The True Cost of a Free Website

When people ask us who our biggest competitors are, I often tell them, ‘Our biggest competitor is typically a friend, or an acquaintance who offers to do projects for free or at a greatly reduced cost.’ 

Unfortunately, these projects often end up costing the client more in the long run than if they had hired a professional designer in the first place. How can that be (if the project is done for free)?  Here’s a few reasons to start:

  1. Missed deadlines. Naturally, when a person is doing work for free, it’s typically at the bottom of their priority list… especially if there is work to be done on the list that they are getting paid for.
  2. Poor quality. If a person is offering to do a project for free, it may mean they aren’t really qualified to do the job.  Quality issues can often be seen in the following areas:
    • Overall design. A paid firm should take time to benchmark and research other sites, providing ideas and suggestions in addition to your own. With free work, it’s often a template design, and you’re typically stuck without many options (if any).
    • Site layout construction. Often times, designers or developers without adequate experience rely on software programs to construct the layout for them.  While software programs are improving, it still takes know-how in CSS to make sure your site is laid out using best practices to optimize your site and improve user (and  search engine) experience.
    • Search Engine Optimization – SEO. While all quality issues are important, this area is especially important.  Many beginner web designers / developers (including those that do web design as a side hobby) don’t understand the most basic levels of SEO techniques… potentially creating an opportunity cost for loss of traffic to your site through search engine results.
    • Launch & Testing.  Proper web development shouldn’t stop once the client is ready to ‘launch’…  but it often does when someone is working on your site for free.  They will upload the code, brush off their hands and move on to the next project.  Professional firms will follow a lengthy process with many tasks to make sure your site is error-free and accessible.
  3. Lack of flexibility & foresight. Professional firms will understand that the first phase of your website is often not your last.  Websites should be built in a way that allows ease of growth, without costly backwards steps.  If your website isn’t built on a solid foundation with sound code, many times it can cost twice as much (time, money or both) to move forward with functionality or site additions.

If you’re in the market for a new website, be sure to do due diligence and consider the above points when selecting your developer.

Stay tuned for the top 10 list of questions to ask your prospective designer / developer.

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