The True Value of Web Design (or Why Web Design Doesn’t Cost $50)

Categories: Shop Talk

Posted by: Steve


Earlier this week I read an interesting blog post by Irish designer Grace Smith called “Why Web Design Doesn’t Cost £40. Go ahead and check it out, it’s a good read.

In an industry like the Web where you aren’t dealing with tangible products, sometimes understanding the value of the end product can be difficult for someone who doesn’t understand the process. (Every time I try to explain to my tech-illiterate father, who is a mechanic, what my business does and what we charge for our services, he still looks puzzled). Grace does an excellent job of outlining the process from start to finish and illuminates many of the hidden costs that the end customer will often take for granted. Even though she writes from the perspective of a freelancer, the general process she describes fits just about any professional who works in the design field, and especially on the Web.

Reading the intro of her article about the lad who said they could build a site for $50 struck a chord in me because… I have to admit that I’m guilty of this. When I was a Freshman in college, I bid a 5 page website for $75. At the time I was desperate for the work and it was my first freelance client ever, so I had no idea how to assign value to my work. I got the job because I had underbid everyone else by at least $200. In the end, the guy got a website that looked like a college kid had spent about 5 hours on it, but he was satisfied and I had grocery money for the next few weeks.

Many clients and many years of experience later, I am the Senior Developer at I-SITE, and I’m here because I now understand the complete process of Web design and development. Here we follow a process called I-QUO® that ensures the best possible solution for each of our projects. On my $75 site, I designed directly in the browser, tossed things together, and then sent the “finished product” off to the client. I didn’t take his audience into account. We did no rounds of revisions. I don’t think I even did cross-browser testing.

Grace’s article makes me smile now because we still occasionally run into a potential client who has no understanding of value on the Web. We tell them the services we provide and what they cost, and they come back and say that they will just have their 15 year old nephew do it for $50. We always politely excuse ourselves from the conversation at that point, because that’s not someone we want to work with.

Clients, if you’re ever tempted to pay a price that sounds too good to be true for Web work, you’re hiring someone who probably isn’t very confident in their skills, doesn’t value their end product, and is probably desperate for the work. If this still sounds like a good deal to you, well, enjoy trying to use your new site!