Affordable Web Design’s First 20 Years

I was just talking about the last 20 years of affordable web design with my good friend and web design mentor Charlie Frederick, owner of LakeFront Media Inc., in Ramsey NJ. I’ve known Charlie for 6 or 7 years and he’s been building and selling websites for 20 years in Northern NJ. During that time I’ve mostly worked as a Senior Technical Officer at Fortune 100 firms on Wall Street – building and maintaining PC servers. But of course I’ve worked professionally with the leading edge technologies since 1985, and it was great looking back at the last 20 years in the history of affordable web design.

My first professional experience with the “internet” was using a dial-up called Compuserve to access Purdue University using a protocol called Gopher. That was around 1989 when I was a Technical Officer at the World Headquarters of Kidder Peabody in NYC. Compuserve allowed PC’s to dial a phone and access file sharing networks and eventually use email. Subscriptions cost 20 or 30 dollars a month but some of the higher speed file transfer options cost 5 bucks a minute back… then so it was corporate use only. But it was not until around 1993 when the Mosaic browser hit the street that the internet and the “World Wide Web” (WWW) took off. So prior to 1993 web sites were essentially file sharing systems and after Mosaic, they took the modern form and general appearance we know today.

In 1993, the internet, HTML hyper text markup language, and Mosaic combined to give birth to the first modern HTML based websites we are familiar with. Prior to that I witnessed a brilliant guy named Richard A. Lucas invent a language that was eerily close to the later development of HTML. He did it 6 years earlier too, in 1987. He called it “RAL” and it was an add-on library of Pascal language modules he created for Turbo Pascal. I believe Rich Lucas also invented the first system outside Microsoft facilities where he could make PC based programs that appeared to behave like “Windows”. So Rich invented his own “markup language” where he literally used “tags” to pull in programming subroutines, and they looked like “Windows” commercial applications. There were a hand full of brilliant programmers in the world working on similar projects, but the HTML markup created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and 1990 became the default language of the internet and modern web sites. Tim is known as the “Inventor of the World Wide Web”. Rich used to like quoting Tom Cruise lines, and I have to repeat a phrase from Cruise’s latest action movie Knight and Day to describe why Rich did not become one of the early giants in the industry, although unquestionably in my mind Rich Lucas did have the true genius level intellect to do it… it was “just one of those things”.

So after Mosaic was developed it quickly was commercialized by the initial software developers who were paid by the NCSA. They formed Netscape Navigator and Microsoft worked on their own proprietary version which became Internet Explorer. This has been one of the biggest problems facing web developers since the beginning. When we make a website using HTML, we have to make sure it is “cross-browser compliant”. That means the website will look and act the same whether it is being rendered by IE or other more popular modern browsers like FireFox. So right from 1993 it became almost a nightmare in some cases to build websites that were cross-browser compliant because Microsoft veered away from the standards that HTML was based on. But in the middle of all this… affordable web design was born.

In the mid 1990’s an average website would cost between $7,500 and $12,00 for a 15 page site according to Web Page FX. That was the beginning of affordable web design. And like the price of computer processing power and the price of RAM memory chips, the cost has gone down every year since then as development tools have become better. Now the average cost of a 15 page website is between $2,000 and $7,500 according to the same reference. But in reality there is a big difference in “play” websites and “professional” websites. The “Big Box” web design companies frequently charge up to $32,000 for a custom made 15 page website. And that’s exactly why Web Design Workplace was formed in the first place. Because web design should be affordable and prices should not be jacked up by hype and sales people who make a living on commission. Web Design WorkPlace IS affordable web design. We charge a fraction of average prices because we don’t pay for or condone the hype, and we don’t use sales people that work on commission.

So during our conversation, Charlie mentioned several times that “web design ain’t what it used to be”. That’s so true and Charlie’s the voice of experience talking. There are 10 times the number of businesses, and non-profits, and professionals that buy custom web design now. There are also so many providers of all different levels that the price range now is between $300 and $32,000 with every price in between being offered.

What’s affordable web design now?

Contact Web Design WorkPlace owner Mal Milligan to find out. Prices starting at $500. 201-696-5375.

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