It sucks. You need to redo your website so you started looking around for options. After a few hours you realize that, thanks to the internet being world wide (www….) and globalization you have no idea if you should go with the guy from India who charges $4 an hour, a big web agency in your own town who charges $120 an hour, or something in between. You don’t know who to ask, who to trust, how to get a straight answer, what the end product will be, and now you’re just frustrated.
So here’s an answer straight from a web designer. I’m going to give you what I consider to be the four categories of web designers you’ll have to choose from. I’ll tell you the pro’s and con’s of each, and when they’re a good fit for you.
- The Offshore Solution
- The American Freelancer/Side Job
- The Young Web Agency
- The Established Web Agency
The Offshore Solution
Offshore if you’re an American. You have the option to work with a person or company where there is no minimum wage and the cost of living is low. Don’t pretend like you didn’t know. You can pay someone a couple dollars an hour to build your website. And in some situations, that might be a good solution for you.
Pro’s: It’s cheap. And you might get a decently good website.
Con’s: Poor communication, language barriers, lack of understanding your local audience, slow turn around times, lack of ongoing technical support, and little to no accountability.
When to choose: Essentially, when you’re first getting started and have no budget. In that situation, turnaround time might not be an issue, the final design can be subpar, and if you need technical support you’re okay with figuring it out when the emergency happens.
The American Freelancer or Side Job
That’s when you hear that your cousin’s brother’s nephew’s friend builds websites. This is a one man show who can handle a few small projects each month.
Pro’s: Much better communication than offshore solutions, higher likelihood that they’ll understand your audience, legal accountability, and they’ll be cheaper than using a larger agency with overhead.
Con’s: Slow turnaround times, limited project size, shoddy ongoing technical support.
When to choose: You have a business that has some traction, you need a good looking website because it’s starting to get you sales, but it’s not central to the success of your company. In that situation you have the budget to spend ranging from $1,000-$2,000, you’re okay with a slower turnaround time, and you can be confident that you’ll have a decent website.
The Young Web Agency
Marketing companies morph into web companies. Freelancers hire a few people or get partners. A web design agency that’s less than 5 years old I would consider to be “young.”
Pro’s: Faster turnaround time than freelancers (usually), clear communication, (slightly) cheaper than a larger agency, and there’s a chance they’ll stick around to be your “web guys” for a long time.
Con’s: Lots of web design companies either turn into marketing companies (putting their web work on the back burner), fade into one man shows, or altogether disappear after 5 years. That means you could lose your support or get left in the dust as a cheap legacy client if they do grow.
When to choose: Your business is running, you need a simple website, are willing to spend a few grand on it, and are looking for some stability. You’re not comfortable working with a larger agency, because your needs are small.
The Established Web Agency
Shameless plug. This is where Light Up The Dark lands. An established web design company is going to be more than 5 years old. They may be a lean organization with as few as 3-7 employees. Or they may have many more.
Pro’s: Ongoing technical support and updates, clear communication, reliability, and you can probably do any project that you want (if you have the budget for it).
Con’s: It’s going to be more expensive. There’s a catch 22 there, because while they may charge a higher hourly rate an established agency should be much more efficient at design and development than younger ones because they have established processes and internal infrastructure. That means the final cost will often be not much more than working with a younger web agency.
When to choose: Your business or organization is established, your website has become central to your company, and you need to work with a web design agency that can deliver a stellar product and will be there for support for years to come.
So don’t freak out.
Those are the four main categories of web designers you have to choose from, the pro’s and con’s of each, and when to choose. You might do your first website with someone who speaks broken English. Then as your company grows you may do a redesign with a hometown agency. Each situation is different. Just be sure to do your due diligence researching each company, find out what category they’re in, and make sure expectations are discussed before you begin. Good luck!