Confession: I’m a web designer. I outsourced my HTML. Here’s what I learned.

confession i outsourced my html web designer graphic design blender
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I’ve been designing web sites for almost a decade. I love web design. I stay up late designing web sites. I thrive on learning cool new techniques and get a rush every time I update a page’s source code and click refresh.

Every…single…time.

It’s an addiction. (Maybe you’re addicted too?)

So, strictly from a passion perspective, I would never outsource the coding of a web site.

Plus, I’ve written about outsourcing design services here at the blog before.

Frankly, there were a lot of people really frustrated that I would even recommend outsourcing anything in your design company.

So when Rick from HTML Guys reached out to me asking if I would use and review their services here at Design Blender, I was hesitant.

I mean come on! I’m a web designer.

What kind of web designer doesn’t actually code up his own web sites, right?

Wouldn’t letting someone else code my web design throw me into some existential crisis? Or at a minimum it surely wouldn’t be as good as the work I would have done myself.

Right?

But I decided to give it a shot. Why? Because many of you have written in asking how you can take the next step from graphic design to web design.

And I actually think this is a great way to bridge that gap.

But don’t let me make the call for you. Should you outsource your HTML?

Here’s what happened to me.

You decide for yourself.

(PS: if you think this post could help other designers, please do me a favor and tweet about it.)

I’m  web designer. I outsourced my PSD to HTML. Here’s what I learned.

Before I can relate the full story to you, I need to give you a little background.

The backstory

Years ago, when I was just getting my business going, I started a company (a brand, really) called Mighty Media.

My URL was something long and hard to remember. My designs (in retrospect) were probably not that good and I eventually ditched the brand and started just freelancing under my own name.

But about a year ago, I decided I was ready to grow beyond myself (hire more people, get more done, build a bigger business) and realized I wanted to revive my old web design brand.

This time, I would pair it with web marketing (something I’ve excelled at over the last half-decade) and offer web design consultancy.

Through Mighty Media Co., customers could receive spectacular web design services or, more commonly, be advised on what design changes their site needed in order to be more successful.

I mapped out a small business plan and got started.

It was about that time that Rick from HTML Guys contacted me asking if I would review their services on this blog.

I almost never review services or products here at Design Blender because I just don’t think that’s what the site is about.

But when Rick’s email was surrounded in my inbox with emails from readers with questions like “how do I start transitioning from graphics to web design?” or “what do I do if my client wants web design services and I’m not that good at HTML?” it seemed like I great opportunity to help out a bunch of people who felt stuck.

Maybe you’re there.

Maybe you feel stuck  due to your lack of HTML/CSS/PHP/etc. knowledge.

Or maybe you’re like me and you’re ready to grow beyond yourself, but can’t seem to find enough hours in the day.

Either way, I think what happened next in my story may help you.

The agreement

So here’s what I proposed to the HTML Guys:

I’ll review your service if you let me submit a one-page sales page PSD which you then code for free. I will be honest about the quality of service and won’t sugar-coat anything in my post.

They agreed.

“There’s no way this is going to turn out like I want it to,” I thought to myself.

And I mocked up a page in 24 hours and sent it in.

It looked something like this.

The process

You should know that, in order to be able to write about the experience in the most genuine way possible, I asked them to give me the full experience as if I was a paying customer.

So they did.

Before they ever started work on my design, they sent me a bid. They let me know how much standard pricing was for a one-page design and then added in each line item individually for customization work (parallax background, sticky header, responsive design, etc.).

The bid was pretty reasonable as you can see below (I can’t promise a price-match, but this is what mine came in at):

QUOTE BREAKDOWN
HTML Templates: $264.00
Sticky Header: $25.00
Responsive Layout: $205.00

Total: $494.00

Estimated Delivery Time: 2 – 3 days

Three days and about $500 bucks?

Sweet.

It was a done deal.

They then spent the next few days working on my site. Less-than three days later (as promised), I got a link to a testing site where I was able to view the first draft of my landing page.

It was amazing. Seriously.

If I had to grade it, I would have given it a 90%…and I’m a picky son of a gun.

Aside from a few small tweaks, it was done. And I was impressed.

Revisions

As someone who has worked on both sides of the designer/client relationship, I was quite hesitant about requesting revisions. Sometimes, it’s easier to just do it yourself than to ask your designer to make the changes you feel like you need. And, as a designer, I understand why of course.

But, I wanted to see if these guys were really as great as they were claiming to be, so I asked for a few key revisions to be made.

Less than 24 hours later, they got back to me with all the changes made and a wonderfully polished and top-of-the-line landing page for my new business.

The final product

Once I approved and was pleased with their work, they sent me a .zip file with all of the files I needed in order to install my site on my server.

You can view the test version (contact form not working yet) here.

I think they did a pretty great job with it.

(The only thing I would have liked to see that I didn’t has to do with the contact form. Now, I can program my own contact form, so it’s no big deal, but I imagine if a non-coder were to send in their PSD and ask for HTML in return, they would expect to see a working contact form.

I know, I know, contact forms require PHP and this an HTML job. I get it.

But they already used PHP to generate my captcha, so why not just finish it out and get my contact form working?

Anyway…)

A little calculating. Still a good business decision?

Okay, so they could code a web site.

Great.

But was this still a good business decision?

Here’s how it broke down for me:

PROJECT FINANCES:
About 3 hours total design time = cost of ~$240-$360
PSD to HTML cost = $494

Since I could turn this one-page design into a multiple-page website with probably less than one more hour of work on my own dime, I’ll add that in as well.

Adaptation to multi-page site (1hr) = cost of ~$80-$120

Total project cost = $974 (max)

Once I add in the extra pages, I could probably sell a site like this one for anywhere from $1,500-$3,200. Leaving me a maximum profit (in a perfect world with no hiccups) of:

Best-case scenario project net profit = $2,226
Bad scenario project net profit = $526

Divide each by the estimated 6 hours of total work this project required (including revision time and other odds and ends) and you get:

Best-case scenario hourly rate = $371/hr
Bad scenario hourly rate = $87/hr

Since my usual going rate fluctuates between $80 and $120 USD, in either scenario, I’ve come out ahead.

Plus, if you add in the extra time I had while the HTML Guys were working on my site (probably another 5-7 hours of coding, testing, etc.), I come out way on top.

In my mind, this was a good business decision. (In fact, to be completely honest, I’ve already since used HTML Guys on a project that I hired them and paid them for. So I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I think it’s worth the investment.)

The verdict?

I can’t tell you what will be best for your business in the long-run.

But this particular venture was a success. My verdict? In certain cases, it’s worth outsourcing the HTML of your site design to someone like HTML Guys.

It’s not necessarily always the best route but sometimes it pays off. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Here are a scenarios you might want to go with someone like HTML Guys for your next web design project:

5 Good reasons to outsource your HTML

1. You’re new to web design.
If you’re not sure what you’re doing in the world of web design it could be good to rely on outsourcing to bring a level of quality to your work that you just can’t bring yet. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to start a business.

2. You’re trying to grow without hiring.
If you’re overbooked and short on time, but want to keep growing your design business, outsourcing could be a good first step. Use a service like HTML Guys to test the waters and see if you can handle more clients, more projects and a little more stress.

3. You’re real passion is strictly in the visual.
If you stay up late at night designing the PSD document (or whatever you design in) and then dread the moment when you have to convert it to HTML, why stress? It’s your business. Do the stuff you love and outsource the rest.

4. Your project is for a sales page, event page, or short-term need.
If you’re designing a web site for a large company, it’s worth spending lots of time on making it perfect. But if your project is for a short-term goal (think sales page, event page, promotion page, etc.) it may be worth getting it done quickly. In that case, outsourcing may be a good idea.

5. You simply can’t do it.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re in over your head on a project. But before you just throw in the towel on a web design project and tell your client to take their business elsewhere, give this option a shot. You may come out surprised.

BONUS Offer!   

PS: Since I enjoyed my experience in working with the HTML Guys so much, I negotiated a deal with them exclusively for Design Blender readers.

If you’re interested in trying out their services, they’re willing to wave the downpayment on your first project. This means, if you’re waiting to get paid from your client before you can pay the folks you outsource to, this is a great option. Just enter promo code GDBZERO during your bid request and you’ll get your down payment waved entirely. You don’t pay a penny until the job is finished to your satisfaction.

I’m not getting any money back for this promotion. I just wanted to help you out if I could. I hope it does some good for someone out there.

Any last words?

Ok, that subheadline makes it sound like I’m about to best you in a jousting duel or something. But really, I’m just bringing this post to a close. I hope it was helpful. Do you have anything to add? Should you outsource your HTML as a web designer? Why or why not? Share in the comments.

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. ..AAAaand one more helpful e mail from you !! I appreciate the fact that you share your experience so generously . The market is really competitive and difficult , that I am impressed with your generosity to provide us with all this imformation !! I am refering to all of your newsletter and not only this one. I have studied graphic design and I have never worked on my specialty !! I am afraid to make any moves or take decisions because of my lack of knowledge .The GDB articles have answered many of my questions in my head I never dared to share. Thank you

  2. Does this html service also set up web sites with blogs?

  3. Carolynne Smith says:

    There’s lots of PSD to HTML companies out there, but do you know of anyone who can do PSD to HTML & PHP or HTML to PHP? I always get people who want to update their own sites. (Sometimes I recommend WordPress, but most of my customers are not computer literate and WordPress can have too much of a learning curve for them, particularly with shortcodes. I have zero knowledge of PHP and I don’t do well learning stuff through tutorials on the internet, so it would be great to find a source for that conversion.

    • These guys do PSD to wordpress which is a great way for your clients to manage their content. Not sure there would be a PHP solution with a less-steep learning curve. What did you have in mind?

  4. This is precisely the service I’ve been wanting to try and have been wanting to find someone trust-worthy to work with. Thanks for this, Preston!

  5. Some of us visual designers don’t enjoy HTML. We can do it, but I have things I enjoy much more. I have been outsourcing my HTML for over a year to a local coder. This has been a great deal for both my business and his.
    I would say it was the correct decision for me.

  6. So true story, Preston. Thanks for sharing it! I know this very well since I work in a company that provides both web design and development services. Many of our clients outsource HTML to us and are very happy with the outcome. Especially when the quality of the work is very high along with quick turnaround time and reasonable prices :)

  7. the sample page in your article didn’t load correctly in safari on a mac running mavericks – let me know if you want a screenshot of what it looks like – it looks as though the code is trying to make the page render for a mobile device because all of the examples show up at about 450px width.

    I have used html vendors in the past and it’s always been a good experience for me – it does add to project management time, but for me it’s worth it.

  8. This is amazing and exactly the sort of thing I’ve been looking for. I can’t wait to try these guys out!

  9. Yeah I’m totally on board with outsourcing the crappy stuff–I abhor coding. It’s just not enjoyable, and I’m not too good at it. My only concern with outsourcing is, make sure you got a good person/company that you vetted. There’s a lot of cheap, bad companies out there, mostly overseas. One client told me their business outsourced their website, and it came back coded in Chinese! Oops ;)

    I personally go the WP route, almost every time, just cause clients are usually clueless and want to be able to update their own site. Found a great realizable web guy to use for that sort of thing, seems to be working well so far

    • Glad to hear you found a good solution, Sheila! Thanks for sharing. I agree, you have to find someone reliable. I was happy I could test these guys out and recommend them as trustworthy.

  10. I have seen your website mighty media it looks fine with parallax scrolling but background could have been better because its the parllax design. The design is responsive which is working perfectly.

  11. Alessandro says:

    I think that depend on some things.
    First, I outsource mi HTML if I have another job that can do while coding my HTML. And the second is if I think that will make me more time than the outsourced persone or company.

    And obviously if you are not able to code a website and you haven’t a lot of time…

  12. Hi Preston!
    Yes indeed, a person starting its career in web designing can never be expert. Step by step can grow itself. There is a rule in a profession life that never make yourself over confident, you may loose everything you need in a wink of an eye. Being conscious and full concentration on work can increase the graph of the performance of a person. I like the way you have mentioned the story of yourself. It’s no doubt true story. Most of the people have the same story but some are different. HTML is a building block of web design and as the time passes we can step forward towards CSS and then further go on and on. Ones we have a good grip on coding then no worries at all! :-) The more we struggle, the more we groom.
    Thank you so much for sharing Preston :-) I wish you best of luck in the future.

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