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The Difference Between Designer and Knock-Off Web Design Projects

Duo on June 20, 2014

Quality doesn't come at a discount.

You get what you pay for. I’ve found that this life rule applies to everything from: discounted food items (maybe that lettuce has one more day), to clothing (sure, this polyester feels okay, I guess) and airlines (who cares if they’re historically unreliable, I’m saving $40!).

It’s the difference between buying a table at Ikea and buying a table at Pottery Barn. There’s nothing wrong with buying from Ikea (I’m a big supporter!) but you have to drive to the store, load the awkwardly sized box into your car, build the thing and pray everything is level. Buying from Pottery Barn guarantees quick delivery, perfect assembly, removal of your existing table and trash cleanup.

Like I said, you get what you pay for.

Your website project is no different.

There are vendors who will send you proposals at designer prices and vendors who will send you proposals at knock-off discounts. But as you shape your budget for your next web project, remember: you get what you pay for.

If you walk away from a signed statement of work and a handshake with your new vendor thinking you got a deal, prepare yourself for buyer’s remorse. Cutting corners on a site rebuild with an inadequate budget for design, discovery, development and on-going services is a surefire way to set your site up for distress and/or failure before it’s even launched.

Coming to the decision table with a lower budget constrains you to out-of-the-box modules, which typically can only provide you with 75% of the functionality you’re looking for.

You’re going to spend it anyway.

If a vendor sells you a $100,000 project for $40,000, it’s highly likely that you’re going to end up spending that difference anyway down the road. If you’re choosing the cheaper proposal exclusively because it’s cheaper, you’re making a conscious effort to cut corners, a decision that can come back to haunt you.

If you are looking for a custom solution or need deep 3rd-party integrations to accomplish business objectives, you won’t be able to fulfill these needs on the smaller budget. Creating customizations and integrating tools takes time and time is the first thing to go when you agree to work within a smaller budget.

Consequently, you will be forced to plan your site refresh before your site rebuild even begins to account for incorporating the necessary functionality you need.

No one mistakes leather and pleather.

If you put two websites side by side, one from a web design agency that is the “real deal” and one that is a knock-off, you’re going to see the difference in the details. The quality of the visual designs, the attention paid to user experience, the site’s functionality, and the level of customization will be far superior when done by the professionals. The fit and finish make all the difference.

You can pinpoint websites with nuanced functionalities and customization in a moment’s notice. It’s obvious when a site is built with a stock theme. If you want a design that involves more than slapping your logo on a canned template, you need to make the investment and pass on the knock-off.

There are no returns.

Discounted items usually come with a catch in the form of a no-return policy. If you choose a knock-off web development agency, there is no return policy for your time or resources when the project turns south a few months down the road. You also won’t get a partnership with your vendor. Constrained budgets mean constrained timelines, translating to order-following developers instead of strategic thinkers and partners who will make recommendations.

At the end of a failed project, you’re left with the headache of finding a new agency and starting the project from scratch, or worse, working with your new vendor to perform complicated surgery on the disaster of a site you’re stuck with.

I love a good bargain. When it comes to a pair of flip-flops or a jar of peanut butter I’m going to go for the store brand, not the name brand. But your website lasts longer than a summer and much longer than a week of sandwiches.


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