Cheap or Free Web Design Offers: What to avoid and how to do it right, even on a budget!

Posted by ImageWorks Creative Team March 13, 2013

To start, you can check out the “free” or absurdly cheap offers available from companies like, Network Solutions, and even Verizon. But didn’t you ever learn that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Likewise, I can promise you, there’s no such thing as a free site…and here is why you should NEVER use a free or even a cheap web site design service:

  • Bad / Ineffective design. Free or Cheap sites are built on pre-designed HTML structures, allowing for limited (if any) design flexibility.
  • No planning, strategy or guidance. It’s a do it yourself model vs. the consultative “get your client and their market” model used by legitimate agencies.
  • Brand damage! This is where your customers come to form an opinion about your company…you can’t risk a poor or even an “average” impression.
  • Nothing is “really” free. You can count on ads, upsells, restricted privileges, no site ownership, and various other pitfalls when you accept a free website. There are hundreds of bitter reviews online about this very problem.
  • Your visitors will doubt your credibility. Your reputation suffers when your website looks unprofessional or uninspired, leading to yet more brand damage.
  • Poor help and support options. If there are any, they will be part of an upsell process and include hidden fees.

You will lose money. Huh? That’s right, by using a “free website,” you will sacrifice the opportunities and revenue you would have earned with a powerful, well designed site backed by a solid marketing plan.

We get dozens of calls from people who have tried to save a few Benjamins using templates or these cheap providers of low quality, low result web sites.  Sadly, the call for help comes when they finally realize these options are not getting the job done. By then, the “free” websites have cost them thousands of dollars and tens of thousands (or a lot more) in lost revenue.

Ok, so how do you build a web site that will actually achieve your goals and grow your business?

Here is brief overview of the process you need to follow to build an impressive, highly successful web site that will boost your brand and build your business:

  • Strategy & Planning – Why are we building this site? What matters most to the customers? What’s essential and what’s clutter? Conversion goals? Nurturing goals?  If a company does not spend a good amount of time on this phase, your site will fail.
  • Design Phase –There are many styles that require graphic design and interactive design. That includes your home page, subpage, sales pages, cart pages, blogs, landing pages, forms, etc. Before you can code anything, these need to look nothing short of stellar.
  • Coding & CMS Implementation – In this phase, all your gorgeous designs need to get geek-a-fied and integrated into a content management system like Drupal or WordPress. This takes a lot of time…and a lot of testing. It is also expensive to do it right, so plan on paying at least $2-5K for set up and $200-$400 per page to assemble and test.

Budget at least $10-20k to design a custom web site, without any advanced or backend functionality, by a reputable company that follows this proven process.  Many firms will charge much more…some a bit less…but on average this is a good range for a strategically built custom web site (15 pages or so)  coded in a CMS (Content  Management System). Web components that add functionality to your site cost more. This includes blogs, landing pages, email templates, interactive sliders and slide shows, etc.

I don’t have that much in my budget!

That’s ok! Every business has a budget, and sometimes you have to start with baby steps.  We actually have a simplified custom process than can get you a great site for under $5k.

Another option is templates….which I will cover in an article sometime next week. They can be a decent option but there are also a lot of loopholes to watch out for, so we will walk you through the whole process. Basically, we will help you find a good one and plan a strategy to customize it for your brand. Now you have a way to save and you still don’t have to do it yourself…you have a dedicated manager, art director and marketing experts all at your disposal for a fraction of the cost!!

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