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BuyerSteps Authors: Ben Bradley, Neil McNulty, Dynatrace Blog, Mike Sweeney, Mat Mathews

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Why are some web designers cheaper than others?

Our market is forever changing and one problem we all face as business owners is that some website designers are cheaper than others. To help you identify why this is the case and why cheaper is definitely not better when it comes to website design, we thought we should show you why.

Building a new website is as certain as tax is for businesses that operate in today’s world. Without a doubt there are millions of “designers”, “developers” and “agencies” who will help your business get an online presence. Which one should you go for as a business owner? What makes them better than others? How do you know who is providing what and how do you know that they are doing good work?

This can be very hard for people to understand. The first thing you need to really look at is the User Interface / UI / aesthetics / theme behind the site. While looking professional is a big thing, looking modern is big, too. However, the biggest one of all is your business’s identity and the message you are trying to deliver to your customers.

The list of designers in your local area may be huge, the list in the nearest capital city is probably bigger. Typically the price range will vary depending on location as well. The market does drive the price as well, which is normal, but in a labour intensive creative and technical service this can significantly hinder your website’s success.

How does price crushing affect website design and website development as a service you may wonder? It is really easy to explain. The website design marketplace is crowded with ‘I can do’ers’ (as we like to call them). These are people who may have done up a website using prebuilt themes, or website builders after either ‘tinkering’ with popular platforms or watching a stack of YouTube videos. But, in reality, they have no real technical ability or skills.

This creates a massive disconnect between cheap website designers / website developers and website designers who actually custom code customers’ website templates. So that you can get an understanding of what we are talking about, let’s talk about a simple 5-6 page website.

To break it down in to the most simple terms, the ‘I can do’ers’ do something like the following:

The frequent template / theme websites for popular open source content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc where they buy a template/theme for a customer at a bargain basement price of under $50-$100. They are usually compiled using a ‘framework’ like Gantry or Genisis. This allows for a lot of ‘rapid’ website development which is great but, in the real world, means that they are adding extra load to a site software which can run without such a framework.

The template/theme comes with a Photoshop Design (PSD) file which allows them to ‘customize’ the design to suit a customer’s brand fairly quickly and easily where they may spend 20-25 hours with a couple of revisions in the middle.

A short period of time (20-30 hours on average) is then spent on implementing the design and ‘making it work’ with the customer’s needs.

The above allows them to work for a really low hourly rate of around $25-$30 and this translates in to a price between $1,000-$1,650. This price is awfully attractive for small businesses but there is still a hidden cost associated with this solution.

The hidden cost is a cost associated with both SEO and security going forward. The SEO front is probably one that business owners are more sensitive to these days as the solution will often provide editors or modifications to the way the information is presented which adds more junk (unnecessary) code to the page. Further to that they are adopting a one-size-fits-all scenario. Unfortunately when it comes to SEO you need to be more particular these days and probably more so in the future as search engines like Google and Bing get smarter and more judgemental.

Then from a security standpoint it does add a huge amount of risk because there are people who will actively get access to these cheap templates and their frameworks to find flaws in code that will allow remote injection of content and malware into a user’s site. There are many things that can be targeted making it harder to fix and eliminate should an attack happen. Given there has been a huge increase in attacks in recent years on Open Source content management systems and cheap templates, it is more likely to be WHEN rather than IF.

When you break it down on the more expensive solutions you start to see huge differences all round. Firstly you will see a scenario similar to the following in the way the website is built:

A design brief is given to the customer to go through and complete outlining questions on colours, designs styles, number of pages, features/functions, competitors websites and more.

The design brief gets assessed and given to a designer who can then interpret the brief in a way that allows them to create a site design that is unique to the customer’s business. While some elements in the structure side of things will look similar across many sites the aesthetics and the branding behind it will be unique. The design process itself could end up taking 50-60 hours for a junior designer (3 to 5 years experience) and 30-40 hours for a senior designer (5+ years experience) to complete.

Once the design is approved each of the internal pages are then designed up by the designer and either approved by the customer or supplied to the developer to implement in to the website software (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento etc). The development process behind this could take a further 60-80 hours to complete for a junior type developer (3-5 years experience), or less if they are a senior type developer (5+ years experience), and then a bit more for testing and other adjustments. This is also considering the fact that everything is coded from scratch and not from pre-existing code which can reduce time further again.

This does translate to 110-140 hours to build the website itself from start to finish. This would not include the likes of project management, content collection or creation. Now some people reading this will argue whether it will take that long but if you did everything properly then it will be very close to that.

Of course there are other factors that will determine that price which would include ‘extras’ that customers will see / benefit from, ranging from some basic on-page optimization being done right through to things like content being written professionally by copy writers and social media integration etc.

Typically in this scenario the people working on the project will be getting charged out at a project rate of between $30-$80 per hour for their time depending on experience, location etc. This makes a ‘cost price’ of around $3,300 – $11,000. Customer service and quality of service can also drive the cost up as well in this scenario.

The end result of all of this is the website being finished off better overall. If you were to compare it to something like a car then you would say it is like comparing a $15,000 Kia to a $50,000 – $80,000 BMW.

This as you can see is a huge difference between cheap website designers vs website designers who make a great custom website design for your business. So next time you are considering building a new website for your business, don’t take the cheap way out. It is what your potential and existing customers are going to see. You want it to look its best, not its worst.

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More Stories By Neil McNulty

Neil is a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), but has an extensive knowledge of a wide variety of software, operating systems and web development processes.