As a few of you will know on Twitter this week, I received a rather interesting email from a local business who were looking to create a small brochure site. They enquired about my availability and wanted to arrange a time to discuss the project in more detail. All very polite and professional until half way through the email I read this: “I was chatting to a lad who can do it for £40…
£40….Did I just read that correctly?
As designers we know there will always be the cousin or ‘local lad’ who can build their website for £40 or $50, what surprises me is the fact that perfectly professional and legitimate businesses think this is good value! It’s unfortunate that the power of design is currently so misunderstood and undervalued by many businesses.
Design essentially provides an external ‘face’ for your customers (of your business). So why have a website that is such a poor representation of your business to potential customers?
The cost of web design also applies to logo design, which Jacob has superbly laid out in his article, which also inspired me to write about my recent experience.
- Design Process
How can we qualify that professional, quality web design doesn’t cost Â£40? Let’s first look at the typical design process, in fact this is the process I typically follow.
Phase 1: Concept and Consultation
We start with a discussion on the scope of the project which provides a solid foundation before we begin. Your project is then defined using the Creative Brief (a Wufoo form which I ask all potential clients to fill in), which is often referred back to during the project. By clearing defining the concept we are able to map out the goals and requirements of the entire project before moving on.
Phase 2: Discovery
Once there is a clear concept for the project, we move into discovery and research. I get to know and understand the exact needs of the project along with research into users needs and goals, target audience or demographic until there is a complete outline. I also build up a thorough picture of the personality and intended style of the website.
Depending on the scale and complexity of the project we may then move into creating a visual sitemap of the project which is essential for organisation of content on larger projects.
Phase 3: Wireframes
I then create sketches of the layout which are turned into wireframes (using the grey-box method) for review and approval before the design process begins.
A wireframe is a basic mockup of the page without any design elements which gives a stragetic view of the positioning of elements within the layout and shows how the content will flow on the page. It is an important step in determining the placement of content, function and navigation. It is used to iron out any problems or missing elements, and will act as the blueprint for the content, design and construction work that comes later.
For a more detailed rundown on this, read the in-depth look at my wireframing process.
Phase 4: Design
Once the wireframes are approved we move onto the design phase. The wireframes are taken and given the design treatment and polished. They are then presented for feedback and iteration as necessary until approved.
Phase 5: Build
I then build the design into working prototypes using CSS and XHTML (all according to accessibility guidelines). These are presented and given feedback on all aspects of the build. This is where incoporating a CMS also takes place (if required). We work together to polish and tweak until the build is finalised and complete.
Phase 6: Testing, Launch & Signoff
Although the project is tested through each stage of the build, this stage involves a complete usability test across all platforms and browsers, checking for cross-platform functionality and appearance. I use a combination of my own testing environment and Browsercam to do a complete check, with the results forwarded onto you for review. We are then ready for launch!
Phase 7: Monitoring and Maintenance
Once the site is launched I will do a thorough link check and monitor the site for 7 days to squash any potential problems that may arise. Once the monitoring period is over I can set up a maintenance plan if desired.
But why follow a process at all? Because this type of process will allow us to:
(a) Get really clear about what the goals of the site are.
(b) Know what the site’s visitors want (after all they’re the ones using it).
(c) Gain an insight into users’ goals and behaviour.
(d) Get a good picture of the personality and style of the design.
Without this, we’re designing ‘blind’, essentially just delivering something pretty with no awareness of your audience, targets or goals, so how do you expect it to be a success?
I think we can all assume that £40 isn’t going to cover all of the above, but does it cover your experience or expertise?
The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a Paris cafe when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this! Picasso replied. It took me 40 years”.
You weren’t just paying for that drawing, you were paying for the countless hours, days, weeks and years of research, knowledge, experience and talent that it took to create that drawing.
Many of us in the design industry spend countless hours refining our knowledge wherever possible, constantly learning and challenging ourselves to be better in all aspects of both design, development and business. Why? One of the core reasons is so we can provide a better quality of service to our clients.
As Benjamin Southworth points out, that £40 “would price my 10 years professional experience at £4 p.a – which I deem as less than minimum wage?”
- Operating Costs
(2) Stock photography
(3) Web hosting
(4) Email marketing
(5) Hardware (iMac/Macbook/Printer)
(6) External hard drive(s)
(7) Software (Including Online Apps)
(8) Office Equipment
Mosts Freelancers are serious about their business, and run a credible professional small business. In doing so there are numerous costs involved which have to be taken into account when costing a project. The reason the local lad can do it so cheap is because he has no overheads because for him, it’s just a hobby.
- Community Response
In order to get a more in-depth view on how the design community views these type of requests I asked for some input from those smart folks on twitter, who had the following to say:
@garethbotha A company or brand’s first impression to the world at large is worth more than £40.
@brimanning If it costs that much, that means anyone can do it.
@ianglang Clients by far are uneducated: copyright: (just get it from the web) process: (I want to see it before I decide to pay).
@egeek Audi garage charges £98/hr for a mechanic and surely that’s just screwing parts on a car. So Â£40 would get you < 30min. @paulashton1979 Because web design/dev = html, css, photoshop, cms knowledge, seo, copywriting, typography, design, infoArchitecture & fontReplacement etc.
@ianglang “You wouldn’t compromise your integrity. Why would you ask us to compromise ours?”
@helo_biagi Well, you have costs… your equipment, maintenance, studies, rent, time and the programs you use cost way more than £40.
@mohdesign How about the fact that designers and developers spend a huge amount of time just learning and increasing their skills to make a living.
@StuRobson I’d say “how much page space would Â£40 get you in a magazine or newspaper?”
@cun I’ll input… “£40 wouldnt even get you a full years worth of hosting + domain” let alone the coding work and time involved.
@pixelcellar Definately worth chucking in the mix the phrase “you get what you pay for”, one I use a lot with prospective clients!
@DanielApt We’ve spent an amazing amount of time to master our skills, we need to compensate this learning time in the bill.
@goody815 My first reply is always “the copy machine repair person is $150/hr so lets start over shall we”.
@deakaz Awesome, If someone expects it that cheap they should sign up to a free service and use a stock theme.
@jhuskisson Because web design isn’t done in an hour (Â£40 is an hourly rate, or lower than an hour for a lot of designers).
@shredcreative I’d say that when people send emails like that, we as web designers/devs should educate them as to why they should spend more.
So if web design doesn’t cost £40, what does it cost? The answer is, it depends on both the project specification and the designer you’ve approached. There are numerous variables and just like logo design, the best way to approach this question is to draw up a customised quote for each individual.
- The Pitch
- Further Resources
- Let’s Have Your 2 Cents
Have you experienced this type of request before, if so, how did you handle it?
Is it actually our fault as designers for failing to effectively communicate the ROI of design? Because clearly people do not understand how important and valuable it is to their business.
Or does there need to be a shift in current thinking from regarding design as an afterthought to being an integral part of business strategy?
Here’s your chance to talk….