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Don’t Get Shackled by the Golden Handcuffs of Web Design

Amy Thorne

Amy Thorne

Chief Visionsary Officer
RTL Digital Media

Over the last three weeks, we’ve noticed two recurring issues with client and prospect websites. The first, many online businesses lack a streamlined checkout system for their customers. This can significantly decrease, or even eliminate, conversions. The second issue is one we like to call the dreaded “golden handcuffs” – the golden handcuffs of web design. I’m going to focus on this golden handcuff issue that plagues so many of our clients and prospects.

Story of the Golden Handcuffs

Recently, three of our clients’ and prospects’ daily struggles involve issues with their websites. The problem doesn’t lay in what these websites do, rather, what they don’t do. Each of these companies paid over $40K to have someone develop user friendly, yet robust websites. Once the developers handed the websites over to them, the owners found that they could not make even the simplest edits without involving the site development company.

These minor edits were things like small text changes on the homepage, adding new social icons, and weekly fresh content in the form of blog posts. Once a client submitted a list of needs to the web development agency, the developers made the changes and promptly sent invoices for over $6,000. Anyone with just a little knowledge could have made these changes in an hour or less. Even if it took the agency 24 hours to complete these simple tasks, that invoice reflects a whopping $250/hour – a typical price for complex web development and coding, but ridiculous for these minor changes.

 Why did this happen?

Because the web developers locked down the backend of the website, preventing the client from making the changes themselves. In this situation, the developers hold all the cards. Anytime the client needs a change, no matter how minor, regardless of urgency, they must go through the web development agency. Our clients hired us to fix the issues because they no longer wanted to pay invoices to the tune of $6,000 for these minor changes, especially after making the initial $40,000 payment for the original website development.

Businesses have one purpose: convert prospects into customers. If you spend large portions of your budget on web design, it doesn’t leave much for marketing your products and services and other core business activities. It’s as if you’re flushing sales down the toilet before you even have a pipeline. This creates great stress and will eventually cripple your business.

Most business owners like you don’t have $40,000 to spend on web development anyway. So you may think this doesn’t apply to you and your web development budget. But it does. Let me share some tips with you, so you can avoid the dreaded golden handcuffs:

TIP 1: Come up with a reasonable website development budget. Small business owners typically can’t afford a dedicated IT staff to maintain their websites. Establish a budget that doesn’t eat into funds you need for core business operations. For small businesses, a reasonable web development budget is about $5,000 to $8,000. The actual cost depends on complexity and functionality of your website. An ecommerce website with a customer checkout system will cost more than a straightforward business website that includes a blog.

TIP 2: Understand the why behind an unreasonable website design quote. Digital marketing or stand-alone web development agencies that charges $40,000 for initial web design have an agenda. They’re preying on your ignorance about what your website should actually cost. They hope that you’ll think their pricing is the standard for a website similar to yours and that you’ll agree to pay their insane monthly maintenance and additional services fees to maintain your high-dollar site. Even if you don’t pay them to handle monthly maintenance, they’ve already stuck you for $40,000 for something that should have cost $8,000 to $10,000. They win either way.

TIP 3: Know how to spot whether a developer has your best interest at heart. A professional developer should sit down with you and conduct a thorough discovery meeting, including a Google analytics analysis. This allows him (or her) to gain a clear understanding of your problem, so he can then come up with a solution and quote that precisely fits your needs. If this doesn’t happen, the developer doesn’t have the best interest of your business at heart. Your wallet is in the crosshairs.

The RTL team takes pride in all aspects of our business, but above everything, we value our relationship with our clients. Of course, most businesses will claim that relationships are top priority, but does your agency actually treat you in a way that proves the talk? If not, it’s just talk. When was the last time you knew for certain that your current provider gave you advice based solely on your company’s best interest and not theirs?

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Kelley Shaw

Creative Director

Bringing Ideas To Life

Kelley’s role at RTL Digital Media covers a spectrum of design and production functions, including animation, catalog design, and trade show design with an e-commerce focus. She puts extra energy and life into our clients’ projects.  She knows how to make design fit perfectly—and strategically—into an organization’s branding and messaging.

Kelley’s experience includes directing the creative and artistic vision for Geneologie, an online and catalog fashion resource.  In three years, she was promoted four times, leading the in-house promotional marketing efforts. She built the vision, strategy and delivery teams that focus on Direct Mail pieces including catalogs, apparel, packaging, and design production.

Kelley previously served in a designer capacity assisting Americasmart, creating product displays, and was an intern with Denmark Ad Agency, where she created presentations, print graphics, and branding packages. She has received awards for her designs and invests her personal time with charities donating artistic help, graphics, and mentoring.