28 Jan Professional Website or DIY Web Design: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
If you run a business, you definitely need a website – there is simply no way around it. Businesses require a thriving online presence if they are to succeed in the digital era. Back in the day, I remember getting yellow page phone books the size of the Harry Potter books or them even coming in 2 books way before this so-called age of the Internet. I guess I’m telling my age a bit but needless to say those glory days are gone. No one – not even the baby boomers – searches there anymore, so if you’re spending a bunch of money trying to get into the local phone directory lists, you may want to reevaluate. But this is not to say that print marketing is completely obsolete given that there are still a lot of effective print techniques but that’s a different discussion altogether. I digress. Let’s go back to the topic of this post.
When it comes to building an online storefront or central hub, there seems to be an ongoing debate as to whether businesses should go the DIY route or bring in the professionals. Some businesses find it more convenient to go DIY and use a website builder. Now, I have no problem with this and I do believe that such type of service fulfills a need. However, you get to a point where you want to make sure you get the task of building a website right the first time so a professional developer makes more business sense.
Godaddy is a perfect example. When you go to their site and purchase anything from them, you also have an option to purchase or try their website builder. This is cool, but you can’t help but wonder if they themselves are using a website builder or a professional web developer. The truth is, they actually got a pro web developer to work on their website. We’re not just picking on Godaddy (we love them and use them for many things), but it’s a well-known secret that most companies that offer website builders and not using their own platform. So yes, both DIY website builders and professional web development have their own merits. Even website building platforms seem to think so.
Everyone knows by now that without a website, you risk losing a lot of business. The question now is: “where do you start?” We looked into this debate and weighed your options so you don’t have to.
In a previous post, we have discussed the importance of building a website versus relying solely on a Facebook page. Now that we have established how important a website is to your brand’s success, let’s talk about how you should go about developing your online storefront.
In the early days of the Internet, web design and development was reserved for those with special skills and training in this area. Professional web development services were high in demand because building a website from the ground up was a complicated project. However, with the birth of cookie-cutter solutions and website building kits, consumers now have a wealth of options for building their websites even with little to no coding experience. Whether you get a professional to build your website or you just go DIY is entirely up to you and how much time you can spare for this project. Each has its own merits and downsides; and this is what we’re going to look into for the rest of this post.
Website Builder vs. Professional Website
Using a website builder is a popular option particularly among small startups. When you’re working on a tight marketing budget, you want to hold on to your coins wherever possible and website builders present a very enticing solution. Most of these platforms feature user-friendly, drag-and-drop features perfect for people who do not have any coding experience. If you don’t know much about UX and UI, you may want to take some time to research web design tips before you dabble into DIY website design though.
A website builder is a kit that pretty much contains the essential ingredients to creating a basic website – hosting, domain name registration and a page editor so you can put up content on the site. Think of this as your web development starter pack. You have the barest essentials and not much else. You can get a domain name set up, launch a basic website for your business and call it a day.
On the other end of the spectrum are the professional web development services. Most website developers can provide end-to-end solutions so you go from having no idea where to start to an authentic fully functional website that fulfills all of your hopes and dreams (and even the ones you never thought you wanted to have).
When you hand your website project over to a reliable professional, you can rest assured that you have a website up within the timeline you and your developer can agree on. You know that come hell or high water, a website will launch and you don’t have to worry about glitches or hiccups! You have someone else do the worrying for you and if you’re concerned about relinquishing control over to someone else, don’t be. Professional website developers – particularly the good ones – will keep you in the loop and discuss all possible design and content options with you so you can still be part of the project and your business website still reflects your brand and your personality.
Ease of use
Depending on how ready you are with the content you want to plug into the website as well as how savvy you are in terms of web development, this exercise should not take you more than a few weeks to a month. Most website builders now come with a drag-and-drop feature so the whole activity feels more like putting up a bulletin board more than developing a functional website.
Of course, it will take longer if you have to feel your way through the tools that you have. Even for DIY website development, the learning curve gets steeper depending on your level of expertise.
Also, working on a website doesn’t stop after you have launched your site. You need to update it on a regular basis and most website builders allow you to do just that with their dumbed-down content editor.
Meanwhile, a professionally done website is capable of bringing your design and brand marketing inputs to life. A reputable agency will customize a content management system best suited to your level of understanding of web design and content development. Should you want to do the content updates on your own in the future, they will make sure that you have a user-friendly interface to work with. If you do need someone else to manage the content for you, many web development services offer this as an add-on service.
Great search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to the success of any website. It’s not enough that you launch a kick-ass website, you’ll need to make sure that people are aware it exists online. SEO allows you to do that because it helps improve your site visibility in search engine results.
DIY website builders, on their own, will not offer much in terms of SEO tools. Some may have a bare minimum to get you started but it will not be enough to market your website and your business successfully. You can add plugins to complement the internal SEO platform but usually at an extra cost. With that said, it’s not unheard of for most startups to implement on-page optimization using whatever tools their website builder offers.
On the other hand, a professional website developer will take SEO into account when building your website. Web developers would typically be well-updated with the latest changes in search algorithms themselves or are part of a team that tells them about what’s new in the SEO space so you know that your website stays compliant to updated search standards when you work with a professional. Search engines have been known to penalize websites found to be implementing black hat strategies to get ahead on the results listings.
Professionals also understand that your website needs to be seen for it to fulfill your objectives so SEO is top of mind when they collaborate with you on content design and development. Just like with design and development, you can customize SEO strategies to your heart’s desire when you get your website professionally done.
Website builders do not cost much because you’re doing everything on your own and basically you’re renting the site you build on a monthly basis. You may end up spending on a domain that you register and own, but the website is not yours. If you miss a monthly payment, the company that owns the website builder has the right to take you offline.
It’s important to note that you do get what you pay for with website builders. You have a starter kit that can put up a shell of a website, but not much else. If you are the type who is very passionate about your brand and you have a specific way of presenting it to your target market, you may find website builders a bit of a challenge to work with.
With free website builder platforms, you will be investing your time and effort on the whole project. I must say though, free sites give you much less. You cannot customize your domain and this is a major problem if you want to come across as a professional and reputable business. Free sites are good for personal blogs or if you just want to try your hand at content development but they are not necessarily appropriate for businesses. You want to create a respectable online storefront and free sites tend to limit your options in this area.
Meanwhile, professional website development services cost you more up front compared to website builders because of the level of customization you can do on your website. But think of this cost as more of an investment rather than an expense. You are investing on your company’s growth through a more than decent online storefront. We’ve done the math and you may end up paying a lot more going with a website builder. Right now, if you go to Squarespace (a website builder that we like) they have plans from $16 to $46 a month depending on what you need. Add that up with limitations of what you can do with the site like we spoke about earlier and there you have it. On the other hand, if you if you go for professional web design you could end up paying from 5k to 10k, but you’ll get exactly what you need. As long as you get your site done by a reputable company, you can relax assured that you’re getting your money’s worth and probably much more. Plus, you’ll get a highly customizable and SEO ready website that your business deserves.
As earlier mentioned, there is a learning curve and even for the simplest of website builders, it may take a bit of time before you get used to using the tools on a regular basis. If you do run into any speed bumps while working on your website, you don’t have much support options available. Most website builders do have chat and phone support facilities available (usually for an additional charge) but one common complaint is that they can take a bit of time before they get back to you with a solution – not exactly what you need when you’re trying to launch the website as fast as possible.
Support services is a given for most professionally done websites. When you get your website done by a professional, you know that you can rely on that person or company to help you out with pretty much any issue that you can run into with your site. They know your website from inside out and they will most likely be always on hand to provide support.
So there you have it. DIY websites sound good on paper because they are affordable, easy to launch and can be a no-brainer depending on how complicated your website gets. They are great if you want a no-frills business website when you are just starting out or never had an online presence and need one fast. However, if you want a website that works and fulfills your online marketing objectives, you may want to consider getting it professionally done instead. Sure, you spend a bit more on it, but professional websites are known to be much more effective because they represent your brand and your business according to your specific objectives. You are the judge; tell me what you think or your experiences? How did that affect how you designed your website?