I’m excited to announce a new series of posts at Randa Clay Design! I’ve asked 4 colleagues to join me in discussing a different topic in each post in the series. These designers have years of experience in web and graphic design, blogging and marketing, and I am honored that they have agreed to participate. I will also be periodically asking “guest experts” to join the discussion depending on the topic.

I have a list of questions we’re planning to discuss, but we want to hear from you as well. Do you have a question you’d like us to answer on the subject of design, WordPress, blogging, marketing, etc.? You can either leave the question in the comments or use my contact form. On to the first question:

Do you believe you get what you pay for when it comes to web site development and other graphic design work?

Tracey Grady:

traceyUnless a client has had extensive experience of working with graphic/web designers, they often don’t have the insight into the design industry in order to understand what makes value for money. That makes things difficult for clients and professional graphic designers alike. Unfortunately, it makes things very easy for crowdsourcing companies, who operate on the basis that many clients won’t understand value for money and will be happy to pay $60 for a logo or $100 for a basic website. On the other hand, I and many other designers know of numerous cases of people who were taken for a ride by unscrupulous designers charging thousands for sub-standard work.

This is an unregulated industry which in recent times has become a whole lot easier to enter thanks to relatively low overheads, few hurdles for setting up, and the ease of working for yourself with advances in broadband and internet technologies. It’s not unusual find pricing ranging from $100 to $5,000 for the aforementioned basic website or logo. This makes it very difficult for clients to have a clear benchmark on pricing for design services, and very tempting lately for many businesses to go with the rock bottom discount option.

It also makes things difficult for new (solo) designers seeking to built their name and portfolio: unless you have the confidence in your business skills to stand by what you believe is a fair price for your work, there is pressure to drop your prices which leads to talented people underselling their services.

I don’t like the term “you get what you pay for” so much in this context, because to me it takes on a slightly elitist tone. Like it or not, this is the state of the industry that we are currently working in, and if we want prospective clients to understand the value of design services, and therefore value for money, we have to continue providing the highest professional standards and quality whilst standing by the prices we charge. Make the distinction clearer between high calibre design and the cheapskates. Lawrence Anderson has an interesting post on how to compete against people offering dirt cheap prices for design work.

Brian Yerkes:

brianDefinitely. This is mostly evident in web site development. Due to the fact that there is so much involved in building a high quality website, the less you pay a web designer for development typically results in lower quality.

When hiring for web development services, the price is often relative to the level of experience that the designer has. Of course this is not always the case, but more often than not, if you pay a low price for web development, it will show in the overall design and functionality of the website.

A good example of this is when a client receives two quotes, and simply chooses to work with the company that quoted the lower amount. They receive a web site with table based HTML code that doesn’t validate and lacks a consistent navigational path to bring users through the site. Unfortunately a lot of clients do not realize that what they have received is of a much lower quality than what they would have received had they chosen the company that gave them the higher quote.

As a result, this client will eventually end up starting this whole process over again and will start their search for a quality web designer to develop a better web site the next time around. I receive a lot of inquiries from potential clients that start with “I had a web site built by someone else about a year ago and I really don’t like it. I don’t receive any leads from it and it doesn’t show up anywhere on the search engines…”.

Unfortunately, this shows that a lot of people are receiving a low level of quality in web design and end up spending more money when they hire another company to fix the problems.

The way clients can prevent this from happening is to research a few companies, find out if their past clients are happy with their websites, and if they are proving successful for their business.

In relation to graphic design work, if you pay a low amount  there are certain problems that may arise. For example, a designer that charges a small fee may be inexperienced, and can end up supplying the client or printer with incorrect files or formats. This can result in additional charges at the expense of the client.

In addition, if you are hiring a cheap graphic designer, the final design will probably lack strength, and will be less memorable than what a more expensive designer would have created.

Vivien Anayi:

vivienI wholeheartedly believe that you indeed get what you pay for in web & graphic design work, just like in most other cases. As a designer I will judge how much time I would spend on designing something for a client based on the agreed budget. If the budget is low, I can’t afford spending lots of hours working for peanuts and delivering a unique design that will blow everyone’s socks off. Every designer craves to work on a project where their creativity can be unleashed, where they can deliver a project that not only the client but the designer will be proud of to showcase and brag around. A mutual client-designer respect is extremely important here: be fair with the designer and you’ll get the fair treatment back.

There are thousands of details, both large and small, that must be ironed out before proceeding with any design and development work, requiring hours of communication and research, which would most likely be overlooked or barely touched upon on a limited budget.

I was just talking to a potential client who runs a music school and she was telling me about the importance of getting a high quality piano because in a long run you’ll save money buying something expensive vs. buying something cheap. She told me a story about a client of theirs who bought a relatively cheap piano and hired them to tune it. They ended up spending five times more of what they paid for it because almost every string was breaking down during the tuning process and required a replacement. Furthermore their piano will require several tunings per year vs. high quality pianos that may need an occasional tuning once in few years.

I’ve had many clients who were coming to me after their disastrous experience with existing web sites that were done by a neighbor or bought as a template. You truly get what you pay for. It takes time to produce a high quality work and time is money. Whether or not you want to save now and spend more later vs. spending more now and saving in a long run is up to you.

Char Polanosky:

charWhen you pay more for a design the expectations are higher. You are usually working with an experienced designer who can not only give you a great design, but also adds value to the project from the standpoint that they have the experience to know what works for the web, can advise you as to why they did or did not do something a certain way, and ultimately saves you time. A higher priced designer most likely has a more defined business process and safeguards for both you and the designer in place.

On the other hand, there are many less expensive or less experienced designers who do great work. You just have to have a very clear vision of what you need and be willing to take that risk if you choose to go with a less expensive designer. This may be the case with a designer who is just starting out and wants to build their portfolio. In which case you may get a good deal and a good design, but there is risk.

My turn:

As with any product, there are opportunities to get a good deal with a new or lower priced designer, but as Char said, you’re taking a risk.  This isn’t just a bunch of high-priced designers trying to justify their fees. We remember when we started out and were charging less. I went out of my way to provide great service and create great looking sites, but the reality is that I provide a higher quality service to my clients now than I did then. I can look back at some of the work I did then and groan a little at mistakes I made, inefficient code, and limited scope that I was not aware of at the time.

It does not follow however, that just because someone charges high fees, that those fees are justified and that they will be great to work with and you will get a high quality result. There are plenty of people out there charging WAY too much for what they provide. Get references, examine their portfolio, and do your due diligence in order to protect yourself.

Your turn:

What is your experience with this issue? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.