Every business needs a website in order to function in today's economy. Most people do not even own a yellow pages any more, and the internet has become the number one source for information on businesses that is available. While television commercials, radio, newspapers, billboards and magazines reach people to let them know you exist, finding your business on the internet via a search engine or a reference from another website allows people to find you when they are interested, which makes all the difference in the world when it comes to selling them something. That being explained, let's not spend any more time on the subject, every business should have a website. Let's move on to what you are paying for when you get a website constructed.
A professional website designer has been trained in the art and science behind the online space, presentation of information, and probably internet-based commerce. The designer understands not only how to build the files that make up the display of the site itself, but how those files present themselves on different browsers and devices. In addition to the construction of the files themselves, a good website designer must also understand artistic presentation and image manipulation, website coding for different functionality and presentation, ecommerce platforms and retailing basics. The synthesis of all of these disciplines is tt key to top-notch website design, and failure in any of them means a less-than-professional presentation that will cost you customers.
"Any 14 year old can build a website today thanks to Wordpress." Web designers hear this all the time as a reason that they shouldn't charge very much for their work. While it is true that platforms like Wordpress have given people who do not understand code the ability to design websites, the easy comparison is going down to Home Depot and buying a hammer, saw, nails and wood and then attempting to build your own home. All the tools are available for you to use, it doesn't make you a good carpenter. Another example is if you have a physical location. Did you install the laminate on the countertops or the tile on the floor? Of course not. The reason is that even though you could easily purchase all the tools and materials, you know you aren't good enough at it to create a professional presentation, and you know if your customers saw shabby work in your store they are probably going to smile at you then go shop somewhere else. The website is the same principal, and potentially even more so because there is no customer service person available on the website to potentially explain why the place looks so bad. You are being judged on your appearance by customers before they ever set foot in your store, and they are deciding to shop there or not based upon what they are seeing. If the place looks less than professional, it takes no effort on their part to find a place that takes themselves a little more seriously than you do. That is where they will spend their money. So yes, any 14 year old can build a website, but that 14 year old probably cannot put together all the elements necessary to build a really good website that convinces customers to spend their money with you.
"Templates create a whole website in seconds, and they are free." We have all seen the commercials from companies offering free websites to businesses, and who offer easy do-it-yourself systems so that you can customize your own website and get your business presented on the internet in seconds. First of all, those websites are not actually free. If you like the way it looks then you pay a monthly fee to the company that hosts the site, and that fee has an added charge to make up for the expenses that it cost to build the platform and give you a "free" website. If you stick with that company for a lengthy period of time (and you probably will rather than go through the process all over again somewhere else) then you will probably pay far more in the long run than you would if you hosted it and designed it on your own. Additionally, you will not be able to take the website with you if you want to move it to another host, they own it. Even worse is the fact that you are getting a template design that basically makes you look exactly like everyone else doing the same thing as you. Very few business plans are built on "doing the exact same thing as everyone else," and expecting people to choose you over your competition when you look exactly like them is probably not smart. Once again, the hidden costs are in lost customers and potentially paying for something you didn't know was there.
Lastly, website designers have to estimate for the worst case scenario when giving you a bid on the job. Experienced website designers have done this before, and understand that one of the biggest expenditures of time during the job is holding the customer's hand during the process. For example, when you ask us "how much is a website," we have to know how many pages we are designing. The reason behind this is that chances are we are going to have to do artwork, resizing, layout and copywriting for each of those pages. We have to figure out a price per page that compensates us for the time to do all of these things. A 500 word piece of content, researched and well written on your topic will probably take an hour to do. Choosing artwork and resizing/retouching it for the page will probably take an hour to do. Putting it all together will probably take an hour to do. The designer looks at this and thinks "a 10 page website will probably take me 20 hours to do, in the worst case," and then gives you an estimate based on 20 hours of work. It would normally take them about 10 hours to do the project, but they also have to figure in every time you call them to say "can I see it with a blue background? Can I see if with the picture of me in the middle instead of the products? Can I see it with two pictures instead of one? Can I see it with a slider instead of a fixed picture? Can you make the slider smaller?" All of those changes take hours to complete, and you are being charged for them.
At the end of the day, the best advice is to contact a website designer that has an impressive portfolio of work and has happy clients that they can provide references from. They are being hired to work for you, and even though they are not working in your office, they are still working on your project for an honest exchange of hours for money. They should be able to explain why certain layouts or certain functionality is good for your project, and give you direction as to why you should take a certain path in the design of your website. They should also be able to do the work, and execute the project successfully. The best advice we can give is "let the designer do their job." Give them as much direction as you can and provide as much content for the site as possible, but allowing them to do their job will make the project go much faster and be more successful. Our company has had website design projects that have lasted months and cost tens of thousands of dollars because of the micro-management of the client, and we have had projects that are literally completed from start-to-finish in less than a day (and priced accordingly for the amount of hours spent.) A good example of this can be seen in a recently launched (redesigned and launched March 19, 2014) website for a client who is a Las Vegas probate lawyer, who provided direction as to the look of the site and content for the pages describing the practice. The result was a clean, professional design, presenting his law firm in a way that will impress clients. The site was completed in one business day, and within a budget that was far lower than most cases. The attorney understood the concept of hiring the best company for the job, and letting them do their job.
Raymond Santopietro - President of Focus Internet Services