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For businesses, a website is a channel of communication. For all except web-based businesses, it's not the only channel of communication available.

Given that anyone could make a DIY website for next to nothing, should they be choosing that option as a business person looking for the most cost effective solution? If not, why not?

How important / useful is a website for brand identity?

Is it better to save money to invest in a professionally designed website, rather than spending a third of that for a poor result?

I'm asking these closely related questions because I'm looking for ways to explain to potential clients that a 4 figure (£) website is worth the investment, and pre-emptively explain why it's not as cheap as GoDaddy makes it seem, if you want a professional website.

Most large companies fully understand the value of websites et al., but a fair amount of medium sized businesses, and a lot of small business tend to require a lot more explanation and convincing. They're not naïve at all, just that the internet has grown so much so quickly, and I personally think quality design services are drowned out by the vast amount of cheap, budget design services all over the internet.

When I was interning at a marketing agency, they had a smooth talking executive director whose job was mostly convincing / seducing clients to invest in multi-million pound projects. I never got a chance to learn anything from him though.

How would you explain the advantages of a professionally designed website over a cheap DIY website?

Is it okay to be confident with stating that a poorly designed website is likely to do more harm then good?

  • 3
    come on...its not that expensive. – Troy Woo Jan 21 '15 at 23:18
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    I think this might be a better question if the term "web site' were simply removed. "What advantages are there to professional design services as opposed to my third cousin who has PaintShopPro and in inkjet printer?" – Scott Jan 22 '15 at 0:39
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    Perhaps a better question would be: "would the returns (lead generation, sales, conversions etc.) on a well designed website outweigh the costs?" Couching it in concrete economic terms (as opposed to more subjective terms that revolve around the notions of taste or even 'brand') might help get your point across. It'll also mean you'll need to find ways of actually backing up any assertions you make regarding the quality of the website. – Dre Jan 22 '15 at 11:10
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Whether or not a website is effective is primarily dependent on the intended purposes of the website and the usability of it. As such, one of the two choices should not apply to every company.


If the purpose of the website is to be a static page much like a print work/flyer but happens to be on the web, for example when it's meant only to provide the contact info, address, menu, and prices for a restaurant, then a fancily designed website is not required. The quality of the visual design of the website, if it exists, can have an effect on the perceived quality of the restaurant, but if in the end it meets its primary function - to show what the restaurant has to offer and how to get there - it's acceptable for most cases. In this situation, users simply will not spend a lot of time using the website regardless of how well it is designed because that's not it's function. Furthermore, for lots of businesses, clients wouldn't even think to look for a company website, let alone use it regularly.

Also, one can get a nicely designed print-like website without paying a special design team to create the site. There are a lot of templates meant for such occasions, and ample freelance developers (especially outside of developed nations like the U.S.) who implement these types of sites for dirt cheap. That's the reason why most high quality web development companies won't even accept this type of work - they simply cannot match the pricing offered by overseas developers. Using this approach, the developer work is nearly wholly a service implementing an already built product, not adding value directly by their work - which is perfectly acceptable in some cases.

If a business is going to go with this approach, they should look for sites that they like before talking to a developer and show those sites to the developer to assure that, while they are likely still getting mostly premade content, the final result will be what they actually want and not some outdated/poor website that could actually take away from the power of the content.

I know some companies that had a website but later removed it because it was a cost that didn't bring many new customers or retain old ones in of itself. For these businesses, a "business page" on a social network like FaceBook or on a food services website was sufficient and free.


If a website is not very usable for its intended purposes, regardless of who made it or for how much, it's a bad website.


With that being said, if the purpose of the site is something beyond a static, print-like page, is attempting to provide a service other than just advertise their own offline service, or if they are trying to reach certain types of people who judge businesses heavily based on their websites (which is relatively few), it could very well be more beneficial to pay a web development company to create their website and could harm their business if they have a poor website. It goes without saying that web-based/focused companies are in this category.

The biggest category that I see falling into this are when companies seek to offer some sort of service on the website itself. This could range from buying things, building user trust, having users create a profile to keep track of favorites/upload content, to some other related concept, but what they all have in common user involvement as part of the function of the site. Having a poor user flow or visual design on sites like these leads to a more poor experience and thus less interaction, and generally revenue. This is what companies (both design/development companies implementing these sites and the businesses themselves) hope to avoid.

Simply put, web design/development companies are usually pretty dang good at their job. Given purposes for the website, it's their job to make it more profitable than posting bleak, poorly formatted content. They build experiences and build user trust. If they fail to create a useful and effective website they will likely lose that client in the future and perhaps others that the client knows as well. They (should) know the trends, create quality work, and create a good environment for users, adding value to the site past what just the content has to offer. This, at times, has enormous value to a business because it adds value past the content.


I suppose it comes down to acquiring and retention of customers. If the purpose of the site is to acquire a higher proportion of viewers - and people actually have reason to go to the website in the first place - hiring a respectable web company is likely worth their money. The same goes for retention: if the purpose of the site is to retain customers and it's a deciding factor in doing so, spending good money on a website is likely worth it. Having a poor experience for the user could lose that customer.

If neither of these are true, there may not be good reason to hire a high quality web development company. In any case, the situation has to be analyzed based on the business itself, the purposes behind the website, and on the cheapest method of achieving those goals effectively.

  • I have to disagree with you on the extent you put "User Trust" into only the second category. Branding creates trust. It's as important, sometimes more even, in your first category of "static websites" (which I'd usually refer to as a brochure site or informational site). – Ryan Jan 22 '15 at 16:18
  • @Ryan I didn't mean for it to be a hard rule, just that if building client trust through the website is vital to the business it may be better to trust designers/developers who specialize in that type of thing – Zach Saucier Jan 22 '15 at 16:40
  • think you're missing my point. You only mention "client/user trust" in what you call dynamic websites as though its not relevant for static websites. – Ryan Jan 22 '15 at 16:47
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There's no stock answer to this other than "you get out of something what you put into it."

Sometimes you don't need much of anything out of a web site other than listing one's address, business hours and maybe a phone number. A Facebook page can do that.

Sometimes a web site is the primary point of interaction with a customer and a good user experience and brand interaction are critical for the business to stand out from the crowd. Might be time to hire a designer in that case.

4

Other answers from Scott, DA01, and Zach Saucier (the ones posted at the time I'm writing this) are very solid. I'll just address some of the other stuff buried in your question:

How would you explain the advantages of a professionally designed website over a cheap DIY website?

Business owners speak in ROI. Return on Investment. You need to show them that by using your services they'll see a return that justifies whatever you're charging. It might start with Analytics. Which is more convincing:

  1. Everyones using mobile, your site should use mobile to.
  2. Going off your site's Analytics I see 45% of your users are on mobile devices and 85% of those exit is subtantially less time than the 55% viewing on desktop. To get a better return from that 45% it would be a really good idea to invest in a mobile-friendly site.

Can use a similar approach for nearly anything either from analytics, website analysis, bottle necks, confusions. Anything you can identify AND PROVE fairly convincingly could be fixed and perform better is what you should be focusing on.

Once you sell them on these things it'll be a lot easier to suggest updating the look and feel at the same time. Now, if someone reaches out to you wanting to update their look and feel that's another story --- that's terrific. They understand they're dated and want to improve. But if you're pitching to someone it's much easier to sell based on evidence first.

Is it okay to be confident with stating that a poorly designed website is likely to do more harm then good?

Only if you can support this claim which I doubt you can. I wouldn't approach a potential client and say, "Look you can go to this cheaper place but you're going to get what you pay for and its going to end up harming you." Don't be negative towards budgets, focus on why you're worth the money.

4

The degree of reflection depends greatly on many factors - business type, business size, audience demographics, etc. - but in almost all cases poor design does reflect upon any company.

If a business does not feel the need to extend resources or efforts into its brand or collateral materials that carries with it connotations of either limited resources or lack of attention in many cases.

Type of business and demographic carries a great deal of weight.

Would the public hire something as important as say, a financial management firm if their web site looked straight out of the 80s? Probably not. You'd expect something like a financial firm to convey a sense of current trends, modernism, and stability. This takes careful planning for a public image/branding. If visiting such a site you want to gain as much info about the philosophy, dependability, and structure of the company.

However, would the public hire an electrician or mechanic if their web site appeared "dated" or "template-driven"? They probably would. You don't expect craftsman to necessarily have modern, whiz-bang, web sites. All you want is their phone number and maybe some rudimentary information about the company.

In many cases how the web site looks is often entirely unimportant that the fact that there is a web site matters. Having a web site is the modern equivalent to having your phone number in the Yellow Pages. Do people still use the Yellow Pages? Not really. But it's just business stupidity to not have your phone number in it.

Now, realize this question is posted on GraphicDesign.Stackexchange.com. Post this on many other StackExchange sites and that is where you'll get unbiased, public answers. here, you'll get answers from designers which can't help but be slightly biased.

In regards to explaining the value of a professional site, well, that depends on who you are explaining to. Each client I encounter has different needs and desires. Some inherently see more value in professional services. Some just want to slap something together. What value a well designed site brings to any particular business is a personal thing for that business and it's difficult to give a "one-size-fits-all" answer.

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If you have to convince a client the importance of having a responsive website, start by showing the client the recent studies on the current number of mobile users and how many of them use their mobile device for surfing the net. There are also studies on how many mobile internet users leave a website if it isn't mobile user-friendly. (Note: As requested, research studies are listed below).

http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/study/2208496/72-of-consumers-want-mobilefriendly-sites-google-research (http://googlemobileads.blogspot.com/2012/09/mobile-friendly-sites-turn-visitors.html)

http://resources.mobify.com/50-mobile-commerce-stats.html

http://media.ofcom.org.uk/facts

http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/smartphone-owners-are-as-diverse-as-their-devices.html

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/responsive-web-design-definition

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/page-fold-manifesto

First impressions are important, that's why the aesthetic aspect of a website is vital. A poorly-designed website would impart a negative message to the site visitor. It is important to get a professional, because a professional would be more objective in the aesthetic aspect of the website.

It's just as bad as having no website at all. Having no website is like having no signboard at all. "A business without a sign is a sign of no business."

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/reasons-small-business-needs-online-presence-27742.html

  • You mention some studies, could you link us to them? Thanks. – Hanna Mar 19 '15 at 15:26
  • I very much disagree with your last paragraph about not having a website. Many people would not even look for a website for the business they are going to - it depends completely on the business and their goals – Zach Saucier Mar 19 '15 at 15:26
  • Could you also try to relate the first paragraph to the question being asked? I don't understand the connection as a non-professionally designed website can easy be responsive if they buy a template – Zach Saucier Mar 19 '15 at 15:27
  • Ready-made templates are incomplete. Besides the template being responsive there are other elements to consider like the positioning of every design element, especially the delivery of the focal point. Non-professionals always get this wrong. – DigitalComet Mar 19 '15 at 17:05
  • Could you please add some description about what is in each of the links and how they are related? On StackExchange we like to have full answers without reliance on external links, adding description can help that – Zach Saucier Mar 19 '15 at 17:43
0

By chance, I've just come across an article / blog post that seems to be a pretty good answer to my question. I found it on a question called How can I know if my developer is doing a good job? on StartUps SE.

How much should a website cost?

I'm going to summarise some of the key points that I liked and are relevant here:

  • A website's value is drastically different in 2015 than it was even a couple of years ago

Why Has Website Cost Fluctuated So Much?

  • Responsive design is now a necessity for web design
  • With 232 possible screen sizes in 2015, it isn’t difficult to understand why responsive design has driven the high end of website cost upwards
  • [...] responsive design has driven the high end of website pricing up about 20% [...] definitely not something that websites can afford to skimp on.
  • Websites priced at the higher end of the cost scale due to responsive design [...] are also able to adjust their website design and functionality to provide better visitor experiences on tablets and mobile devices [...] which ensures that their visitors experience their website smoothly and efficiently, increasing their potential for reoccurring customers.
  • On the lower end of Web design pricing, competitive industry pressure and advancements in Web design tools pushed pricing down by about 10% in 2015. First, there exist substantially more competitors in the web design market today, perhaps as many as ten times more than a decade ago.
  • Second, modern tools have made it easier for Web designers to create great looking websites. Advancements in web design tools have contributed to the inexpensiveness of the lower end of website cost. [...] This allows almost anyone to create a website or design graphics for free or at very little cost.
  • However, it does pay to spend the money to have a professional company create or redesign your website. While free tools can be useful, you are more likely to get a better, more reliable website if you pay to hire a professional web design company.
  • Websites built on free tools often lack a unique identity because free templates usually only allow a certain extent of customization. Websites using those tools may have no brand identity or may have trouble attracting traffic. Cheaper isn’t always better.

The last point in the list is my favourite, hence the bold. I've paraphrased, cut parts and joined sentences - hopefully without changing any meaning, I hope that's okay.

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