Practical Websites

Because websites are about so much more than just their design

10 Things that can make a cheap website an endless money pit

Many smaller business owners only look at price – and the quality of design – when they pick a web designer. Unfortunately, that leaves them wide open to being exploited. Allow me to explain…

Here’s how web designers can sell you an awesome website for “cheap” (R1500 or less):

Note: If this article seems too long to your taste, consider the how much money you hope to make from your website over the next say, 5 years. Making the wrong choice could cost a lot more than you think.

1. The “website maintenance contract”

Most web designers use the WordPress platform. Aside from any changes to the website, the platform itself, as well as plugins and templates/themes have to be updated regularly (because WordPress evolves continuously). If something goes wrong during the update, your whole website can “break” and even disappear. Your designer has to create backups of the files and the website’s “brain” (MySQL database) in case this happens – so that it can be restored quickly if need be.

The going rate right now seems to be around R500 per website per month. It makes up for the lower initial price.

2. They use paid plugins and templates/themes

They use combinations of paid plugins and templates/themes to achieve those great designs – with annual licensing fees. In order to be able to update those plugins and themes , they need to do the maintenance on your website.

If you exit the contract, you will have to pay the annual licensing fees yourself – or some critical elements on your website will stop working. The fees on those plugins and themes can easily run up to several thousands of rands per year, plus the cost of having another designer do it all.

3. Fancy elements renders your website slower, so some people leave

The internet has turned us into very impatient beings. If a website doesn’t load quickly enough, we leave. All of those fancy elements (rotating headers, content sliding in, rotating testimonials, etc.) slow your website down. After all, each of those elements have to be controlled by scripts (mini-programs), and they contain additional images. ALL of these have to load before your website can be displayed.

Now do the math: how much is each visitor to your website worth (in terms of being a potential customer or client)?

You can work around it by getting faster hosting – but ideally you would need a VPS (virtual private server), which would cost you around R400 per month, or R4,800 per year.

4. If your website is slow, Google sends fewer people

Google considers a slow loading website to be “a poor user experience” – so if your website loads slowly, you get fewer visitors from Google and other search engines.

This means you have to invest more in paid advertising…

5. Flashy designs often feature poor usability

Many web designers simply “work with the tools they have available” – with no grasp of usability. The result is often websites which look awesome, but leave visitors confused – they literally cannot find their way around your website. And if a visitor cannot find the info/link he or she needs/wants, chances are they won’t bother to contact you.

Cheap flashy designs could also result in your website not displaying correctly on all devices.

One of my first clients recently admitted that “my old, simple design” worked better than the newer one he paid a small fortune for. More of his visitors ended up doing business with him (back then) than at present – and it’s not due to competition – his product is pretty unique.

6. You have no control, and pay for every small change

If you hand control of your website to your designer (maintenance contract), you are likely to find that any tiny change will cost you an hour’s fee – even if it is something simple like a single price change. After all, professional services are charged per hour, even if the job doesn’t take that long.

7. No SEO is done, so Google sends very few visitors – if any

SEO – or search engine optimisation – is a series of steps taken to show Google what your website is about. This involves things like “meta tags” (specific information to search engines, not visible to the public), the wording and headings on your website, “alt tags” for pictures, the creation of a special site map for search engines, and submission to Google’s webmasters’ Search Console.

If you get a great looking website for cheap, this is likely to be an optional extra.

8. No SMO is done, so no impact when sharing on social media

SMO – or social media optimisation – is the steps taken to show social networks what your site is about. Have you ever seen – on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin – a rectangular picture with a bold title, and the whole block is clickable?

That’s a social card. If the correct instructions are embedded into the web pages (open graph tags), one of those will be created every time a page from your website is shared on social media.

You can see examples on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/realpracticalwebsites

It really makes your website stand out when shared on social media. It also means more people are likely to click on it and visit your website.

Cheap websites often feature social media (profile) buttons, but seldom feature open graph tags, and sometimes they don’t even social sharing buttons underneath your pages.

Again, it is an “optional extra”

9. No website security, so your site can be hacked

WordPress websites are complex. From time to time hackers find vulnerabilities in some of the plugins (and some complex templates/themes), and they break in.

Most of them try to hold you to ransom, and make you pay several hundred US Dollars to have it unlocked, and some simply break in to mess it up. Some redirect your website to somewhere else, while some infect your website with viruses or malware, which is then passed on to your visitors. Some infect your website with phishing software (designed to steal visitor information).

On cheap websites, security is – again – an optional extra.

Over the years I have rebuilt several websites which were hacked to badly that it was cheaper to rebuild them than to have them repaired.

10. Your web designer could have complete control, and refuse to let you go

In many cases of designers offering “cheap” websites, they also offer free hosting as part of the deal. That means that they control your website – completely. If you try to back out of the maintenance contract, you can find yourself slapped with a huge bill (before having to pay to move the website), or they can simply shut your website down.

In conclusion:

Your website is part of your business operations. Just like everything else in your business, it comes down to facts and figures. How much do you stand to lose if you make the wrong choice?

Think of it like this…

If you start off with a simple website that does everything it has to, you can always upgrade the design later on. But if you focus solely on the design as a deciding factor…

You may end up with a website that costs a lot more than you bargained for.

Are you ready to discuss your website project? Click Here to contact us.

Or if you want more information, you may want to read:

Getting started (if this is your first website project)

Frequently asked questions