We’ve had a lot of potential clients contacting us lately about working on the design of their web applications. It makes sense, because we’ve done a lot of projects like this, both for past clients and for ourselves (Gone Raw, for example), so we know what it takes. We know how much work it is to write the code, and we know how much work it is to design the site.

And guess what? They’re both a lot of work. Which makes it surprising that many folks who contact us, looking for a design for their web application, are surprised at the estimate we give them. The design of the site often seems like an afterthought. Their first reaction is usually along the lines of “But realize, we aren’t asking you to write the code! We already have someone to write the code!” They then ask if we don’t maybe want to reconsider the cost.

Not really. Good design is a lot of work. You might not realize it, though. You may start your project by planning what the site has to do – perhaps by making a list of required functionality. In the case of a recipe sharing website, for example, you might list out things like “lets users enter a recipe,” or “lets users rate a recipe,” or “lets users sign up for an account.” It’s easy to see how these pieces of information might be stored in a database. It’s also easy to imagine the code needed to accomplish these things. And you can measure your results. Can I see the recipe I just added? Good. Then it’s working.

Design is, perhaps, a bit harder to quantify. You might not have things like “make sure users can find their way around easily,” or “make users feel warm and fuzzy with good color choices,” or “be sure visitors with poor vision can use the website” on your list. But you should! These things are very important, because there’s probably already a half dozen sites out there that already do exactly what you’re trying to do, maybe better. What’s going to make your experience more compelling? It just might be the design.