Can you get a good website for < $1K? How much do you need for an above average website?

sour note

One-word answer for you! “Unlimited design”

OK, these are two words, but hey, I’m a designer. Our life is not an exact science. Learn to live with the ambiguity and embrace the change! Lol

Where were we? Right, how to get a decent website that doesn’t suck. If you have $1000 in your war chest and google “cheap web design,” you should be seeing a bunch of rather amusing examples and realize soon enough that $1000 is way too much to pay for a website; some guys are offering a site for as low as $99!

It’s so downright cheap that you might be wondering if they are done by child laborers overseas but it looks like they are all legit US/UK-based businesses. Or, could they be making those Windows 95 websites? You know how technology changes so quickly. But again, these guys look like they are totally on board with the wave of the future. So 2021!

But let’s play a devil’s advocate for a minute and you want not the “Cheap” website. You want a “reasonable” website, correct? In that case, consider doubling your budget to $2000 and google these: unlimited design and development. To have a functional website, you need not just a design file. It needs to be coded into cyberspace as well. You will need a web developer for that.

They actually look pretty good, right? But as a discerning customer with a good eye for design, you might be feeling these designs are a bit, shall we say, “plain vanilla.” Some may dare to say these are minimalist designs but since they are so common, your brand may look generic in the eyes of your customers. But still, they look and work fine. They have hundreds of testimonials. We all have a pair of blue jeans in our closet, but we can still manage to look different. So for this price, you’re getting an average ROI.

So, to answer the first question of “Can you have a reasonable website for less than $1000?” I would say, “You should be able to get a modern website that does a reasonable job if you can spend $2000.”

But what if you want an ABOVE average website? How much do you need for that? How much is enough? Do you need to hire an agency that is charging $200,000 for a website? They probably have more overheads than those offering bottomless prices but still, what’s the real difference between the $1000 and $200,000 website?

Let’s pretend that you’re now an owner of a big agency. You have a group of talented designers, experienced developers, and other smart staff who can deliver a top-notch website for $200,000. Then there are “unlimited” guys who claim to do the same for $1000. You gotta be asking, “How the hell do they do that?”

It’s simple: Subcontracting.

Those “unlimited design” sites are a variation of “Uber-for” trends. After they find a client in need of design (you), they subcontract your order to a designer who would do the job at the lowest rate possible. This is possible because we designers are humans and we are often insecure. Speaking from my own experience, I used to design for free using all kinds of free resources available online. (Don’t they all look familiar?) Even when I began to charge nickels and dimes from clients, I always knew there are tons of designers much hungrier than I was from all around the world. (Pricing pressure alert!)

But luckily for us designers, there’s a solution. Yep, you guessed it right. We subcontract. We can’t help it when we can’t bear the heat of pricing anymore, or when our inner design devil asks us, “why should I work for less than a minimum wage?” We have to pay our bills and keep our lights and Adobe CC subscription going. So we sometimes subcontract what’s subcontracted. “F*** this! Everyone’s doing it. I’ll subcontract this s*** to whoever and get paid for it now!” When the heat is on, the originality in ideas and sense of ownership of the project go out of the window first.

No, I haven’t done any formal studies nor undercover reports on this area. I’m just sharing with you what I know from my own experience as a member of web designer and developer communities. They are where the transactions happen and out there, I’ve seen “some” agencies and designers promoting the subcontracting-based business model. I find it a bit ironic to see those subcontractors lurking in the communities with missions to help designers make a decent living.

But you know, we live in a free market after all. As long as there are insecure designers who would work for free and people who want a good design for less (why not?), you can always profit from this design arbitrage opportunity. Depending on how you slice the pie, these guys are the driving force behind design democratization. Thanks to innovation, we can all benefit from the power of good design and development. The cost seems irrelevant as long as you are not the loser.

So there you have it. There are many ways to have a great website for less. I believe it boils down to how much risk you want to assume. Depending on your risk tolerance, there’s a wide spectrum of possible outcomes. You can “encourage” (or pressure) an insecure designer to work for $0 and see what comes out of it. You can also pay $200,000 to make the risk practically disappear. Or you can take advantage of the “unlimited” services too. We don’t usually care how things are made (or maybe you do?) so we don’t really have to care about who is actually designing. If you don’t like it, you can always “return” it and request a revision for free, unlimited times. That appears to be a reasonable risk reduction strategy. And I think for a commodity product/service like an average website, that “unlimited” option should work fine.

In other words, there is a totally different way to value and benefit from, an above average, custom-made, non-commodity, website. I’ll leave that as a topic for another article. Thanks for reading!