With so many sites like bludomain, bigfolio, or other template sites selling Flash-based websites for $100-$400, I find myself having to “defend” my pricing to photographers (and other creatives, who, ironically, also charge thousands of dollars for their own work — you’d think they’d be more sympathetic if anything :)), who either don’t understand why the template sites charge what they do, or even flat out refuse to pay a designer for a bespoke site.
I refuse to compete in the hundred-dollar market and here’s why. First of all, the only reason that Bludomain and BigFolio can sell websites can sell a Flash website for a ridiculously low price is because they are selling on volume. A Flash site with a content management system will cost you at least $15,000 — often much more. But the template guys spread their costs over a hundred people instead of one. Of course, the downside to this is that 99 (or even more!) other people have an identical website!
With a template site, you may get the benefit of a cheap website, but what is the real cost of that? I have browsed many, many, many photographer’s websites, and if you put yourself in the “browsing photographers” position, as most brides are, you’ll notice that they all start to look the same.
In a highly saturated market, a good stand-out web presence can make all the difference. Custom sites will instantly stand out from competitors (from a web browsing point of view)… simply because templates are so common!
My clients have noticed a significant jump in enquiries and bookings, just from having a site that is different from 90% of the other photographer’s sites. Part of it is in the SEO, but I think a big part of it, anecdotally speaking, is that if a bride is surfing through 15 (or 30 if shes particularly obsessive :)) sites, 95% of which are bludomain sites… I guess that it has a homogenising effect in terms of the experience of the website.
And you are naive if you think that people don’t switch off if they see the same thing over and over, even if the images are different.
Websites are not just a directory of business, but are also an experience, that invoke emotional reactions. They are more like television advertising than, say, the Yellow Pages…and people wholly expect to pay for TV Advertising because it brings results. I guess if I can use an analogy with Yellow Pages listings, its like the difference between having the standard 2 line Yellow pages listing, versus the display advertising with your custom graphics and your look and feel. The display ads will always cost more (often a lot more than you think you can afford), but you get more, and the majority of the time, you get better results.
You ultimately get what you pay for with web design. And when someone next tells a photographer that they can go to istockphoto.com and get a great photo for much less, hopefully that photographer will know how web designers feel about template sites.