A little over two months ago, I decided to do an experiment. I had someone tell me they could build a website much cheaper if they went to Craigslist for a developer. As I begin thinking about this, I figured I would put it to the test to see what really came from Craigslist.
I decided to post an anonymous computer gig listing here in the Detroit area for a website. I figured I would be as vague as possible; I didn’t want anyone really finding out who I was, and I already decided I wouldn’t respond to any postings. My posting was as follows:
I’m looking for someone creative to design a new website for my company. It should be something clean and simple, with only about 5 pages (one page being a contact form). I also need to be able to edit the pages myself using a software such as WordPress. I will supply content and pictures. I also already have hosting. Send examples of your work along with a cost/time estimate and your qualifications. I will only work with someone local to the Detroit area.
My intentions were simple. I wanted someone to believe I had a small knowledge of websites, but I needed to avoid all jargon—I even misspelled WordPress wrong. (Yes, the P is capitalized.) I figured I’d get a few responses, but I didn’t expect they would come so fast.
Within 24 hours, I had received 26 responses. Of those 26 responses, only five of them were local to the Detroit area. Only one mentioned the benefits of going with them instead of a local developer. Most of the others I believe just didn’t read or care about my last statement.
In the end, when my ad finally expired on Craigslist, I had received a total of 89 responses—half of them coming within the first 72 hours. Most developers provided me with a price and the average fell somewhere around $200-500 dollars. You get what you pay for. I actually took the time to view at each portfolio, and most of them really looked bad. There were a couple really nice sites, but the quoted price was much higher—closer to what I would expect for a website.
Of course, with me being the developer I am, I begin to look deeper into some of these sites. Many of the nicer looking portfolios were purchased templates, along with their “designs”. The was also a lot of messy, bloated code. To the average user, this wouldn’t be a concern, but what about customizations? There’s no way to know if they know how actually customize a site beyond some styling.
The thing that scared me the most involved the portfolios (or list of sites provided by email) of a couple potential developers. I believe it was close to 10% of them that had sites where the footer link, or css code referred to someone else, or some other company!
Now, I understand that freelancers being contracted for another development company could potentially have this issue, but when 10% of my results had that, it really makes one wonder.
So, is it possible to build a website using Craigslist? Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Most of the sites I looked at, whether they were portfolios or actual live sites, were of poor quality, and they could be so much better. User-friendly, mobile-friendly (My favorite was a site touting mobile-friendly websites, but the navigation was in flash so I couldn’t navigate it on my phone!), SEO-friendly, just friendly in general… many of these sites were lacking.
The real question is, what is your website worth to you? If it’s only worth $200 dollars, then don’t expect the Ferrari when you’re paying for a half-blown up Pinto. But, if you want it to work for you, and potentially harder than some of your own employees, I’d recommending staying away from Craigslist.