How Cheap Websites Often Kill Small Businesses
Small businesses often search for “cheap website design”. That’s understandable, but there’s a catch.
Underinvesting in your website will cost you far more in the long run. It can even cost your entire business.
This is not a pitch. It’s a warning. Over the past 25 years, I’ve rescued many small firms who made this mistake. So I’d rather help you avoid it. It may not be what you want to hear, or what flaky marketers want to sell you, but it’s the truth. This page explains why it’s true.
Also, that does not mean every website needs a five or six figure budget. What it does mean is that simply seeking the cheapest web design you can find is likely to cripple your business.
Why Is Cheap Website Design So Dangerous?
Because business web design isn’t a commodity. It isn’t all the same except for price. It isn’t even a product. It’s a multi-disciplinary, professional business service that involves a lot more than using automated tools to build a website.
Also, because websites are most firms’ main marketing vehicle, competing in a 24/7/365 race for sales. Your competitors invest in professional design specifically because it keeps them ahead of those who don’t.
You won’t win the Grand Prix in a DIY go-kart or cheap runabout.
How Cheap Websites Will Cost You More
Still, let’s look at some more concrete examples of cheap website design costs.
- Nothing costs more than lost opportunities. For instance, if your average profit on each sale was £50, losing just one sale a week to competitors with better sites would cost you £2400 a year.
- Similarly, no matter how good they look, weak sites need paid ads to drive traffic — often at around £1 per visitor. So a site that performs well enough to earn free search traffic saves that cost.
- Finally, the numbers often don’t work for paid ads. Lots of small firms overlook this. Most website visitors don’t buy immediately. Marketing takes time. So most sites convert less than 1% of visitors into customers. That means relying on paid traffic can easily cost you more than £100 per sale. On £50 profit per sale? Oops. Investing in a better website could have improved that conversion rate and reduced your costs.
Still, there are even more insidious costs to cheap web design, too. They largely depend on who’s doing the work…
The Hidden Cost Of DIY Web Design
If you think DIY web design will save you money, think again. It can be fun, but it will waste a lot of your time. Time is the most valuable resource anyone has. You can never buy back wasted time. So unless you value it properly, you’ll waste far too much of it.
Learning to build a website takes time. Learning to build one that can compete takes far longer. DIY web design adds the cost of that wasted time to all the sums outlined above.
Cheap Web Designers
So what’s the problem with cheap web designers?
Many cheap web designers are either amateurs, moonlighters or lack the business experience to help you make money. Having spoken to quite a few over the years, many can’t even see how they’re making a loss. None of them will be around long enough to support you when you need it.
Don’t think you won’t need that help. Technologies and online marketing both evolve rapidly, and some parts are complex. Keeping up takes a lot of work. Professionals do that so that you don’t need to.
To be fair, many of these cheap web designers honestly believe they are doing you a favour. However, that just reveals that they don’t understand how professional design helps firms make more money. Some even claim that professional design is “overpriced” — as if all the successful firms who invest in it were simply gullible.
Risking your business on designers like that is just asking for trouble.
If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. — Red Adair
The Cheap Professional Design “Trick”
Still, to help you avoid those risky cheap web designers, some professionals offer cheap design packages as a loss-leader. In those cases, you will generally pay far more than the “sticker price” in the long run. That’s fair, but often unexpected.
For instance, offers like “web design for £180” often mean the monthly price. That’s fair — as long as it’s stated up front. Building business websites normally takes weeks or months. So expecting a low one-off price to cover everything is unrealistic. A common mistake, but unrealistic.
Again, few who do this intend to mislead. Some do it partly to save you from the less professional cheap web designers. So if you would prefer to spread the costs, please ask.
How To Avoid The Trap
First, here’s what most people imagine a business website needs:
- A good offer — which is true, but that’s your job
- A pretty website — which helps, but is less important than the stuff below
So all you get from most cheap website design services is a pretty site. In fact, many cheap web designers only have a visual (graphics and print) design background, and think that’s all there is to building cheap websites. In fact, some just sell images of web pages as “web design”, expecting you to hire someone else to actually build the layouts. Within a large corporation, that can be a valid viewpoint, but it’s not what most people want from cheap websites.
In any case, good looks don’t help without visitors, and Google doesn’t rank sites by how pretty they are. Besides, making things pretty is art; design is about making them work — and a lot of that involves non-visual skills. So here’s what really matters:
- Content quality: relevance, readability, structure, usefulness, interest, expertise, authority
- On-site SEO
- Legal Compliance
- Security — including SSL certificates
- Domain and DNS management
- Server and software maintenance
- Site speed & “web vitals”
- Crawlability: sitemaps & code quality
- Mobile friendly, responsive web design
- Performance management: stats, analysis & experiments
- Interactivity & Engagement: forms, chat, animation etc.
- User-centric design
- Off-site SEO (backlinks, directory citations etc.)
- Content updates
- Trust marks: logos, testimonials, video testimonials, social proof
- Email marketing: newsletters & outreach
- Structured data
- Video marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Interest Targeting & Keyword Research
- Target Audience Personas (UX/UI)
- Conversion Rate Optimisation & A/B Testing
- GMB & Bing for Business
- Paid Ads and remarketing
- Lead magnets and sales funnel design
Overlooking any of those can seriously undermine your chances of success and profits. So to avoid the cheap website design trap, you need to partner with a web designer who understands all of that — and that’s not likely to be “cheap”.
Cost-Effective Websites Beat Cheap Websites
You won’t get that from amateurs or inexperienced designers — and most experienced designers focus on established firms with large marketing budgets. My goal has always been to help smaller businesses.
Most cheap web designers focus entirely on looks and ignore these performance factors. However, I want you to have the best chance of success you can afford. That’s why I offer cost-effective solutions, not just cheap ones.