Warnings of Cheap Web Design
I will admit that web design can be a very expensive part of starting a business. As someone who sought quotes from local design agencies for a past business idea (before I got started in web design in Cleveland), I am very familiar with how jaw-dropping the quotes can be. Aside from recommending a qualified freelancer (like myself!) to lower costs, I will say that web design is often something that you get what you pay for. Whether you’re starting a business in Cleveland or anywhere else, a quality website is a must because of obvious reasons. Primarily, a website is your customers’ first impression of your business and if you aren’t displaying a professional business image then your prospective clients may not even give your business the time of day. If this isn’t enough to convince a business owner that a nice website is very important, my article Why Do I Need a Business Website may shed a little more light on the subject. My point is that price shouldn’t always be the first concern when considering a website for your business because a site that attracts customers is well worth it’s cost.
Something that prompted me to write this article was the $99 web design deals on Craigslist. Any legitimate designer that is worth their weight in salt and can be relied on is not willing to offer their services at such a low rate. You can probably find designers in other countries (Iran, India, etc.) that will do the work for low rates but then you aren’t getting as personalized of a service. Anyhow, I started thinking about all the people who likely fall for these ads and end up with a website they’re unhappy with. There are a few reasons to be skeptical of free or cheap web design and I want to discuss a few potential hazards to be aware of.
- Ownership. Often times you will not own the copyrights to a website that you have built at a very low rate. By default, the designer retains full ownership to a website they create (it’s considered “intellectual property”) unless they assign those rights to the client. When this happens, the designer can include as many affiliate links or advertisements as they’d like. Unscrupulous designers may even hold your site for ransom if your business starts making good money. There are plenty of things that can go wrong when you don’t fully own your website. Anytime you hire a designer, make sure to get a service agreement outlining things like copyright ownership and claims/permissions to use the site for their own use.
- Technology. An important thing to consider is the technology being used to build your website. Current languages for web design and development include HTML5, CSS3, PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby, and others. An outdated technology that I never recommend is Flash. Flash isn’t supported on many mobile browsers and is, therefore, a serious disadvantage with all the mobile web browsing today. Also, some people may call themselves “designers” but create your site using a free builder like Wix. This isn’t being a “designer” but, unfortunately, they probably won’t even tell you. The bad thing about these “canned” website builders is that they may be based on Flash and won’t be beneficial for your business. If they promise a free domain name then you could also wind up with a website under a design builder’s subdomain (yoursite.yola.com). When these types of software are used for building free websites, you typically don’t own the website and the software provider will most likely insert an unattractive, unprofessional logo in the footer of your website that advertises to your clients that you are using a free or cheap web design builder. Some people may neither care nor notice, but this will decrease credibility in the eyes of many.
- Quality. If you’re paying $100 for a website that a reputable designer or agency would charge $3,000 for, this should raise a red flag. One of the most obvious concerns should be quality. Are you going to receive a website that looks like it was designed in 1994? Do your research on the designer. They should have website (duh) and at least a few items in their portfolio and maybe a few testimonials. Experience can display credibility but it isn’t necessarily the strongest indicator of quality so don’t be turned away immediately by a slim portfolio. In fact, to digress for a moment, I’d argue that new designers are better suited for modern projects because they’re familiar with current technologies and design styles, whereas designers that have been in the game for 20 years may design sites that look 20 years old. But getting back to quality assurance, browse their website and the sites in their portfolio to view the design and make sure everything works properly. And remember, new designers don’t have huge portfolios simply because they haven’t been around as long (and business can be hard to gain as a new freelancer), not because they’re less qualified.
- Malware. This is something that is that should be strongly cautioned in today’s world. If you don’t know what malware is:
Malware, short for malicious software, is software used or programmed by attackers to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It can appear in the form of code, scripts, active content, and other software. ‘Malware’ is a general term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software.
Defined by Wikipedia
Shady designers can install malware on your site to illegally collect user data for things like spamming and identity theft. This is a self-explanatory concept once realized as an issue. That’s why I don’t see a great need to dive into the details of how it’s a hazard. Just knowing that it’s something to think about is enough to get the point across that you should strongly consider a reputable web designer.
I hope I’ve provided some useful tips for anyone considering the Craigslist Special. This article was not to discredit any advertisements on Craigslist (I use it occasionally to drive traffic to my website) but rather to raise awareness on the free and cheap web design ads that seem too good to be true. As always, my suggestion is to do your research first. Contact me for a web design quote and to learn how I can help your business.