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Web design prices & services; Reasons to be wary of generic fixed prices

As with any business, part of not building success, but maintaining it is to identify what your competitors are doing and then consider ways in which you can improve on that. Every day I spend a bit of time looking at other agencies & freelancers to see how they market themselves and one thing I commonly see is the promotion of fixed web design prices. Headline banners proclaiming “web design from only £399!”, or “4 web pages from only £200”.

I appreciate this is probably quite a good way to catch the attention of people, but in reality it’s going to go one of two ways. The developer/designer is going to deliver the absolute bare minimum for that amount, or the client ends up paying for a whole load of add-ons somewhere down the line as they’re not included in that base cost. It’s the very same reason I prefer not to give a ball park figure for any website, as every client is different, as is their needs.

In my time working for an incredibly successful global tech company, we were regularly fed buzz terms to promote their ethos, but one that really stuck with me was the idea of “setting the expectation” and it couldn’t be anymore important in business. Offering a ball park figure without knowing a single thing about a business or individual is just asking for trouble from the outset, as if the wrong expectation is set, then one side of the relationship will ultimately be left disappointed.

Web design prices done incorrectly!

One of my very first “professional” projects as a rookie web developer was when I was still at university. I knew very little about business, and knew even less about where to pitch in a price for design/development of a site. My lecturer put me in touch with a former student who needed some adjustments made to his site and basically all I knew (through basically a lack of communication) was that they needed a search facility on their site. I quoted £200 and they were delighted to accept the price. I can’t recall now how long the project went on for, but safe to say my hourly rate in the end probably worked out in the region of £2/hour, all of which was completely my fault due to not finding out the specific details before offering a price. As I stated before, one side of the relationship will be left disappointed and in this scenario it was me. The client got what they wanted, but I ultimately ended up resenting the project. I insisted I was never going to put myself in that position again.

Although every process for a site follows a general progression, I can’t say there’s been a single project that has gone exactly like any other, so it makes it very difficult to just pull a figure out of nowhere without a considered discussion of needs and expectations. With most modern websites also using content management systems and templates, the idea of using the number of pages on a site as a parameter is outdated and somewhat of a misnomer.

Why does all this matter?

I decided to write a blog on this topic, as it’s a question i’m regularly asked when quoting for website prices and being able to compose my thoughts allows me to respond in a more considered manner. I’m not in the business of slating other businesses and their models, as it may well work for them on a personal level. However, I would be wary of someone offering you web design services, for a set price without knowing what you need. For example, the difference between a portfolio site and an e-commerce web site is tens of hours of work, so it’s not feasible to be offering the same web design prices for what are essentially two different services.

I was told recently by a friend that they find the range of prices you pay to get a web site quite staggering (when services such as WIX and Weebo can have a site online for relative buttons), but I had to explain that like anything in life, you get what you pay for…and if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Two very clichéd responses, but as I get older and more experienced in this industry, they couldn’t ring any truer.

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