This article was previously published in 2012 on LinkedintoMalta.com

Many businesses today understand the value of having their own website. It is an online point of reference that is expected of any serious business organization. Considering the number of new businesses set-up every year, the number of marketing campaigns organized, plus all the web re-designs that are done, one can understand why many think web design is a market worth entering.

Businesses in Malta are quite ‘lucky’ as they can find willing web designers who would set them up for only around €500. Needless to say that the recent lowering of prices in recent years is hurting many web design firms who find it hard to justify why they charge three times as much as the cheapest option. Furthermore, that talking dirty on the competition is not nice doesn’t help.

The reality is that there are two trends which have pushed the price of websites down over recent years. Being aware of these trends allows clients to better understand the prices they are charged, and also what they are paying for.

The first trend has to do with the diminishing of barriers to entry in the web design market. With the plethora of low-cost and quality educational material available online, one can learn the basics of web design/development in a few months. In addition, the various free and open-source tools available, from content management systems to wireframe programs to collaboration software continue to push down any initial investment costs incurred.

Of course this is all great, but it has resulted in certain individuals and businesses entering the market to ‘try it out’ and see if its viable. As a result of this short-term vision, their commitment to investing in quality is not necessarily admirable. On the other hand, others with a longer-term commitment to the market are more likely to deliver what the client needs.

The second trend is related to what noble-prize winner Akerlof calls the Market of Lemons. The present situation is so that not all clients are able to properly judge the quality of the work done for them. One reason for this is because to judge a website, one requires in-depth knowledge on web marketing & design. Unfortunately, such information is often provided by the service provider who can tactfully choose what knowledge to share and what not to share. Furthermore, it also leaves little incentive for the service provider to improve the quality of his/her product. Thus, a vicious circle is created keeping prices low whilst keeping investments in improving quality also low, resulting in diminishing the overall credibility of the industry. To solve this problem, client-side education on web marketing would be required.

What are the implications of all this
There are three main points to keep in mind as a client:
– there are good web design houses and bad ones. Make an informed decision when choosing one.
– paying a lot will not necessarily give you a superior product. Paying too little should be done with caution.
– always consider multiple providers. You could also hire a third-party consultant to help choose a service provider and to help judge the quality of their work.

As a client, what are your thoughts and experiences on the web design industry in Malta?

Jeffrey Romano is a Marketing Manager at Clever Solutions Ltd, an IT and Internet Marketing firm based in Malta. Among other responsabilities his work involves offering search engine optimization services in Malta.