On more than a couple of occasions, I have had potential clients ask me about the reasons for the wide range of costs for website design and development. Each time, I spend a little time explaining the different website services a person might utilize and which might be best in their situation. This article serves to put those answers onto paper.
In order to help classify web design and development services I propose the following three broad categories: do-it-yourself, template-based, and custom. Each type of service provides different costs, services, quality and individuality. First, we will begin with the do-it-yourselfers.
DIY Web Development
Do-it-yourself (DIY) websites are great for individuals or businesses that are on a small- to non-existent marketing budget. DIYers will not typically pay more than $100 to $200 on their website, and most of that money is usually spent on the annual web hosting and domain name registration alone. The best option for DIYers is to utilize web host-provided templates. The template-based code-generating programs convert everything into the proper HTML for the DIYer, so little to no technical knowledge is required.
The obvious advantage of a DIY-developed website is the cost savings, because this is by far the cheapest option available. Additionally, if your content is already written, you could probably have a brand new website up in less than a day.
There are a few disadvantages to a DIY site. About 90% of the time, quality is sacrificed for one of your most important marketing sources (your website of course). A DIYer takes web design and development out of the hands of professionals who are specifically trained for this. As a result, the website can run the risk of looking amateurish and rough around the edges. A graphic designer, for example, knows how to make various design elements interact to create the most professional and engaging design possible. Furthermore, it is my experience that when a DIY website is developed, the programming (or what you see “under the hood”) is often not standards-compliant and is sometimes outdated. This may not be a big deal, but it can affect performance, search engine optimization and potential accessibility for handicapped users.
The second general category of web design and development is templates. The cost for this type of development is in between a DIY site and the custom site. Most often, a website development company that provides templates will have a large assortment of templates available for a business to choose from. Since someone else is doing the work, the cost will be higher than a DIY website; however, because the design and most of the development has already been completed with a lot of other website templates (en masse) the cost is less than that of a custom web development project.
One advantage of using this type of service is that there is a cost savings versus having a complete custom website developed. Another advantage is that professionals create an effective design and layout that will provide a more professional product. Also, there will be very little work on your part in terms of creating the finished product.
One disadvantage of using template-based websites is that they can tend to be quite non-customizable as a whole. I have had a couple of new clients come to me with websites that were created using a template and content management system environment. The problem they encountered over the long-term was that they were not able to change various elements on the website without programming knowledge. Another disadvantage of using templates is that you will most likely find the same template design out there in the “webisphere.” Templates are not designed for a specific client and multiple people purchase the same design. (Note that some companies do allow you to purchase the template only for yourself, but at an increased price. Be sure to ask for this option if that is what you want.) A final potential disadvantage of using this type of service is that your overall corporate brand may not flow together. Because you are choosing a pre-designed website, you might run the risk that what someone sees on your business card or on an advertisement will not match what they see on your website. All three are marketing tools that you use to show potential or existing clients who or what you are as a business. The best marketing goal is to have everything work in unison. An example of this might be Burton snowboards. Obviously, you will see their trademark “B” in all of their marketing tools, but they also tend to have all of their main marketing items work together. When I see an advertisement in a magazine or on TV, I will also see a similar look on their website. This creates a feeling of familiarity or comfort when I move from one marketing environment to another.
Custom Web Design & Development
The third and final category of web development is custom design and development. Web development companies, such as Triune Designs, Inc., who create custom websites, tailor them around an individual client. Custom web development companies meet with their client to get a feel of existing marketing packages, client personality, what exactly the client wants and needs out of the website, and works to really understand how best to organize, layout, and design the website. Custom web design companies are best matched with small-, medium-, and large-sized businesses with an existing marketing budget. Potential clients are either looking to create a simple website that is tailored to their personality or are looking to create a whole corporate brand that flows together.
Custom web development companies recognize that each individual company has different needs and requirements for a website and that the whole package should be tailored around those individual needs. The resulting advantage of this type of marketing is that the client gets a website (or complete marketing package) that is completely tailored to their business persona. Another advantage of using this type of web development is that the whole marketing package flows as one; essentially, taking a company’s potential customer from one marketing tool to another without very little differentiation.
One obvious disadvantage is that custom websites are more expensive than the other two methods. This is due to the fact that everything is being created specifically for the client (especially the website design). Additionally, the timeframe is slightly longer because the website’s design is created from scratch, which requires more time to create it.
The Grand Finale
I am sure that by this point, you are expecting me to give you a recommendation as to which method is best. Since my company, Triune Designs, only provides custom websites, my inclination is to tell you that custom work is the best; however, this is not always the case for every client. The type of web development you utilize truly depends on your situation and overall marketing needs.
My advice is to research all three methods more in-depth, contact companies for estimates and timeframes. Find out what other marketing needs you have and see how they fit in with your website. Additionally, find out if the company provides a great blend of graphic design, that will make your website “pop,” along with up-to-date programming technology, to help keep your website up-to-par with what the Internet currently offers. Checking for up-to-date programming also includes making sure your website is handicap accessible.
One final thought is to find out what other types of peripheral services web design/development companies provide. An example of this is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is very important these days and some companies might not emphasize this or include it with their web development packages, which means you might have to pay more for that service. Know exactly what you are getting for the price you are quoted.
We look forward to any comments and any thoughts. Until the next blog post, good night, and good luck.