Hidden costs of commercial website development

Let’s start with the obvious statement – creating a full-fledged commercial website is a complex task, and typically it’s not cheap. Of course, there are many alternatives, like template platforms, and ready-to-use solutions. We don’t deny the utility of such systems, we only want to insist, that a well-set business requires a website with a uniquely customized system. We have presented arguments in favor of this in our other article

Let’s look at the situation from a business point of view. Typically, when you hire a digital agency/development company, after discussion and the analysis stage, you will be told an approximate price of the project. This article is for everyone who understands, how important the quality representation of products or services is, but doesn’t understand the pricing in the IT industry. Because at the moment, when the project price is announced, it raises a lot of questions. We want to explain, what pricing factors are, and, eventually, what are you paying for. Consider the whole process according to the scheme of web development stages.

Analysis and prospecting

The project starts with a proper gathering of all the necessary information, requirement, customers’ demands, and wishes. Then the information is compiled into a solid idea or concept and transformed into a realization plan. 

In this article, we will describe the process on the example of an e-commerce website with a middle-sized product catalog. In that case, the prospecting stage consists not only of questions about the number of columns in the catalog, or about the color scheme the customer wants. The big part of the first stage is marketing research. It’s not really a “hidden” cost, but many don’t always understand why to conduct such an in-depth study and spend a tangible amount of money even before the start of website development. But the answer is obvious. 

If you have an offline store, you always know what other stores you have neighboring yours. You know where is your nearest competitor located, you may even know the competitor’s assortment of goods. And the most inquisitive ones also try to analyze how well the competitor’s sales are doing. So, why won’t you do the exact same things while preparing for the development of the online version of your business? 

You may read a detailed article about the importance of proper marketing research in the first stages of the web development process in our blog. But now, we will briefly describe the key reasons why market research is essential.

As been said – you need to know your competitors. But if on the street you can just walk and take a look, it’s a bit more complicated on the Internet. There, your competitors could be, potentially, anywhere. It’s crucial to find and take a look at the websites of the most successful ones. What for? At least check prices and adjust your pricing policy. But in the context of web development, you need to compare your vision with reality. The proper market research could help to identify, what functions, elements, visual features, or sections are the most suitable for your products or services. And then, you can laconically combine your ideas, fashionable trends, and the most useful features into a high-quality website, which will provide the best experience for your customers

Furthermore, by analyzing your competitors’ websites and resources, you can see what features don’t work, and what mistakes to avoid. With help of hired specialists, you will know what things should be done from the very beginning, instead of fixing them after the fact (which means spending additional resources and money). Again, marketing research as a part of the Analysis stage is a “hidden” cost in the sense, that either you spend money for it from the beginning and, eventually, will make everything in the best way; or, neglecting MR, you will face the mistakes, which could be avoided otherwise. Of course, you have to take into account the costs of the marketers’ services.

And a couple of trivial things more. Analysis requires the proper measurement tools. Hence, keep in mind the potential expenses for purchasing the various analytic reports regarding your type of business, industry overviews, and access to insights.


At this stage, all the gathered information turns into concepts and drafts of the website. There are not much of hidden costs, except the wages of the marketing team, which will take a part in this stage. Because, while planning the structure of your system, architecture, and navigation of your website, you should implement all the findings and conclusions of the marketing research. The structure of your website should favor your marketing strategy and lead your customer through the planned path. Hence, the expenses on marketers will be extended here as well. 


The main expense at this stage is pretty obvious – the designer’s wage. But there are always a bunch of little things, you should remember about, which costs could make a round sum. For example, purchasing a template for the website design or theme for ready-to-use solutions, if you choose this option. Also, a substantial amount of money could be spent on the various graphic content with your corporate design. Starting from the logo, the style of website elements, and email templates, up to separate graphic files for decorating your social media accounts. All these materials cost money and should be taken into account as a separate part of the designer’s work. 

Check out our article about brand design: why it is important to have one, and how well-set corporate design will benefit your business.

Also, don’t forget about expenses on licensed media content you will use for your website. Of course, you can get by with free content, but high-quality licensed photo, video, and graphic content looks better and could spare you from the problems with copyrights. The alternative to such expenses could be creating your original content, which means you have to find a camera, buy editing software, or hire a specialist. Not to mention, if we’re talking about e-commerce websites, you will need pictures and videos of your products or services. Again, either you will find some stock photos, or you should make them by yourself.  

Last part of the visual design and also, the marketing component of your website – text blocks. Slogans, product descriptions, text content on the pages, blog, “About us” section, etc. Doubtful, that you will cope with it personally. Hence, you will delegate it to some of your employees or will hire a copywriter. In both cases, it’s an additional expense. 


We once talked about the average prices and distribution of expenses for the development stage in another article. The development stage consumes up to 60% of the whole budget. Mainly because of the devs’ wages and long process duration. The cost of development depends on the amount of code, which devs have to write directly, depends on the functionality you choose. 

Speaking of the online store, there is always a list of the required features. Unlike the landing page, which could be just text with pictures or video, an e-commerce website won’t work without a basket, payment gateways, order checkout, adequate CMS, reviews, customer support chat, etc. You can peep the list of necessary features on the competitor’s site. But better to understand what you are doing and create features based on analysis, not just mindlessly copying your competitors.

Online store implies purchases and transactions. This requires well-set payment services and strong security measures. All these features should be codded, which means more hours (in comparison with the info site) for the developer, and higher expenses. When planning development costs based on the findings of the hired agency, keep in mind the possible need for additional development and improvements. Hence, notionally add 20-25% of the costs


The testing and fixing stage is at least 15% of the time, spent during the development. Except for the obvious expenses, like the wage of a QA specialist, a big chunk of money would be spent again on developers’ work. These costs seem to be not “hidden”, but, frankly, many often forget about this huge part of work, while thinking they are paying devs only for writing the code. There could be not so much to fix, maybe 1-2 issues for a week, during the testing. But if collect all the time devs spent on fixing, it could be, as we already stated, up to 20% of costs, spent at the Development stage

After launch

This stage could be divided into two parts – technical and marketing. The technical part is maintenance and tech support. We devoted an entire article to this recently. It’s about web and mobile apps, but, eventually, all web resources have a similar list of maintenance expenses. There are not so many hidden costs here. 

If your company didn’t have any online representation before you decided to create a website, you will need an additional employee to take care of the content on your site. To contact a development agency regarding any technical issues, for customer support and social networks

The marketing side is a bit more complex. As an agency of full-cycle development, we, at Code Harbor, dealt with the after-launch issues not only regarding support but also regarding business digitalization and setting up processes through the new system. We are talking about setting up purchase funnels, writing selling scrips and email marketing tools, and setting up an SEO for the fresh website. Selling products with a bright showcase, creative ads in magazines, and by the phone drastically differs from online selling. Not to mention, the online store has dozens of tech details, which help your site sell, and help to be found by the user. Of course, a smart modern user could figure out how things work, but most likely you have a business to run. So, you won’t have time for that and will delegate this work to specialists. 

In the end, the “hidden” costs of the development process aren’t so hidden. The idea we want to convey is that there are lots and lots of tiny details, that usually are not discussed during the initial briefings and pitches. You, as an owner of the business, always have a lot of things to think about, and keep in mind all the little things are difficult. But if you aren’t aware of them, as a result, the additional spending on these little things could at least surprise you. 

At Code Harbor, we aimed to take into account every detail and not only keep you informed about these expenses but do our best to optimize and reduce the additional costs. Based on our experience, we carefully calculate all possible additional costs and mitigate them by budgeting fair margins and estimating the terms and cost of the project, taking into account everything we mentioned above. 

Learn about our latest full-cycle development projects here. We believe that implemented projects better describe our expertise than words. If you need advice regarding the estimated price of your future project, visit our homepage, set up a free 45-minutes consultation call, and let’s discuss! We will be glad to help!