Home – New Forums Tell me straight… What do you want from your web designer?

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  • #964687
    kobo
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    Hi all,

    I am a web developer and I am putting together some packages for clients. I want to know from the public rather than from my existing clients what they want in their web designer.

    I am particularly trying to target soloists like myself as I see this bringing in long term relationships as well as a more personal level of service.

    I am tossing up on a few ideas (listed below), but these are based on what my current clients say they like about me – not what they don’t like or wish I did.

    1. cheap template based website packages which allow you to edit your own content
    2. custom design, but at a fixed rate. also able to edit own website
    3. any design, but charged on a monthly basis rather than full payment before launch
    4. full custom service based on a variable price

    I currently supply the last one, and although it is going well, I feel it isn’t the right option for most soloists – especially start-ups.

    Apart from that, I would also appreciate some feedback on what you are looking for as a client (if you have the time and motivation of course).

    Thanks in advance,

    Joe

    P.S. I will be taking your thoughts and opinions and you should see the results on my website: http://www.kobo.com.au

    #1007308
    Paul Murphy
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    Hi Joe,

    I think that list you have created covers all the bases – would you consider offering them all as options?

    I notice that you brand your CMS as Kobo CMS, though it does look like drupal is being used (at least on your own site).

    We were considering the idea of self-branding our chosen open source CMS. We do a lot of setup and customisation out of the box before the customer sees it, so there is some merit in it – it isn’t vanilla.

    On the other hand, people don’t get to search around and read independent reviews on the usability of the underlying CMS if it isn’t clear.

    If you have developed your own cms then none of this is relevant, but otherwise, what pros and cons do you find with the branding approach?

    Cheers,

    Paul

    #1007309
    Adam Randall
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    I think in most cases the underlying CMS is irrellevant to the client at the small business end of the scale, they really dont care and to brand one of the open source options as your own is not a bad idea.

    I dont think there is any need for heavy modification before branding it your own, its more for marketing than functional reasons.

    #1007310
    kobo
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    Hi Paul,

    Yes, I do use Drupal and our site is drupal. The only reason we are rebranding it to Kobo CMS is the fact that we built custom modules that come standard which aren’t available as part of the “standard” Drupal install – so like yours, it isn’t vanilla. We do mention (well we are still writing the content) that we use Drupal as the base engine for our CMS sites, but I don’t want clients to think that it is a fixed package. I want them to know that whatever they want, we can do it, but on another note – if I get hit by a plane, our client can be reassured the site is built upon a popular CMS package and can be taken over easily by another developer.

    I do see your point though, and have been thinking hard about it for a while.


    @Adam

    I have yet to come across a client who has actually heard about Drupal. Most don’t care. But I o think I need to make it clear that it is one of the leading systems out there and mentioning that it is used by Nasa and the like really helps gain people’s trust too.

    For now i am just testing to see which gets the best response. I may use some of my other domains to test the market a bit and will post my results here if I remember. I think it would be good for any developer to learn which technique works best. Saying that it also depends on how well I sell each one too.

    Thank you both for your responses.

    #1007311
    LeelaCosgrove
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    Okay … as a non-designer … (I AM a bit of a tech head and do understand CMS, drupal, Joomla etc … but I’ll take that hat off …)

    What I want from a designer is this:

    * The work I ask for, as per the detailed spec I have given (no changing things around to suit yourself).
    * At a reasonable price (for a standard, non-flash, static, brochure-ware website, with an opt-in box reasonable would = under $695 … no bells and whistles – just something to get started. CMS etc are a whole different kettle of fish – would expect to pay more).
    * IN A DECENT TURN AROUND TIME WITH GOOD COMMUNICATION FROM THE DESIGNER.

    This last one is key, hence the caps … I burn through a designer every couple of weeks due to poor communication, lack of business sense and no customer service skills.

    There’s a lot of REALLY GOOD designers out there – but very few who have even the smallest amount of business sense.

    I don’t only get my own work done, as an Info Product creator, I project manage creation of websites, DVD and CD labels and slicks and internet branding packs for a lot of clients (many of whom are top Aussie speakers) – and the biggest issue I have is a total lack of professionalism amongst the design community.

    I’m happy to pay a reasonable amount for good work … as are my clients … but finding the mix of good work, decent price and professionalism has proven difficult in the last 4 years.

    Of course, I’m not willing to pay a crazy amount for good work (crazy amounts are held for crazily outstanding work) – $2,500 for a static, brochure-ware website is too much for clients who need multiple websites. I think sometimes designers forget that a lot of people these days have more than one website … it’s one thing to pay $2,500 for your main website to make it look funky and be functional and all online store-y and stuff – but if you’ve got a portfolio of 10-15 websites, as many of us do, that’s just not the kind of money you want to be spending on basic sites / landing pages!

    Anyway, there’s a different point of view from a heavy web design consumer. Sure, people shop on price – but it’s not REALLY about price. It’s about value … about matching what I need to what you can do, rather than offering ‘packages’ which are one-size-doesn’t-even-kinda-fit-all …

    #1007312
    linkartist
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    Well, the price you want to pay and what it actually costs the designer to produce, Leela, are worlds apart.

    For $695, you are not going to get good work. That is about 8-10 hours of design, development, and everything. You have got to be kidding me if you think that that is even possible or realistic.

    Sure you can go get bargain basement, amateur websites for that, most likely from India or teenagers with a pirate copy of Dreamweaver, but ANYTHING that is going to be well designed, validate and have good quality code is not going to be that cheap.

    I actually think that that is an insulting price, and I put it to you that your expectations are actually what is making it difficult for you to find a professional, not the professionals themselves. No experienced designer with any self respect or ability will accept that price. At all. And I am sorry, but I take your claim that because we charge what you deem to be “too much”, it means we are unprofessional. No, we just have a little bit of self respect and know our own worth.

    #1007313
    kobo
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    Thank you Leela,

    Your feedback is much appreciated. The customer service issue with many designers is taken care of. I say that, but I am always working on improving it as I believe this is the biggest reason clients stay with Kobo/Spicy. Many of my clients tell me that they are relieved that they can talk to me, and I give them what they want within the specified time-frame. A year or so ago when I had 8 staff I rally saw the effects of poor customer service. Because I was running around like a headless emu I lost touch with some of my clients and hence lost them. It was very devastating to me as my number 2 objective apart from making enough money to live well was to ensure everyone was happy – clients, suppliers and staff. So that is a very good point you make there and it is something that can always be improved.

    In regards to price, I understand that many business owners have budget constraints. However $650 for a brochure-ware site is simply not enough for a decent site. Yeah you may get a designer to whack one together for you at that price, but it is most likely going to break in other browsers, will not be coded to be standards compliant and most likely not optimised for Google. In the end this could cost the client more money. I have had many people come in for a quote and opted for the cheap <$1k websites from competitors. They were thrilled with it, but after a year most come back to me realising that they just don't work. I am not saying all of the websites I do work, because a few don't. It also depends on the content and the product being offered. Financially I would have trouble doing a website for that price. It could be because I design and code everything from scratch – I just can’t force myself to provide dud sites, I will leave this for my competitors. A big problem I face is getting the specs from my clients. They don’t know what they want or need – or they think they need something that they don’t. Working through the specs is one reason I am considering offering fixed packages. At least that way for most it is just deciding which one, saves me time writing a detailed proposal over and over again and in the end saves everyone money. My only concern with this is looking like a non-developer trying to cash in on pre-made packages, and the fact that this does not suit everyone. Maybe I should split my company into three sites – one offering cheap build it yourself websites, the other pre-made packages and keep the main one as custom web development. Thank you for your feedback, very much appreciated.

    #1007314
    kobo
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    @linkartist

    I am with you 100%, but I think that the competitors under-pricing the industry (same with graphic design) are making it harder for us to stay competitive. I see Leela’s point as something to consider when making the sale. There are web design companies here on the Gold Coast who charge $300 for a CMS website custom designed!!! I went in one in disguise and found out they farm it all to India for $200, which includes custom recolouring of a template. They are pumping through heaps and making $100 from each one and really don’t have any work to do. We need to make it clear to customers what they are getting and make sure they understand.

    Because so many web developers are advertising cheap websites the public thinks that is the true value of the website. Clients also often say they can build a website using Word in an hour, so they think it takes us developers an hour to do a custom one.

    This is the sort of information I was after, now it is simply trying to convince the majority of the market what a real website’s value should be.

    My first attack on this was my slogan: “Serious websites for serious business.”

    Any other ideas would be great.

    #1007315
    linkartist
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    I guess my point is that Leela shouldn’t complain about the lack of professionalism, when she’s not prepared to pay even a reasonable, let alone premium price for it.

    Those places work on volume, and make their money that way, and that’s fine. I have no objection to people going with what they can afford… the cheapskates often end up being the worst, highest maintenance clients anyway so its no loss to me :)

    But just don’t complain when you get crappy service, and then go on business forums and call a whole industry unprofessional, simply because the good ones won’t work for a pittance.

    FWIW, if a client approached me and had a number of sites to do, I actually WOULD work within their budget as best I can, because I actually do not provide packages and quote for specific requirements. I work as a partner with every single one of my clients – and have been known to help out for very cheap and even free sometimes, because they have been good to me with ongoing work… but they NEVER assume it and they know my value.

    I also create sites that are extendable, which makes life a lot easier when you have a few projects – they often share backends etc.

    What I got annoyed about is the assumption that because someone might not bow down and accept what you offer to pay, that that is unprofessional… or that there is no quality difference between the price ranges. There is.

    Leela, if you have so many projects, there are ways to streamline these that you might not be aware of and save money in the long run. Have you explored these options? A professional web designer/developer would also try to help you out and advise you of better ways to do things.

    #1007316
    ray_223
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    linkartist, post: 6742 wrote:
    Well, the price you want to pay and what it actually costs the designer to produce, Leela, are worlds apart.

    For $695, you are not going to get good work. That is about 8-10 hours of design, development, and everything. You have got to be kidding me if you think that that is even possible or realistic.

    Hi again Tea ;)

    I think your interpretation of Leela’s comment and Leela’s interpretation may be slightly different.

    Leela does mention simple static web pages (even landing pages).

    If you don’t have a budget “template based” product in your design business that customers can choose from a few options, a few colours and supply the text … then you will loose lots of business.
    Not everyone wants a pixel perfect website with perfectly formatted code behind it.

    It would definitely be your job to attempt to upsell as many customers as possible into a better solution.

    I’m a software developer and after many years I realised no one cares how badly the code is written, or how the architecture of the application fits together, or what language the software is written in, they just want it to work. All of those things are still important – but not to the customer!

    They care a product that does the job they want it to do (and better yet, as cheaply as possible!).

    #1007317
    linkartist
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    Hi Ray,

    I was talking about even a “simple” website… because design is design and that takes time. “Simple” designs are often the hardest to achieve. Unless by “simple” you mean “takes 5 minutes and looks amateurish” :)

    I produce 2 concepts which take 6-8 hours each. That doesnt change, whether there are 30 pages, or 5 – the approach is the same, the process is the same. I am not at all prepared to compromise on my prices, because that’s not why people come to me.

    I would argue that even a non-pixel-perfect 5 page site with any sort of half-decent designer will still cost you $1500-1800. Landing pages are easy, but it really depends on so many factors, like how much design is involved etc. I always quote fairly based on the requirements and how long it will take me. If they are really, TRULY 1-2 hours work, then you’ll get it for $100-200. I don’t add on, and try not to have fixed packages, because there actually ARE times when I will do something a little cheaper because I think it’s a cool project.

    I am not saying not to go with what you can afford to pay. Just don’t come to me and expect it, and don’t make claims about the industry when you haven’t actually experienced the higher price points. I am not exactly desperate for work, and at the end of the day, I would rather not work at all, or go back to my previous career, than work for minimum wage.

    And for what its worth, I am actually in the middle range for pricing and am by no means expensive – and I even drastically undercharge for some services, like small changes etc – I dont charge for those for 3 months after I build a site. Try contacting a decent (emphasis on decent) agency and see what they quote :)

    #1007318
    ray_223
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    Hi Tea,

    I agree with everything you say.

    I think you said it before … “you get what you pay for”. Pay peanuts and get monkeys.

    BUT … there are tens of thousands of “so called design companies” advertising template based websites for under $1,000.
    You can either ignore them and tell everyone they are rubbish (and I’m sure “some” are – but some do a satisfactory job in the eyes of the customer) or create a product to compete in that market and encourage the upsell (you may not get customers to upgrade up front but you may in the future).

    I don’t think their is any value in complaining about all of the cheap designers in the world working for pennies and producing rubbish for customers. It won’t get you anywhere. Do something positive about it.

    #1007319
    linkartist
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    I’m not complaining about it — lets be clear on that. I accept it, I’m not terribly happy about it when a client doesnt see the difference, but ultimately, that’s OK :)

    My husband and I argue about this ALL THE TIME so it’s not an idea I haven’t pondered in the past. He thinks the same as you – that we should be creating a product similar to a web builder software and then sell people simple sites as part of the business. I disagree with him, and think that the bottom of the market is just SO saturated that it’s really not worthwhile… I hear you on the upsell… and you may have a point.

    I guess on a philosophical level it depends on how you feel about turning away work. I actually do – and am OK with that. Because I started at the bottom, I appreciate how difficult the clients in that bracket can be, and I don’t want to go back there, having worked way too hard to get to the point where I can be more selective.

    I just want to make it clear that I am talking about perfect worlds here — I actually have a couple of $1000 projects right now that are basic brochureware… so I am not saying I don’t do the work if it comes my way… but at the same time, it really is about simple mathematics and for $1000 its got to be less than 15 hours work to be worthwhile.

    I won’t put templated stuff out there with my name on it. Which means that I design everything from scratch. Which costs time & money. Sure, I might not have the flow of my competitors, and I may put off a few tyre-kickers, but I am OK with that, because I get some really cool International projects :)

    Its worth mentioning that I don’t really advertise as well, but that’s changing :)

    #1007320
    ray_223
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    Hi Tea,

    Sometimes turning away jobs is 100% the correct thing to do!

    And if you have enough work doing what you love no one will suggest you change!

    As Joe said (in this thread or another) maybe have a separately branded template based business where you can build your relationships.

    Your husband does sound very smart though ;)

    #1007321
    radharc
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    A lot of the issue comes down to the building of the spec, both from a development and design view. With a well written specification the job for any designer or developer is very easy. Writing specs is part of what I do, by the way. We are talking detailed technical design specifications, going into all aspects of design and development process.

    CMS Usability is a massive issue. Have you ever watched and seen the hoops that users have to go through with ALL CMS on the market. Truely some need a good usability audit to clean up the issues they have. The usability of CMS is the next wave or issues that are going to become very topical in the next few years, if no sooner.

    Cheap design, like content writing, and even web development you are going to always get the discount end of the market.

    Yes up selling from a template is a good marketing move. But a lot of the time I find designers are not in the business to churn clients through a series of templates and make as much money as possible. They are out to create, make a little money, and enjoy their work.

    I can speak from extended experience template churn gets old if you love your work not the money real quick.

    I guess it comes down to what you value more.

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