$2000 Website: Custom-designed Web Sites on a Budget

28 Comments

2000dollarwebsite

Yesterday saw the launch of $2000 Website, an intriguing design shop in the Bay Area that describes itself as a “self-service” design agency, offering to design, code and publish a custom website within a two-week period.

Users begin by completing a short online questionnaire to help tease out their requirements. The dialog is largely focused on the strategy and goals of the client, rather than technical requirements: questions range from site’s goals, to the company’s “personality”, required calls-to-action, and some simple audience demographics, along with your aesthetic influences.

I’ve seen similar services in the past – including PSD2HTML, XHTMLized and PSD2WordPress – but these have focused on the technical production of an existing creative treatment.

The service is aiming at small businesses with limited budgets, but it’s not hard to envisage it as a labor-saving utility for web workers who need to quickly punch out a microsite for a new product, store, event, community campaign, or even a client of their own.

The company promises to prepare initial design treatments within five days and complete production within another five days. It limits the output to a five-page site, with the option to upsell additional creative services, such as creation of a brand, for another $500.

The creative quality of the modest client portfolio actually looks pretty good given the short time available to the producers, though it’s unclear what the division of work was between the company and the client. There’s nothing here that couldn’t be created with a working knowledge of WordPress, CSS and XHTML, but many web workers aren’t fluent in all those areas, nor have the time to undertake small projects economically.

So, perhaps the notion of web site micro-factories may prove to be a useful toolkit for web workers – what do you all think?

28 Comments

Zubi

$2000 is minimum for good companies or individual designers. but if designer/company belongs to Asia, then it should be higher price.

I work for non-profit organization’s websites, if any one looking for high quality but in affordable price may he can contact but they must be non-profit organization like charity or health, environment etc. I’m wordpress expert level designer/developer.

I think this offer is great for business person websites.

psd to wordpress

I have to actually say that 2k for a site is really not that expensive. People who charge anywhere from $100 to $500 are either not that good at what they do or are chasing the money. Normally the old adage is true: You get what you pay for!

A really nice site that is given the time and effort can take anywhere from a few weeks to design and possibly a few months to implement.

Its amazing how a company will say 2k for a site is expensive, but yet they spend well over 2k a year in advertising, which doesn’t include a site link in that advertising.

In doing conversions, I run into the same thing – “Oh you charge to much” but time and time again, I get people who come back to me asking me to “redo” their project because they went with another firm that charged less and really didn’t know what they were doing.

So its a debate that will go on and on I guess. But we’ll keep an eye on them and see how they do.

Web Design Rates

Frankly speaking I don’t think that it is possible to create professional and high quality web site for two weeks only. This is just a part of their advertising campaign.

Dean

Face it – for many SME’s websites have become a ‘commodity’ and even if it is no more than an online brochure, it should be well designed.

IBM had a TV spot years ago (paraphrased):
web developer: do you want a rotating logo or a flaming logo?
client: what I want is a way to connect with customers!

Content is King – forget about “flashturbation”. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear a business owner complain about their website and the folks who ‘developed’ it – it takes forever, things are broken, confusing geek-speak about web technologies, a steady stream of costs with no tangible results and on and on. If a simple affordable solution with a focus on content is what the customer wants and needs – give it to them.

Rick

I don’t like the idea of amortizing the cost over time. The customer gets all of the product (the site) upfront so I should see the fee at the same time. The cell phone and cable TV examples aren’t the same since they’re services delivered over time. As much as anything, I’m paying for the availability of them.

Fees over time should be used for similar things – services delivered over time. Adwords campaigns, site updates, analysis of Google Analytics reports, etc.

It’s also worth remembering that a few thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money to a successful business – I have a client that was spending $35,000 per year on ads in the newspaper here. He just sent a mailing to his customers… which cost him $2000. Spending $2-$5,000 on a site should be easy for a wel-run small business to afford, but they need to see that it has the potential to bring in business.

Scott

I wasn’t exactly saying to sell my initial work at a loss in exchange for recurring income. It’s more like getting the client to “amortize” the ultimate cost of the site over one or more years. A smaller up-front payment followed by digestible monthly payments will seem much more appealing to some SMBs than a large up-front (even if it’s one-time) charge to build a site.

Many of us would be shocked if we got an *annual* up-front bill for our cell phone service, cable TV package, broadband Internet, etc. The companies providing those services are clever, though, in the dastardly way they break up that payment into 12 chunks!

BTW, I agree completely about providing actual value for any monthly service charge. That’s why I already do text updating for free. My clients think it’s more work than it really is, and it sometimes gives me an opportunity to up-sell additional services.

Love your comment that “Just as a site needs to make sense for them, doing the project needs to make sense for us.”

For me, any web work less than about $2,000 in value really isn’t worth taking on. By the time I’m done talking with the client (often several times), doing a proposal, working out details, and doing all the up-front design work, I’ve invested quite a bit of time. The actual coding and testing of the web pages is probably 20% of the overall effort (and 80% of that is testing / fixing IE6 headaches!). My personal challenge is to either get clients with larger budgets so I can do $5,000 sites or get much more efficient about my time. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, though, and even on “small” web jobs, I’ll sometimes spend *hours* extra tweaking things so they’re “just right”.

rick

Scott – I think selling at a loss (in your terms) to land recuring business isn’t the answer. You sell the site creation at full market value and then you sell periodic updates at full market value.
You’re providing two separate but linked services… building a quality web site and periodically updating it. Oh you might give a small discount on site creation if they also agree to a year’s worth of services, but not more than 10-20%.

What you need to define is what the value of an ongoing contract is to the SMB. If you’re charging them to update text content… that’s ripping them off. You could easily build a site on WordPress and they could do that. However if you’re maintaining PPC campaigns for them and walking through their Analytics distilling the reports into actionable items… that’s the kind of thing they’re unlikely to have expertise in and that you should charge for.

Let’s say you’re going to build a SMB site for $2000 and maintain it monthly for $100 per month (again, defining ‘maintain’ as adding real value). The first year income to you is $3200. If you cut the site creation price in half, you get $2200. This is bad business AND it encourages people to view your services as less valuable. Yet, really, unless you take a significant cut like that the price difference isn’t going to be material to them. $3200 full price… but $3000 discounted? Meh. Now, if you’re adding enough value to charge $500 per month that’s different. In that case, though, I doubt we’re talking an initial investment of $2000.

We talk about small businesses… but that’s what WE are too. Just as a site needs to make sense for them, doing the project needs to make sense for us.

Scott

I believe the underlying premise in Ben’s experience with SMBs is that they either just don’t see an investement in an online presence as valuable or don’t feel it would provide a good (or even positive) ROI for their particular company. For the latter, I would agree, in some cases. My local gas station (assuming they don’t do anything other than pump gas) doesn’t need a web site. But as I ponder other business that don’t need a site, I’m coming up dry, because I could make the case that almost any business can derive benefits from a site, even if it’s just to automate certain functions like answering queries over the phone or scheduling appointments.

I’m sure it was an uphill battle, originally, to “sell” phone service to companies. Most businesses probably had no vision for how a phone line could ever help them. After all, the people who walked by their storefront every day already knew about them and would come in when necessary. Then, like now, the challenge for the people selling this “newfangled” technology is *not* to impress prospects with “it’s possible, so you should do it” but rather “here’s how it can make a significant improvement to your bottom line”. We have to sell the core benefits, not the features. Reminds me of the old saying that the hardware store isn’t really selling the *shovel*; they’re selling the *hole*. My clients aren’t buying pixels and bits; they’re buying the increased business (and/or better efficiency) those pixels and bits get them.

I agree *completely* that the “set it and forget it” mindset of some clients has to be dispelled. It’s sad that I have to remind some of my clients that their site is getting a bit stale. And it’s not so much to generate new income for me; it’s that I’m afraid the diminishing value they’d see from their site would start to reflect badly on me.

I’m toying with the idea of offering web design and development services for much lower than my normal rate and doing more of an ongoing SLA-type thing Ben suggests. That’s really win-win, because the client is “forced” to periodically update his site, keeping it more relevant and beneficial, and I get more recurring income. Of course, it’s a risk – some clients will be interested up front, have me build a site (“at a loss” since I won’t initially recoup the value of my time), but then they’ll lose interest, stop asking for incremental work, and my recurring income dries up.

I wish I had some hard numbers, so I could go to a prospect and say, “Here’s a business similar to yours. Before they had a web site (or a good one), they had revenue of $X. After their web site launched (or was improved), their revenues increased by X percent.” I think *that* would make more of an impression on a business owner than me trying to show them that my code is fully W3C-compliant.

ben

More for the sake of record than any hope that anyone is STILL following this conversation, it’s meaningful to follow up Scott’s presentation of online presence as an investment:

For SMB’s, no. A thousand times no.

It’s been my (ample, painful) experience that expecting SMB leadership to invest resources in any ongoing task beyond answering their e-mail… is expecting too much. Some prospects even quail at that. The ones who think they’re smart demand WordPress or Joomla on the backend, thinking that they can get their admins to update or extend the site from time to time, but even THAT usually goes balls-up.

The most effective way to turn such a prospect’s online presence into a real investment is to successfully make the case that Web sites are not fire-and-forget matter, and thence negotiate an SLA for a fraction of the site’s launch cost.

The first task in that pitch is to convince the client that you’re not trying to prime a valueless pump of recurring income, which is best accomplished by doing a compare-and-contrast of the consequences of fire-and-forget vs. SLA. Finishing that preso with a clear declaration that you can take it or leave it – that you’re giving free advice – will help bring the hard cases around. Anyone who refuses to give you the time of day for this is either undercapitalized or infuriatingly cheap (i.e., a waste of your time).

The nature of the SLA itself really depends on the client’s business; maybe they’re pondering e-commerce in the back of their mind, or maybe customer/visitor feedback will give them an indication of changes that need to be made to the site.

Regardless of the outcome Scott is right, but he’s right about something that practically every SMB prospect I’ve ever talked with wishes he was wrong about, instead.

Scott

Before I was done reading the first sentence, I knew there would be a debate about whether $2,000 is too much or too little. I’ve been a professional web designer / developer for 12 years and have recently launched my own company. Determining the appropriate pricing model, and then selling that to my potential clients, has been very challenging. To a small business, $2,000 can be a lot of money. And if the owner / decision-maker doesn’t really understand the value a high-quality web site can provide to his business, that $2,000 seems like a large one-time expense rather than an *investment* that can potentially return many times its cost.

Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a web designer. I’ve seen horrendously bad code and design from web shops that, at least on the surface, appear to be decent. The correlation doesn’t always apply, but *generally* the lower the price, the lower the quality. However, SMB clients who don’t know anything about web design are likely just going to shop by price. And if we all compete on price, we’re just going to drive ourselves (collectively) to the bottom. Web design is not a commodity!

Sure, I can set my prices high, and have the cost-sensitive tire-kickers “self-select” themselves away from me, leaving me with client with a better understanding of the value of a web site, or at least with larger budgets. But in this economy, it’s scary to turn away any work. I’d rather earn a few thousand dollars on some web work rather than sitting around idly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on “price versus value” and how you sell your web services.

Cody

This is interesting. We offer a similar service in a much smaller market. To be honest, it feels a little like they borrowed our concept, but c’est la vie! We do a custom design, cms, and writing. As long as you can limit the scope, it’s doable.

I’m not sure about the discussion about cost. The first rule of business is you charge what people will pay, not what you think it’s worth.

solipse

Wow Janki, $350 for a week’s worth of work?!

Thats $8.50 an hour. You can get more money working at a WalMart.

I hope you are living outside the US when you charge rates so low. :)

ben

I’m looking at some of these numbers and I think to myself “gee, must be nice, sorta, to live in a place where the cost of living is a pittance… especially compared to the Bay Area.”

On those rare occasions when I’m approached by SMB prospects, I tell them that the cost is going to amount to $1500 at the entry level… so could I, and would I, build a custom SMB site for $2K? Sure.

About three years ago, I raised my bill rates by a considerable fraction, and I made a discovery: the work was less fraught with hassles, and I was actually seeing more of it.

The moral of the story is that your bill rate reflects your own evaluation of your ability, and that’s reflected in the way clients treat you. This realization has been reflected by anecdotes collected from Twitter, LinkedIn, and random conversations.

There’s also the question of your market – I work with coastal U.S. clients for the most part. If I pitch a prospect in Kansas City, Omaha, or Wichita (i.e., within driving distance of where I live), it’d be an uphill fight to bill them at the same rate I would bill a coastal client.

As for the service under discussion, there’s a definite need; there’s never a shortage of prospects who need an easily-budgeted solution with a low net cost, provided they can accept that they’ll need to accept a narrow scope.

…So if the production values of their site can be improved to the point where it’s not totally obvious that its development was managed by MarCom experts, it might just work.

Somewhat related: I love the work, consider the money a bonus, and never pass up an opportunity to demonstrate that. That attitude, and with my willingness to give clients the benefit of the doubt in a plainspoken manner, point to how I earn my clients’ respect. Incidentally, it also makes it easy to detect when someone’s trying to take advantage of me.

Harold Maduro

This is an interesting idea: providing high quality service to a lower market, using a strict process.

Please comment on your experiences with different type of clients, people who will try to ask for requirements outside the $2,000 budget AFTER kicking off the project.

Goodfella

I like the idea, but I dont have much hope for it.

A website is more than a design and plugin it into a weblog management system. And for starters, they set everything on “two weeks”. Seriously, have any of you guys ever had a single project that actually took two weeks from first contact to live deployment?

I haven’t even had a customer who had his content ready in two weeks time. And ofcourse this will expand your project time, communication time and revisions. Who’s the blame that it doesn’t take just a two week period? I’ve grown up with the phrase “Customer is king”.

All-in-all, serious doubt about the two weeks and I think it will quickly turn into a negative factor.

In addition, I just don’t understand how people can still sell websites based on a weblog system :( It’s sad..

Janki Mehta

2000$ per site is too much! I guess that depends on location. I charge merely 350$ for a week full of work!

Guys if you have any suggestions for my site or have any work for me do let me know! I have a flair in Designing and I can draw stuffs from hand or Illustrator, I can visualize!

Nico

I don’t know, I doubt this is really set up by a “high-end design firm” that’s offering low-cost solutions. I wouldn’t give my money, let alone $2K, to a “designer” who doesn’t even have the time to set up pretty permalinks (takes 4 seconds), or delete the default first comment on WordPress on their own site (check the first post). Those are details that have nothing to do with money and everythng to do with the quality of the designer.

rick

Ellis…

Depends what you provide and how long it takes you (assuming you’re competent, spun up and not learning on the customer’s dime). And it depends on the level of customization and design work. If a it takes you 40 hours total to meet with the client, understand what they need, provide mocks, code those, flow in content, install WP for them, test on mutiple browsers… congrats you’re making $25 an hour. If you can do all of that in 20 hours it’s $50… but remember 20 hours is not even 3 fulltime days. Can you REALLY go from zero to live in 3 days when you’re doing custom design work too and coding? What if the customer decides they want to change something?

Now, if you’re simply helping someone pick a WordPress theme doing a little modification to it and getting it set up on a host for them… sure, $1000 is reasonable.

beau

hey, give these guys a break! at least their own site looks nice and it provides for a good user experience. they are just starting. these days we have to give credit and support to someone who is still employing people and trying to keep things rolling. now, if two months from now, we still don’t see anything else coming from here, i’ll probably be with you. in the meantime, good luck guys! looks promising and a good solution for good quality design at an affordable price (and yes, if the design is good, it is ONLY $2000).

Ellis Benus

ONLY $2,000?!

That’s a lot of money to me.

I am also a web designer/developer,
and I try to keep my websites under
$1,000 for basic services.
I want to make sure everyone
can afford a web site who cannot
necessarily do it themselves.

Sean

Ozan, Bob…

Thanks for your comments. We can be reached by phone and email. I am the owner and every email comes to me for now. The phone number goes directly to our head of project management.

The error you saw with the analytics code and email was some testing we were doing that made it on to the main page. It has been corrected. Apologies for that.

Bob, you are right on the WP themes. Those are the sites we have done to date with friends and family as a means to test the self service process we have put in place.

What we offer is a custom designed web site programmed and set-up. WordPress is the platform we have chosen to start with given its ease of use for most clients post-delivery. To your point, we have opted to remove the sites in question and you will see more custom designed sites in there as we grow.

Thanks for the feedback. I can be reached anytime at sean@2000dollarwebsite.com

…Sean

Bob

And maybe, just maybe, that $2000 project deserves more than a free WordPress theme. I found those three portfolios in the WordPress Theme directory.

Ozan Caglargil

Take a look at their footer section and see that, why you can’t afford being cheap.

Yes, That is a only little mistake, but that little mistake disables you from sending an email to owner AND tracking website statistics (Think what will happen, if that was your 2000+ web site).

So my point is, each website doesn’t have to be 2000$ website, but each web project should deserve a little bit more attention.

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