Ty's Half Head

Where Good Website Ideas Go to Die: The Case Against Cheap Web Design Farms

Ghost in the Graveyard

Search for “local website designers Chicago” and the very first results are paid ads for large-scale, cheap web design companies.

The offers might seem attractive on the surface: $149 for a custom homepage, $399 for two concept homepages and 5 inner pages, and $899 for three concepts and ten inner pages. The plans go up to $4599 for a complete package – unlimited concepts and pages, high end UI/UX, custom code and so on.

Three different websites with similar pricing.

These are enticing prices for person with very little knowledge of how web development works or what webpages are worth. “Less than $200 for a webpage, what a deal! I definitely don’t need more than a homepage,” a potential customer might say to themselves. Or even $400, “not bad for five pages and two concepts.” The reality is the best and possibly only option for a business is the highest end package. I’ll come back to why later on in this post.

How Do These Companies Make Money?

Under $1000 for a webpage is an absolute steal, so how do these companies that employ perhaps hundreds of people remain profitable?

Part of it is a bait and switch. When you pay the $149 for a single page, the company will quickly put together a simple webpage based on a template used thousands of times elsewhere on the web. Do you want to change the copy? That’s an additional fee. Do you want to use different stock images? Another fee. Do you want to add another page? More fees. Do you want to be access to the back-end to make changes yourself? More money. There’s no world in which you will pay only $149 for your website.

Like I mentioned previously, the product you get is likely going to be a recycled template – one of hundreds of other websites. How can your brand possibly stand out when it is nearly identical to so many others? This is a huge cost saving measure and makes cranking out websites a breeze.

Volume is important to these companies and templates make that easy. They can quickly enter your business information and copy, drop a few photos in, and be done with your concept in a matter of an hour or so. You get a shoddy, uninspired website; they get to move on to their next target.

Are These Even Different Companies?

There are interesting consistencies between the websites of these companies and even their own sites appear to be based on a template. It’s uncanny. Every one of the sites I looked at have the following features in common.

You’ll first be confronted with a zendesk chat box on the right side of the page. A customer consultant or designer will initiate a chat asking you to discuss requirements on the type of site you’re interested in. They will tell you that they’re not a bot. It’s possible that they are a real human, but it would be easier to initiate the conversation with a bot and then connect to a real person when a mark interacts with the chat.

Four different websites with the exact same chat window and customer approach.

There will also be a portfolio wall consisting of only images of websites. I tried to find these websites and, of the 7 googled, 3 didn’t exist at all as companies or webpages, and 4 were real companies but had entirely different designs than the example provided on the website farm’s site.

These websites don’t exist.

The testimonials are another odd, consistent feature that seem to be fake. I googled 5 of the names and businesses connected to featured testimonials and only one was a real business; however, the website logo of this singular existing business was different from the one displayed in the testimonial, and the provided name of the person was not associated with the business’ website.

These people and their sites don’t exist, or if the site exists it is a completely different design.

Worst of all the site will give you options for different packages at various prices. Occasionally they will tell you if there’s an additional cost for a specific service, but equally often it will be ambiguous. Someone who isn’t versed in web development might not know that a mobile responsive site is a basic requirement of modern web design, for example. The low prices are the bait.

What is a Website Worth?

According to WebFX, a digital marketing and SEO company, a website in 2021 can run between $12,000 and $150,000. Obviously, the scope of the project is the main factor, and some small businesses could have a great website built for ~$5,000. But $149? A total pipe-dream.

If you must use one of these companies to build your website you should always choose the $5000 price range, which is usually the highest end package. This is the only way that you’ll get the features and content expected by modern web users.

But consider Nighthouse instead. We will not bait and switch you, and we will create a unique, high quality website that reflects your brand. We do not charge you per page, per stock image, or based on any other criteria other than the total cost to deliver the best web experience for you and your customers.

If anyone has experience using one of these large web development companies I am very interested in hearing your stories in the comments.

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