When you go to buy a product, like a car or a lamp or even a pizza, most people assume they are paying for the parts that went into it. For a car, steel, aluminum, leather, etc. Pepperoni and sausage on your pizza. But you’re also paying for the labor that went into that car or pizza. Someone was working on that car. Someone made that pizza. You’re paying for the whole package.

When it comes to websites, you aren’t getting a physical product. You’re getting a digital product. You’re getting code and files and images and graphics. So you aren’t paying for the materials so much as you’re paying for the service.

You might actually be surprised at how much time goes into making a custom website. It’s much more than just picking out a template, popping in some words, and being done. Let me break down what, at least for us at Sumy Designs, goes into a the web design service you pay for.

Web Design Service

Discovery (around 3-5 hours)
Discovery is the process of figuring out who you are, who your customers are, and what we should include on the website to better attract and convert website visitors. During this phase, we will request detailed information about you and your business. We’ll likely schedule at least one call to talk over these options. We’ll research your competitors to find out what they are doing and come up with a sitemap for your site. You can’t really “see” any of these things, but it takes time to do all these and to do them well. This is the strategy behind having an effective website. And while you may not see it, it’s a really important aspect of having a website that works for you.

Design (around 20 hours)
When we make a custom website, we spend a lot of time coming up with a custom design just for you. This isn’t just installing a template and pasting in your logo, we are starting with a blank page. We may have your logo and know your color scheme. Or we may have to create those for you (which will add time as well). We may have to look for just the right stock photos, plan your calls-to-action, think of how to showcase your blog posts. This stage involves not only coming up with something that looks great on both desktops, tablets, and phones but that creates the image you are hoping to convey.

Development (around 10 hours)
Once we have a design approved, then it’s time to turn that mock up into a working website, which means creating a custom theme for your site. This is where any coding, programming, plugin and configurations are setup.

Content Layout (around 5 hours)
Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Putting in that content, choosing layouts, picking stock photos or other images to use, setting up calls-to-action, adding blog posts, events, and contact forms. It’s not just pasting in the words you put in your Word doc – this is choosing how to display those words on the page. It’s much more complex, especially if you want landing pages that convert.

Site Launch (2-3 hours)
The final step in our web design services, we launch the site. Some may think this only takes a minute to do, but that’s not the case. It can be as complicated, involving migrating files and databases or changing DNS settings. And just because you can see your site on your URL, doesn’t mean we’re done. We have an extensive checklist that involves setting up caching and optimizing your images (to make your website run faster), setting up security (to keep your site secure), backing up your finished site so we have a copy in the event that we need it, setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console and more.

When you talk about web design services, you aren’t just paying for a “website” – you’re paying for all the work and strategy that goes into making that website. To do it well, it requires quite a lot of though, skill, and time.

The hours I’ve listed above are just what I would consider normal for a basic site. If you add in extra functionality, a lot more pages/content, or extra specialized design services, it can take even longer. After considering how long and what kind of thought and planning goes into a website, and this doesn’t include adding in extras like online marketing, SEO, logo or business card design, it may be easier to understand why having a custom web design costs what it costs.

If someone is offering to do all this for $500, then you might consider how they’re making that work. Are they using overseas contractors? Using a template instead of creating a custom design? Not planning any strategy for your site navigation, calls-to-action, or content.

The service part of web design, when done well, is more than just pasting content into a template.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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