It's a great question, and it's one that we answer every day here at Humble Meteor. If you're in the process of conducting your own research, you've most likely received contradictory direction and pricing from web development companies big and small. It can be confusing and frustrating since website design and development rates vary greatly, and especially if you're not familiar with the industry. Typically the factors that most heavily influence the cost of building a custom website are your budget, the scope of your project and the skills and experience of the website development agency you hire.
The majority of web development costs stem from the scope of your project, which can be expected. The complexity of the design and custom features your business requires directly impacts the effort involved and ultimately the price of the build. However, be aware that in most cases you're also paying for the capabilities of the designers and developers you hire. This is a desirable scenario as long as you know they'll put their "A" team on it.
If the quotes you receive seem insanely low, then it's probably too good to be true. It's likely that it will be outsourced, built from a cookie-cutter template or handed off to a junior team. If the numbers come back unethically high, consider it a red flag. Before deciding either way, ask the web development agency for a detailed capabilities list to make sure the team assigned to your project is well-rounded. This way you can be sure you're paying only for the time of the people actually managing, designing and developing your website.
You can expect custom websites to cost significantly more than the implementation of basic open source solutions like WordPress or static websites because you're specifically building a scalable product around your brand and it's unique purpose. If the success of your startup or business depends on the execution of your new website, you should be one-hundred percent certain the company you hire offers a product that is visually exceptional, requires minimal maintenance, and can grow with your business without technical limitations or significant rebuilds.
Diligent research is always your biggest weapon when it comes to making decisions for your business. If you have any questions about your next web design or development project, we're here to help.