28 Jan Professional Website or DIY Web Design: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
It’sno surprise by now if you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, your business needs a website. There is simply no way around it. We live in a digital world and with that said, it’s a must that businesses of any kind have a digital presence to succeed. Before this totally took effect, I remember getting yellow page phone books the size of the Harry Potter books or them even coming in 2 books. I guess I’m telling my age a bit but needless to say those glory days are gone. No one searches there, not even the boomers are going there anymore, so if you’re spending a bunch of money there you may want to reevaluate. Now that’s not to say that print marketing is obsolete and there are many effective print techniques, but that’s another post for another time. Okay, excuse the rant, back to the topic here in this post.
We seem to always get into a debate about which way a business should go when building their central hub or storefront online. The question is or the saying goes “I’m just going use a DIY website builder”, “I’m just using such and such website builder”. Now, I have no problem with this and I do believe that these type of sites fulfill a need but it comes a time that if you want your business to be taken seriously, then you’re going to need a professional website. 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 shouldn’t you be asking yourself if they themselves are using a website builder or a professional web developer? To answer that, it’s a pro web developer. We’re not just picking on Godaddy (we love them and use them for many things), most companies that offer website builders and not using their own platform. That should raise some eyebrows as business owners.
Nonetheless, pretty much everyone gets it now and knows that without a website you risk losing a lot of business. The question then is, “where do you start?” This post will attempt to give you the hard-core facts with no sugar coating.
We have already touched on the importance of building a website and not just having a Facebook page. In the early days of the Internet, web design and development was reserved for those with special skills and with the training that it required, however, now the options and possibilities are endless. The first things you need to do is to decide on how much time, money, and effort you want to devote to the website development project.
After you’ve decided this, as you’re thinking of your website project, next you’ll have two major options: if you’re going to use a DIY website builder or get the website done professionally. There are obviously pros and cons to going with either approach and that is what we’re going to look into for the rest of the post.
Website Builder vs. Professional Website
A popular option, particularly among small startup businesses, is the website builder. 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. This is where we’re all for using a drag and drop editor. You’d want to put some time into it and research web design tips if you don’t know anything or have experience with UX and UI.
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 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 worry 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.
Working on a website doesn’t stop after you have launched your site. You will 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 keep your technologically savvy ability in mind when it comes to customizing a content management system for you. 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 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.
On the other hand, a professional website developer will take SEO into account when it comes to building your website. Professionals 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.
There’s also free website builder platforms which you’d 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; 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 want to just try your hand at content development but not necessarily appropriate for businesses. You want to create a respectable online storefront and free sites tend to limit your options in this area.
Professional website development services, meanwhile, will cost you significantly more up front than if you launched your website using the cookie-cutter builders, but at a reasonable cost. Websites are an investment, not an expense. Going with a Website Builder could cost you more in the long run, how you say? 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 chose to have a 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?