Wednesday, 16 August 2017

It’s war. A price war

It’s great when supermarkets try to compete with each other on price. It means things get cheaper for the shopper. It’s the same with petrol as well. As soon as one petrol station reduces their price from a gazillion pounds per litre to only three quarters of a gazillion pounds, all their competitors have to drop their prices as well because otherwise they will lose business. Of course the big supermarket chains like Tescos, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda are starting to struggle against these budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. And let’s face it, only stuck up, snooty upper-class snobs who want to let you know how rich they are shop at Marks & Spencer.

It’s very much the same story in the web world. Back in the day when it was all very new and exciting and people all had great ideas about how to use the internet to make millions, it was a very lucrative business. People wanted completely bespoke websites and we had to design and code very complicated things tailored just for them. It was therefore perfectly acceptable to charge them several thousand pounds for the privilege. Also, server infrastructure was more expensive back then so our hosting charges were a lot higher.

However, over the years, the industry became so saturated that it became harder and harder to gain an advantage. Then along came things like Wordpress, and god-awful companies like 1and1 and Wix. These programmes are like the budget supermarkets, who sell second-rate (but annoyingly adequate) products at low cost. For some reason, people have become happy to have a website which looks like everyone else’s and they are also happy to compromise on functionality in order to save a few quid - unless of course they want me to build a bespoke system in which case they expect the the most functionally advanced system at the price of a budget website.

An example of this was a builder who contacted me recently. It was a lead through a friend, which is always risky in my opinion. He wanted a brochure website with a content management system so he would update his own pages, gallery, portfolio and contact information. Not overly complicated. I quoted him £600 + VAT for the design of the site, integration of a content management system and a year’s free hosting. Bargain I thought. Apparently not. He thought that was far too expensive and didn’t want to spend more than a couple of hundred pounds and couldn’t understand why he would ever need to pay for hosting.

Now let’s put this into perspective; even for a small company like mine, I have salaries to pay, PAYE, NI, pensions, cost of web servers, database servers and email hosting, domains and all the utility bills on top of that. We mostly work remotely and from home so I’m fortunate enough not to have to pay rent. Still, it costs several thousand pounds to keep the company going. A one-off income of £600 doesn’t go anywhere and is basically small change.

Also, this guy was a builder. This is the same guy who will happily quote someone £50,000 for a loft conversion and then quote them an additional £10,000 halfway through taking the roof off because “I don’t have the right parts on the van love and this roof is made out of Welsh tile, not regular tile, know what I mean sweetheart?”.

Basically, the only way to get a website cheaper than that is to go to Wix or 1nad1 or some other god awful template site which will look like everyone else’s and people will only be able to find it if they have a photographic memory and can remember your website address of

The fact is the days of websites costing thousands to build will soon be gone as us proper web designers and developers have to compete with these budget template sites. Rarely now does a job come in that I can justify charging huge sums of money for because I have to use stock code and stock designs in order to get it up instantly and at low cost, at the bequest of the customer. It also means I have to find other ways of paying the bills and reducing my own expenses, like shopping more at Aldi and Lidl.