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Should I Hire A Website Designer?
30 September 2014

Should I Hire a Web Designer?

So, you’ve just started a new business. You’ve hired a design agency to take care of your branding. You’re at the stage where you need a website for your business. You’ve seen the adverts on TV for Wix or 1&1 My Website and you’re thinking to yourself “Why should I hire a web designer?”

Before addressing that question, let’s explore the options that you have in creating your new business website:

  • Self build using software such as Wix or 1&1 My Website
  • Using a website service such as Wix or 1&1 My Website can often be the quickest and cheapest route to market. This sort of service often pride themselves on being “easy to use” and “easy to customise.” That really depends on how tech savvy you are, as with this route, you’re left to your own devices.

  • Lean on a friend / family friend to do the work for you
  • You might have a friend, or, your family might know someone that can build your website. There are pros and cons to this situation. Sometimes, you’ll be left having your business’ website designed by your auntie’s son-in law who studied HTML for a week at the birth of the internet. Other times, it can pan out well.

    You might not realise that someone in your family runs their own web design agency or is a successful freelancer. This might work in your favour as you could end up getting some great work done for a fraction of the price it would normally cost.

  • Brush up on some code and teach yourself how to build something reasonable
  • This route is the longest by far. Unless you’re an amateur web designer in your spare time, you’re going to invest a lot of time learning how to build your own site. That said, what’s better than self development? If you have time to spare and have a passion for developing your own site then maybe this is the road for you. Having some prior knowledge of web design and content management systems such as WordPress could help you if you decide to hire a web designer too. Ultimately, you need to calculate what your time is worth to you and decide whether developing the skill-set and saving money is worth the investment in time.

  • Hire a web designer or design agency to build your website for you
  • This is the most professional route to take with your new website. However, it comes at a cost. Working with a design agency or freelance designer can be more expensive than the other options. That said, the end result will be of a much higher quality. We’ve all heard the expression “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” and that rings true here. If you pay the going rate for a professional, you’re going to get the best result for your budget.

Cost Analysis

As the costs for leaning on a friend can be variable and the cost of teaching yourself to build a website is based on time, let’s take a look at the other two options: the cost of Wix / 1&1 My Website or similar and the cost of working with a freelancer or design agency.

Wix

Wix label themselves as a free website builder. However, looking at their subscription model, you don’t get many features included with their free package. If you take a look at their pricing page, you can see they recommend their Unlimited Package. This package comes with a reasonable amount of storage and unlimited bandwidth and costs only £7.76 per month. You can sign up yearly and get a discount, or pay by direct debit monthly. You even get a free domain name and vouchers for AdWords and Facebook Ads.

12 months x £7.76 per month = £93.12 per the course of the year

1&1 My Website

1&1 My Website offer a 99p (+VAT) per month package. However, the options are very limited and wouldn’t offer you the best foundation to build a website. The next package up isn’t much better. With 1&1 you’d need to take their Premium Package which is £9.99 (+VAT) per month. You get a free domain and some SEO assistance built in too.

12 months x £9.99 (+VAT) per month = £119.88 (+ VAT)

Freelance Web Designer / Web Design Agency

Hiring a freelance web designer can be a bit of a gamble. Some are great, while others fail to live up to expectations. The same can be said of a design agency. Picking out a great designer / agency to work with on your website project can be a mammoth task. Take into account things like: the standard of their portfolios, client reviews, how busy they are (if they’re stowed off, it often means they’re good) and how they communicate. If you’re struggling to choose a design agency, see the linked post.

What freelancers charge can often be totally different to larger design agencies. Each freelancer and agency has their own ways of costing a project. Some charge on a daily rate and others hourly. In my own design agency, we charge a fixed fee per project.. Without the huge overheads, freelancers normally come in cheaper, but, by using a design agency, you’re getting more than one person working on your project and more insight and ideas being shared. This can often benefit the end result.

Working on a price for a standard brochure website for, say, a restaurant factoring in 5-7 pages with a menu and some contact details, I’d envisage this sort of price breakdown.

Freelancer: £750-£1000 including VAT.

Design Agency: £1500 – £2000 for the whole project, + VAT.

Don’t forget if you’re looking for a design agency or freelancer, their location often has a bearing on cost. If you use a big name in the centre of London, you’re likely to pay more than if you were to work with a design agency in smaller cities.

What Are the Advantages of Working with a Professional Over Using a Template Site?

As you can see from our analysis, hiring a professional web designer costs significantly more than using an on-line site builder. However, more often than not, the level of expertise that a professional designer will bring to your website project will be worth the project costs.

A professional will sit down and work through each  aspect of your site with you. They’ll talk about things like calls to action, user experience, and visitor flow. Some designers will work to the MVP model. This means they’ll look to establish a minimum viable product early in the project and work the website up from there into a solution based on real feedback and results.

The design of the website itself will be one of the main aspects of choosing to work with a professional. The site templates and layouts provided with 1&1 / Wix are often basic and filled with web-design tropes. Whilst they pride themselves on flexibility and ease of editing, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, they’re actually quite hard to change around. Sure, you can edit pictures and colours, but if you want to change the layout of a page and switch things up a bit, then they’re probably not right for you.

Any designer worth their salt will be able to create a website that looks better than a template found on an online site builder. But, there are other things a professional designer can bring to your business too.

What Can a Web Designer Bring to Your Business?

As well as a professional looking a website, a designer can add an awful lot to your business. Think about the wealth of knowledge they have. If they’ve been in the business a number of years, chances are they’re aware of what works and what doesn’t.

Having a web designer that you can rely on to craft landing pages, amend parts of your site and provide services as and when required can really help your business grow. If you need an update or change made as soon as possible, having that relationship with your designer might just see your request made possible. It is entirely possible that you could also make simpler changes yourself using a template package, but a good designer would also be able to teach you how to update a site they’ve built for you.

So, you don’t recommend using Website Builders?

In my own opinion, it’s always worth the cost to hire a professional web-designer. However, that’s not always right or possible. If you have a budget lower than £500 I would suggest that you use a website builder. This saves you time digging around for quotes and having conversations with web designers, it also saves you approximately £400. Eventually though, if your business grows, I would suggest you revisit the idea of having your site built professionally.

Other advantages to using a website builder include the fact you can spread the cost. A lot of design agencies will charge you 50% up front and 50% on completion. That could leave you with £1000 bill to pay straight away. If you don’t have the money to hand, maybe a website builder’s monthly plan is right for you.

Are Designers Always the Right Choice?

I’ve talked a lot about the pros of hiring a professional web designer, as you may have noticed, I am one. But, as a professional, I would recommend that you not seek to instruct a web designer if:

  1. You don’t have the budget
  2. You don’t value their services and / or opinion
  3. Don’t need a high calibre website
  4. Don’t want to build a lasting relationship
  1. There’s not much anyone can do about this one. Unless you have a friend to lean on to do the work, you’re only left with the option of building your own website. However, I would still recommend that you invest the time in learning to code something reasonable. As a last resort, if both time and money are in short supply, using self-build software may be the right choice for you.
  2. Remember that hiring a professional allows you to draw on their wells of skill and experience. Your designer will have opinions and practices of their own and these may not always conform to your ideas. But, industry practices and norms exist for a reason. Insisting on your own opinions rather than taking on board what your design professional recommends defeats the purpose of hiring one in the first place. If you’re unable to trust the professional you’ve hired with safe keeping of your project, then perhaps spending the money in hiring one may not be the right course for you.
  3. As a designer, I want to build high quality web-sites that look nice and function well. Moreover, I want my clients to be happy with their product. If it’s not worth your time to deal with a designer and learn what phrases like, “user conversion,’ mean, you’re probably not going to get the most out of them. You may also be doing their portfolio a disservice. Building a high calibre website involves more than just paying the invoices and sending off a quick brief. It takes feedback, conversations, and client involvement in the project. The time this would take varies between design agencies. At Canny we recommend frequent meetings via Skype, phone, or in person whilst working on a project. If you can’t afford to invest this time, or just don’t need a high calibre website, then perhaps hiring a design agency is not the right choice.
  4. At Canny, customer service ranks high on our priorities. If we accept your instructions, we don’t want to speak to you only once or twice, but to keep you in the loop throughout the project. Further, once the project is finished, we tend to maintain relationships with our clients. If you’re looking for a quick solution rather than a professional relationship, then again, based on my experience, a designer may not be the right choice for you.

Making Your Decision

If you do decide to look for a freelancer or design agency then head over to sites like Dribbble and Behance and contact agencies you like the look of. Spend some time on Google and hunt around for designers or agencies that you like the look of. Also take a look at the post that I mentioned earlier.

If you decide to use a family friend, then make sure it’s approached properly and professionally. And don’t let your Cousin Kenny do the work, unless he’s a professional website designer. Remember, your website reflects on your business as is an important tool. Do make sure that your friend has the skill and motivation to get your website right.

If you’re looking to use a Site Builder, then head over to Site Builder Report and check out reviews and remarks from people that have used the different services in the past. As a quick heads up, a lot of good things have been said about Squarespace, even within the design industry.

And finally, if you’re thinking about scratching that coding itch and taking on the challenge of building a website yourself, consider the following;

  1. Have a look at WordPress and ThemeForest, combine them for a magic recipe.
  2. Head over to Codecademy, they’re a fountain of knowledge.
  3. Get yourself a Tuts+ Network subscription, their videos are great.

And last but not least, the very best of luck! If you do build something yourself, I’d love to see it. Do leave your ideas, thoughts and feedback in the comments below.