Difference Between a “Cheap” Vs “Expensive” Website

There’s a large disparity between cost when it comes to web design. Learn the differences and why you should be cautious about which agency you choose.

Difference Between a “Cheap” Vs “Expensive” Website

There's a large disparity between cost when it comes to web design. Learn the differences and why you should be cautious about which agency you choose.

Why you may be considering a cheaper website

There are plenty of reasons why you may be considering a cheaper website.

You run a small business, and a "cheap" website is all you need.

Many business owners don't consider websites to be essential marketing tools. However, having a great website can bring you more customers than you might think. It's not just about the way that your business is perceived through your website. It's about having a website that's optimised to be found.

Illustration of a woman sitting in front of a laptop with a mind map behind

You want something "simple".

Websites can be more complicated than what's seen on the surface. You think you want something simple, but is it that simple? It's not just about the number of pages that a website has, nor is it about the "simplicity" of the layout. Rather the systems in place that create those pages. A website that looks "simple" on the surface can be quite complicated.

You're on a tight budget.

Fair enough, but before you bite the bullet, consider your niche, its reliance on digital marketing and the quality of the website that you might be getting. Most of the time it's just not worth it. In some scenarios, we'd even recommend platforms like Squarespace or Wix over one of these cheaper websites.

You think you found a great agency at a low price.

You've been talking to an agency, and you've been convinced that their cheap website is all you need. However, there's a couple of things to consider. How can some digital agencies charge such a low price?

How some agencies manage to offer such low prices 

Illustration of a remote digital worker

They outsource the work to overseas workers.

Outsourcing work to overseas workers is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in our experience, companies that do this tend to look for the cheapest, low-skilled options to stay competitive. More reliable companies tend to try to keep most tasks in-house, where the quality can be controlled and the methods used are consistent.

Illustration of blocks being inserted into a mobile website

The website is pre-built from a template.

In some situations, there's nothing wrong with a website designed from a template. In most cases, however, these templates have not considered your specific niche and the way your customers interact with your particular brand. This can result in lower conversion rates, slower site speed, less flexibility and a questionable internal structure. 

How can it affect the internal structure? If the template only offers options A and B and you need option C, the agency may modify option A or B to suit option C rather than create a solution in an ideal way. As an example, we've seen an agency use a slow eCommerce solution repurposed as a listing solution, resulting in loading times of 11 seconds and impossible navigation. 

The agency uses nulled or cracked plugins or themes.

Many agencies that offer cheaper websites will be using cracked plugins or themes. It's not just unethical and illegal. It also compromises the security of your website. These plugins and themes can come from questionable locations. Furthermore, they're likely not going to be updated, causing security issues. One of the main ways hackers crack WordPress websites is through outdated software.

The agency does not care about the site's internal structure.

Web design and development services are significantly affected by the 80/20 rule. That is that 80% of the work required takes 20% of the time, and the last 20% takes 80% of the time. Unfortunately, the work that takes less time to complete is the visual component. This means that the final crucial 20% is often overlooked by companies looking to cut costs. How does this affect you? Your site will not be as scalable, fast, secure, or as search engine optimised as a website created adequately.

How cheap sites affect your business.

Search engines illustration

Cheap websites are not search-engine-optimised.

Cheap sites bring you fewer customers because they're not optimised for search engines. A wide variety of factors affect your ranking on Google and therefore, your website's ability to organically acquire customers. 

Poorly made websites are slower.

Website page speed is a factor that most people don't consider when they run their website. However, it's one of those things that we immediately notice when we visit a slow website. It becomes very frustrating as soon as you see. Google knows this too and will rank you lower if your site is too slow. Why? Because Google and other search engines want to provide the best user experiences and most relevant information to their customers. If your site takes a long time to load, your customers will click off your site and not interact with the elements or stay on the page for a more extended time. Google knows this and uses these metrics to determine the quality of your web pages. In fact, according to Google, site speed is a confirmed ranking signal (confirmed below).

The Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010 and as of this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too. Source: Google

Ok fine. Making your website fast is essential. But what's so hard about making websites fast? Why don't agencies just...make faster websites?
Making websites faster is a long process.

Website speed test from GTMetrix showing a slow website
A competitor produced home page before we remade it. Data from GTmetrix

It can take a long time to make websites faster.Here's a 25,000-word guide by Kinsta that explains how to do it. Developers don't have the time for the price to implement these changes. When you're paying $500 for a website, you cannot expect them to make these changes. It's not just the time it takes to optimise websites that is a contributing factor to the vast sea of slow websites on the internet. Clients also ignore the site load speed unless it's pronounced. Most people will perceive the website as good if the design is reasonable, not if the loading speed is optimised.

Website speed test from GTMetrix showing a fast website
Home page of a site we made. Data from GTMetrix.

A well-made website should have loading times of up to 3 seconds. The information appears on the page much faster, or a preloader (the little loading icon in the middle of some websites) should be used when there is a lot of information to load. If you'd like to know more, please read our article: "The importance of website page speed and its effect on your website."

Cheap websites don't generate good dynamic content.

The internal structures of websites designed to make them grow are often not optimised. When you pay for a cheap website, the site will likely not contain extensive dynamic content generation systems. Search engines love new content. Suppose you can't generate pages dynamically based on the information you input into the Content Management System. In that case, you're likely not going to be able to easily create new content to rank you higher on search engines.

Illustration of a woman prototyping a website.

Poor user experience

When we create a site, we start by doing research and planning how we're going to overtake competitors. Each page and element should be created for precise reasons. A site doesn't grow just by existing. Constant changes have to be made, and value has to be given to your audience to get them to come back. As an example, that's why we've started this blog. We plan to create a catalogue of useful information for business owners. The data is sourced from our own experiences in the professional industry, and we genuinely believe it's valuable information.

In comparison, a poorly made site will most likely be based on a template. Templates often don't offer flexibility to create pages with specific layouts. While you can make a website look reasonable with these "One-size-fits-all" solutions, a lot of the time they will not be optimised for user experience without plenty of modifications. The frustrating part for us is watching developers, and designers get around the limitations of templates through questionable practices. An example would be the time we had to recreate a client site because another agency used a slow loading eCommerce solution to create over 20 vital pages that weren't E-commerce related. Pages ended up taking 12 seconds to load, the navigation experience was not intuitive, and the layout did not look right.

"Cheap" sites are often more expensive in the long run.

That's right. "Cheap" sites can be more expensive in the long run. Over 90% of our business comes from customers who were not happy with their previous agency. It may sound counter-intuitive, we know, but hear us out.

You will most likely have to rebuild the website.

We've seen so many examples of companies buying websites for a couple of hundred dollars and wondering why they are not making any progress online. Usually, the reason is that there are so many vital components of a website beyond just what you see on the surface, which is the design. Many businesses decide to go with particular web design companies only due to the design component. Unfortunately, there are so many things that ideally need to be considered but are often overlooked. Who will be updating the software behind the website to ensure it is secure? How fast is the website? How can you generate new content for your audience and search engines? What kind of optimisation has been done to ensure your website can grow? What steps can be taken to convert more customers? This is just a small list of a large portion of questions that are not obvious to the untrained eye of unsuspecting customers.

They convince you that you're not growing because you're not paying more.

"You need to spend more money on Google ads!"

If you've heard this, it can be accurate, but most of the time it isn't. Google ads are the sponsored listings up the top of any Google search. While certainly investing in Google Ads can be very beneficial, the lack of spending is not the reason why your website doesn't grow at all! If your website is optimised, people can find your website organically (through search engines) without having to rely on active marketing to grow.

So what's the alternative then? Have a great website that is easy to navigate. Optimise the text on the page so that people can find your website. Create content that is fun or interesting to consume and share this content as far and wide as you can. If you make a quality website and put in the little extra work, it will grow.

These are actual cases we've seen:

  • A 5-star Australian agency created a broken, slow website. Then convinced this client that the way to grow was to spend $10,000 a month (through them) on advertising, plus $2,600 a year on their "diamond tier growth package".
  • A company paid for a $6,000 six-month search engine optimisation package. We could see that the agency had done a day's worth of work for $6,000.

In reality, when it comes to SEO, design, and development, we firmly believe these practices are best done with some overlap. Site speed is an excellent example of something that makes a huge difference to search engine optimisation but isn't part of any available SEO package.

Poorly made sites have questionable security.

If your WordPress website developer did not talk about maintenance, it could potentially have security flaws.

WordPress now powers 36.3% of the top 10 million websites (as of May 2020), according to data from W3Techs. WordPress itself is not unsafe. Since 2017, WordPress has been part of the HackerOne program, where people are rewarded for finding vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, the people that create your site create the most significant vulnerabilities. The most common mistakes include:

  • Running outdated versions of WordPress
  • Outdated plugins with vulnerabilities
  • Weak credentials
  • Nulled/pirated plugins and themes
  • No SSL certificate
  • Cheap, insecure web hosting

A more reliable agency will continuously update your plugins and themes. They will have reliable backups and precautions in place to prevent hackers from targeting your site. Nothing is "unhackable", but if you strategically place more roadblocks along the way, it will be far more unlikely.


In conclusion, businesses should do plenty of research before deciding on a digital product agency. The flaws of cheaply made websites are unfortunately hard to spot from the surface and can include horrible site speed, security, optimisation and design. A great website will not just have a great website design, but will also be optimised, fast, and secure.

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How much does it cost to hire you for a web design project?
How much does it cost to hire you for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

The cost of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services depends on the complexity and scope of the project. The cost is generally higher if your industry is more competitive, or if you would prefer to see results faster. The price starts at $150 per month to target the location near your physical location, to $1,600 per month for a campaign with a broader reach. Our team provides customised quotes based on your individual needs, so contact us to discuss them in more detail.

What separates RankRise from other web design agencies?

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to distinguish between different web design agencies without knowledge in the field. The flaws don't  show on the surface, hence the vast disparity between development costs.

Oftentimes, cheaper websites will be made using templates, with minimal customisation options available outside of colours, text and images. Most templates aren't made with speed or optimisation in mind, they're designed to look as attractive as they can to their customers.

With a RankRise website, you won't need to remake your website. You'll be able to focus on growing your business, knowing that your website isn't holding you back.

Do you guarantee SEO results?

If you've hired us to run your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign, then yes!

If we don't see any results within a few months we pause any payments and work for free until we see the results we were hoping for.

How long does it take for you to complete a website?

We expect to finish 90% of projects in 4-6 weeks. It can take longer depending on the size of the website and the responsiveness of the clients.

Do you offer training?

Yes! We'll make sure you know exactly how to edit your website.