Why you should sack your web designer

Remember “Video killed the radio star”? Well now there’s a new tune being sung by SMEs around the world – “Software killed the web designer”. By CRAIG REARDON

By Craig Reardon

Web secrets, Sack your designer

Remember “Video killed the radio star”? Well now there’s a new tune being sung by SMEs around the world – “Software killed the web designer”.

Of course I use the term “web designer” loosely, just like many of those who have done a CAE course in Dreamweaver do.

The “designers” I’m referring to are those that continue to flog their relatively expensive custom website and web solution services to unsuspecting clients who really don’t have the time or resources to fully research the website solution landscape.

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing better than having your brilliant web team hand-build a website that does everything exactly the way you want it. But there are now “off-the-shelf”, “software as a service” (SaaS) or “application service provider” solutions, call them what you will, that provide amazing functionality and even great designs for a fraction of the price of their hand-built equivalent.

By a fraction, try 10% of the price of a custom made job, and sometimes less. The reason for this is very simple. As a business model, websites have moved from being a purely service industry to a software-plus-service industry.

In the past, you were simply charged an hourly rate by your web team to plan, prepare, design and develop your website. What has happened in the last five or so years is that the expensive part of a website – the development – has been superseded.

Smarter web developers realised that if they invested significant time in building a sound website infrastructure or software, this could then form the basis of all of their client’s websites – with only design and content (words, pictures, animation etc) to be added.

Of course, as people like Bill Gates well know, once you have your finished software, it can be duplicated cheaply and endlessly. So five or more years ago, a professional hand-built website may have cost $10,000. Of this, it would have been common to have 80% or more of the budget dedicated to the development time and the balance to co-ordination, design and content preparation.

So if a developer has already developed a website technology platform, that means an immediate saving of $8000.

Naturally that developer (unless they are an open source developer) has a right to charge to utilise the platform, but it’s highly unlikely it will be anywhere near $8000. The smarter ones are effectively “leasing” this infrastructure to you, usually bundled with other services such as hosting and support.

This is how some firms advertise “websites” for $40 a year, but like anything, you get what you pay for.

There are even some firms who are providing their solutions for “free” but are compensated with advertising within the content management system.

Features that typically come with these solutions include content management systems (to maintain your own content), email marketing systems, secure shopping cart systems and much more – putting what were only recently cutting edge technologies well within the price range of the ordinary SME operator.

The other advantage of using an off-the-shelf solution, particularly if you can get some independent advice on purchasing one, is that they can contain features or modules that can be either added or turned on cheaply as your needs progress – which happens in the majority of cases.

Many “traditional” designers won’t allow for this, knowing full well that future developments are valuable repeat business for them.

At the end of the day it comes down to budget. But before you go ahead with a “custom-made” website, shop around and/or get independent advice.


Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au


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