Why Are Custom Websites So Expensive?

Custom website expensive as a lamborgini

Are you shocked that a custom website costs more than $500?

In terms of establishing your online presence so that clients, potential clients, and referral sources can easily find out more about your solutions, your website is everything.

But new private practice therapists often suffer sticker shock when first exploring custom website options.

You may have believed that a custom website would cost a couple hundred to $500. If this is the case, investments of upwards of $3000 can leave you asking why are custom websites so expensive?

Why We Believe Websites Should Be Cheap

Before considering why websites are so expensive, we should also take a minute to consider why our expectations on what a fair investment into a custom website might be so low.

One reason is that we underestimate the value of design. Most people don’t realize that good design will position you as an expert at what you do, help you build trust with your website visitors, and allow you to harness the power of video and content marketing, two essentials in online marketing today.

Maybe we know that design is powerful but we believe we can DIY. The click and drag and drop and spin builder options make designing a website seem accessible.

But good design isn’t a result of tools. It makes about as much sense as someone saying, “of course your therapy clients are healing, you have a beautiful office.” As if that ficus tree and cozy couch could be responsible for the results your clients get from their time with you in the therapy room.

Good design is a result of strategy and experience. Good design provides real solutions to real problems. Good design is more than something pretty.

Another reason that we believe websites should be cheap is that we’re absolutely drowning in free and low cost products and services. The McDonalds’ of website design are here and they are serving cheap, tasty, addictive solutions that play into our need for things that are fast and thoughtless.

But are these solutions good for your private practice? Do these solutions perform on the same level as a custom website design?

Step 1 to understanding why custom websites are so expensive is understanding that we have some serious misconceptions about website design. We’ve been trained to undervalue the power of design, trained to be drawn to the fast and effortless options (even if they aren’t the best options), and trained to confuse having tools with having design skills. Let’s first untrain ourselves and second look into what’s really going on in website design.

The Custom Website Process is Deep

The money that is invested into a custom website goes into the following process:

1. Website Strategy

Website strategy includes everything from getting clear on who the audience of your website is to ensuring your website is effective at getting you clients.

Strategy may also include goal setting and mapping out systems to track performance. So what will your website achieve and how can we measure if it is being achieved?

Strategy is about building the foundation upon which everything else website will rest. A website strategy phase of a custom website build may include addressing the following questions:

  • What problems are in your practice that a website can help you solve?
  • Who are we designing for? Who is our target audience?
  • What would we like to invite our website visitors to do? What are our primary and secondary calls to action.
  • How can we make our website visitors more likely to do what we invite them to do?
  • What do we want to achieve and how will we measure success?

When it comes to website strategy, there is no pre-written guide on exactly what will work for you. Custom website processes usually include website strategy to ensure the most solid foundation possible is laid for the next phases.

In most website design processes, you will develop a creative brief with your designer, which is an official document outlining website strategy and sometimes design choices built around that strategy. Having these strategies down on paper help everyone stay on track.

2. Design

Measuring effective designWith a strong website strategy in place, website design is awesomely effective. Designers can then create a website experience that not only serves the website visitor in terms of hearing them and catering to their needs like intuitive menu design, not presenting too many choices, etc, a designer can also ensure your website is effective at getting you clients.

In the case of psychotherapy websites, designers need to be clear about the emotional state that a website visitor may be in when the arrive on the website. As a designer myself, in my projects, I’m asking how can design empathetically support our visitors towards hope?

So design choices when it comes to things like colors, layouts, images, and fonts are not simply a matter of what looks cool.

Design choices are made to solve the problems and meet the goals decided on earlier in your website strategy.

Design also includes a collaborative aspect to it. Most custom design packages will include revision cycles that allow you to review a designer’s work. This not only includes you in the process but also allows you the chance to bring insights about your clients into the process. It is invaluable to creating the best website for you.

3. Development

Website development is the code that is coded for you, and no one else.

If a designer is coding a solution for you from scratch, you can kinda think of it like purchasing software that is created uniquely around your strategy, with your design.

This process is just the process. It doesn’t include all of the awesome features or additional design services that may be needed for your unique project. Things like optin forms for building an email list, multiple unique page designs, or even more advanced websites that incorporate ecommerce or membership areas.

Some Custom Websites Include More Than Website Design

So strategy, design, and development are the essential steps taken in the majority of small business website design and build processes. However, there are many additional services that although they are complementary to website design, they are not website design itself. Examples of these services are:

  1. Branding package including a logo, graphics, or illustrations to  be used throughout your visuals identity online and offline.
  2. An image pack including the service of finding and suggesting images that align with your website strategy.
  3. Copy or content related services like copywriting, copy editing, or content review. This is sometimes included when you’re working with a small agency. If not, it’s recommended you hire a copywriter.
  4. SEO, or search engine optimization, services may be included in a package. SEO is more likely to be included at a higher price point and through small agencies where they have an SEO in-house.

When these services are included, they will drive up the price of your custom website. In many cases, things like SEO and copywriting will need to be provided through additional experts to your website designer.

A Custom Website Is Also About Accessing Expertise

There are plenty of free or even cheap resources out there to build your own website. You can “build a website in an hour” with a video on YouTube.

But one thing that a free YouTube tutorial does not give you is personalized, expert support and guidance.

I’ll draw from a personal experience to help demonstrate the difference. When I was in my early 20s, I really committed myself to healing my childhood sexual trauma. I went out and found all the books I could afford on sexual trauma. I read Courage to Heal, Father-Daughter Incest, and many more.

kat-love-books-not-on-on-oneAnd these books were cheap or free. I checked a lot of books out at my local library and for books I wanted to own, I even found some at second-hand bookstores which drove the price down even further.

Despite all of the free and cheap resources I was finding, I still sat with a therapist twice a week to do the work and process of healing.

Why? Because books are very general. Books don’t listen to your story. Books can’t have a discussion with you. Books can’t track your progress. Books can’t laugh at your jokes or empathize with your sadness. And some of these things are very necessary for healing.

Similarly when it comes to website design, you may be able to find a lot of cheap or free options. You may be able to “build a website in a day” with a free ebook or attend a course that teaches you “everything you need” to get up and running.

But just like a self-help book doesn’t replace one-on-one therapy, these free and cheap website design options are not a replacement for one-on-one expert guidance.

Because expertise has a big role in the results you’ll get out of your custom website, the price of custom website will increase along with the expertise of the designer. Here are a few things web designers do to become experts and maintain their expertise:

  1. Years of experience designing websites including how to solve complex design and website strategy problems
  2. Constantly tracking trends and tools
  3. Taking courses to expand their skill set
  4. Ability to manage the project with ease allowing you both to have a smooth project
  5. Maintains licenses to the best website and creative software for excellent result
  6. A psychotherapy website specialist will have an even further expertise in terms of being familiar with online marketing for therapists

And these are just a few of the ways that web designers can be experts at what they do. Similar to how therapists love their CEs and getting further training to be able to offer more to their clients, web designers can be just as ambitious at growing and maintaining their skills.

So Why Are Custom Websites So Expensive?

Custom websites are not expensive. If done wisely, the money that you invest into a custom website will save you time and make you money.

A custom website isn’t just about building something that is pretty. If that was the case, you could for sure just use some cheap or free premade template and squish yourself into it.

A custom website is about building something that is effective. The central benefit of making a custom website is making your private practice more successful. And according to your unique definition of success.

You will get a return on an investment into a custom website because the potential for marketing online successfully will be met or exceeded. 

This efficacy is only possible with in-depth, expert processes to get you there. Your website has the potential to be the most valuable asset to your marketing, but only if you invest a bit of thought, time, and money into it.

How Much Will My Custom Website Cost?

Cutting to the chase: probably $3,000 or more but it honestly really depends. For a more in-depth breakdown of the investments to be made, check out my blog post on what a custom website costs.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. You can also check out this thorough article about what websites costs (spoiler: they say $7,000 for small business website) and this article on what you should pay for a website (spoiler: they say at least several thousand for a small business website).

Explore Custom Website Prices For Yourself

The services and functionality that you need in order for a website to really work for your private practice is unique to your practice. So although you can gather generalities from a lot of corners of the web about what custom design will cost, you will need to do further research into your needs and make some inquiries with designers to get a clearer picture.

What services and features do you need? Which ones are listed to be a part of a custom website package? What value is being included by various providers?

Also, do you need all of the services and features today? Is there a way to start out smaller and add as you go along?

If you’re ready to start a project, you may wish to take it further and get an estimate or project proposal from multiple designers. Compare and contrast what you’d receive in each project. Be sure to take a designer’s portfolio and testimonials into consideration as well. Do the websites that the designer made fulfill their promises?

What do you think? Do you believe that custom websites are expensive or a solid investment you’d want to make to provide the best experience possible to your website visitors? I’d love to know what you think. You can reach out to me or tweet me anytime.

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. Pronouns: they/them/their