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“Affordable” web design – the hidden costs of a cheap web site

“Affordable” web design companies seem attractive because of the low cost, but a cheap web site costs less for good reason. There’s probably something missing and it’s likely to be your new customers.

Apparent Savings

Before you build your web site evaluate cost versus benefit. And the easiest benefit to measure comes from the increase in new customer enquiries.

Compare the amount a cheap web site will save you over 3 to 5 years (possibly a few hundred or thousand) versus what it can cost you in new business over the same period (possibly a few thousand or ten thousand).

Established web companies often focus on customers who are up to their 2nd or 3rd web site because most web site owners have to experience owning a low quality web site to appreciate the value of a high quality web site.

Unfortunately this means you have to go through an expensive mistake and potentially waste years on a poorly performing web site before you get an effective web site.
Anyware won’t give up on you so quickly – we wrote this guide so you don’t have to experience this pain.

This guide is written for business owners who are short on time, know their business and their customers well and are not technical experts. And it shows you what to watch out for if you’re considering buying a web site where the price looks to good to be true.


For your customers to see your web site it must be “hosted” on a server that is permanently connected to the Internet.

You can get cheap overseas web hosting, often for 25% of the price of NZ based hosting. Despite what the sales person tells you, overseas hosting accounts are slower – information travelling from Texas takes longer than information travelling from Lower Hutt, and it’s often quite noticeable.

Overseas hosting can also affect your local search engine rankings, e.g. if your site is hosted overseas and someone searches for “accountant wellington” you can appear lower in the results than locally hosted web sites.

Will saving a few dollars a month on cheap hosting offset the cost of losing enquiries or making a bad first impression due to a slow loading web site? Not usually.

Technology Focus – A Red Flag

The technology your web site is built with is important. It should load fast, perform reliably and make life easy for you and your customer. If it allows you to edit your web site you should not require a degree to operate it. And that’s about all you need to know.

Cheap web site companies often try to impress you with a piece of fancy technology to show you how clever they are. The more noise they make about technology the more suspicious you should be that they are overlooking important details that will make your web site perform well.

Excessive Use of Flash
Be wary of web site designers who use Adobe flash excessively. Flash is great for adding videos and other occasional content (such as some animations) to your web site, but never let your designer use it for your web site's navigation bar or for background images.

Flash causes your web site to load more slowly and it negatively affects your search engine rankings. Some designers use flash because it’s convenient for them, not because it adds value to your web site – so make sure you only you use Flash when it adds value.

Plain English

Did you understand everything your web designer said? If not find one you do understand.

The discussion you have with your web company should focus on your customers and your business, not the technology your web site is built with.

If you can’t have a meaningful conversation with your web designer your web site has no chance of connecting with your best customers.

Visual Design and Brand

Your web site needs to create a great first impression and be instantly recognised by people who have seen your brand before. This allows you to focus on getting your message across instead of wasting precious seconds gaining peoples trust and introducing your brand all over again.

If your web site is too plain or does not represent your brand well, you lose credibility and recognition. Spending a few dollars more to brand your web site well will pay off in the long run.

Some web companies will try to convince you your web site must look plain for ‘usability’ reasons. This is not true – web sites can look great AND be useable.

On the other hand, if your web site is too flashy people either get bored waiting for it to load or get annoyed by all the distractions and leave. Flashy web sites may impress your designer and their friends, but not your customers.

Understanding Your Customers

The most important preparation for building your web site is to understand who your best customers are and why they buy from you.

Describe what each group of your best customers has in common and the most important thing that attracts each of them to your business.
(Here’s more info about identifying your niche markets.)

Armed with this knowledge you can get the attention of your best customers and convince them to buy from you.

Cheaply built web sites usually focus on your products or services, not on your customers, and you become just another company ineffectively flogging their wares.

Sales Funnel

A well designed sales funnel guides your best customers to the information they seek and makes it easy for them to buy or enquire.

Cheap web design often ignores this step and you risk confusing your customers and losing them.

Have you ever been to a web site where you got lost and could not figure out what to do next? Did you buy anything? (Probably not)

Sales Copy for the Web

If your web site does not include effective sales copy it will fail to get your visitors attention and convince them to buy from you.

Writing sales copy for the web is a specialised skill and if you don’t have that experience your web designer needs to provide this service.

To evaluate how well your web design company can provide this service visit some of the web sites they have built and look at the home page for 5 seconds.
Is it obvious how this business would help you as a customer?

Knowing What You Want

If you know exactly what you want you are more likely to get it from a cheap web company than someone who does not know what they want.

The problem is that if you have not had a lot of practise building and marketing web sites, what you want may be good, but it may not be the best performing web site you can have.

Seeking impartial advice from a specialist web design and marketing company will ensure you get the best value from your web site over the long term.

Knowing What You Need

To learn the key factors that make a web site truly effective, register for our next seminar: Simplifying the Internet - The Small Business Owners Guide to a Profitable Web Site.

Or see our affordable web design package that delivers a high performance web site.


About the Author
Since 1998, Phil Donaldson has helped hundreds of business owners understand, in plain English, how their web sites can help their businesses grow, and find the simplest solutions to do it.
If you'd like to apply this system to your business, but don't have the time or inclination to complete all the steps yourself then we can help. Contact for affordable web design services in Wellington, New Zealand.
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