly how much is “a bit?” And animation is not the same as parallax scrolling. Designs that include either technique or both at the same time will cost more to build.

Retina is another design choice that can impact custom website development costs. Including the option to serve images to retina devices is possible, but it will increase your costs. Does your engineering audience use retina devices to access the site? If not, you may not need this option.

Designers love to use big screens, and a retina image on a retina display is awesome, but what happens when the site is viewed using a small laptop? Designers would be well served if they tested their designs on multiple screens and viewport sizes. If not, when the client views the site on their laptop or phone, the layouts will need to change after the templates have been built, and this will hurt the budget.

The Cost of Content Entry is Often Underestimated

Content entry always takes more time and costs more than you think it will.


We don’t generally include content entry in our estimates. It’s just too hard to predict how much effort will be required, especially in the early stages before the site has been thought through. But don’t underestimate it. Content entry is a key driver of custom website development costs.

The cost can be mitigated through planning. The more buttoned up the content is before it’s added to the site, the more quickly it will all come together. Understand how long copy should be based on the design, and prepare the copy to fit. Understand images and how a responsive WordPress site will manage them. Prepare the images so they are the correct sizes before you start adding content to the site. Doing these things will save you time, and time is money, especially with content entry.

Plan to enter content after the second round of build revisions. When the site is built, and the developers are making tweaks to styling, it’s time to add content. But adding content while developers are working on templates is an invitation to delays and unnecessary expense. We understand that’s it’s hard to wait. Go for a walk. It will all go faster once the templates are built and the developer heavy lifting is done.

Some Custom Website Development Pricing Tools

The folks at Crew have a useful calculator for website pricing that will give you a sense for what custom website development will cost.

Another technique is to ask your development partner to show you other sites they’ve built and ask them to provide a budget range for each. Look for an example that comes close to your requirements. Neither suggestion is a custom website development cost estimator, but they will give you a real-world perspective on what the budget should be.

Call or email us. Give us a rundown of your requirements. We will be happy to discuss budget ranges and can provide examples of websites, both custom websites and semi-custom websites that we’ve built that fall into your budget range.