A website is not a kilogram of apples

I have recently discovered an interesting blog and while reading one of its posts I firmly believed Julio, the author, read my mind. I translated it with his help and with the help of Alex & Gillian Meldrum and here it is for you to read and enjoy.

When quoting for work, we seem to hear the same refrain – “expensive”. Why?

When you take your car to the garage to be repaired, do you automatically question the cost and suggest that the mechanic’s hourly rate is too high? Probably not. Yet we hear it routinely. Why should construction of a website be any different? Is there any real suggestion that the level of skill involved in creating websites is in any way less valuable than that of a mechanic? Or any other skilled trade or profession for that matter?

And even if your business model is geared to offer the client genuine value for the level of expertise provided, it’s still the same complaint. Somehow, clients are able to find lower quotes and still think that this will deliver the same result (“their website”) and therefore that we are “expensive”. And they are not afraid to tell us this.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening. One of them is that the market is not yet ready to really understand what constitutes a ‘good’ website. There is a difference between being able to find what you need on the web (as a user) and understanding the architecture that the site needs to guide users to it. Many clients don’t really understand what they need so they leap into the unknown and keep their fingers crossed. After all, when people are competing for your work, they will always tell you that they can deliver what you need – and they will usually tell you what you want to hear (as opposed to what you need to hear).

Let’s think about this in a wider context. If you need a very good brain surgeon, how do you reach one? How would you choose one? You can’t exactly look in Yellow Pages, under “good surgeons”! Other doctors would recommend one based on reputation and experience in their field. After all, most of us wouldn’t know where to start with a list of criteria that makes a good brain surgeon. But what if you still had to choose from a shortlist? Where would you start? What if none of the candidates is suitable? How can YOU evaluate them, when THEY are the experts?

Inexperienced clients tend to rely either on mainly subjective criteria (such as the impression given by the salesman/developer and whether their face fits) or on a very common objective one: the price.

If the quotes for the “same job” are 6.000 Euros and 1.500 Euros respectively, what quote would you choose? The majority of clients would instinctively say “the 1500 Euros one”.

But if you think about it for a moment, is it ever really possible to get more for less?

Clients are rightly wary, but if somebody offers a product for a fraction of the price, they somehow still believe that the final product will be essentially the same. But here’s the crunch: all website are not equal. And if we continue the car analogy, if somebody offers you a brand new top of the range Mercedes for next to nothing, do you really think that it’s a genuine bargain? Or do you suspect that there must be something amiss?

The truth is that, at the moment, websites seem to be bought much like apples at the supermarket. You can go to the budget supermarket, where they’ll be cheaper, because you know there won’t be much difference between them. Or if there is, it is probably so subtle that it is not really worth the effort of going to a different shop. After all, it’s only apples.

But a website is not a kilogram of apples. It’s not simple merchandise. A website is a custom development and the difference is always in the team working on it. The experience, knowledge, formation, seriousness and commitment of the team is key. The final product and its quality will be the fruit of this custom development and the results obtained from it will be directly proportional to this quality.

This is what the client needs to appreciate. If the product or the strategy of the client is not correctly established, or if the website is not usable, accessible from different platforms or if the code is not standard and semantic (and hence indexable by search engines) then they are wasting their money.

Suddenly the 1500 Euros “bargain” will be seen for what it is – a false economy. Perhaps the client will recognize that they have missed an opportunity to promote their business, to outshine their competition and to have a website that does what they need. Sooner or later they may need to develop a new website from scratch. This involves investing further time, energy and of course money.

Unfortunately, the majority of projects seem to fall into this category and that’s why a lot of companies go through various websites, always looking for “the final version”. Browsing a few random websites is enough to see how much wasted money and how many lost business opportunities there are.

Now that’s what I call “expensive”.

Other interesting posts can be found on Julios blogs: Stanque and Realidad Aparte. I strongly recommend those who understand Spanish language to take a look at Padres y empleadores. Clientes y usuarios.

4 thoughts on “A website is not a kilogram of apples”

  1. This has to be a starting guide for marketing directors, who often searching and picking a team for building their website.
    In my experience I had many cases like trading a website (something you can;t really touch or smell) like equal service from all designers. E.g. Website have only one dimension – PRICE.
    This is how they thinking.
    There is even someones who thinks that publishing content in internet, encapsulated in good design is FREE service and designers doing this just for fun.
    Very good article by the way – can I translate it?

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