By Lexie Lu

The world is highly digital today. Everywhere you go, people are on a mobile device, browsing the internet on their laptops while watching television at night or checking reviews on a product. A business website seems like a must-have.

A business website is one of the top three tools used by small businesses, with about 51 percent of those surveyed saying they had a site as part of their marketing strategy. Even though a website is a fundamental marketing tool, there are a few costs you should be aware of. Some are obvious, such as hosting fees, but some aren’t as readily evident.

1. Domain Name Registration

The cost of hosting and registering your domain name are two separate things. Registrars such as GoDaddy, Namecheap and Register sell the domain name to you for a set amount of time. Costs vary, and you can occasionally find coupons, but expect to pay around $15.00/year after the first year for domain registration and ICANN fees.

Keep in mind, too, that you may need to have more than one domain name. For example, if your business is, you might also want to register for Try to think of the different ways people might type in your name if they’re looking for you specifically, and register for the name combinations you can afford, pointing additional names to your main site.

2. Customized Theme

If you want your business to stand out, you’ll need a customized theme that matches the personality of your brand and ties into your brand colors. While you might be able to find a layout that works for your website, you’ll still want custom features so that it doesn’t look cookie-cutter. Your site should be unique from all the similar sites out there.

Bohemian Traders uses a basic layout like you’ve seen on a lot of different websites. However, the use of the big hero image of a model wearing their clothes sets the site apart and gives it a unique look. They also use their color palette that ties into the other images on the page. The layout of the site remains the same, but the colors and photos change from season to season.

3. Audience Research

If you want to connect with your audience, you must do ongoing research, especially for an e-commerce site. The better you understand your target audience, the better you can adjust your UX toward them. For example, Generation Z wants a social connection, so your website should include some component of social interaction if this is the audience you’d like to reach.

Split testing is one of the best ways of figuring out what works with your audience. A number of services will allow you to conduct A/B testing, and the amount you spend varies on how many elements you test and how frequently you test.

4. Animation and Special Features

Connecting with your audience requires an opportunity for engagement. For example, you might add some animation or make interactive objects stand out by adding slight animation that shows the user they need to click on the object. However, animation requires knowledge of specialized coding, so you’ll need to set aside enough of a budget to allow for some specialized features.

Angry Birds features some interactive elements on their page that engage the user. On the “Download Now” call to action button, when the user hovers, the arrow shifts from the left side to the right side. The moving arrow signals that the user should take action. The site also features other navigational animated features, such as the color of the background behind navigational text changing.

5. Email Service

Even though you have a website, you want a way to gather contact information from all the traffic that comes to your website. A mailing list is a necessity so that you can continue to reach out to your audience long after they leave your site. Factor into your costs the amount it takes to keep a mailing list updated. If you use a service such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp, you’ll have to pay a fee based on how many subscribers you have and how often you send out updates to them.

You also need a means of enticing users to sign up for your list, so you may need to hire someone to write a free guide or book to offer someone in exchange for their email addresses.

6. E-commerce Features

Adding features to your online shopping cart costs money, but how much depends on the features and who you hire to do the work. Plan for changes in your e-commerce structure as your business grows too. What works when you first start your website may not scale well as business and traffic to your site increase.

Bon Bon Bon uses a featured slider at the top of their landing page to show what’s currently on sale and the different things you can add to customize a box. The site calls for both ready-made boxes and the ability to build your box of chocolates. These unique features require some intricate back-end coding. Your regular web designer may not fully understand how to build a system that accepts the orders, in which case you’ll need to pay an expert for this part of the coding.

7. Bandwidth Overages

Most web hosting packages come with a set amount of bandwidth. If your site starts to see a lot of traffic, you may need to invest in more bandwidth or upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server. Your hosting company can answer specifics about how much traffic triggers a required upgrade.

Hidden Website Costs

There are a number of hidden costs you might not think of when you’re building a business website. Not only are there the costs listed above, but you’ll also want to advertise your website and tie it into social media platforms. It’s also a bit difficult to measure the return on investment from your site unless you run an e-commerce store. However, people expect your business to have an online presence today, so plan for the costs and move forward with your online presence.

Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

Website stock photo by garagestock/Shutterstock