Why Do Web Design Prices Vary So Much?

Anyone who has hired a web designer or creative agency knows that the price of a website can vary a lot. If you don’t know what I am talking about try getting a few companies to quote for a ten page informational mobile-friendly WordPress website with the exact same requirements you will get quotes ranging widely from $500 to $50,000 or more. Below we discuss the various reasons why these huge discrepancies occur.

Subjectivity & Assumptions

There are hundreds of different ways to build a website and the definition of success is very subjective. For instance, writing efficient code is more time-consuming but will produce a faster loading website which will yield a higher conversion rate. A WordPress dashboard can be customized based on content types versus just dumping all of the HTML into the pages section. However, most clients will not notice these subtle differences or how to ask for them so web developers may opt not to do this. A client may want their website to be responsive / mobile-friendly but have failed to include it in their requirements. Although all of our websites these days are mobile-friendly, other web developers may not make such assumptions and quote less and tack on the additional costs of responsive web design later when you ask for it.

Strategy & Planning

Sometimes a cheap quote means that a web designer may skimp on initial steps like information gathering, research, wireframes, website architecture and content strategy. Understanding the client’s business, its competitors and specific target market is an integral part of creating an engaging user experience that converts traffic into customers.

Different Ways to Quote

There are dozens of different programing languages and content management systems. The web design process is made even more complex when consider that each solution can be reached in hundreds of different ways. Furthermore, there are many ways to quote. Some web design agencies quote hourly while others quote per project. Still others quote some fixed cost but tack a bunch of things to the final invoice to make up for their low quote in the beginning to win your project. Because most clients are concerned about the total cost, we like to work on a fixed budget with a very specific scope of work. If the scope remains the same, we always bill what was initially agreed upon so that there are no expensive surprises.

Lack of Standards

What makes a website successful? Ask a web designer and he / she may define it as a beautiful work of art without considering functionality. Ask a web developer and he / she may define it as a something that is simple, loads quickly and effectively converts users into customers. Ask an SEO Specialist and he / she may define it as having a unique and relevant content strategy that appeals to your target market and is properly optimized for search engines. Indeed, a successful website is all of these things but there are a lack of standards out there that prohibit novice designers and developers from creating sub-standard websites. Unlike the Accounting industry, where there is the American Institute of CPAs, there is no such board in the web design and development world that would revoke your right to create websites if you fail to follow certain rules and regulations. As the industry grows, more standards are likely to emerge, but until then the lack of uniformity causes an issue when determining price.

Team Size, Experience & Track Record

Obviously, if you hire a design student, freelancer or someone moonlighting outside of their job, he / she will be less expensive that an experienced web design firm with a stellar portfolio and a posh office in downtown San Francisco. Although it may be tempting to save thousands of dollars and go with the former option, we have heard enough horror stories of freelancers who went missing or were incompetent to know that it is better to pay to do it right the first time. A freelancer cannot devote the time, attention and resources to your website that it deserves. Also a website built by professionals will be better designed, coded and optimized to drive more sales making it a better return on your investment.

Custom or Premade

Premade themes are essentially premade websites designed with dummy content. They are excellent for startups on shoestring budgets. However, customizing a premade theme is like fitting a square peg into a round hole because the web developer has to fit your content within the confines of your premade theme. Furthermore, websites made from premade themes are extremely slow loading because they are bloated with tons of features; many of which you will never use. Web developers have used premade themes to skip the web design process altogether creating very generic slow-loading websites. Creating a unique website from the ground up is the only way engage your target market and ensure success even though it is more expensive.

Offshore Web Development

With the rise communication tools like Skype, there really are no geographical limitations as to whom we can or cannot hire. Obviously, local creative agencies cannot price compete with overseas web developers because of their extremely rates. In addition to time zone and communication challenges, there is no recourse if you hire a company overseas that fails to deliver so hire with caution. Local web design companies who use overseas web developers will likely quote cheaper than teams based solely in say San Francisco or San Jose.

Choose Wisely

The moral of this story is to not to make price alone your sole deciding factor. Don’t get me wrong, you should choose a web design agency that you can afford but please consider their experience, portfolio, track record and ability to pick up the phone.

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