There are variations to this question. For example: How much does it cost to build a Social Networking site, a Dating Site, a car sales site, a mobile phone exchange site? People used to ask about websites to sell their products and their services locally but now, they want to know how to build a Social Networking site, be the next eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Real Estate site, etc.
These type of questions should be distinguished from questions asked by people who have a business, a service or a product and they need a website to sell them. This question in particular is when the Website itself IS the sole revenue-generating asset of the business.
If you were wondering yourself, and you've gone through the trouble of asking for estimates, you're probably puzzled as to why one developer says, "I can do it for you for under $5000" while another says, "we can do it for no less than $15000". We, at Oranges and Lime, do both!
You scratch your head and wonder why such a big difference. If you're like most clients who contact us, then perhaps no one has bothered, or has been able to explain to you what I am about to.
The difference is basically how much the developer is going to code on their own, or with their team, solely for your own project.
If a developer offers to develop your website for under $5000, this would usually indicate to me that they are going to use an Open Source Content Management System like Joomla or Wordpress and then use extensions, plug-ins or template solutions developed by other developers from whom they license the software.
If a developer offers to develop your website for nothing less than say $10000 to $40000 then that would tell me they are intending to use a framework or a Content Management System like Drupal, where they would develop a functionally and aesthetically-customised website for you.
If a developer offers to develop your website for nothing less than $50000, then this tells me that that developer is likely to develop the website with a team of various skills and code your website from scratch.
It doesn't mean to say that the more expensive solution is technically better because a website that may have costed $50000 may not be functionally better than that made under $10000. Some estimates suggest that to develop Joomla, would have taken upwards of millions of dollars if they were to compensate the contributions made by the community for their hours. As to which is best for a client is a complex decision and requires consideration of many items.
The more generic your code is, the more your website is the same with your competitors. What is your advantage? Why should investors and partners do business with you and not your competitors?
Uniqueness and your ability as a business owner to customise your website to suit your users' needs are going to be a big part of your success. It is this uniqueness that investors would pay for, why your partners would go with you and why your customers may want to use your website.
To be unique, you need to develop something that others do not have. You need people to code them from scratch. If you pay them, you do it on the condition that you will own the code, or at least that it is clear which code is yours and which is open source or licensed from another entity.
This is the reason for most of the price difference that you are getting when you are asking for a quote. The cheaper the quote is, the more generic and templated that code is, the less of it you actually own.
Here is a quick chart that I sketched on my phone while quickly drafting this article:
At Oranges and Lime, we have made many websites and we offer all types of solutions. Obviously, most clients go for the $5,000, a few go for the $10,000 plus but we have not secured a $50,000 plus project yet. We came close but it didn't happen. Oh well.
If you have questions about your particular project though, fill out an Enquiry Form at Oranges and Lime.