When the tools are free, the space is cheap, and the technology simple, why pay for a professional?
These days, anyone with access to a home computer can publish anything to the Internet, at the cost of a little of their time and a few phone calls to connect to the Internet. Why then would anybody possibly want to pay a professional to perform the same tasks they could do themselves?
With the computer programs and development systems that are readily available today, it is indeed a fact that anyone with a minimal level of computer literacy can produce their own Web site without resorting to a professional designer or agency.
Taking a quick look around the web will confirm this – look at the pages on the most popular of the free web space providers, such as Geocities http://www.geocities.com, where pages are hosted and served for free, designed by their owners, and presented for all the world to see, albeit with added advertisements.
Anyone can create their own Web pages, and publish them, using entirely free tools and services. With this being the case, why should businesses – particularly small businesses, for whom budgets are always going to be tight – pay for web design services?
The answer is that with web design, like so many things, you get what you pay for.
There is a large step up from a build-it-yourself site to a professionally designed and developed corporate offering. Yes, it is indeed possible for anyone to create his or her own Web site, but the quality depends on the skills of the designer. With some honourable exceptions, the Do-It-Yourself approach tends to show.
Creating web pages doesn’t make a web designer; stacking bricks on top of each other doesn’t make a builder. Tulsa web design are real professionals, who provide turnkey projects with SEO and online marketing.
Practically anyone can produce web pages – in the same way that practically anyone can write; they can produce letters and words on a page or a screen that go together to form sentences and paragraphs. That does not necessarily mean that practically anyone can be a Writer.
Practically anyone can build a house – stacking bricks one on top of the other, in roughly the shape expected of a house, with mortar between them, the relevant gaps for the windows and the doors, and so on.
Easy, isn’t it?
It does not make them a Builder, and I certainly would not rush to choose the free of charge, and well-intentioned amateur over the pricier but experienced Master Builder. Would you?
Web design is a skill borne of perseverance, experience, understanding of the media and the context in which the design is to fit, and, yes, a degree of basic talent.
The cost of a professionally designed and developed Web site should be seen as an investment that will bring real returns to the business, as well as being something that will reflect upon the business – any Web site forms an increasingly important part of the overall corporate branding and image package.
The image portrayed by a hand-built, home grown Web site is considerably less polished in 99% of cases than that of a professionally designed site. As with other aspects of corporate publicity, professional, quality work portrays the image of a professional, quality, committed company.
Imagine the task of producing business cards on your own office printer, then cutting them out by hand, to be given to customers and clients.
Not bad, with the cost and sophistication of today’s technology, but a far cry from what you could achieve with cards produced by a print shop, professionally executed and produced.
It is all about image, at the end of the day. By paying an experienced professional to produce your Web site, and accordingly, to portray your image in the on-line world, you are paying for credibility, quality and consistency.
The physical, easily visible things you get when you buy web design services are, generally speaking, much the same as can be produced by anyone: one or more pages of information, probably linked together, probably with some pictures here and there.
A good Web site is like a swan: serene and polished on the surface even if it is flapping and paddling like crazy under the surface.
The delivered pages are, of course, only a small part of the service – all that shows above the waterline, so to speak. Swan-like, the Web site that you and your site visitors will see should be flawless and attractive.
Beneath the water, out of sight, there should have been a great deal more flapping and churning going on than meets the eye of the average visitor. In some home grown sites, there is clearly a lot of churning and flapping visible on the surface, and very little hidden from the casual visitor.
As well as getting copies of logos, images, and advertising copy from you, a good, professional, Web designer should have also taken the time to establish exactly where the Web site fits into your business, and what you are expecting benefits of a web presence to be for your business.
A more general Web consultant will also be able to help you to determine where the Web site fits in your business. A straightforward designer will want all the answers to come from you, and may be less able to offer advice on the integration of the site into your business. Indeed, the failure of many Web sites to live up to the expectations of their owners is due to the lack of realistic, well founded advice early on in the project.
A Web designer or consultant may not have any prior knowledge or experience of your market, and accordingly should have taken the time to find out from you, who you are, and where you fit into the market.
For your money you should also be getting the assurance that the Web page that looks good on your screen, also looks good on as many other screens as possible – different browsers and different types of computers display slightly differently, and the Web site design should take that into account. It may not be possible to get the particular design to appear 100% identically across all platforms, but it should be as close as possible, and still be usable across all platforms: if it ‘breaks’, it may not look as pretty, but it will still work.
A professional designer should be able to bring their prior experience and knowledge of the Internet – what is likely to work and what is less likely to work – in such a way as to offer guidance and advice to you, where required, in terms of the direction for a web presence to take. A good designer should even be able, on occasion, to disagree with elements of your vision, with the ability to coherently explain why they disagree.
Any good web development project is a partnership – you bring your knowledge of your company, your customers and your market, and the designer will match it with his or her knowledge of the Web, design and Internet trends.
Another consideration that should come into play is the unseen future of the Internet, and the changing uses to which your company will put it.
While it is straightforward and simple to put together a web presence that fits together well, has navigation that works to get you from page to page and back again, it takes greater care and attention to make a Web site stand the test of time: what happens if, instead of six sections, you later want seven sections? How will the navigation work then? What will that do to the structure? How easily can the pages be changed to accommodate it?
A well designed site will be constructed in such a way that it can be expanded and upgraded later, without having to be completely rebuilt from scratch – even if this future flexibility currently only shows beneath the waterline, it will reap rewards in the future when things inevitably change, and the Web site needs updating.
With many small businesses choosing the home grown approach for their Web design requirements, the Internet is filled with sites that work for most of the people who see them, using some of the browsers, will do for now, are just about satisfactory, and that do not really produce many benefits for the businesses behind them.
This leads the businesses to be unwilling to spend the money on a professional site as their experience so far has shown them that a Web site is not that successful.
Done properly, a Web site will bring visitors, convert them to customers, and earn money for your business; done badly, a Web site can drive customers to your competition.
A good, professionally designed Web site is an investment, not an expense. A good Web site, based on realistic business objectives should bring benefits to the company, and justify the initial cost, even if it takes a little time and persistence to do so.
With the number of businesses currently reluctant to make this investment, there is a continuing gulf between professionally designed sites, and home made sites – small businesses often look at their competitors sites and see that everyone else has a home made site, so see no justification for investing in a professional service.
A professional Web site will probably cost less than most small businesses think. One current problem is that professionally designed Web sites for small businesses are still quite rare. Most well designed, professional sites belong to either big businesses, or web designers, which can give the false impression that they are out of reach to smaller organisations. Today, this is simply not true.
At the end of the day, there are Web sites, and there are Web sites, and, like many things, you get what you pay for. Good design these days is probably cheaper than you think, particularly if you are looking to make a modest, realistic start.
Knowing what your business wants, and why your business wants it is a key starting point.