Why A $50 Site Costs More Than A $900 Site

Monday, March 23rd 2015 Thoughts

I know you’re reading that title and thinking, “I passed Kindergarten so… no, $900 is definitely more than $50.” And technically you’re right, kind of.

When it comes to your website though, like many other things, being cheap can cost you more in the long run. In specific terms directly related to design and development, it’s becoming a rising trend to think “Why should I pay $900 when I can pay $50 for the same thing?” Especially when you have every Jane, Josie, and June charging $50 and claiming that they’re “expert designers” and “WordPress gurus”.  Words however, are just words, and anyone with a keyboard can write them.

People are starting to think about design as this thing that anybody can do, something a Stay At Home Mom does in between her children napping, which there’s nothing wrong with. There is a BIG difference though between that SAHM who is earning a little bit of cash on the side doing something she likes doing, and someone who has gone to school, spent most of their life studying and practicing their craft and is trying to make a living doing it.

When you think about the phrase, “Why should I pay $900 when I can pay $50 for the same thing?” Think about it in relation to something else…

Why should I pay $900 for ______ when I can pay $50?

  • Car
  • TV
  • Gaming Console/Computer
  • Rent/Mortgage Payment
  • Schooling
  • Health Care

While some of these things are monumentally larger than designing and building a website, the concept is still the same…

You Get What You Pay For

Being a designer isn’t having Photoshop, and it’s not the ability to create something that looks nice. Being a designer is having the experience, knowledge, and training to be able to visually solve your clients’ problems. Whether that client is a business owner, or a blogger, they’ve chosen to hire a designer because there is something they want their site to do or accomplish that it’s not already doing.

As somebody who primarily works with bloggers, the problem that I get to solve multiple times a month is creating unique designs that are easy on the eyes (since a lot of writing/reading is involved), and that beautifully and perfectly encompass my clients’ personality.

This isn’t something that’s accomplished in an hour or two, this is a 2-3 week process that involves contracts, invoices, countless hours of research, digging through stock, design sketches, mocks and conversations with the client. On average I spend at least 4-5 hours writing emails to each client, figuring out what they like, what they’re looking for, and going over mocks and discussing what works and doesn’t work for them. Those 4-5 hours, technically aren’t even billed, and aren’t included in the average 5-6 hours I’m going to spend actually creating the designs. Those 5-6 hours are estimated at my hourly rate of $75, which comes out to $450 for a blog design. Which is, realistically, about a third of what I should be charging based on 17 years of experience – or half based on 8 years of professional experience.

And yes, sometimes I complete a design project in a week, and yes, it costs the same as one that takes 2-3 weeks – because that’s the price of efficiency. I’m not crunching that time down to a week for some projects because I’m cutting corners, I’m crunching that time because I’ve got 17 years of practice and sometimes you get super inspired or you hit a stride.

If we think about the list we made earlier, and apply it to the way people think about design, you begin to see you should pay more for those items, rather than less:

  • Car – Say you’re looking for a used car to get you around for awhile until you can get an updated model and you’re browsing online and you see an ad for $50, and one for $900. Are you even going to bother to look at the one for $50? Because there’s gotta be something wrong with it right? Does it even have a transmission? Can you start the car? No. No you can’t.
  • TV – The only way someone is going to sell you a TV for $50 is if either the bulb is blown and it doesn’t work, or it’s one of those ancient TVs that weigh 30 pounds for a 10 inch screen and is going to break your back when you try to pick it up.
  • Gaming Console/Computer – While it’s completely possible to build your own computer (sans monitor) that runs extremely well for under $900, you’re not going to buy a factory machine for under $400, basically because they don’t exist, but also if they did it would probably die in a week, or run so slow you can’t even use the internet. You’re also not going to buy an Xbox One for $50 because yeah it looks like an Xbox One, it feels like an Xbox One, but that’s because it’s filled with rocks – and not even the good kind, the ones someone dug up by the side of a lake. Because even rocks that people fill their driveways with cost more than $50.
  • Rent/Mortgage Payment – Helloooo roaches, mildew and rotting baseboards.
  • Schooling – While the prices are much higher, idea is still the same – pricing with schooling is the difference between Community College and a State or Specialization College – and while there’s nothing wrong with attending a Community College, the fact is that it can only take you so far and there are many more opportunities offered in a traditional state or specialized college.
  • Health Care – If you’re paying less than $50/mo for your health care, the likelihood of it covering things like ER visits, surgery, mental health care and not having a deductible under $500 is pretty low.

Design is no exception. What your website, branding, collateral, etc, looks like tells someone who you are, and what you stand for without ever saying a word. If you’ve got a well designed site that looks like it took time and effort, then you’re going to come off as professional, someone who cares about their business or blog and wants it to be the best it can be, inside and out.

If you’ve got Comic Sans in your logo, the colors of your site blind your audience, and your text is unreadable, why should anyone invest their time in you, when you won’t invest in yourself? (On a Real Life note, there is a local pizza place that gets RAVE reviews, that I refuse to eat at because their website looks like a 2 year old with a crayon made it.)

Just like most other things you encounter in your life, paying less for design usually means you’re sacrificing quality. Specifically with design more than likely one of the following or all are true: 1) the person you’re working with is inexperienced,  2) they’re cutting corners, or 3) they’re undervaluing themselves and the community they work with, for, and in.

All of these things, in the long run, will end up costing you more when you have to have them redone by someone who actually knows what they’re doing, than if you had just went with the higher quality product from the beginning. Generally, like most things, it’s usually better to spend a little more and do it right the first time around, then spend more in the long run trying to get a better deal.

On The Subject of Pre-Made Themes

Just to touch on pre-mades before someone tells me that a pre-made costs them less than a custom design… you’re right, to an extent. Pre-Made themes are a great option for people who don’t have expendable income, or are fickle/picky/like to change things up often. However, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced, like custom designs, not all pre-mades are created equally, and it’s never guaranteed that it was designed or coded by someone who knew what they were doing. You could spend much more time (remember, time = money) trying to get it to work properly then if you had just hired someone.

And if you change up your layout with a pre-made say… every two months, and each pre-made cost $50, that’s $300 at the end of the year. Now because we’ve already established that time is money, include the time you spend looking for each theme, setting it up, and tweaking bits of it you didn’t like. More than likely you’re going to end up around $600+ worth of themes and time spent. For an extra $300-ish you could have had someone design a site for you that you wouldn’t have wanted to change for over a year (in fact, I have clients who have had my designs up for 4+ years), saved yourself time, stress, and it would be guaranteed that there would be no other design out there like it.

So yes, short term, you saved about $300, but at the sacrifice of your own time and not having a design that accurately reflects who you are (because if it did, you wouldn’t have had to change it multiple times).

Design Isn’t Just About How It Looks

So I mentioned earlier that I charge $450 for blog design, but this whole article I’ve been talking about $900, why?

Because, design isn’t just about how your website looks, it’s about how it functions too. And while you can be screwed over with a logo or a design big time, having a cheap developer can hurt you in many more ways. From clients not being able to find your site, or it looking horrible once they do – at no fault of your designer. You can have the most beautifully designed site but if your developer doesn’t know what they’re doing, it means very little.

That’s why Ashley over at Nose Graze has a companion post to this one, $50 Code – Less Money, More Headache. She talks about some of the small and major mistakes people without experience make and how short changing yourself when choosing a developer can cost you a lot more than money.

Why A $50 Site Costs More Than A $900 Site

related posts

ready to up your design game?

Are you interested in learning design? Want some design freebies and resources to help you out? Awesome, because I want to help you learn! Put your name and email in below and I will keep you up-to-date on e-courses, blog posts + some tips + tricks I have up my sleeve ;)