The High Cost of Bargain Design

Oct 29th, 2009 | By | Category: Case Studies

I’ve often won­dered why it is that peo­ple don’t under­stand the axiom, “You get what you pay for.” Peo­ple who don’t under­stand a process uni­ver­sal­ly seem drawn to the low­est price. In the case of a known quan­ti­ty, such as a car pur­chase, it makes sense. If you’re in the mar­ket for an iPod, you don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need to know how an iPod works to buy one. You can rest assured that the one you buy is almost exact­ly like the oth­ers of the same mod­el.

What about an unknown quan­ti­ty? What if you house needs paint­ed, or you want to have that iPod we talked about repaired? Now we come to an issue. You can go with the place that offers the low­est price, and you may get lucky. Odds are, how­ev­er, that you will get what you paid for. About 60% of my clients are what I like to call re-treads. What does that mean exact­ly? It sim­ply means that they went the cheap route and decid­ed it was too expen­sive. Write this down.

Price is only an issue in the absence of val­ue.

I don’t know who orig­i­nal­ly said it, but I’d love to meet him. Did you write it down? Well, go back and do it. I’ll wait…

Future design re-tread

Future design re-tread

I recent­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion with a future client who fell vic­tim to this all-to-com­mon issue. She went with a guy who talked the talk, but when chal­lenged played the non-dis­clo­sure card. He kept telling her that he couldn’t show her exam­ples of artis­tic work and SEO results because of com­pe­ti­tion issues. This is absolute hooey, but sounds good when you’re on the receiv­ing end. She has recent­ly decid­ed that the bar­gain route was too expen­sive.

Many poten­tial web design clients have the “instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion” men­tal­i­ty. They think that arriv­ing at a good design is a triv­ial mat­ter that can be accom­plished in an after­noon. This is FAR from the case. Being able to work Pho­to­shop makes a per­son a design­er the same way know­ing which end of a screw­driv­er to turn makes one a mechan­ic. I can do some amaz­ing things with Pho­to­shop and Illus­tra­tor, but many of them make for bad design. The dif­fer­ence between a design­er and a hack is know­ing the dif­fer­ence.

What hap­pens in near­ly every re-tread case is, they eat up most of their bud­get on the bad design and have to pick and choose fea­tures for the re-design. Here’s a quick list of things to help you avoid this prob­lem.

  1. Do your home­work: Look at the designer’s port­fo­lio. If there is no port­fo­lio, don’t hire that design­er. If the port­fo­lio looks like it con­tains a bunch of work from the late 90’s, don’t hire. If you don’t like what you see in the port­fo­lio, don’t hire. Ask for ref­er­ences. No ref­er­ences… Well, you get the point.
  2. Expect good com­mu­ni­ca­tion: If you don’t get a return call or e-mail with­in a rea­son­able time, assume this will be the norm. If you val­ue com­mu­ni­ca­tion, hold out for a good com­mu­ni­ca­tor. Some techies have bad peo­ple skills. This should be pret­ty easy to spot.
  3. Sign a con­tract: Would you let a builder start con­struc­tion on a house with­out one? So why wouldn’t you do the same for a HUGE part of your busi­ness? If you don’t sign a con­tract, you’re deal­ing with an ama­teur (on both sides).
  4. If you see a design menu with prices, run: Pre pub­lished price lists may seem like a good idea, but you get the same results as walk­ing into a tat­too stu­dio and pick­ing a tat­too off the wall. It isn’t yours, and it isn’t unique to your busi­ness.
  5. Ask ques­tions, expect hon­est answers: No one knows how to do every­thing. If you find a design­er who can’t do every­thing you want, odds are he can sub-con­tract the parts he’s not good at. It shouldn’t mat­ter to you, but dis­clo­sure should. Find out what your designer’s strengths and weak­ness­es are. We all have them. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t need a design­er. Remem­ber, if the answers you get sound like BS, they prob­a­bly are.
  6. Know the dif­fer­ence between Design and Devel­op­ment: Design­ers typ­i­cal­ly do the visu­al part. Devel­op­ers typ­i­cal­ly make the site do things. Don’t hire one to do the oth­er. Again, ask for the one you real­ly need.
  7. Don’t hire a rel­a­tive: Ever… Even if it’s free… Enough said.
  8. Tables are dead: No mod­ern design­er worth his salt uses tables. If your design­er doesn’t use CSS for lay­out, you’ll need to redesign very soon any­way.
  9. Expect to pay for ser­vices ren­dered: Ask­ing a design­er to “whip some­thing up” and let you take a look so you can decide is like ask­ing a restau­rant to make you a meal and let you pay for it if you like it. What would you expect the wait­er to tell you if you asked a ques­tion like that?
  10. Don’t make hasty deci­sions: The state­ment, “Poor plan­ning on your part does not con­sti­tute an emer­gency on mine” should be tak­en to heart. Think things through and real­ize that there is time to do it right. If there isn’t, you’ll invari­ably have to do it again.

You don’t have to hire me, but please, hire some­one com­pe­tent. I have a list… If you don’t under­stand the above, ask me. There’s a handy lit­tle “com­ment” block at the bot­tom of this page. Use it. Is there some­thing else you want to know? Ask. There’s also a con­tact form you can use if you don’t want any­one to see what you’re say­ing. Feel free to go that route.

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