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January 3, 2023

 mins to read

Web Design Agency Pricing Explained

If you addressed three different design service vendors with one and the same project, you’d probably get three different offers with different quotes. Just take a look at the search results for a “web design agencies” request at Clutch, a ratings and reviews platform for IT providers (and these are only 6 first results out of 57,910 available).

web design agency pricing list 2023

The wide range in web design agency pricing can confuse and make you uncertain about which firm to partner with. 

Being a SaaS product design agency ourselves, we understand the challenge clients face when they have to make the decision taking into account both their budget and the quality of work they want to receive. At the same time, we understand why prices differ so much: the type of services offered, the team composition you get, the tools and technologies that an agency uses, the location they are based in, and more.

That’s why, in this article, we want to discuss the most common pricing models used by different web design agencies, their pros and cons, and who each type of pricing suits best.

Before we talk about web agency pricing, let’s figure out what types of agencies can build you a web app, and what their offers include.

Common types of design agencies and what they charge for

Hiring an agency is probably the best option you can choose when looking for a design partner as it gives you the whole package. And there’s a great variety of agencies that offer design services for all kinds of needs. But here we’ll talk about three of them that businesses commonly hire when they need help with web design.

UI/UX design agency

UI/UX design agency is responsible for creating websites, and mobile and web applications with smooth user experience and intuitive user interface. Some of them also offer help with marketing (pitch decks, social media ads) and branding materials (logos, visual identities).

Their main focus is how users interact with various products, services, and websites, thus they pay special attention to the user and market research in their design process. The goal of UI/UX designers is to create products that are functional, simple to use, and pleasant to interact with.

The team you get

  • UI designer 
  • UX designer
  • UX researcher
  • Project manager
  • Graphic Designers
  • Front-end developer

Specifications they may deliver

  • UI/UX design
  • UX research
  • UX audit
  • Prototyping
  • Design system
  • Front-end development
  • Additional (branding, building marketing strategy, and so on.)

UI/UX design agencies partner with both established and small businesses from various industries. However, mind that in most cases this type of agency doesn’t provide development services.

Website design agency

When you employ a web design agency, they’ll probably handle the entire process of creating your website: designing, developing, launching, and maintaining the website. They are aimed at creating visually appealing, simple-to-navigate websites that convert leads into customers.

The main responsibility of the website design firm is to complete the project and deliver it to the client on time. That’s why, unlike the UI/UX design agency, a web design firm typically enters the web design process early on and is more focused on finishing a project to your requirements than on conducting deep research to learn what will really work for your business and its target audience.

Some web design agencies may also provide content writing services.

The team you get

  • Web designer
  • Graphic designer
  • Web developer
  • Photographer/videographer
  • Copywriter
  • Brand strategist

Specifications they may deliver

  • Logo design
  • Corporate branding
  • Wireframes
  • Mockups
  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Photo/video content
  • Web development

Full-service development agency

UI/UX design agencies can help you design a website or a web app but mostly they don’t provide development services. Website design firms can help with website design and launch but they are not focused on creating complex web applications that require thorough research and a well-thought-out design process. Full-service development agencies usually have both developers and designers on board and are hired to help with the front-end and back-end development of custom web applications. 

Naturally, their web design prices would be higher than those of other agencies, so it rarely makes sense to partner with them for regular website design services.

The team you get

  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer
  • UI/UX designer
  • Project manager
  • QA
  • Business analyst

Specifications they may deliver

  • UI/UX design
  • UX research
  • Prototyping
  • Design system
  • Front-end development
  • Back-end development
  • Manual testing
  • Testing automation
  • Deployment
  • Code quality checks

Common pricing models

To understand the web design services pricing better, let’s learn how agencies usually charge for their work and figure out which variant is more beneficial for different clients.

Hourly rates

The hourly rate approach is the most popular among design agencies. They set hourly pricing for each service they provide, then bill the client for each hour that is spent on a project.

hourly rate web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

Paying for design services hourly is suitable for lengthy projects that are prone to changes. This way, you can easily take project changes and other uncontrollable variables into account without being afraid about the final outcome.

Pros

  • With the hourly rate pricing model you stay flexible and can change the scope of a project on the go.
  • It’s cost-effective because you pay only for the number of hours you need.
  • You have a good understanding of what you pay for.

Cons

  • Designers can be less productive when they are paid hourly, so you may need to ask for evidence of the hours employees spend on tasks.
  • It’s difficult to predict the final cost, as often tasks take more time than you expect. 

Rates

When you pay hourly, the cost usually ranges depending on the type of design services you need, the designer’s experience, and the location of an agency.

For example, we’ve analyzed agencies’ hourly rates for web designers at Upwork in different locations.

  • Median hourly rates in the USA vary from $35 to $90.
  • Median hourly rates in Germany vary from $40 to $80.
  • Median hourly rates in Ukraine vary from $25 to $45.
  • Median hourly rates in India vary from $15 to $35.

Flat rates

With flat rate pricing, clients pay a set charge for the project. Agencies calculate the total number of billable and non-billable hours needed for a project and multiply that amount by an hourly rate.

flat rate web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

This model is a good fit for your needs if you have a defined set of requirements that won't change during the design process, or if it’s a repeatable task for which the designer has a reliable estimate of the number of hours required. 

Together with the agency, the client agrees upon set requirements accepted for a predetermined amount of time at an hourly rate. It's the ideal choice for small or medium-sized projects with a fixed budget and no unpredictable expenditures.

Pros

  • This pricing is quite straightforward as you know the sum you have to pay upfront and can effectively plan your budget.
  • No additional fees during the project.

Cons

  • Flat rates are usually set higher as agencies want to make sure they don’t underestimate the scope of work.
  • Flat-fee pricing might result in low-quality design since it emphasizes completing tasks as quickly as possible to maximize profit.

Price range

Design agency price lists will differ depending on the business type, project’s size, design complexity, features, animation, and the like. 

According to WebFX, web design cost starts from $2,000 to $9,000 for a small business website, and rises up to $6,000 – $75,000 for complex data-driven websites or web apps. 

Time and material

With time and material pricing, a contract will outline the general scope of the task and include a proposal for a fixed hourly rate plus the cost of materials. Under materials, we mean the cost for using tools, markups for subcontractors, and so on (they are agreed upon with the agency beforehand).

time and material web agency pricing formula

With a time and material pricing approach, you will still need to define the full project scope in advance, much like with a fixed-price contract. But here you also divide the project into stages: every time you make a billing, you meet the contractor to discuss the time spent and materials used.

When using this model you can negotiate each detail with the contractor including tasks and resources used during the design process, as well as the payment type they want to use (pay hourly, daily, weekly or monthly rates).  

Who is it best for?

If you have a big project and no comprehensive vision for the finished product and its implementation details, the time and material pricing model may work well for you

Pros

  • It gives flexibility in determining the project’s scope, requirements, and timeline.
  • As the project is divided into phases, you pay in parts and based on how much you “consume”.
  • The design process and progress is transparent and you know exactly what you’re paying for. 

Cons

  • Difficult to predict the budget.
  • No clear deadlines.
  • High administrative costs.

Cost-plus

Cost-plus pricing approach is very easy to understand. The agency calculates the total cost they spent on design (like employees' work, overheads, tools price, and the like) and adds a defined extra charge depending on the service they provide.

cost plus web agency pricing formula

Design agencies may use this model to cover their overheads. This way, they bill their clients at hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly rates according to standard market designer’s rates or for specific design deliverables. The rest of the price includes a consistent service fee percentage to cover overhead expenses.

Who is it best for?

The cost-plus model is suitable when a project requires flexibility, such as when it's high-risk or the scope of the task isn't clear right away.

Pros

  • Less chance to overpay for a service as it’s easy to understand what you pay for.
  • Generally less expensive than a flat-price model as the agency doesn't have to charge more to cover the risk that the project would cost more than expected.

Cons

  • Usually companies use little market research when defining a markup percentage, so sometimes the price for design services can be unfair. 
  • It’s rarely used for web app design services.

Retainer

In contrast to other pricing types, with a retainer model the client agrees to pay a fixed fee in advance throughout a predetermined time period for professional services. It’s similar to when you pay for a subscription, but instead of a product, you buy design services.

retainer web agency pricing formula

Who is it best for?

It works well for long-term projects with a big scope: as clients pay for a certain period of time in advance, they need to have enough work for a designer to stay fully occupied during that period. 

Pros

  • Agencies that charge their clients with retainer pricing are usually highly focused on the value of services they deliver as they want to retain customers for as long as they can.
  • It's also very simple to budget with this model and you don’t have to spend time on cost estimations and other administrative activities.

Cons

  • If you won’t have enough tasks to occupy your design specialists, paying a monthly fee can be too expensive.
  • In some cases, it’s difficult to see what you’re paying for what you receive in exchange.

By the way, a retainer is the type of pricing model that we use at Eleken. Though we define ourselves as a UI/UX design agency, we are not a typical one. We help our clients eliminate unnecessary expenses and hire professional UI/UX designers experienced in design for SaaS, as part of their product teams. Basically, it’s like hiring an in-house employee remotely, as you get full dedication to your project only. 

We charge a monthly fee (time-based retainer model) for ongoing product design done by our top design talent who can help you design from scratch, redesign an existing web application, or create a responsive design for your product.

Some other benefits of buying a subscription for a full-time designer at Eleken are

  • You don’t have to spend time on hiring and educating new employees.
  • You don’t pay sick/vacation leaves or any other overheads. It’s on our side.
  • A designer speaks directly to you (no project managers in the middle from our side). 
  • We work on one project at a time, meaning if you hire a designer at Eeken, it means they a fully dedicated to you only.
  • We have a three-day free trial period so that you can make an informed decision on whether to sign a contract or not.
  • You can cancel the subscription anytime.
  • You can change the number of designers you hire whenever you need.

Who is Eleken best for?

Our model works best for SaaS companies with lengthy projects when they don’t have designers on their team, or lack employees and seek additional design help in launching, revamping, or expanding their cloud product.

To sum up

As you can see, it’s impossible to give a clear answer to the question “How much does web design cost?” due to a great number of variables that influences the price and the fact that each specific project is unique.

But definitely, when you need to find a designer for your web app, hiring an agency would be the best choice (and probably the most costly one). So, before signing a contract, you should first decide whether the high cost is justified by outlining your essential project requirements and your business goals. Most websites don't need such thorough care that an agency gives, but if, for instance, you want to design a complex web application, managing all your needs will require the help of a professional design team.

Invent the look and feel of your web app with Eleken.

Kateryna Mayka

Author

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