Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?

Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?

How much does a website really cost?

How much does a website really cost?

Why do the costs of some websites seem too good to bo true? In some cases they are!

Why do the costs of some websites seem too good to bo true?

Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?

Cheap Web Design

As a professional web designer it is understandable why I would be concerned at having to face competition from companies advertising cheap web design for rock bottom prices. But should I be?

I could suggest that similar concerns would be shared by anyone who is also working in an industry where competitors are undercutting prices for services in a race to the bottom. This could put you out of business, and the only chance you may have of getting work is if you offer to do it for practically nothing.

Surely from a customer perspective this is great news though.

Well is it?

When you ask How much does a website cost? and start being attracted to the cheapest quotes, be certain that you know what you'll be getting, and be aware that there may be many corners being cut in order to build you a cheap website!

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Pricing Transparency: Clear pricing policies

I worked in various roles in eCommerce for a multinational company for over 20 years. We operated in markets around the globe, and part of my role was to ensure that our websites complied with UK and international rules, including price transparency (or pricing clarity).

Some of these rules were set by the EU (European Union), the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), and also regulatory bodies in the US, Canada and Australia. Not all countries have the same laws, and culturally the requirement and expectations of people in different countries vary, besides which side of the road they drive on.

Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?

One key principle we had to follow was to be up front about pricing. We were obliged to communicate the final price to the customer as early in the buying process as possible. And rightly so, although we realised that those competitors who did not comply with the regulations appeared to be far cheaper to begin with. It was for this reason that even some broker websites who offered our cars for rental via their web platform appeared to be cheaper than when booking directly with us!

Historically the booking of flights online faced similar challenges. I’m sure than many of us have seen the kind of adverts for cheap flights for £29, but by the time you reached the checkout page you’re asked to pay much more due to taxes, airport fees, and surcharges for a whole bunch of mandatory items which could have been communicated right much earlier in the process.

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What is Drip Pricing?

Grabbing people's attention with cheap pricing and drawing them in is a very effective way to attract potential customers, but it should be done fairly.

The practice of drip pricing goes on to gain a potential consumer's interest with a misleadingly low headline price, but without the actual price being revealed until the customer has already invested time and effort in the buying process.

Admittedly this can also distort competition by making it difficult for businesses with more transparent up front pricing to compete on a level playing field with companies who prefer to tempt you with a low price, and then add to it the further through the buying process you go.

That's drip pricing

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Some real life of examples of Drip Pricing

Examples of this are common in the car rental industry, where I worked for many years.

When you need to rent a car and want to compare prices, you can go to the websites of a number of car rental companies and select where and when you want to pick up and return the hire car. You should then see a selection of vehicles and their prices based on the location, dates and times you selected.

If your car rental is from an airport, there may be additional mandatory costs such as airport location fees and taxes. If you are going to be obliged to pay those charges as part of the overall rental cost, it would make sense and (arguably) be more ethical to show the prices of the available cars inclusive of those costs at the point of selection.

Typically this would be at the 2nd stage of the buying process.

Let's go compare...

If you were to reach that part of the process for a number of car rental companies and compare the prices of similar vehicles for the same location, dates and times, any company not displaying prices inclusive of taxes and other mandatory charges are likely to appear cheaper.

You might therefore be tempted to discard the other companies based on their prices at this early stage of the buying process, even though they might have turned out to be cheaper at the end of the process. And you might not realise it because some deceptively lower prices made you decide to drop some of their competition.

They've got you!

Likewise, if you want to add things to your car rental such as a child seat, media entertainment package or additional insurance options, if those are also subject to mandatory fees and taxes, it would make sense to show their prices inclusive of those costs at the point of selection.

But it doesn't always happen that way...

If you have selected a vehicle at £200 for a 3 day rental, then add a child seat priced at £75, you would expect that by adding that child seat the cost of your rental has risen by £75 to £275. Next time you rent, try it, as in some cases the overall cost may have actually risen to far more than you would expect without you realising it!

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So what about cheap web design?

Well if the price you see IS going to be the price you pay, and for that cost you know what will be included and not included in the price, then I have no argument with that. That's fair competition.

But what really does concern me are those companies who I keep seeing pop up on social media with attention grabbing promotions such as Let us build, host and manage your website or ecommerce store for you for just... and then there will be an unsustainably low price displayed.

In reality you might find it difficult to get a professional graphic designer to produce you a logo for such low costs, but apparently you can get a complete website for less than the cost of a quarter page advertisement for one week in a local newspaper!


When I investigated one of these companies further, on their website I found monthly pricing for a range of tiered services to manage your website, which at time of writing was £429 per annum. But by the time you realise this, you already feel committed.

They've got you!

Furthermore, with that particular company the website never actually becomes yours. So in the future, if you want to grow and develop your website or if you're unhappy with the current level of service for any reason and want to change where it's hosted and who handles future management of the website, you will have to pay someone else to build you a new website from scratch!

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Misleading prices

The company I have just referred to, also claims on their website: The average cost of having someone build a basic small business website for you is between £2,000-£8,000


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Targa's approach to web design pricing

Targa offer a range of great value fairly priced options including fixed price web design packages which DO include everything stated up front for the price quoted.

If your requirements are for a larger or more bespoke website which can only be quoted for after some initial discussion, please take a look at our bespoke website design page.

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Daron Harvey, motor racing fan and owner of Targa Web Services

About the author: Having begun building websites back in 1996, Daron Harvey has been professionally involved in website design, UX and eCommerce best practices for over 26 years, including management of large multi-lingual global websites. Following the global pandemic Daron founded Targa Web Services, specialising in Website Design, Search Engine Optimisation, User Experience (UX/UI), etc.

Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs? Cheap Websites - Are there hidden costs?
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