A whopping 90.4% of the UAE population are active internet users, much higher than countries such as USA and Germany as per the World Bank. Also we don’t need survey results to tell us that everybody loves to visit a website with an engaging user experience supported by a great-looking design.

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Putting the two together it’s evident that an SME owner must have a website as an online presence. More importantly, it cannot be a below average website that looks like it’s from the Stone Age; it must be a great looking website. Once this is agreed to, the first question is:

If the website must look great, it must be costly right?

The straight forward answer is no. Maybe this was true a few years back, but not today with increase in the number of options. A great looking website doesn’t have to be costly at all, and you can choose from these available options:

Pre-designed templates

As the name suggests, it’s a pre-designed webpage template available for users to purchase and directly host onto their domain name. The textual content and imagery just needs to be filled in like a form, and it doesn’t require professional experience.

Since most of the site is pre-set and you personally input the data, the costs are drastically reduced. But then again although the costs are low, so are the possible customizations. The font style, menu options, plugins, theme colors are all limited, with very little or no scope for change. This is like picking up a finished painting.

Custom built website design

A custom-designed website is built from scratch. So literally, the programmer begins to type away code on a blank screen that will eventually translate into your website. There is complete control over all the elements of the website from functionality to design.

However, the cost increases exponentially with the addition of customizations and features to the website. This option is like painting on a blank canvas and the finished painting will be exactly what you wanted (provided you find an artist who understands exactly what you want). Changes too can be costly because the artist may have to start the painting all over again.

While custom-built websites are fully customized and priced higher, pre-set template designs are cheaper and allow little or no customization. But is there an option to have customization and keep the price low too?

Yes there is, and that’s the third option.

Themed Website Design

This option takes the best of both worlds. Here the designer works on existing pre-designed themes and includes the customization that the client requires. Though the options to customize aren’t as many as a fully customized website, all the major components are highly customizable.

This option can be likened to those coloring books we used as kids. While the dotted image is already present, the child has the freedom to join new dots and fill in any color of choice. Here customization’s and changes are possible to a greater extent at cheaper costs, thus giving room for more personalization of your website within the budget.

Once a website design option is selected (based on requirements and budget), the next question is:

Freelancers v/s Website Design Firm

Today with the rise of internet connectivity, location is no longer a constraint to outsource website design tasks. Thus, the options are limitless to design your website and the service providers are broadly classified into:

  • Freelancers

A freelancer is an individual or group of individuals that offer services “personally”, and can be sourced from different websites available online. They are available at a budget of your choosing and can create websites based on your requirements.

  • Website design firms

A website design firm, is an established organization whose business is to create websites. Though perceived to be costlier, in many cases, they are equally priced to freelancers. They offer higher quality service with appropriate invoicing, customer support and have access to a full-time team that deliver on promised timelines. The most significant advantages of all are, reliability and accountability.

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When it comes to website designing, trust is a must

Since a website is literally the online face of your brand, handing over the development of your website to an unknown entity/individual would be like handing over the keys of your house to a random stranger.

One hears of so many horror stories, ranging from clients being locked out of their own website in demand for more money, to website developers accessing sensitive information on client’s websites through illegal back channels. While this is not to say that all freelancers are untrustworthy, these examples highlight the fact that accountability is the most important factor to bear in mind while considering the options.

Definitely, a licensed firm with a dedicated team and designated personnel to manage clients would score higher on the accountability factor than an unknown stranger over the internet.

So there you go, considering all these facts, a great looking website should not cost a fortune anymore.

Arleen Solomon is the Business Development Manager at Charlotte’s Web, a website design firm that specializes in creating affordable themed website designs for the SME segment in the UAE.