How Much Did Your Custom Designed Web Site REALLY Cost?

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Stephens Design

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a new client. He told me that he had originally planned to have another Point2 vendor design a custom Point2 Web site for him. His decision had been made primarily on the basis of cost: the other vendor's work is somewhat less expensive than mine.

Before finalizing his decision, he called several of my clients as well as several of the other person's clients to ask if their web sites had paid for themselves.

He learned that none of the other person's web site designs had paid for themselves with increased leads and that all of my clients except one felt that their site designs had paid for themselves.

(My one exception was a client with a new site that gets little traffic; I continue to work with this client daily in an effort to boost their search engine rankings as well as helping him learn to blog and getting him to blog here on ActiveRain, which immediately yielded two good leads.)

What this means is that people who hired the other person, whose rates are lower than mine, actually ended up with more costly web sites. And if they are missing out on a lot of leads, the true cost might be much higher than just the difference in cost for our services.

All web site designers are not created equal. There are thousands of people out there masquerading as web site designers who have absolutely NO training or experience in graphic design and marketing communications. As soon as the major graphic design programs, Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator, were ported to Windows in the mid-90s, the market was flooded with unqualified print designers, then the situation worsened when "WYSIWYG" Web site design programs came on the market. I sometimes wish that Web site designers had to be licensed just like real estate agents! Since we're not, do your research!

Look for a designer who actually has college level training in graphic design/marketing communications as well as experience working for advertising agencies and graphic design studios. Also make sure your designer has many years of experience designing web sites in addition to print design experience.

A site designed by a fully qualified graphic designer may cost you more initially, but as a long term investment, it may turn out to be a "freebie"!

 

 

 

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Rainer
40,961
Bill Austin
East Valley Living - Scottsdale, AZ

Joe Janus:  Will you be attending the AZ Real Estate Bloggers Meeting next week?  I will be there and speaking on the topic of Social Media.

Jun 14, 2008 10:42 AM #9
Rainer
6,016
Joe Janus
Realty Executives - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Real Estate

Hi Bill,

I'm planning on it. I RSVP'd today.

Jun 14, 2008 10:46 AM #10
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Thanks again, Bill and Joe.

Hey Joe, TAKE NOTES! Did you read my post, "Kudos to clients who pay attention"?

Jun 14, 2008 10:57 AM #11
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Linda, Vickie: thanks for your comments! Vickie, I can see that you've figured out that having an effective web site (no matter who your provider is) takes a lot of effort. Great work!

Jun 14, 2008 11:01 AM #12
Rainer
40,961
Bill Austin
East Valley Living - Scottsdale, AZ

Joe:  Excellent. I will see you there.  It might be standing room only.  This location is not quite as big as last month.

 

Jun 14, 2008 11:28 AM #13
Rainmaker
920,312
Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc
Benchmark Realty LLc - Nashville, TN

Suzanne - As realtors, we always talk about location. As a web designer, you are also selling location, just a different type. If you have a reputation of putting your clients in a better location than your competition, it's easy to justify the investment.

Jun 15, 2008 04:54 AM #14
Anonymous
Paul

I sort of disagree.  Many graphic designers can make a 'pretty' site, but is it effective?  Can it be found?  Is it easy for a customer to use... or just 'pretty'?  I've seen so many graphic designer's websites that were so 'creative' that you couldn't even figure out the damn navigation!  It looked like a million bucks, but in my mind, worthless. The emphasis was on DESIGN and PRETTY... not functionality and being a good experience for the end user.

Don't bother looking at degrees. .   It's just like real estate.  Those with all the initials after their name usually spend a lot of time attending classes, yet don't sell much!  Look for a realtor who knows how to market and sell... not one who spends all their time in classes getting designations that mean NOTHING to buyers and sellers.

Look for a web designer that knows about web marketing, and real estate on the web, and can make a site look good TOO.  Because if all it does it look good... it's ALSO worthless!

Jun 15, 2008 11:38 AM #15
Rainmaker
139,847
Paul Viau
Nova Scotia Real Estate Blog - Halifax, NS
Nova Scotia Real Estate Blog + Photo Services

Food for thought! It's too early in the game for me. I've got to finish what I started first! Writting copy is tougher than I thought! - Let alone the optimization.

Jun 15, 2008 11:41 AM #16
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Keep at it, Paul Viau! My clients whose sites are most effective are those who have added lots of copy to their sites, copy aimed at providing all kinds of useful information about their communities to people relocating from other parts of the country or world. Here are two absolutely wonderful sites that generate awesome leads, in part because they have great content: BarbaraReevesRealtor.com and JoeJanus.com. Check 'em out for ideas! Barbara's subdivision pages are especially popular. Both sites also generate a ton of "long tail" search traffic.

Jun 16, 2008 08:26 AM #17
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Paul who prefers to remain anonymous: there is lots more to making a site work than just making it pretty, and a designer with the type of ad agency and graphic design studio experience that I've described is more likely to know about these other issues than someone without that experience. And chances are that a person without a design degree would never be able to even get an interview at a graphic design studio or ad agency.

Here's an example of how my experience working for ad agencies and running my own ad agency comes into play: a truly professional designer will know how to devise a creative strategy that supports her client's market positioning. I designed a site for SignatureHomesWilmington.com specifically aimed at the luxury home niche market. It's doing its job beautifully. The designer whom I described in this blog post has a site in her portfolio -- for a Charleston Help You Sell agent -- that is quite obviously a knock-off of my Wilmington site. It is likely one of the sites whose owner reported that it didn't pay for itself. Had that agent contacted me and asked me to design a site similar to my Wilmington site, I would have said "No, the look and feel of that site is totally inappropriate for your target audience and your market positioning. It's designed to attract people who want to spend money, not people who want to save money. A site for people who want help selling their homes themselves needs to have a completely different type of look and feel." (Also, had I been asked to imitate the look of another designer's site, I would have refused for ethical reasons.)

Jun 16, 2008 08:44 AM #18
Rainer
14,388
Dirk Johnson
DomainDrivers.com - Potomac Falls, VA

Hi Suzanne: Yes, it does all come down to the ROI.

A Website is NOT a "cost of doing business", as some agents approach the task. They usually end up with a non-performing site that gets little traffic and does not convert what it gets into leads. That situation IS just cost.

A website is an essential marketing tool in the modern real estate market. Building one that works, in all aspects of traffic and lead generation, puts an agent miles ahead in their local market. We hear that all the time from agents who have them. (many of whom are Suz' clients :)

If a site costs several thousands of dollars to get right, but generates tens of thousands in closed deals, then it's a very good INVESTMENT, not a cost.  

For those who do not yet get this...please see:
Do you need a Mentor Evaluation?

Jun 17, 2008 01:47 AM #19
Rainmaker
197,146
Kathy Anderson
HomeSmart - Surprise, AZ
Arizona Retirement Homes For Sale, Sun City Grand

I called you awhile back Suzanne.  I couldn't justify the expense then and just worked on SEO myself.  My website is doing what it is supposed to do, but I still plan on using your services in the near future.  I want to take it to the next level and I believe you can help me get there.

 

Jun 20, 2008 11:38 AM #20
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Hi Kathy. I'll be happy to help you anytime! I'm going to send you a private message.

Jun 20, 2008 01:34 PM #21
Ambassador
551,847
Julie Dumaine-Russell
RE/MAX Alliance - Branford, CT

Suzanne,

I, too am a big fan of your accomplishments in customizing Point2Agent sites.  I currently have three Point2 sites, two that are standard sites that I have targeting specific markets and a professional site all of which I've customized myself.  They have all brought me a number of leads (not as many I would like) and I have closed several transactions as a result of my modest knowledge of customization. 

At some point I do want to go to the next level in having at least one of professionally redesigned and will certainly be in contact with you when that time comes.

Jun 21, 2008 05:11 AM #22
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Donna, it would be my pleasure to help you whenever you're ready! As an interim measure, consider getting DomainDrivers.com to create some links back to your site. That might be all you need to get you to page 1 Google.

Jun 21, 2008 08:06 AM #23
Ambassador
551,847
Julie Dumaine-Russell
RE/MAX Alliance - Branford, CT

Thanks Suzanne!  I'll check it out.

Jun 21, 2008 09:13 AM #24
Rainer
7,256
Tim Lamont
CBRB - New England - Waltham, MA

Excellent post.  Excellent lesson.  As is the case in many industries, you get what you pay for.  Of course, that presumes the consumer did his or her homework.  More sales agents should learn how to educate sellers to these concepts.

Good job.

Jun 28, 2008 02:23 AM #25
Rainmaker
379,045
Doris Freeman
RE/MAX REALTY SOURCE - Jackson, TN
Broker/Agent, Realtor, Madison-Gibson-Crockett

Thanks for all the information and the comments, I'm still really confused about all this and am trying to learn by reading the posts and comments.

have A Great Day

Jun 29, 2008 02:45 PM #26
Rainer
45,779
Suzanne Stephens
Stephens Design - Battle Ground, WA
Real Estate Website Design

Thanks for your comments, Tim and Doris.

Jun 29, 2008 05:31 PM #27
Rainmaker
75,859
Frank Bailey Sr.
Keller Williams Realty - Schertz, TX

Hello Suzanne, as usual you're receiving the accolades you deserve.  Your product you offer is still one of the best I've seen on the "net".  keep up the great work.  BTW, was in your home state and the barbeque is still great as always, wish I could have "overnight" you some of that N. Carolina barbeque.......

Jun 30, 2008 04:19 PM #28
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