Just What Do You Pay a Web Designer For?

Some people are convinced that they can develop their own web site and it’s no secret that they can … and so can you. I chuckle every time I hear this and in fact Intuit even has a TV commercial about their new service that offers you the opportunity to create your own web site. There are probably thousands of places online you can do the same thing, so it’s not out of line for a person to believe it’s a snap to do. Am I worried about being run out of the web design business because of this? Absolutely NOT!

Want to know what I really think of all this “do it yourself” web site stuff? Well folks, here it is … my reaction is blunt and to the point and goes like this …  “Hang on … let me go get my boots, it’s getting pretty deep in here.” There’s no reason for any good web designer to feel threatened by the “do it yourself” web site offerings. I’ve been doing this long enough to know there’s a whole lot more to creating a quality web site than sitting down at your computer for a night at some online web design service.

I honestly believe that if I need plumbing done, I’m going to hire a plumber. If I have legal issues to deal with, I’m going to hire a lawyer. Why? Because I don’t know enough about either one to feel confident that doing it myself is going to give me good results.

Is it going to cost me a lot of money to hire an experienced professional? Well, that depends on your point of view. Yes, it’s going to cost me money, but on the flip side is that fact that if I try to fix a leaky pipe and can’t, I could wind up with extensive water damage that will cost me a whole lot more than it would have to hire a plumber to fix it right the first time.

What’s a Plumber Got to do With Hiring a Web Designer?

A few months ago, I managed to totally flood my kitchen due to my own stupidity. I closed the drain in my kitchen sink and turned on the faucet to soak my dehydrator trays, and then I walked away and went back to work on a client’s web site. About two hours later, I got up to get more coffee and found water-water-everywhere! I was to say the least, HORRIFIED! The water had overflown into my cupboards and drawers, across my kitchen floor and down into my basement through the radiator. There was standing water inside the cupboards and drawers. I had water running all they way across my kitchen countertop, down the side, under my refrigerator and breakfast bar and around into my bathroom where my bathroom carpet was sitting in a couple inches of water. My kitchen is 18 x 24 feet if that tells you anything about how much water had overrun my kitchen sink. Even after several hours of clean up, it took several weeks for it all to dry out completely and there was permanent damage in some areas. When I wasn’t bashing myself for my forgetfulness, I could only think, if it’s this bad with just having left the water on for a couple hours, what it must be like for people who experience the natural disaster of a flood or hurricane and this was not nearly as bad as something like that.

Well folks, I never want something like that to happen again therefore, I will not ever trust myself to do plumbing work because I don’t know enough about it to feel safe that I could do the work without the resulting damage should I screw it up. I don’t even want to think about handling a legal issue on my own. If I can’t even remember to turn off the water, how can I expect that I won’t forget something that could be life-altering in a legal battle? Yikes!

Talk about feeling stupid! My husband says I’m being to hard on myself, but he was not here to see the water creeping through the house nor did he have to clean up the mess. Ok, so yeah, I’ll give him the fact that this could happen to anyone. After all it was just a human mistake, but that doesn’t change the fact that what I did (or didn’t do in this case) caused some permanent problems which are going to cost dearly to properly repair.

Still Don’t Get the Point?

Ok, so you Google and find yourself one of those “do it yourself” web site design service and quickly put together your very own web site. You are sooooooooo proud of yourself! It looks great, it only took you a night out of your life to do it, and boy did you ever save a bundle of cash. You are so proud that all you can think of is “Look at that, I don’t need a web designer!” From there you move to “Now all I have to do is sit back and let the money roll in.”

How many other people have found this same web site service with the same exact template as you chose and put together their own web site? So, now you look like a thousand other people. How do you explain to the customer that comes into your religous products store one day and says “Hey great looking web site, my cousin has one that looks just like yours.” As if that’s not embarrassing enough, what he didn’t tell you is that his cousin sells “adults only” products. So, now you’re selling bibles to people that are secretly wondering why your web designer used the exact same design for your bible store as the guy who’s selling adult toys and porn. A custom designed web site will not have these design repercussions because a professional web designer never uses the same design for more than one client. A custom design is unique and geared to you and your business needs, not some generic template used by anyone and everyone who likes how it looks. Oh yeah, and did I forget to tell you that the quality of a good number of these templates is absolutely horrific? How something can look so good yet be so bad is way beyond my comprehension, but it’s absolutely true. What’s really abhorant? Some of these places have the audacity to charge for their templates!

Did You Remember to …

Speaking of how it looks, did you check your web site in any other browser besides the one that you created it in (which is probably some version of Internet Explorer because that’s the browser that came pre-installed on your computer)? Do you even know if people using other browsers or Mac computers can see your web site? It’s possible they can’t or that if they can, it looks really messed up and it’s even possible the online store you added doesn’t function properly in any browser but new versions of Internet Explorer.

Did you optimize your new web site for the search engines? Do you know how to perform SEO, or that it is (or defintely should be) a priority aspect of any web site? Or are you one of those people that along with believing you can create your own web site, you also believe that “if you build it they will come?”

Are you wondering why you can create a web site overnight and but it takes a professional web designer days, weeks or months?

It’s all about experience, people. When building a quality website, experience dictates that it takes time and knowledge to do the job right. Does this fall under the heading of “you get what you pay for?” To a point, yes. I’m not going to lie to you. Hiring a real live professional web designer that knows what they’re doing costs money. In the business world that means “you need to spend money to make money.”  It doesn’t mean you have to hire the designer that charges the highest hourly rate and that’s where “you get what you pay for” stops cold.

Just like anyone can create their own web site, anyone can decide one day that web designers make a lot of money and that they are going hang out their web design shingle and charge a high hourly rate so they can get into the money, too. Does this mean they know what they’re doing? NO! Should your neighbor (who’s been out of work for six months) start a web design business and claim to be a web designer? NO! Should a person fresh out of grad school having obtained a degree in web design charge the same fees as a designer who’s been designer who’s been developing web sites for 10 or 20 years? NO! A high priority key ingredient here is experience.  You can start your own web design business, but until you have some years of experience behind you, you should not call yourself a web designer nor should you charge what the experienced web designer charges.

When I started developing web sites, my rates were among the lowest in the nation. I was designing web sites, but I was not yet a web site designer. I didn’t consider myself a true web designer for years after I started creating web sites. I didn’t even start charging web designer rates until I felt confident that I had enough experience to call myself a real web designer either. Are my current rates on the high end of the web designer pay scale. No, they’re not. My rates are in the middle of the scale because I know all to well that I’m way past just starting out and I have at this writing almost 14 years of experience. I also know that there are other designers out there who know more than me, have other skills than I do and are more experienced at what they do. I wouldn’t feel right charging what these more experienced designers charge. I get paid what I feel matches my skills and experience level.

I have no doubt that some people just starting out in this business have an inborn knack and talent for it, are quick-studies and will do a superb job. I have no doubt there are web designers out there who have been doing this longer than I have and still lack good skills. I have no doubt that there are very talented and experienced web designers out there who based on their skills and level of experience, don’t charge enough. This means you cannot and should not base your decision to hire a web designer solely on what they charge.

What Does All This Mean?

In the big picture you’re paying a web designer for their knowledge, skills and experience. It’s as simple as that. A real web designer is going to handle all of the things that you know very little or nothing about. You certainly don’t want to pay a lawyer who’s fresh out of law school the same money as one who’s had many court room wins and is looking forward to retirement. What do you do, how do you know you’re getting quality for your money?  You don’t just look at a web site or two the designer has done and think “Ohhhh! Now that’s what I want!”  and hire them on the spot just because these sites looks good. You ask a lot of questions, do some research, review portfolios and check references before you make your decision. At the very core of this is your inner voice – you listen to your what your gut’s telling you. If you feel little flutters of “is this a hard sell job?” Runnnnn! Like any business, there are web designers who will paint you pretty visual pictures and try to hard sell you on their services. A good web designer knows they don’t need to do this and they won’t.

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