Starting to search for a web design services to match your business size and objectives? Affordable website design is subjective. So let’s make sure you’re armed with the information to make a decision you’re going to be comfortable with when it comes to your web design project.

It’s confusing. So many levels, so much variation in opinion. How do you choose the right person or agency to assist you? What platform should you build on? Each expert offers different advice.

You’ll be told “WordPress is clunky.” “Wix is simple.” “Squarespace looks better.” “Shopify is essential for eCommerce.”

It’s overwhelming, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.

Fortunately, I’m not. I’m a programmer and business manager with agency experience. I completely understand the technology and processes. My goal by the end of this article is to help you understand them too.

I want to demystify the process of trying to get affordable website design for your business, so you feel confident in making an informed decision about who to go with and why.

In a rush? Jump to…

First things first; do you really need a new website?

The first question you should ask is whether you really need a new website. Often, when a small business consults with me, we sit down and review their current website together. Most of the time, the structure is sound. Usually, the issues lie with the images, the copy, the marketing messages, or sometimes the fonts and colors. These changes typically require just a few hours, not weeks, of investment.

Of course, there are instances when the backend of the website is problematic, making it difficult to use. In such cases, you may need to make significant changes or upgrades. That’s when building a new website becomes necessary. However, the first thing you should determine is whether you can significantly elevate your existing website with a few hours of work, focusing on your style, brand, and messaging.

Why are websites so expensive?

Websites are expensive, which is subjective, but it’s mainly because they take a long time to build. Very good websites, in particular, require significant time investment. Even if you’re using a website builder like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress, you’ll still need to spend considerable time creating all the pages, linking them together, writing quality content for SEO (search engine optimisation), adding metadata, and customizing it to match your brand’s style.

At a minimum, dedicating two to three days of focused work is necessary to build a good, unique website, even with tools like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress. If you want a more custom website design that aligns closely with your brand, style, messaging, and business objectives, you’ll need more customization than what out-of-the-box solutions offer.

This is when you need to start asking critical questions: Will you hire a freelancer or an agency? What are the differences? What technology should you use? How long should the website last? What functions does it need? What kind of support will you need in the future?

These considerations make the process of building a new website feel like a heavy and complex decision for your business. Ultimately, creating a new website is expensive because it’s a complicated process, even with guidance.

Website technology explained for a layperson.

Website technology can be overwhelming for those without a technical background. But in simple terms, it refers to the tools and software used to create and maintain a website. This includes everything from the coding languages used (such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) to the content management systems (CMS) that allow you to easily update and manage your site.

Broken down these are the main things you need to be aware of:

  • NS records help direct internet traffic to the right place. They essentially tell the internet where to find your website.
  • DNS records are like a phonebook for the internet. They point to important things like your email server and website server.
  • Your web host is the service that stores your website files and makes them accessible on the internet.
  • The CMS (Content Management System) is the tool you use to create and manage your website content. It’s what you interact with to add new pages, posts, and images.
  • Finally, you have your design and content, which are the visual elements and information your visitors see when they come to your website.

A rant about typical bullshit you can expect from many digital marketing agencies (must read).

Hosting doesn’t cost as much as they make it seem. They’re just adding a margin on top of the materials, like any other trade. It’s unnecessary and benefits them more than it benefits you. It doesn’t add anything valuable to the process.

They’ll argue they need control over the entire technology stack “just in case,” but there are plenty of affordable ways to set up reliable hosting where you maintain control and ownership. You can simply grant the agency permission instead of the other way around. Isn’t it ridiculous that the default is the opposite?

You’re also paying for layers of people. This might be necessary if you need a designer, strategist, web developer, or data analyst for a huge, critically important project. But that’s not your case. You just need something that looks good and works well to go live, so you can start learning. Don’t pay for extra people to communicate if you don’t have to.

They’ll claim they need to go through extensive validation processes and user experience design. But in reality, you learn the most once it’s live.

Often, they’ll put you in front of the strategy person or leadership team during key moments, like when they need to get you on board. But the majority of the work is done by far less experienced individuals.

The compromise you’re making by using a freelancer instead of an Adelaide agency (…but that might be ok)

If you can work with a freelancer, like a web designer, for your website build, I would absolutely recommend it.

It will be cheaper, and you’ll likely get a good result in terms of the website’s look and feel.

However, many freelancers or small agencies may not have the breadth of skills to integrate everything seamlessly. For example, discussing brand and marketing, or social media strategy with them might result in a superficial conversation filled with regurgitated marketing tactics they’ve seen online. Their expertise may not be robust enough to guide you in crafting effective marketing messages and structuring the website to achieve your goals.

That being said, this might still work for you if you have someone in-house with strong marketing skills, a good eye for brand building, and a clear understanding of how to attract your ideal customer. In this case, you might not need a broader team, such as an agency, or a highly skilled individual with experience across various roles like designer, developer, copywriter, and strategist.

In summary, if you don’t value the additional services an agency offers—such as making search engines (Google) love you, leading with strategy, better messaging and copywriting, customised design, user experience, and true customisation—you could save money by hiring a freelancer or web designer. Just be aware that they might use templates with minimal customisation, which might be perfectly fine for your business if you have strong in-house skills to handle the rest.

The difference between a freelancer who call themselves web designer and actual web developers in Adelaide

When you start looking for assistance to get a website built, you’ll come across terms like Freelancer, Web Designer, Web Developer, and Agency. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from each, which should help you decide who to contact first for website design Adelaide quotes and to understand their approach to a new website build.

A Freelancer typically has fewer skills compared to a Web Developer and significantly fewer than a full Agency. However, a Freelancer can be a better option than developing your own skills and overcoming the learning curve of platforms like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress. They might be highly skilled at customizing existing templates on these platforms quickly and aligning them with your brand, giving you a reasonably good-looking site at a lower cost than other options, except for doing it yourself.

An Adelaide Website Developer, on the other hand, possesses programming skills and can fully customize websites. They eliminate the limitations you might face with a Web Designer, such as those related to CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and can handle more complex requirements like custom search functionalities, booking platform integrations, and other unique business-specific features.

Web Developers often have design experience and can start with excellent design templates, creating a high-quality website with their skill set. It’ll likely lead to better search engine optimisation or a more mobile friendly website, and generally just a higher-quality online presence – your website the centrepiece.

In contrast, a Website Design Service or Freelancer typically lacks the coding and full customization skills of a Web Developer. While they are generally cheaper, the results may be less customized and less adaptable to special requirements that may arise during the project.

An Agency, of course, combines all these skills, including those of Website Designers, Web Developers, Copywriters, Strategists, Data Analysts, and other specialists who contribute to larger web development projects. The right choice for you depends on your budget, goals, desired longevity of the website, and the functionality you need it to offer.

What it should cost to get a website Adelaide.

When you start looking for quotes to get a website built, you’ll see a wide range of prices, which can be confusing. Here’s a guide from someone with 15 years in the industry on what you should expect to pay or budget for a high-quality execution within each price range.

For a freelancer working with templates in WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $4,000. This might vary slightly higher if they are very experienced or slightly lower if they are new to the business or have a streamlined process.

In the $5,000 to $10,000 range, you can expect a more customized website. This might include custom-designed builds rather than off-the-shelf templates, giving you more flexibility to impress your brand’s style and achieve the specific look and feel you want. The design outcomes will be less restrictive.

Over $10,000, when working with a small agency or a developer, you should get a high-quality website. This price range is suitable for a significant project handled by a sole trader or a small agency. You can expect a highly customized result, likely including e-commerce if needed. The website will be built by a web developer, either in-house or externally, ensuring it operates quickly and is easy to use on the back end. It will be a great representation of your vision.

At $15,000 to $20,000 and above, you’re looking at projects that agencies are more interested in. In my experience, agencies typically won’t take on projects under $15,000 due to their own costs and overheads.

For large organizations with complex website hierarchies, many custom objects, a very mobile friendly design (what some website design services call mobile friendly is truly embarrassing), and complicated stakeholder relationships, agencies are often the best choice to mitigate as many risks as possible.

They offer the comprehensive skill set needed to meet the demands of a large organization, something that might be difficult to find in a single developer or small agency.

In summary, your choice should depend on your budget, the complexity of your needs, and the level of customization and support you require.

If a website costs less than this, be wary.

All web design solutions are NOT built the same.

If a website costs less than $1,000, be wary. This typically indicates one of three things: the person has no interest in guiding you through the process properly, expects you to build it yourself while providing minimal support, or is simply ignorant of the process and the costs involved.

Some churn-and-burn web building companies might claim to do it for less, but in my experience, they can only achieve that by offering very basic, off-the-shelf templates, limiting the number of pages they set up, and making you responsible for managing the entire technology stack. Essentially, they are just installing a simple website template.

In short, if it costs less than $1,000, be cautious. Even if it’s under $2,000, red flags should still be going up. If you can get a great results for this or less, you’ve done very well.

The most affordable way to have a website built.

What’s the most affordable way to have a website built?

The most cost-effective method is to do it yourself. Choose a template-based website building platform, like the ones I’ve mentioned before, and stick to the templates as much as possible.

Look for platforms that offer a one-click install process to simplify things.

While AI will likely make this process easier for small businesses in the future, the most affordable way to build a small business website right now is to either use a web designer to guide you through the process or hire a small agency or web developer.

A web designer or small agency can create a more customized site that aligns better with your brand. They can also help guide you through crafting marketing messages, structuring the website, and ensuring the website’s elements support your overall marketing strategy and business objectives.

How long will it take for the website to be built.

A trustworthy web designer or agency should be able to complete the website build process within two to four months. However, this timeline heavily depends on the client’s ability to gather content, maintain responsive communication, and stay engaged and motivated throughout the project.

Anything taking longer than six months is excessive. Conversely, if someone claims they can do it in under four weeks, be cautious.

They might be overcommitting unless they are fully dedicated to your project without other business distractions. Generally, allowing three to four months ensures that everyone’s expectations are met and the project is completed successfully.

The importance of design – the look and feel of the website.

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but the key difference you’ll find with a web designer at a small agency, or even a large agency, is that more experienced individuals or teams can better integrate your brand and marketing strategy into the website.

A designer typically sticks to basic web-building practices and may not venture into custom builds as confidently as a small agency might. This is fine if that meets your needs and if you have strong marketing and brand competence in-house.

However, many small businesses struggle with writing marketing copy and fully understanding and implementing marketing strategies.

One unintended positive consequence of going through the website build process with a more experienced team is gaining valuable guidance in these areas. This can significantly enhance the website’s look, feel, and effectiveness in communicating with and attracting your ideal customer.

As I mentioned at the beginning, you should prioritise website designs to ensuring your brand looks and sounds amazing. Clarifying your ideal customer and the language you use to attract them is often more important than who builds the website and what technology it’s built on.

The agency is quoting ongoing hosting and support. Is that necessary?

Part of going live with a website includes ongoing support. This involves addressing issues, taking and restoring backups, ensuring reliability, and maintaining updates—especially with platforms like WordPress—to keep the website secure and performing optimally.

Ongoing hosting is necessary because the website needs to reside somewhere.

Ongoing support is beneficial if you prefer having someone to call when issues arise.

However, you can manage this yourself. One issue with agencies is that they often make ongoing hosting and support expensive, which becomes a continuous cost for years after the website goes live.

Ideally, you should be set up with your own hosting, giving you control and the option to leave the agency anytime. Instead of them controlling your website, you should be the administrator of the website hosting and should be assigning the agency (or developer) access. Typically agencies don’t want to set you up this way, for reasons that benefit them, not you.

Support might be necessary for quick problem resolution or general assistance. However, in my experience, issues with self-hosted websites like WordPress have significantly decreased. There are fewer plugin conflicts, fewer security breaches, and it’s much easier to reinstall and recover a website from a backup than in the past.

Fear often drives small businesses to opt for ongoing hosting and support, but the actual value, from my perspective with 15 years in the industry, is questionable.

The wrap up (feel free to ask me for free advice)

Wrapping up, I really empathize with you, the small business owner trying to navigate this complex issue. There’s so much misleading information out there, and many people pretend to be effective in helping you, only to disappoint. If Google has brought you here, I can promise you it’s for a reason!

Often, small businesses start with someone, spend a year on the project, and realize they trusted the wrong person, not getting the expected solution at the agreed value.

Do your research. Ensure the person you’re working with can show examples of past projects, explain how they achieved effective outcomes, and provide a range of expected costs for similar results. If they can’t, question why. Do they lack experience, or are there other reasons that benefit them and not you?

For a small business, expect to pay a minimum of $4-5k for a basic website, up to $6-8k for something slightly more custom. If you’re paying over $8k with a small agency or freelancer, you should discuss custom design, custom build or custom functionality, or a combination of these. This budget might also include marketing strategy and messaging, and how these feed into the website and its final outcome.

Here’s your call to action: If you need help with this decision, even if you’re considering an agency in Adelaide, and want someone experienced to bounce ideas off, feel free to contact me. I’m passionate about small businesses because you are the lifeline of regional economies. If all I do is build a reputation for quality advice that pays off for you or me down the track, I’m happy with that.

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Who is Clare Media? With 15 years of experience in marketing, programming, photography, and more, I (Tim, read more about me here) offer agency-quality results at a fraction of the cost and time. When you work with me, you get consistent, expert guidance without the hassle of being passed between different individuals. My diverse skill set includes strategy development, design, web development, brand messaging, and video production, all aimed at helping businesses define their brand, enhance customer experience, and create compelling marketing strategies. My extensive experience with hundreds of businesses across various industries ensures top-quality results for your ambitious small business. Contact me here.

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