I'm going to say right now that I do not plan on giving any tips for designing a website for £500. So, if you are here for that you may as well leave, or visit 1&1, your choice.
Recently I posted on Twitter about having to decline a recent client project because they had no budget and wanted to use a purchased theme and customize it with their logo and colour scheme. Not so bad right? The budget was ok and it probably wouldn’t take long… WRONG. Let me tell you why I turned this project down.
What’s wrong with using a theme if the client is happy?
I started out in web design as a part time freelancer, while working in-house for a design agency and studying at Chichester College. At the time if I’d been given £500 to use a theme and simply customise it I’d have jumped at the chance. Not because I was desperate for money but as a designer I could not build websites, nor could I afford to hire a developer. Also, I had no office, no car or bills to pay and heck it would be a good portfolio piece. In fact I even did this for a couple of sites when I started off, they went live, the client was happy and I got paid. #WINNING #NOT
3 years down the line and I’m re-designing my site; I take a look through my projects over time and choose what I feel best shows off my ability as a designer, and amongst the various sites I did at that time sit a couple of theme-based sites, they look fine, work fine, still live 3 years later. But I chose not to feature them, not because I don’t want to admit I used a theme but because I’m not PROUD of them, they don’t get me excited and they do not represent the business I run today.
Standards & ethics have to be in place for any business, that’s not to say that ‘one price fits all’ or that low-budget work should be rejected but why should any designer feel that just because a client has a low budget that his standards and ethics should suddenly become compromised? You wouldn’t expect to ask a plumber to fix your central heating but suggest buying all the piping and bolts yourself to make it cheaper, would you? The plumber has standards, more importantly he has standards that he has to abide to by law.
We’re lucky that we can set our own standards and run our business how we want, but we should definitely stick to them.
Unlike almost any other industry web design has no government law in place to ensure that certain standards must be met. Ok, that’s probably a good thing, there is no way I’d want to be in that industry. We’re lucky that we can set our own standards and run our business how we want, but we should definitely stick to them.
There will be many designers ready to argue that “we’re not all lucky enough to turn away client work”. I totally get that, I’m not sitting here running a mega successful design agency with time to kill and no worries. November is a quiet month, heck, I even have time to write this blog post. I should be worried right? Maybe I should have taken that project?
In my honest opinion – No – It’s not about ‘design arrogance’ or being too proud to build on someone else’s work. But I set standards for a reason, I believe in my skill and want to be respected for that. Where does that respect for you as a designer go when you deliver that theme-based site, it goes to the guy that built it and sold it to me on ThemeForest. Yeah I’ve got good feedback from my client for being a great service provider, but will he be telling his friends that I’m a super talented designer delivering results or “Hey, if you need a website speak to Dan, he built me a site for £500 and it’s great” BANG there went the respect as a designer again, yet another project is now coming my way with no budget and I’m not growing as a business, gaining or learning anything.
I am a firm believer in that if you produce good work and are reliable, you’ll get the projects come in and then be lucky enough to be able to turn down the low budget projects that let’s be honest, you never really wanted anyway.
Of course, there is no point in arguing that the large majority of themes are bad, and that they shouldn’t be used for client work. Some themes out there look great and serve their purpose fine, in fact for many blog based sites they do the job very well. It’s using one just because the client has no budget, no understanding of how much design costs and the work involved. They want a quick and cheap solution ‘to get online’.
No one really wants these clients, but many websites actively encourage it (perhaps unknowingly), I even saw a website template package offering a template with ‘space for your logo’. Seriously, that is the least I would expect from a website I’m buying. So how do you avoid falling into this trap?
A few things that I’d recommend avoiding
Price Lists / Tables
Why are these needed? No 2 clients are the same, no 2 projects are the same. Get rid of them. They also devalue our industry, when a client compares 2 companies with no idea of the vastly different quality each will provide, they’ll naturally go with the cheaper option. This might be good for their budget, but it’s not good for the web as a whole and likely not good for the users of their new £500 site.
I’m talking about your Silver, Gold & Platinum offers. Nasty, nasty things. No matter how much flexibility you put in your offers, you’re never going to satisfy everyone, so why try?
Sounds simple but if you use WordPress for your clients, be proud and tell them don’t cover it up with jargon like “We’ve developed a system, based upon a solid foundation by an open-source CMS” WTF!? All this does is confuse your client and make you look like a dishonest person. The last thing you want is to be called a liar!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and welcome any questions just add your comment below.