Cost of Web Design
In a day and age when free (or paid) content management systems complete with vast collections of themes are everywhere, why would anyone want to pay for web design? Unfortunately, good web design can cost quite a bit of money, but when done properly and for the right reasons, the results can justify the expense.
The Perils of Prefabricated Templates
On an internet crowded with web sites vying for attention, having a web site that stands out can be important. Free or paid design templates are a great way to get up and running quickly and cheaply, but anyone else can use the same design, and there's no guarantee they'll fit well with your existing logos and other branding material. There can also be an issue with copyright on design elements that means you cannot use any of these for anything other than your web site. There's nothing worse than finding you can't use the theme of your web site on business cards or brochures because the copyright license doesn't allow it. If you're in a market where there isn't too much competition, and what you are offering is more important than your branding, then prefabricated templates can offer good value for money, but if you have a lot of competition, and you need to stand out from the crowd, an original design may be a better option.
Why Design Costs
Web design is a mixture of disciplines. While people refer to 'design', web design not only involves graphic design, but also requires an understanding of how different web browsers work, web standards, search engines, and more. Unlike graphic design for print, where the designer can determine in advance all the contraints of the medium they will work with, such as page size and colour process, the same cannot be said for the web. People use different web browsers with different capabilities and screen sizes. Sites also need to be both usable for human visitors and easily indexible by search engines. A growing trend is access the internet with mobile devices. All this makes web design far more involved than designing for print. While this can be quite daunting when you start looking around for quotes, the other side of the equation is the cost per person you can reach is actually extremely low compared to any other medium.
Spending on Web Design Intelligently
Web design can be one of the most expensive parts of getting your web site up and running, but good planning can make a huge difference to how much you spend, and how effective a return you get for your money. You need something that represents your brand, but don't try to get too clever unless you really have to. There are many very cool things that can be done with the web because it is such a dynamic medium, but they cost money. So you want some fancy animations? How will they add value? You want some background music? Are you sure that other people have the same taste in music as you, or will it just annoy them? You want some video content? Does video demonstrate your product or service in a way that text or pictures can't do?
There is no one-size-fits-all and you need to determine what makes most sense for you. If you are a band, then music videos and a forum for fans are probably a must, but if you are a manufacturer of nails, then videos are probably pretty irrelevant, and a forum probably won't add much either.
A Question of Ownership and Control
Many web designers offer web hosting and domain registration as well as hosting. While this is not really a design issue, it's still important to consider. It makes sense for a designer to be a one stop shop for hosting, design, and domain registration, but remember, if you're contracting them to design a site for you, you shouldn't end up locked in to having to host with them forever. Obviously if you're happy with your designer, you'll stay with them, but circumstances can change. You may need capabilities on your site your designer cannot offer, they or you may move and you need to find someone local to where you are, or you may employ someone in house.
It is possible a designer may charge you more if you want all the original design elements such as photoshop files and digital images involved in the production of your site, so you should discuss this with them if you would like this level of control. If they have used stock photos that belong to them, you may not be able to obtain the originals, or you may have to pay a license fee. At the very least, make sure that if they register your domain name for you, it is registered in your name, not theirs, and that if you need to change designers or hosting providers, they will provide you with the means to do so. They don't necessarily have to do this for nothing, but you should be able to tell you up front if there is any cost involved and what it will be.