Drupal is a fantastic CMS to build business websites. It allows companies to start quickly, build robust solutions and iterate over time following the market requirements. It allows companies to build small websites but is also suited for large enterprise implementations.
But how much does it cost to build a website on Drupal?
Well, It depends on what do you want to achieve. Identifying your goals and expectations will help a lot in establishing the cost of the website.
The size of the website you want to build will obviously highly impact the cost. The more sections, components, features, functionalities and integrations the more it will take to implement them all, hence the bigger the cost.
In the post about planning a website redesign, I described an approach to gathering requirements and also steps to take if the undertaking turns out to be too large.
Complexity is a bit like size, but it is different. A website with many parts and sections may still be fairly simple technologically. These may all be static pages entered into the CMS just presented in various ways.
Many websites, however, are more complex. The complexity can come from various angles. For example:
- Complex editorial workflows - The website can have various editorial flows with roles and permissions. Implementing the logic of assigning content in various stages to correct personnel requires time.
- Multilingual - Multilingual websites usually require a bit more implementation time and configuration. Drupal luckily makes it possible to build great multilingual websites easily, but they require more work nonetheless. If you combine editorial workflows with multi-language requirements, the complexity is.. well quadrupled.
- External integrations - Drupal is great in communicating with APIs and other external services, but each one has to be configured and tested.
- Other custom logic and requirement
Smaller teams will usually be cheaper but obviously bigger projects need a bigger team to deliver projects in reasonable timeframes. If your timeframe is tight things might get more expensive. Because of the need to communicate and coordinate, with the growth of the team, the marginal productivity of each of the developers reduces.
- If you need a website that will take around 60 man-days to build, it can be done by 1 developer in 3 months.
- If you are in a hurry, you can work with 3 developers. 3 developers will have to coordinate and communicate and overall the time it takes to build will not be exactly 3 times shorter. It will take a bit more - say 1 month and a week (total of 75 working days).
- The tighter the deadline, the more people will be required. If in our example you hired a 6 developer team, they will not deliver the website in 2 weeks but more probably in 3 (90 working days), plus they will need a Project Manager to coordinate work (additional 15 days).
Willingness to adapt
With a skilled team, you can achieve almost anything with Drupal. That said, some things take less than other ones. The more you decide to rely on what Drupal core and contrib modules provide the lower the cost.
It makes sense to validate the designs and specifications and iterate on them with a Drupal architect before approving them for development. Sometimes changes irrelevant from the perspective of the end goal, might save a lot of development effort.
If you are starting from scratch, it might make sense to choose a pre-built solution for a fixed price, rather than build a custom website from scratch. Drupal offers a few distributions for building business websites. In Droptica we even have a packaged fixed price drupal implementation packages for cost-efficient website implementations.
Importance of quality
In Droptica we often build websites for high profile clients and websites critical to the business. In such situations, it is super important not to run into any issues. For some clients, an hour of an outage can be translated into money lost. Visual bugs in production can quickly escalate. Data loss is not an option. In all these cases we spend a lot of time and effort on maintaining high quality. Testing and deployment processes are thoroughly tested back and forth. Automatic tests are created to ensure there are no regressions etc. All this brings the state of art quality but comes at an increased cost.
If your website does not do transactions and finding a bug on one of the subpages and fixing it the next day is acceptable, then the quality framework can be relaxed a bit and the costs can get down.
Agency vs Freelancer
An agency provides superior stability and predictability at an increased cost as agencies are typically more expensive than freelancers. Then again, relying on one person without a backup plan is much riskier. If a freelancer for whatever reason becomes unavailable, finding a replacement or even getting access to work done so far might prove difficult. A well-managed agency with a bigger team does have a single point of failure.
If you decide to choose an agency, there are a few factors which impact the price. High-end agencies, with robust processes and a track record of successful work, will typically have higher prices than small and low-quality shops. I wrote a blog post about choosing the best Drupal agency.
Agency location will matter. Prices in the United States are typically higher than in Europe, while in Europe there is a significant difference between agencies with offices in western Europe compared to Central Europe.
Because of the overall cost advantage, many companies chose cooperation with agencies from Central Europe, where the same quality can be achieved but with a significantly reduced price.
A top-notch Drupal agency from Central Europe might cost just a little above the costs of a freelancer in London and will be substantially lower than those of a high-end agency. The dynamics of the market do drive Central European costs upwards, but the gap is still there and many clients use it to their advantage.
How are Drupal website costs calculated
Drupal is Open Source. This is great because there are no licence costs associated with it. The only cost originates from the time it takes to launch a Drupal website.
Drupal offers a lot. Additionally, a plethora of contributed modules extends its capabilities allowing you to build a lot of things. Still, there will be things which have to be done for your website to work:
- Drupal installation and setup - Drupal has to be installed and placed on a server. If you are building something more complicated, a staging environment will be required to test new features before deployment. Perhaps a continuous integration environment and automated tests if you expect to iterate a lot on your website.
- Selection of modules, installation and configuration - Drupal itself is like a framework. It allows you to do a lot but, out of the box, it is a fairly generic experience. Multiple modules have to be installed to enhance its functionality to the standard level expected from a business website these days. For example, SEO plugins (metatags, xml sitemap etc) have to be installed and configured.
- Building your custom pages - You will want to build custom pages to be able to present your content in the best possible way
- Design/Theme - If you are building a business website, you will need a custom design to represent your brand. Creating a design and theming drupal can often take quite a lot of time.
More complex projects will require additional elements and team members:
- Project management - To ensure a longer project is on track to deliver in time and budget, it is best to include a project manager in a team
- Quality assurance - Complex project can require a tester who will validate that what the development team creates, meets the requirements. A tester will ensure that the website works correctly on all browsers, devices and screen sizes
- DevOps - Complex projects may require a dedicated specialist to manage server architectures and deployment processes.
All that will require development time.
The cost of the website is typically discerned as time spent by each professional multiplied by the hourly rate.
Drupal development costs vary by region
As discussed above, hourly rates vary by region. In 2020, these look more or less like this:
- USA: $80-$150
- Western Europe: $60-$100
- Eastern/Central Europe $40-$60
- Asia - Pacific - $25-$40
When the cost of a Drupal website is determined, the company will calculate the time it will take to deliver it, including all the overhead costs like project management and will multiply the time by the hourly or daily rate to come up with the price.
Some agencies add additional buffers to allow for risk, warranty periods etc.
As we discussed above, there are many factors which impact the time it will take to build a website (size, complexity, etc.) so there is no clear cut price for a Drupal website. There is a consensus however that:
- a small, simple website might take about 20+ man-days
- a medium, depending on complexity will require 40+ man-days
- bigger projects start from 100+
- large websites often require big teams spanning over multiple months
Now you know how to calculate the price of a Drupal website. It is not a very straightforward process, unfortunately. If you want, however, we can provide you with a quote free of charge. Just ask us! We are happy to help.