Clients beware, template resellers thinly disguised as web designers, the true cost of a bespoke website
Ever heard the saying, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is?
With the huge popularity of theme marketplaces such as themeforest, there’s been an increasing and worrying trend in the industry of individuals setting themselves up as web designers, when they are really just theme resellers.
Being a theme reseller in itself is not a bad thing, and using pre-made themes for a clients website is not necessarily a bad thing either. If a client just wants a cheap small website, then sometimes a template is the best way to achieve what they’re looking for within their budget constraints.
The issues here are of deception and ignorance. Most clients are not going to be able to tell that their bespoke £350 custom built WordPress website is actually a £15 template off themeforest. This is partly also due to the fact that a lot of templates on themeforest are actually of high quality, at least visually.
This may beg the question then – why wouldn’t a client want to save money and use templates all of the time? Why bother with a bespoke design at all? There’s no blanket right or wrong answer to this but it really depends on your budget and your business.
Remember, your online presence is the online identity of your business, and just like your logo and branding should be unique, so it is also better that your website is too. The problem with templates is anybody can use them. Many templates on themeforest have been downloaded tens of thousands of times, meaning there are potentially tens of thousands of other businesses using the same design.
Imagine how embarrassing it would be for your builders business if somebody told you that your brand spanking new website looked exactly the same as the website for another builder in the same town. Your website is your chance to distinguish yourself from your competition, and make a unique impression on the client. Your web design should reflect your business, and a template doesn’t do that. Templates are designed to be generic, and by being generic, they are forgettable.
Individuals that resell pre-made templates to clients as bespoke designs are also a problem for the industry as a whole. Why? Simply because, they devalue the profession of web design. If you are a client, and you see one web designer offering a custom built bespoke website for £150, then understandably you may be a bit miffed as to why another web designer is quoting you £2500.
The reality is however that the £2500 is probably more likely in line with the work involved. So if you’re a client looking for a website, how much should you be expecting to pay for a bespoke design that isn’t a cheap existing template? Here’s a very rough break down that will hopefully help.
- Up to £500 – For under £500 you’re not going to get a high quality, well built bespoke website. The reality is, either the website will be of fairly low quality, or the web designer building the site for you is cutting corners by using pre-made templates. Be very aware of any web designer that offers you a completely unique bespoke design for figures in the hundreds. Remember, you can buy the templates yourself for £15-30.
- Up to £1000 – For between 500 and 1000, you may well get a high quality bespoke design. However, you’re more likely to be dealing with a junior designer starting out in their career, rather than a seasoned professional with many years experience. This will of course depend on the complexity of the website, for example an E-Commerce website involves a lot of development time so it’s unlikely you’d get a completely bespoke E-Commerce website from a professional for under £1000. If you do, they are probably using some pre-made templates or cutting corners in other areas. However a more simpler website, or a simple CMS, then this is possible.
- Between £1000 and £3000 – in this price bracket, you can expect a high quality CMS website and a good quality E-Commerce website. You’re still going to be restricted in terms of function. E-Commerce and CMS websites are almost always built using existing software – this helps keeps costs down and makes development quicker and more efficient. Think of it like the wheel – it is a waste of time and resources for developers to re-invent something that already exists perfectly well. However, if your website has some unique functionality, or is particularly complex (think intricate databases, social networking etc) then you’re probably looking at the next price bracket.
- Between £3000 and £10,000 – In this rough price bracket, you’re looking at very high quality, comprehensive and bespoke CMS and E-Commerce websites, as well as websites with more advanced, bespoke and specific functionality that may have to be built from the ground up. You can expect a professional and complete solution to your needs.
- Over £10,000 – If you can spend over £10,000 on a website, you can expect to be looking at something that is created by a large team of professionals over many weeks. Your project would be their job for sometime, and the solution would be bespoke, professional, and of the absolute highest quality.
If you’re a client, you may be shocked that a website could cost £2000, let alone over £10,000! But the reality is, it’s not the rip off you might think it is. Websites are costed generally speaking in terms of the level of profession of who is making your website, and the length of time it will take.
Even a basic bespoke three page website would usually take me three days to design, code and test. That roughly works out at about £360 based on working 8 hours per day at an hourly rate of £15 an hour. £15 an hour is not at all unreasonable for a developer and designer of my level – someone with ~8 years experience (I have 3) would be more like £30-100 per hour. How does a website then end up costing £2000? Probably because your website is more complex and probably involves a CMS. A bespoke CMS website would take me as an individual about 2-3 weeks from concept to completion. At the same hourly rate as the three page site, that now comes in at £1200-1800. When you realise that you’re essentially having to pay someone for 2-3 weeks work, suddenly you should hopefully realise the pricing is not unreasonable. And how about websites that end up costing £4000, £10,000 or more? That will happen because you’re probably effectively hiring a small team of people for a few weeks.
And don’t forget, professional web design and development is a highly skilled and difficult profession. You’re not paying someone to put butter on a shelf at Tesco! How much did that plasterer cost you? Or that building work?
The bottom line is, as a client, if you’re looking at spending hundreds rather than thousands, you’re either looking at a very simple, basic website, or it’s probable that you’re looking at the use of a template, or cutting corners in other areas by whoever is making your website. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, your budget is your concern, but it’s important to make sure your expectations are in line. If you want a complete, comprehensive, bespoke and unique website with advanced functionality such as CMS or E-Commerce, you need to be prepared to spend over £1000 to work with a web design professional.