Good, Cheap and Fast would be the ultimate goal in development but good design and development typically can’t be all three.
Good design takes time. When I start a project, I first look at the current site and use some time for planning. Looking at the structure, functionality, what works on the current site and what doesn’t.
When not supplied with a brief of work, time is spent closely working with the client and ensuring all of the goals, functionality and integrations are in place before we start. Having a strong brief helps not only with costing and timelines but helps to create a strong foundation on which to build upon.
Cost is always a consideration, and whilst this is a huge factor in your web project doing it “on the cheap” will always end up costing you more in the long term.
There are sites such as ThemeForest where you can purchase a theme, make a few customisations, upload your logo and end up with a decent looking site and created on a budget. Many of these themes are less than £50.
Getting a project over the line in the shortest time possible again is a factor but getting something over the line doesn’t mean cheap and it doesn’t mean good. An ill-planned project or project where cost influences the direction will likely end up with the site not being fit for purpose.
Not a solution as such but a few good ideas to enable you to get the best work you can for your money and delivered in a reasonable time.
A solid brief will help the designer/developer with timing and cost, they will know exactly what the workload entails and there will be less time spent in the discovery period and having meetings to put together a schedule of work.
A moodboard or some examples of what you like aesthetically or examples of functionality, again will save time and portray your goals to the developer and having that visual representation of your needs is helpful.
If you have branding already then, a branding pack or branding guidelines will help form the palette and typography for the project. This will enable the design phase to move more promptly.
This is the key piece of advice. Occasionally developers talk “tech”, we try not to but sometimes slip into tech-mode and this can cause confusion for both parties. If you are unsure what the designer/developer means, then ask. It’s entirely our fault for slipping into tech talk and we occasionally need to be reminded to talk in a language everyone understands.
Setting clear goals, price and time scale is key too. If the web developer is not able to offer a fixed price, or offer a timescale, or agree to a particular deadline, the project can quickly spiral.
It’s important to understand your own needs and work towards those. If you want a single page holding site then a £50 theme and minimal customisation might well be a good fit and stay within a set budget. If your site has more complex needs, this might not be the path for you.
Take some time to read up and create a brief with your thoughts and ideas and once you know the goals of the project the more understanding you’ll have on what direction to take.
Ultimately, it will be your website and you understand your business needs, this makes you the best person to create the initial brief, not a developer.