We all know the general rule of thumb that goes something like this: “If it seems to good to be true, it is.” In business - for some things at least - this can’t be more accurate.

We’ve been building websites and apps for around a decade - enough to have seen and heard just about everything.

The horror stories. The disappointment. The crazy stories.

Every so often we get an SOS call from a new client. They are desperate to get their business back online, and it’s usually a technical hurdle they’re facing. Their current provider has admitted they don’t know how to fix the issue, or even what is wrong.

We’ve put together this post in the hopes of helping businesses avoid the potential pitfalls that can come with cutting costs.

There is always a trade-off. Always.

In project management, there are three main “adjustable” pillars you can tune to fit the requirements of your project. These are time, cost and quality.

The general rule is you can pick two of these. For instance, you can have excellent quality and fast delivery, but it won’t be cheap. Or you can bring down costs by either waiting much longer or sacrificing quality.

Quite often we see designers or freelancers offering “websites for $499”, with a relatively short delivery time. We know from experience that careful design, feedback and developing a good user experience can take anywhere from 40 to 100+ hours depending on the project requirements. That means that someone that is selling you a website for $499 is working for at most around $12.50/hour.

Now for $12.50 and hour, the only thing left to sacrifice is quality. Sure enough, when we onboard a client over from one of these agencies, the code is a mess, the website takes 10 seconds or more to load and the damage to the company’s brand and SEO can be extensive.

We’re not saying all other agencies or cheap websites are like this. Quite often we find  designers and developers are sadly underselling themselves to get more work through the door, which actually hurts the industry and reduces their chances of getting paid a fair wage. What we are saying though is that there are people out there who know enough to be dangerous, but don't understand the intricacies of good design and have no understanding of the engineering, and it's a problem.

It’s not the 1990s anymore, people know what a good website or app looks and (even more importantly) feels like. The impact a $299 website has on your brand can be catastrophic. A lot of businesses treat their website like a brochure or flyer when really it’s one of the most valuable sales tools they can have in their arsenal.

When you go to your website, see if you can answer these questions honestly and objectively within a few seconds of loading your website:

  • Does my website clearly explain what my business does?
  • Is it easy to contact my business?
  • Do users know what to do without thinking too much if they decide they want to buy something from me?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, there is room for improvement.

When things go bad, they go really bad

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with your website or app. Issues like attacks/hacks, hosting issues and DNS issues are some of the most common ones we come across.

When things go pear-shaped however, quite often cheaper providers can take days or weeks to resolve an issue that should never have happened in the first place.

As professionals we've spent a great deal of time honing our craft and automating systems to help us avoid these common pitfalls. We have alarms, regular reports, peer-review and contingency plans for almost every scenario.

As your web developer or app developer, it is our duty to ensure you get the best service possible. We can't see how anyone can give your business the time and attention it deserves for $499. Which brings us to our next point...

Nobody likes to be "churned and burned"

It's surprisingly commonplace for digital agencies to "churn and burn" customers. That is, get as many customers through the door as quickly as possible, and hope for the best.

There will be some success stories there, absolutely. The majority of people however, will go in with a grand vision of what they want their website to be - only to leave disappointed with a template-based website that sorta-kinda fits their needs.

When you're paying $499 for a website or app, you can expect to be ushered through as fast as possible, and you'll get a $499 website.

You'll likely have to pay to have your website redone sooner than you think

As time goes by, your website will become outdated, slow and you'll find yourself allocating savings again for a redo. The sad part is, with cheap sites, this often happens within 6 to 12 months of launching the website.

In software development, there is this thing we call "code rot", which Google defines as follows:

"...slow deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness that will eventually lead to software becoming faulty, unusable, or otherwise called "legacy" and in need of upgrade." 

When you spend the time and money to build something that's well thought out and optimized, you can significantly slow code rot.

This allows you to go longer between website cycles and can even help your SEO and brand credibility.

A lot of times we'll come across outdated or old content management systems that have been abandoned by the previous developers. This means security vulnerabilities and performance issues undoubtedly plague that site, which is a real risk for your business.

Your website is part of your business' digital first impression. Make it a good one.

If you've ever visited a website and immediately closed the tab thinking "nope, not dealing with this", you'll realise the impact that first impression of your website can have.

Studies have shown that people take less than 0.2s to form a first opinion of your brand once they've perused your company's website.

A lot of companies we come across spend thousands on AdWords and Facebook ads, and wonder why they never get any sales on their website.

When you look closer though the experience is broken - they have a fantastic social presence or well designed ads, but they have a website that takes 10+ seconds to load and has a terrible user experience.

The highest compliment you can pay a UX designer is to leave happy, as quickly as possible, and your user experience is unmistakably part of your first impression.

So what are you buying when you buy a website?

  • You are buying reliability.
  • You are buying technical support and help.
  • You are buying safety online.
  • You are buying credibility.
  • You are buying marketing help and advice.
  • You are buying a good first impression for your customers.

All these things take time and unfortunately may cost a little, but in the long run you'll spend less time and money doing it right the first time.

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At Bitlab we're pretty passionate about what we do if you couldn't tell already. We believe we've built a sustainable business that help add value to other businesses and create an measurable impact.

We take the time to refine your user journey and experience, and help build websites and apps that are driven by real commercial goals.

If you'd like to know more about how we can help you, you can call us at 03 669 3212 or send us an email at hello@bitlab.co.nz

About The Author

Drian Naude

Technical Director at Bitlab. Drian writes about engineering, management and a little design.

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