“I can get this cheaper at [insert name of company that’s supposed to impress me]!”
Costing is always an important issue for any sort of service. In a service that’s part technical, part creative, part service and part product, such as web design, the pricing is even more contentious and fraught with doubt and second-guessing.
I have often been questioned about the validity of the cost of a website design project. More often I’ve been dismissed as not being serious, but the vague jabs at this undefined thing that many clients do not understand usually start much earlier. Quite early in meetings I do get asked in faux jest whether our prices are ‘reasonable’. It is a strange question, but not a reasonable one.
Everyday hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the internet enter the term affordable web design into their favourite search engine and wait for a miracle. What a surprisingly large number of them are trying to find is some computer monkey who will create for them something that looks exactly like that extremely cool site their wife/cousin/son/hair-dresser came across a few days ago and which will cost them a little under what it costs to have a mediocre meal at one of those fancy restaurants. An even larger number are looking for something that costs even less.
The disconnect between the unrealistic expectations of clients about the pricing for professional web design services, and the reality of what anyone who really knows what they are doing will charge, comes down to the old question of why you need a web site. As ubiquitous as the internet is in urban life today, an understanding and appreciation of it, beyond an obsession with social media platforms and cool games on smart phones, is rare. Most people still want a website because all the cool kids have one, and those looking for cool are often stingy unless the thing to be bought comes with immense social sanction. Since the measly web designer is not Apple Inc. and therefore not making a much sought after iSite, they are obviously not worth the money.
I’ve waited for meetings in so many deserted office reception areas which had tens of thousands of dollars worth of ostentatious tables, couches, wood panelling, frosted glass walls, concealed lighting and extruded metal logos, only to have been politely dismissed when I quoted a few thousand dollars for their whiz-bang rule-the-world website which needed to be done in a month. If the client is not in it for the right reason, they’re just not going to get it. They don’t value the work because they never meant for the finished product to have any value to anyone other than their company ego. These worst examples of brochure sites are what makes up the majority of the internet, and are what makes up the majority of the work done by low to medium grade web technicians to satisfy a growing market need. It is not what you want to work on if you are a professional designer trying to make useful sites of lasting value.
So when I do get that irritated exclamation about “I can get this cheaper at [insert name of company that’s supposed to impress me]”, I smile, and in the most polite and clear voice I can muster I say, “Please do.”