The “Cost” or “Quality” Conundrum

At 16toads, we often receive referrals from other small business owners who have a colleague in dire need of a web site or a “fix” [read: repair]. Often times, the individual who was referred has already gone the through the web design process with another company. All too often, their “investment” is wasted due to unbelievably inept design and development. The phrase “Package Deal” causes my blood to curdle and, while the term “investment” is often debatable … 

The fact is: You get what you pay for.

Purchase a $500 web site, and you will get a $500 web site. 

Another fact is: “Professional quality” doesn’t mean a thing if the potential client doesn’t see past the immediate dollar sign.

In the end, who is to blame for a buyer's bad experience with “web design”? Granted, bad experiences are possible even when thousands of dollars are spent, but the idea that you can buy a quality web site for $250 or $500 or even $1000 is as ridiculous as believing that the North Face Jacket you purchased in a Great Wall tourist depot in China is the same quality as the North Face jacket available directly from North Face. 

Few people buy a new car without doing copious amounts of research, so why don’t small business owners believe that researching web design partners (and market rates) is every bit as important?

Cost vs. Quality
It’s a foregone conclusion that “cost” is the single most important factor for most potential clients in determining which web design and development proposal they respond to.

But what so many business owners fail to grasp is that each and every image they put forth, whether via a website or through traditional mass marketing efforts, is a representation of how they conduct their business. Instead of asking, “How much will this cost?”, the question they should be asking is, “How much will it cost me in potential revenue if I cut corners on my web site or my marketing efforts?”  In an increasingly difficult business climate, image is everything, and an unprofessional one will send people scurrying to your competitor faster than a mouse click. 

That said, “quality” will almost always take a back seat to “cost” for most business owners ... despite the fact that “quality” is in the driver’s seat for most potential customers.

Cost of Designing Right the First Time
How do we as professionals change the paradigm? I have to admit to being shocked at being told by a recent referral that she had "invested" in a web site "package" by particpating in an eBay auction. Que? I had no idea web design companies were auctioning their services on eBay! If one could even call them designers or developers. Anyway, her "investment" amounted to a whopping $250 (rounded figure) for domain registration, hosting, design, and full eCommerce development. Needless to say, the results were/are positively horrific.

Part of our job as professionals is to educate potential clients about the cost of professional design and why spending $600 on an "all-inclusive, super-duper" web design and development package is guaranteed to disappoint. Nonetheless, as professionals, it is paramount that we work with clients to offer them the best deals we can possibly offer without compromising our integrity or the quality of our final product.  Web design and development requires specific skills and the patience to do things right ... Start cutting corners or promising more than you can deliver and it hurts you and the industry.  Treat your client to one bad experience, and it ruins the business for all of us.

You can’t compete with the “friend of a friend who does some web design” or the client who “knows some HTML”. You can only cross your fingers and hope that the potential client who has already been burned once has had an a epiphany and realized that finding the right design partner to design and develop their most important marketing tool is well worth the expense. 

Great, functional web design and development is a substantial investment. The question then becomes: "How serious are you about the success of your business?"