Fasthosts has revealed that British web designers continue to face tough market conditions, according to recently conducted research.

The study of 300 web design firms* by Fasthosts, a leading web hosting provider, 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 two 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.

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.”

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