Hammers vs Craftsmen. Do You Need Web Design, Or Production Work?

Let’s face it. We all have our own wheelhouses of expertise, but there are a lot of disciplines outside of our comfort zone. For those situations, there’s generally three options. Hire a professional, hire cheap labor, or do it yourself. How do you choose?

Well, it generally boils down to one simple question. Are you more concerned with cost, or quality?

If you’re building a house, you’re most likely going to hire a professional. Between blueprints, housing codes, permits, and actually building the thing, it’d be unwise to try and do it yourself, or to just hire the cheapest labor you can find. There are ways to get around hiring a professional, but it’s your home. At the end of the day, you should have the peace of mind that it has been properly built, and built to last.

Now, say you want to build a treehouse for your kids. Now you have a lot more options, as there are less restrictions, and less risk. You could find some ideas online, purchase your own lumber and nails, and get out there and do the work yourself. Alternatively, you could make some sketches, and hire some cheap labor to execute your plan. Then there’s the option of hiring an expert treehouse builder, with years of experience in the field who could ensure that the treehouse is safe for your kids to play in. For a project like this, it’s still the same question of quality and cost, just on a smaller scale.

What about web design?

When it comes to web design, your options are still the same, but it might not be clear if you need a treehouse, a house, or even a skyscraper. Websites can be very intangible things until they are scoped and defined. And like building a house versus a treehouse, as a project scales, so does the complexity. Sometimes you can do it yourself or hire a production team to execute your idea, but it’s always a good idea to consider hiring a professional for a discipline you’re not an expert in yourself.

So how do you know if you need a professional, a production team, or if you can do it yourself?

If you have a small budget, or no budget at all, but you’re flexible with your needs and willing to invest the time to learn a thing or two, you probably have enough to get started doing it yourself. There are plenty of platforms out there like Shopify and Squarespace that will let you build your own website. We love them. They give individuals and businesses with small budgets a very affordable option.

On the other hand, If you have an exact picture of what you want to build, that’s great. You need a production team to execute it for you. Will it deliver results? That’s up to the solution you’ve come up with, not the production team’s ability to create what you have dictated.

However, if you’re looking for a design partner that can work closely with you to understand your business and deliver high quality, professional solutions that are laser-focused on your needs and goals, why would you consider anything but hiring a professional?

Let’s look at an example.

We recently had a lead come to us looking for a Shopify website. They had meticulously planned out every detail of the site – how it functioned, what pages should look like, and every feature and app integration they needed – all before even getting in touch with us. They even touted this as a benefit to working with them, as all the “hard work and planning” had been done. All that was left was to implement the client’s vision.

For a lot of people, this may seem perfectly normal. Sometimes people have a clear picture of what they want their website to do, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this is not web design. It’s production work. As a design company or a client, it’s important that you know the difference.

We ended up quoting a price for this client that was way above their expectations. They were expecting production prices while we were quoting professional prices.

A Hammer Or a Craftsman?

When you hire a design professional, you are hiring them for their knowledge, expertise, and the years of experience and insight they can bring to the table, not for their ability to draw a picture or code a website. If you need those things, that’s fine. You can find extremely cheap labor for this type of thing. Some of it may be good work. But it’s not design.

Now, I’d like to make one thing clear. I’m not being idealistic or snobby, nor am I defending my “artistic integrity.” Forget that noise. Design is NOT simply about how something looks. You don’t hire a designer to be a digital paintbrush for putting your ideas onto a web page. Design is a strategic approach to solving real problems that accomplish real goals. It’s about critical thinking, understanding constraints, and creating solutions within those constraints.

Production design is not necessarily evil, but everyone should be aware of the difference. Designers need to clearly convey what their services are, and clients should clearly understand what they’re looking for.

Blurred Lines

So what do we do at Solve Design? Our primary focus is providing professional design work that solves real problems. Naturally, this consciously exempts us from taking on work that is exclusively production work. We do get less work, but the quality of the work we do has increased significantly as a result.

That said, there are some tasks that are production related that we do take on. It’s just the nature of the work. These production tasks are generally a by-product of the design work we do.

Want to hear something that seems insanely contradictory? We charge the same price for both kinds of work. Why on earth would we do that? And how do we compete with designers that charge much less, you ask?

We approach every project, big or small, with the same lens, which is providing the right solution to each problem we encounter. While certain tasks may be production related, we are still providing years of experience and insight for our clients. We don’t just execute the work. We provide value by going above and beyond to find and provide the best solution for each problem. We don’t compete on price, because we know the value of our services are no match for our price competitors.

Our job as a design company is to help educate and guide you through the design process so that you can be confident in buying design. Our goal is to be open and honest with you about your options. It’s true, we’re more expensive than some of the “competition.” That may mean that we might not be a good fit. We’re not for everyone, and we’re OK with that.

It really boils down to one of two things: cost efficiency or quality. You just usually can’t have both.


Photo by jonrawlinson (cropped from original) | CC BY

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