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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.

Skip to “How To Avoid The Trap”

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
  • Reviews
  • Video mar­keting
  • Accessibility
  • 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

My Affordable Web Design packages include help with the bold items on that list — and I can help with the other parts too. So even my budget web design solu­tions are built with that in mind.

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.

Need cost-effective small business web design?

Get an affordable website!