Website Badness, Part One

I design website for a living, and I have really strong opinions about the subject. It’s true, it’s a fact, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I think that we’ve made some of the best websites around, particularly for Portland businesses. And I’m really proud of that.

Once upon a time – three or four years ago, actually – we didn’t have a portfolio. We didn’t even have a business. And of course, getting started is tough. We were lucky to have built some really nice websites at first, and even though those clients got them for a song, the effort was well worth it on our part. Those sites led to more and more work, and got us to where we are now.

Back then, I did some “cold calling.” Not door-to-door, exactly, but that’s what it felt like. I can recall dressing up in a suit to pitch a website, something I haven’t done since. I was once paid in a bar, with twenty dollar bills. What can I say… times were tough. What was amazing was that it was so much harder to get paid back then, even though most websites we made were about $300! We are not that cheap anymore. I suspect that the less you charge, the less your clients will value your services.

I really hated having to sell our services. That period only lasted six months at the most, for which I am eternally grateful. We don’t pitch ourselves to strangers, and we don’t advertise; we rely on our past work and word of mouth, and it works well for us. But it still breaks my heart to see new businesses opening up in Portland, every bit as stylish as a Stumptown or a Masu, who are willing to pay the Yellow Pages people $150 per month or more for a “custom designed website.” I don’t want to name names, but… okay, here’s an example. Sorry guys, but yuuuuuck. It just doesn’t convey how nice that place is, and that’s important.

Let’s try a little experiment. Let’s say that a website that we build is useful for three years. It’s probably useful for much longer than that – several of our $300 projects still serve folks well – but let’s assume that. Hosting a website will probably cost you at most $400 for three years. At $150 per month, times 36 months, “Dex” is charging you $5400. We do a bit of work with search engines, and we make our sites updateable just like Dex does. So what does $5000 get you from Needmore Designs?

Quite a few of the projects in our portfolio at this time, frankly! Every project is certainly different, and I prefer to think of websites as evolving over time, rather than being built and then neglected. I suspect people are suckered into offerings like Dex because it looks cheaper up front, and I’m not going to argue with that. But the budgets are similar. Why not hire local, passionate professionals to do the work? And what if you decide you want to host the site yourself, and pay $10 instead of $150 a month? Who do you think keeps the website… you, or the “Yellow Pages people?”

Too bad I’m not doing cold-calling anymore.

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.