The Difference Between a $500 Website and a $5000 Website

We all know that the old adage, “you get what you pay for,” is true in a lot of instances. When it comes to buying a house, it’s likely true. The size, age and location of the house will largely determine its cost and the newer, bigger houses in prime locations are going to cost more.

But when it comes to buying services, this saying is not always accurate. We’ve probably all had instances where we felt we overpaid for sub-par service. In many cases, buying a service, like a haircut, an hour of life coaching, or the creation of a website has more to do with WHO you buy it from than what you are buying. You can buy a $20 haircut at SuperCuts or you could pay $150 or more to have it cut by a well-known stylist in a larger city. Is the more expensive haircut better? Presumably it is, though in rare instances you might find a rising star of a stylist who is charging a low price because the market hasn’t yet figured out how good they are. So, you might get lucky and get something close to the $150 haircut from someone who is unknown but talented and only charges $20. 

That probably won’t be available for long, though. Market economics always kick in eventually. In our example, everyone will tell their friends about the awesome new stylist in town who is only charging $20. Before you know it, the stylist’s schedule will be full and then they will start raising their rates. 

The same holds true for buying web services. It is certainly possible to find a web developer who will build you a $500 website. And that may be all that you or your business needs for the moment. But don’t be talked into thinking that you will be getting the same website that you would get if you paid $5000. That’s rarely going to be the case.

There are other differences you will likely find between the services at these different price points.

Individual vs a Team

Building a website is much like building a house in that there are a number of uniquely skilled tradespeople required to pull it off. Everyone knows you need a carpenter, a plumber and an electrician. If you’ve ever been involved in building a house, you also know there are a bunch of other trades that many people don’t think about, including someone who does the foundation and flatwork, a drywaller, roofer, flooring person, and painter. While there are some talented people who might do a couple of these jobs, the average single family home requires 22 different subcontractors, each with a unique specialty!

Building a professional website requires a graphic designer, a programmer and a project manager with some marketing experience. It might also require a photographer and/or videographer, a copywriter, a market researcher, a UI/UX designer, an information architect, and a system administrator. 

A single talented person MIGHT be able to build a modern home but it won’t be the same home that a team would build. It’s just not possible for one person to have the same level of expertise in every discipline that 22 individuals have. 

Likewise, there are individuals who present themselves as web developers and claim to be able to perform all the required roles. In reality, they are always stronger in some areas than in others and the disciplines within which they have less talent and experience will be the ones that will suffer in the overall project.

Responsiveness over Time

Another consideration of having a single individual build your website is their responsiveness over time. They may be quite responsive while they are working on your project, but what happens when it’s finished and they’ve moved on to the next? In many cases they simply won’t have the bandwidth to handle more than a couple of projects at a time and if you are that client from 6 months back with an urgent issue, you might not get the attention you expected. In part, this is because the individual only has so much time in the day, but in many instances, the lack of responsiveness also stems from them not being able to easily address issues that can arise over time, so they avoid them.

For example, the sole proprietor that built your website might be a decent graphic designer and created a site for you that’s very attractive. However, their technical skills are somewhat more limited because the technical side is not really their interest or passion – they are doing it out of necessity and because, to a degree, they can. A few months after your site launches, a thorny technical problem arises that you expect them to fix. Not only are they overwhelmed with new projects, but each time they try to tackle your technical issue, they are unable to quickly and easily resolve it, so it goes back to the bottom of their list and they either ignore your calls and emails or they drag the resolution of the problem out far beyond what is reasonable.

A team, on the other hand, is much more likely to have someone available because they have greater total bandwidth. Also, because they have individuals that specialize in each discipline, whatever issue you have is more likely to get a quick resolution, because it will be handled by a person that knows exactly how to approach, and fix, the problem.

Choice of Platform

There are many website platforms available today to build your website upon. While they all have their pros and cons, some are more appropriate than others for a particular purpose. For more about some of the more popular platforms and their differences, see WordPress vs Webflow, Wix & Squarespace.

An individual developer is more likely to steer you towards a less complex platform because they don’t have time to master more complex platforms. If you just need a simple website, that may be fine. However, if you intend to grow over time, your business might quickly outgrow these platforms and you will find that you need to start over completely, having essentially lost the investment you made.

You Get What You Pay For

A $500 website might be all that you need for the moment. Or your company might need a $5000 website, or even a $50,000 one, depending on your requirements. Just recognize that even if you got lucky and found the rare and talented individual who is worth much more than they are currently charging, you still aren’t going to get the same result that you would by hiring a team of experienced individuals. Market pressures dictate that to a large degree, you DO get what you pay for. Having a basic understanding of who and what it takes to build a professional website can help you avoid the mistake of being convinced that you can get a $5000 website for only $500.



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