Listen. Everyone doesn’t have to be into web development. It’s not everyone’s passion. I get it. But I’m just about fed up with this lazy combination of desires, abilities, and pocket books that far too many internet entrepreneurs are showing these days.

I’m a really nice guy. I can promise you that. I’m so nice, though, that my top priority is to give you what you need and I couldn’t care less about what you want. That’s for you to manage.

Right now, I’m here to give some of you what you need. You can take it or leave it. It’s not going to change, though. Let’s do this.

Web Development and the Internet Entrepreneur

Let’s break this relationship down into three main desires when it comes to having a website created.

Assuming you’re outsourcing this task, here’s what most internet entrepreneurs are looking for:

  1. Great design
  2. Low price
  3. Fast turnaround

That’s a perfect outsourcing scenario, right? If you can get a great website design for a low price and have it done in a reasonable amount of time, you win. Everyone is happy.

Here’s the problem, though. You will very rarely get all three of those in the same room together.

To get a great design at a low price, you can’t expect the great designer to make your job their top priority. If they do great work, and they know it, chances are they can charge a lot more money than most designers. So if your job is competing for attention with higher paying projects, the turnaround time suffers. (More on this later)

To get a low price and a fast turnaround, it’s safe to assume that the quality of work will not be that great. Sure, there are some great designers who don’t know their worth and will cheat themselves out of what they deserve. That’s not usually the case, though.

Lastly, if you want a great design with a fast turnaround, it is not unheard of to pay double or triple the normal price to make this happen. Designers sometimes sit everything else to the side and work 10+ hours a day on a design in these situations. They can do great work at a fast pace, but it’s going to cost you.

Plain and simple, you’d be lucky to get these three together in one job.

Shortcuts in the Process

Problems come about when either the client or the web developer decide to take shortcuts. Here’s the most common example I see.

The first case I mentioned was getting a great design for a low price, sacrificing a fast turnaround. Some of you may have thought to yourselves that this is possible by buying a theme or a skin. You are correct.

In a perfect world, that’s the end of it. The theme may have been beautiful, less than $100, and required no more than 30 seconds to install on your WordPress website. That’s great.

Unfortunately, this is usually more of a shortcut than a means to an end.

More often than not, the person who purchased the theme is not happy looking like everyone else. They want to customize the theme. The first question I ask myself is why they would buy a theme in the first place? Sure, if you know CSS then there’s no problem. But if that’s the case, this article isn’t directed towards you.

People buy the themes and skins because it saves them money (low cost) and then want it customized so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s (great design… preferably unique). The theme only took a few seconds to install (fast turnaround) but to finish the perfect world scenario, they need “a few small tweaks” to make it unique.

As most of you know, the tweaks are never small. They want everything to be different. The person left doing this spends more time reversing what the theme has already done than creating something new.

Because the user usually thinks this is simple work, they may even be hesitant to pay for these tweaks. Asking for “help” in a forum seems easier and free. So they do that to keep the low cost thing going. It’s so annoying.

I’m not saying that asking for help in a forum is a bad thing. That’s how many of us learn. Likewise, there are forums created specifically for that purpose. I’m talking about when support forums are abused. The theme works 100% as it should, but the user demands “support” for making multiple cosmetic changes. It’s a shortcut and completely their responsibility to learn and understand.

The Solution to the Madness

Not too long ago, my friend Thomas of wrote a Facebook rant about this very subject. Check it out.

In short, he says that you have no business owning a website if you plan to have no idea how it is maintained. You don’t have to be an expert, but just like with driving your car, if you can’t check oil levels or change a tire, you shouldn’t be operating the vehicle.

So, the solution to the madness would be to learn.

You don’t have to become a web designer. You don’t have to become a web developer. But you should learn a few basic things that will make life a lot easier on all of us.

  1. Learn the responsibilities of each web development language
  2. Learn the basic syntax of each web development language
  3. Learn what it takes to use web languages to create a final website

Learn the responsibilities of each web development language. You want to do this because it’ll help you understand exactly what kind of tweak you need done. There’s nothing worse than being approached with an urgent PHP problem when it’s really one simple line of CSS that’s needed. The more focused your request, the better chance you have of getting it taken care of. You may even find a solution on your own. Yay, Google.

Learn the basic syntax of each web development language. You’d be shocked if you knew just how easy some of this stuff can be at a basic level. If you need the background of your site and the color of your links changed, that’s something you can do yourself in 20 seconds. Simply knowing the syntax of CSS (and you knew it was CSS because of the first point) leaves you with nothing left to do but filling in the blanks. Yay, Google.

Learn what it takes to use web languages to create a final website. If you understand what it takes to build a website, which is something you only have to learn once, you will never be left with a false impression of what it is you’re asking for. Just because you think it’s simple doesn’t mean it is. Just because you think your web developer is a super genius doesn’t mean solving your problem is a breeze.

You absolutely have to know what it is you’re dealing with if you want any chance of making great design, low cost, and fast turnaround live happily ever after.

If you don’t want to learn these things, that’s fine. Here are your options.

  • Get a great design at a low cost… it’ll take a while, though.
  • Get a great design done quickly… but it’ll cost you.
  • Get a site done quickly at a low price… but don’t expect great quality.

Anything outside of those three situations calls for one thing and one thing only…

Learn something about how websites are built. Yay, Google.

photo credit: adactio via photopin cc

Published by Sean Davis

When I'm not developing WordPress themes and plugins, I'm usually helping further the Easy Digital Downloads project, traveling, or playing racquetball. Say hi on Twitter. @SDavisMedia


  1. There you go son’n again! Haha….

    You bring up very valid points though.

  2. I’m happy to say that I was able to hire an awesome web designer for cheap, who also delivered the final product in record time 🙂 And for this, I’m really grateful!

    The analogy of the website being like a car is spot on! You need to know how to change the tires and check the oil cause otherwise you’re lost as soon as the first problem comes around 🙂

    For this reason I decided that I’m going to learn more about web design by making a website from scratch, using the Volatyl theme 🙂 One question I have though … If I learn web design on Volatyl, will I be able to carry that knowledge over to the Thesis theme also (since my main website uses the Thesis theme)? I’m talking more specifically on how to use hooks n’ stuff.

    Hope that made sense 🙂

    • Yo! You most definitely WILL be able to carry your knowledge over. This is one of the reasons I preach so much about learning just the basics… because for some reason almost everyone convinces themselves of things that are simply untrue about web development.

      The fact of the matter is that hooks with ANY WordPress theme or framework are just PHP. Styling ANY WordPress theme or framework is just CSS. Building ANY custom WordPress page is just HTML.

      You wouldn’t learn “how to use a hook in Volatyl.” You’d simply learn “how to use a hook in WordPress.” Once you learn it in one theme or framework, you have the knowledge to use hooks in any WordPress site.

      Nothing about Volatyl requires that anyone learn Volatyl’s way of doing things. Having never even used WordPress before, if a person knows CSS, they can design with Volatyl (as well as Thesis, Genesis, or whatever). The idea that web development languages change from one WordPress theme to another is just a mental roadblock noobs create for themselves as an excuse not to learn.

      Break out of that! Web development is web development. Take what I said here in this comment and then re-read what I wrote when Thesis 2 came out. It will all make sense. 😉

  3. I completely agree with you Sean!
    A lot of quote requests I receive are “limited on budget” and I eventually, turn down such requests.
    Being based in India, many think that I must be providing services at a far cheaper rate. But, I think it doesn’t work that way. When you are a part of global community, you go hand-in-hand with people across the globe.
    I have had experiences of disappointed clients hiring people on freelance websites and then paying me to get things fixed. They end up losing much more money than hiring a good developer.

    • I hear you! I must suck when people assume you will do things for cheap. I have that same problem and I’m not from India… so I can’t imagine what you go through.

      You’re totally right about the global community in this industry. You either know how to do the work or you don’t. Where you’re located it completely irrelevant.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, broseph!

  4. Sean – I want you to know I’m linking to you right from my “how much does a website cost” section while praise stomping. “Quick questions” from DIY’ers are both the boon (sells books) and bane (some don’t actually READ the book) of my existence. Thank you for this.

    • Awesome! Thanks for the reference. I feel you on the boon and bane reference. All we can do is keep on pumping and learn better ways to operate as we go! 🙂

  5. There’s an old saying-

    If it’s fast and good – it won’t be cheap.

    If it’s cheap and good – it won’t be fast.

    If it’s cheap and fast – it won’t be good.

    Keep up the good work , you are SO POSITIVE 😉

  6. It’s difficult to find experienced people about this subject,
    however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!


  7. Great article friend. I’m think about outsourcing some webdesign/development in the future. Can someone from India do it? If you are interested please hit me up on my blog or find me on facebook thanks

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