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Small busi­nesses often want simple, affordable web design packages. That’s fine, we can do that — but then some call pro­fes­sional web design “expensive” and “over­com­plicated”. So why do website prices vary so much?

Because web design can mean several very dif­ferent things.

Business web­sites serve a wide range of pur­poses. Some of those pur­poses are common, others less so. So there are at least three levels of web design to con­sider.

Affordable Web Design Packages

Common require­ments can some­times be stand­ardised, and pro­cesses stream­lined, to keep costs down. However, flex­ib­ility creates com­plexity, so in practice, “stream­lining pro­cesses” always means “restricting choices”.

For some people, and some pur­poses, that makes little dif­ference — and cash flow is often a bigger concern for small busi­nesses. Some are also more focused on getting a website built than designed. In such cases, simple website packages can be a good fit.

However, this approach to providing simple, affordable web­sites doesn’t work in more complex, or less common situ­ations. Clearly, if simple website packages don’t meet your require­ments, you need a more flexible approach — and that’s pro­fes­sional web design.

Professional Web Design

Professional web designMany firms want bespoke visual design, rather than simply cus­tom­ising pre-built layout tem­plates. It’s such a common request that many pro­fes­sional web designers do nothing else. So why do some busi­nesses see value in it, when others dont?

Well, pro­fes­sional web design isn’t just about making things look pretty or imple­menting a site owner’s per­sonal pref­er­ences. So those who think it is, won’t see much value in it. The real value comes from focusing on what your cus­tomers want, and helping your site to appeal more to your target market.

Professional web design covers topics like how to create inter­ac­tions, user inter­faces (UI), user exper­i­ences (UX) and inform­ation archi­tec­tures (IA) that guide user beha­viour. Other common con­sid­er­a­tions include site security, access­ib­ility, SEO, per­formance on dif­ferent devices, and so on.

Combined with tar­geted visual appeal, all these aspects encourages more vis­itors to become cus­tomers. Those increased con­version rates can then also reduce advert­ising costs, increasing you overall return on investment.

All of those topics are con­stantly evolving, as is the web itself. Meanwhile, web­sites gen­erate lots of stats on site per­formance and user beha­viour trends. So pro­fes­sional web designers con­stantly study all these things to under­stand what really works. Over time, that data-backed exper­ience becomes a valuable resource that no short course or auto­mated design tool can replace.

Web Development

Web developmentThe other obvious lim­it­ation of simple site packages is that some­times you need more fea­tures than they include, or slightly dif­ferent approaches to providing them. So the next step up is building systems from common com­ponents.

This com­ponent-based web devel­opment approach often defaults to WordPress devel­opment. That’s because WordPress provides the basics of what most sites need in an incredibly flexible, user-friendly package. It also sits at the heart of an eco­system of hun­dreds of thou­sands of com­munity-built themes and plugins that can help with almost any remotely common requirement.

Being popular is enough for some to be very vocal about hating WordPress, but to be fair to its more reas­onable detractors, it isn’t perfect for every situ­ation. Still, object­ively speaking, it is the best fit for many. That’s why over two thirds of all the editable web­sites online are based on WordPress.

Yet some­times even that isn’t enough, so you need full bespoke web devel­opment to design and code a solution from scratch. Actually, even that’s becoming less common now, as it is often more effi­cient to build on top of design and devel­opment frame­works like Laravel.

Bespoke Website Design and Web Development Processes

Web design and web developmentCustom work needs detailed dis­cussion, ana­lysis, design, imple­ment­ation, testing, review, bug-fixing and further review. Every one of those steps takes more time and skill than most people think. So does pro­fes­sional content cre­ation, which often goes through similar stages. As a result, pro­fes­sional web design and devel­opment pro­jects usually take weeks or months, not hours or days.

Despite this, inex­per­i­enced designers often only estimate for imple­ment­ation, then struggle to provide bespoke work at the price of packaged solu­tions. That doesn’t help you, or them, as it is impossible to sustain good cre­ative work under that kind of pressure.

Unique, col­lab­or­ative pro­jects like website builds are never easy to predict, in any case. Imagine being asked to predict the time and cost of you helping me to build a jigsaw. You don’t know how many pieces it has, or even if I actually have them. So the only honest answer is, “It depends… tell me more.”

Still, many bespoke pro­jects require hours of dis­cussion and ana­lysis to assess properly. So many web designers cut the dis­cussion short, risking inac­curate estimates, whilst others increase their rates to cover those hours. The safest approach, though, is to do this work as a paid “Discovery” phase before com­mitting to the full investment needed to implement the res­ulting solution. So that’s what I offer, for pro­jects that need it.

Conclusion

Professional web design dir­ectly helps busi­nesses build poten­tially massive rev­enues. That’s valuable partly because it isn’t as simple as it some­times looks.

It’s easy to call things “expensive” or “over­com­plicated” when you don’t under­stand or value them. However, you’re implying that those who buy them are gullible and wasting money — tell that to Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.

The truth is that those who invest in web design and devel­opment tend to be more suc­cessful than those who don’t. It’s just unreal­istic to expect custom work at pro­duction-line prices, and reality has a sur­prising amount of detail.

Still, it can be tricky to know whether you need a simple, affordable web design package or pro­fes­sional web design and devel­opment. So if my pages on those don’t answer that question, please get in touch for a free, no-oblig­ation chat.

Wondering which approach will be best for your project?

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