Apart from staff costs, the upfront technology expenditure for micro web design agencies can be daunting. This requires software licences to be purchased - as well as the hardware to house the tools.
Among the most common software packages deployed by web design agencies is the Creative Suite 4 from Adobe, which is a robust set of tools for professional web design, development and maintenance.
Claiming to save a significant amount of time in web design and development, the Design Premium edition is priced at more than 2,600 euros and is best deployed on Apple machines, which themselves are an expensive hardware choice.
However, Adobe does offer good support services, including online, with access to a knowledge base, forums and a widespread community.
Another package that will set the professional website developer or designer back a fair amount is developerWorks from IBM.
IBM offers a range of tools, kits and packages to aid in web design and development, with a special emphasis on Web 2.0 development tools.
However, these tools are considered to be relatively complex and costly, with agencies needing to purchase a licence for each user at around 210 euros.
A cheaper option is Web Creator Pro from LMSoft, which is a set of tools that is focused on offering advanced graphic capabilities, including animations.
The package is priced at just 89 euros, but the level of support offered for designers and developers is limited. LMSoft has recently started offering its clients a hosting service, which is currently available for a discount of 25%.
Another popular option is the Corel Draw Graphics Suite from Corel, which is aimed at the web design community, not those involved in development.
Priced at 712 euros, this software product offers high-end graphical capabilities, with a large library of images, clip art, stock photos, fonts and templates offered, as well as supporting applications and services.
Support is provided worldwide by phone, online or via live chat and the package has always been popular with designers.
Software packages such as these have long been the main alternatives for web design and development agencies, which is why there is likely to be much interest in Microsoft’s new WebSpark package.
It offers the tools, support, training and more for small professional web designers and developers working for agencies with ten employees or fewer for no charge for the first three years.
Launched in 2009, this is likely not only to put pressure on the incumbents, but also on low-cost or even free open source packages.
These include Aptana Studio, which has a strong support community and claims five million downloads have been made, Visual Site Designer, aimed primarily at those designing online shops, or LAMP, which is an acronym standing for Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL and any of PHP, Python or Perl, which are the principal components required for building a general purpose web server, with support for Windows added recently. Such tools have been growing in popularity in recent years, but are likely to see a serious challenge from the WebSpark suite.