(Gawkwire.com) – British web designers continue to face tough market conditions, according to research released today by Fasthosts Internet Ltd, a leading web hosting provider.  The study of 300 web design firms(1) finds that whilst 72 per cent have seen an increase in expectations from their SME clients, the majority are struggling with lower budgets and under-cutting by cut-price competitors.  71 per cent of web designers believe that insufficient investment is holding back SME websites.  In the past 2 years, 1 in 3 web pros have been expected to supply more out-of-hours work, whilst half have performed work free of charge to demonstrate its benefits to SMEs.  More positively, the majority of web pros believe their clients value them as business advisors, and 56 per cent have seen their advice to clients lead to the significant development of those businesses. 

Fasthosts ‘Web Design Industry Audit’ reveals that UK web designers and developers have faced significant challenges over the past 2 years.  The average web design firm surveyed serves 20 SME-sized clients.  Whilst two thirds are now working with smaller budgets, 1 in 3 has slashed its hourly rates.  44 per cent have seen a reduction in new clients being won.  Over half of web pros (56 per cent) report that they have been negatively impacted by an increase in cut-price competitors.  43 per cent of web designers wish that SME clients would more carefully consider the financial needs of their web design partner as well as their own.  

In addition to tough financial conditions, it appears that web designers face ever-increasing expectations.  In recent years, 44 per cent have seen an increase in the amount of day-to-day support that clients expect from them, with 1 in 3 now expected to provide more out-of-hours.   It appears that the way in which SMEs are briefing web professionals may be holding back the success of their websites.  46 per cent report that increasingly, their work is being impeded by SME clients making changes to briefs as a project progresses. 

Significantly, 71 per cent of web designers believe that insufficient investment is holding back SMEs’ success on the web, and 73 per cent report that their clients under-estimate the maintenance required for a website following its launch.  Insufficient time with clients is a problem for 1 in 3 web designers, and 54 per cent believe that a low technical understanding from the client has impacted the success of web projects they have created in recent years.


However, the data reveals a number of areas where web designers can clearly recognise their success.  89 per cent can see they have been integral to their clients overall business success, and 62 per cent feel valued by clients as equal to more traditional support services such as an accountant or solicitor.  Three quarters report there is a high degree of trust between them and their clients.  Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of web pros believe that their profession as a whole is delivering good value-for-money to clients. 


Web designers have clearly worked extremely hard to demonstrate their value to business clients and ride-out the recession.  In recent years, 52 per cent have performed work free of charge to demonstrate its benefits.  27 per cent have adapted their contracts or terms of service to adapt to the changing needs of SME clients.  1 in 5 web design firms have provided staff to forge relationships within client premises. 


Steve Holford, Marketing Director, Fasthosts Internet Ltd., said “For many small firms, using external web professionals is a very sensible and rewarding option.  It’s clear that in recent years, web designers have worked hard to adapt to the needs of clients and demonstrate the value they can deliver.  With the right approach from both small businesses and the web design community, online revenues can be successfully built and so help the UK economy in its return to growth”.


Reseller web hosting can be an ideal way for web pros to ease their financial pressures.  The Fasthosts Reseller package, from £19.99/month+VAT on a 1 month contract, allows web designers to combine re-branded white-label web solutions with their own services, such as web design, programming or IT advice, to create tailored services for niche markets and so charge premium prices.  Users earn recurring profits on the items they sell, are free to set their own price points and may charge for free elements such as unlimited web space, website traffic and email accounts.


The research reveals that as a result of their hard work, web designers are now respected as key to SMEs’ business development process.  Some 44 per cent have prompted small business clients to increase their participation in the Internet over the past 2 years, and 56 per cent have seen their advice to clients lead to the significant development of those businesses.  1 in 5 web pros believe the SMEs they work with have become more creative in their sales efforts as a result of working with them. 


From the 300 expert web design firms surveyed, the following Top Tips were suggested as guidance to help UK small businesses gain the most value from working with web designers:


1 – Research web design companies carefully and obtain references from existing customers

2 – Always be honest about your budget – with the right planning, web designers can adapt work to help you achieve success

3 – Think carefully about your business goals and aims for the website before approaching a designer

4 – Ensure that timelines for work are set out in a contract and that all work is performed in-house by your web partner

5 – Build up your own knowledge of the basics – to help you better grasp new ideas and recommendations


The study shows that client satisfaction with web professionals is high, with 1 in 4 firms receiving no complaints at all during the past 2 years.  The survey highlights dissatisfaction with search engine positions as the biggest pain-point for small business customers, with 49 per cent of web design firms receiving related complaints.  Fasthosts is currently running a free, independently certified webinar training programme (in association with Econsultancy) created specifically for its resellers.  Fasthosts will share best practice knowledge for reselling web hosting, to help equip their partners with the right skills to succeed.  The webinars cover areas from business modelling to SEO and analytics.


As a leading web hosting provider, and Technology Sponsor of The Great Exhibition 2012, Fasthosts offers a comprehensive range of web solutions including domain name registrations, email solutions (including mobile email services), shared web hosting, virtual servers, dedicated servers, secure online storage, online payment services, reseller web hosting and feature-rich broadband packages.  Fasthosts is well placed to deliver a high quality service.  All data is hosted in Fasthosts’ state-of-the-art UK based data centre.  


About Fasthosts

Fasthosts is a leading web hosting provider. Based in the UK and operating 24×7 from their dedicated UK data centres, Fasthosts keeps over 1 million domains running smoothly and ensures over 42 million emails are delivered safely each day. All Fasthosts services can be self-managed through the award winning Fasthosts web-based control panel that provides customers with unparalleled online control, enabling them to manage hosted services including domain registrations, shared web hosting, business-class email, virtual servers, dedicated servers, software-as-a-service, internet merchant accounts and unlimited broadband. Fasthosts’ maintains an award-winning, highly successful reseller channel.

Full details can be found at http://www.fasthosts.co.uk

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