Web design/development looks really cool from the outside but in reality it is a bed of roses. Here are 5 struggles that every web designer/developer faces while running his craft in this country.
Saruni Maina wrote 2 articles last year for Techweez on whack/quack web designers/developers in this city of Nairobbery:
The second one is the most hilarious one. I mean, a whack web designer creating a Flash website in the year of our Lord 2018. That's, ahem, a joke. On top of that he goes ahead to replace the client's website with a nasty message demanding to be paid. Alas, namna gani?
On a serious note, the struggles through which your Nairobi-based (freelance) web designer endures were not captured quite well in those 2 articles. Since I am one I feel I am in a great position to highlight them.
NOTE: This is not meant to diminish the damage done by some web designers to clients.
So, let's begin.
One. The argument that we take on too much work is true. Many freelance designers/developers price themselves at prices less than or equal to Ksh. 15,000 and others as cheap as 5,000/=. While these sums look substantial they aren't to us in the profession since before you get another client you can spend weeks or months. Let's think in business terms. If you charge cheaply then to cover your costs your TURNOVER should be high, right? Thus, it means you have to acquire as many gigs as you can. This is where the problem of the inundated web designer comes from. Now if we want to have enough to cover our costs and fewer, manageable projects we need to have HIGHER prices. This leads to the next point.
Two. Much of KE's web design market is a PRICE-CONSCIOUS. The clients who are willing to pay premium for your services are few and far between. It's like a Bell Curve with the middle bulge occuppied my many clients who may not be willing to pay well but they could pay well under certain conditions and the opposite end having few clients who are not really interested in websites. Many of the clients we run into are never that willing to pay for premium prices. Also, many a client locally are always fishing for the cheapest web design services. Cheap prices will always lead to a race to the bottom be it in website quality, delivery times etc. Which brings me to my third point.
Wrong expectations. Many people still do not understand what really web design entails. Some presume web design is simply creating "beautiful pages" online yet it overlaps with Web Development & Web Programming that are deeply technical areas. Others have heard a little about Open Source Software and some of the open source CMS's and asumme that web design should be FREE! Others assume web design is a "simple task/job" that does not require such prices! "Why are you asking me for Ksh. 20,000 for something that I've heard is free?" or "Why are you asking me that much when my nephew doing IT in TUK can make for me a website for free?" Throw in the odd "since you do websites could you fix my Photocopier, LAN or Router?" request that springs up sometimes. And things like that.
Four. The culture of signing Contracts has not sunk in yet. We mostly deal with "Gentleman's Agreements" in this sector. When the deal gets botched things always deteriorate to name calling, threats, accussations of someone "eating the money/deposit" etc. With a price-conscious market and the requirements for cheap web designers many of us gravitate towards quick wins i.e. website projects that can be done and delivered quickly in a matter of days hence why it is easy for us not to think much about Contracts. However, with the changing dynamics Contractual Agreements will become a lot more common even for simple web design projects.
Five. Late Payments is a huge problem. Ask any freelance web designer in this city about it and many will give several instances of late payment. Many web design clients including companies rarely pay on time. Some even ignore the due dates on invoices. Late payments have this cascading effect which affect other business operations like Customer Acquisition, Marketing, and offsetting other expenses and the like.
These are not the only ones but every freelance web designer/developer will tell you this: it is tough out here.
PS: The web design market in Kenya is not for the fainthearted. It's no wonder why many web design firms eventually pivot to developing software or becoming fully fledged Marketing Agencies where web design becomes a small service within their portfolios. It's also why there is no barometric web design firm out here just yet.
PPS: The guys at Legibra also weighed in with their thoughts about this. This is the right way to go about it (and which is the approach I try to follow). I'll need to write an article on how in the Design world "FORM follows FUNCTION" rather than the other way round.
Watch this space!