First of all, some of you may be wondering what a web design agency is doing posing the idea of people building their own websites. Seems like a surefire way to push business away, doesn’t it? Well, maybe some business.
The thing is, we really just want to see awesome businesses succeed. We’re in love with results, and that’s the nature of our business. And while we’d love to have every business as a client, we know that not all business is the right business for us (or vice versa). Sometimes a DIY small business website is the better answer to get your business started or to grow into the next stage.
Disclaimer: We do sell websites. But, we’re not out here trying to sell people on services that they can’t afford or won’t provide the best all-around solution for their business growth at this moment. Again, we really just want you to succeed. So, we figured we’d provide some information to help you narrow down what the right solution is. And, if hiring a professional happens to be that solution, please do get in touch! Either way, we’re here to help you grow your business. And when it comes to succeeding in todays world, one thing is for sure…
Your business needs a website. So, what’s the best solution?
These days it’s crucial to have a professional digital footprint, which means having a website. For small and medium-sized businesses it’s also crucial to make effective use of your marketing budget. When it comes time to setup or redesign your small business website, there are a lot of things to consider. Foremost among them is whether to hire a professional web designer or make your own website.
Drag and drop website builders like Wix and Squarespace have made it easy for small business owners to make a solid website. But going DIY also means risking a website that doesn’t perform for your goals, gives a terrible impression of your business or simply takes too long to get up to snuff (AKA lost revenue). In short, both have their advantages and disadvantages. The right answer is different for every business and depends on a number of factors. In this article, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each approach. Then, we’ll compare website builders and provide tips for choosing a web design company. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to act upon whatever you decide is best for your business.
Pros and Cons: Make Your Own Website vs. Hire a Web Design Professional
Depending on the type of business and the stage you’re in, sometimes it makes more sense to build your own small business website. Other times it’s better to invest in a professional web designer. Here are the things you should consider.
Overall Business & Marketing Strategy
Let’s clear something up first. Building a website and publishing it on the internet does not equate to business success. A business website is an investment, but not a “silo” investment. Many think they can put an incredible website online and leads and sales will magically start to flow in. This leaves out other crucial aspects of marketing such as promoting to build awareness, capturing leads, and driving conversions.
They say “if you build it they will come.” But, it really doesn’t work that way with websites. How will people come if they don’t know it exists? Even if they do know it exists, why bother checking it out unless there’s a good value proposition? In other words, the success of a website depends on having a killer product or service that’s properly marketed. Think about things like product development (are you solving a problem?), search engine optimization, paid advertising, optimizing conversions and sales funnels. These things all cost money.
So, where do you need to be investing your marketing budget? If you spend it all on an amazing website and have nothing left for other marketing, that killer website might still fail to meet your business goals. On the flip side, if you start out with a website design that’s good enough then focus on other aspects, you could be better off. Then, when your business is thriving, you can reinvest some revenue in a website that will maximize on what’s working.
On the other hand, there are many other cases in which building your own website could be a recipe for a failed business. You always want to appear professional, and a bad design can kill you first impression and hurt your business. Need custom app integrations? A customer portal? Payment processing or a product-centric setup? Even if you simply need a lot of content or a specific, custom design built to drive prospects through a certain funnel… it’s probably best to hire a professional.
Ultimately it comes down to the role your website plays in the marketing of your current business stage. Are you capable of providing that yourself or will going DIY hinder your ability to succeed and grow?
Design & Functionality: What Does Your Business Website Need? What are you capable of?
Obviously, a business website is important for almost any kind of business. That said, the role of a website varies vastly from business to business. Some businesses are based 100% on their website. It’s where they drive all brand awareness and traffic, sell products and create revenue. On the other hand, some businesses use a website simply for professional legitimacy and to provide information (AKA a brochure site). The role of your website in relation to your greater business goals should be a huge consideration when deciding how to go about setting up or redesigning your website.
Think about two main things here in relation to your goals: design and functionality.
Studies show that visual design is one of the top factors that define a user’s first impression of your business. That said, a tech startup might rely more heavily on a high-end visual impression than, say, an independent plumbing contractor. You should consider how important the “look and feel” of your website is to your potential and existing customers. Do you feel capable of designing to that level with a drag and drop website builder? Frankly, some people just don’t have an eye for good design. Some do, but might get frustrated with the limitations of website builders. And for others, a website builder might be the perfect medium to setup a solid baseline visual design.
Functionality includes user experience and features. Does your website need e-commerce capability? A large number of products? Does your service require the need for a client portal? App integrations? Think about what your site needs to provide the base level of accessibility and usability of your product or service. Also consider the baseline user experience that will keep people from bouncing off the site and checking out competitors. Basic website functionality can easily be achieved with a website builder. But if your business goals require more complicated or technical functionality, it might be worth considering bringing in a professional.
As discussed in the previous section, it’s all about priorities. What does your business website need right now to offer a high chance of success, and are you capable of it? The answer to that question will help answer whether you should invest time in a DIY approach or money in a professional approach.
Budget: How much does a website cost? DIY vs Professional
One of the first things many business owners consider is website cost. It’s enticing to look at the cost of website builders and want to just do it yourself. Sometimes that works out great. Other times, the result is a terrible website that doesn’t work for the business. Flipping that on its head, as discussed earlier, it’s also not uncommon to see a business sink thousands into a custom, professional website that they don’t market properly. And it’s just as much of a fail.
So, how much does a website cost? If you go DIY you’ll probably spend between $150 and $300 per year depending on the plan you go with (e-commerce or not; extra features; etc). This typically includes web hosting and often comes with a domain name. The level of customer support and documentation varies from builder to builder.
For professional design, many professionals will charge a few thousand on the low end, with costs of $5000+ being common (get in touch about our pricing – we do our best to provide affordable solutions). These price tags are often well worth the end result. You can typically expect very high-end custom design and development, custom feature sets and in general a website tailored to the unique needs of your business goals and brand vision.
Obviously, doing it in-house is significantly cheaper. But it comes down to considering whether you have the skills and time to achieve your goals with a DIY small business website. That leads to our final consideration.
Time: Are you losing business revenue?
When considering DIY vs professional website development, you have to consider the time involved. Not only the time it will take to setup and design a website that’s ready to support your business as a marketing asset. But also the time spent maintaining and updating it in the long term. If you’re going for something simple and static (like a starter brochure website), then you might be able to knock it out relatively quick. However, it’s worth considering whether the time spent figuring out the website builder and actually designing the website is losing you revenue. If you’d instead be spending that time operating and growing the business, you might be better off letting someone else take care of it while you do what you do best.
Hiring Professionals: Choosing a Web Design Company
For many companies, making the investment in a professional, responsive web design is the right move towards further business growth. That said, we know how tough it can be to choose the right web design agency or professional. There are a few questions you should always consider when going through the hiring process for web design. These are all things we think about and make clear with our clients, but we’ve noticed they don’t always ask about on their own. You should, so here they are:
What are the immediate and long-term website costs?
First, know your budget. It will help you weed out those that are way below the level of quality you’re seeking as well as those that are brand-name priced and way outside your budget.
Also, make sure you always get well-defined breakdown of all costs involved. What happens if you have to put in a change order mid-project? Or what if you want to request another iteration of a page/template design? Once the site is done, how does ongoing maintenance and updating work? These are just a few examples of questions to consider.
What are your goals and how will the web designer work in relation to those?
As discussed earlier, you should form a clear picture of your website’s purpose. What is its role in your overall business goals? Whoever you bring on to build your website, your goals should be on the forefront of their strategy. Otherwise, you might end up with a site that’s beautiful to look at but doesn’t convert.
This also comes down to overall website usability. Is this web designer thinking about the end user of the website and how to give them the best possible experience of your brand and sales funnel?
Accessibility & Personality
It’s always important to ask who exactly you’ll be working with. Where are they located? What’s their time zone? How available will they be via either email or phone? You want professionals on your side that aren’t going to drop off the map for a week mid-project or drop deadlines. Even better, you want people that you can truly feel good working with. You want to feel comfortable and at-ease knowing that you’re in good, honest hands.
Building Your Own Small Business Website: Options Comparison
Business not ready for a pro website investment? Think you’ve got the technical savvy, time and vision to make your own website? If you’ve considered the pros and cons and decided you want to try to make your own website, here’s a comparison of some of the most popular website builders on the market.
Wix – From $13/mo
Wix is a great option for its ease of use and ability to customize. Based on a true drag and drop website builder, it lets you literally drag page elements (text, images, etc) around and drop them where you want. It’s super easy to use and offers lots of creative freedom, partially because it really does let you drag and drop elements wherever you want on the page with few limitations. This makes it more beginner-friendly and easier to put something basic, and somewhat unique, together quickly.
Wix offers over 500 templates which vary in their purpose and, honestly, quality. Once you select a template and build a site, you’re locked into that design. To switch templates, you have to recreate all your site content. So you’ll want to make sure you carefully select a template that fits your business goals and the needs of your website.
If you want lots of easy to use options and more creative freedom, Wix might be the option for you.
Squarespace – From $12/mo
Squarespace, while perhaps less beginner-friendly and customizable, is a great option for those concerned with visual design. It also utilizes a drag and drop builder, although it has more limitations that Wix and as a result customizing the design can take more time to figure out. It also has far fewer template options. But that said, all of their templates are created by professional designers and are of the utmost quality design-wise. Think modern, sleek and clean.
Unlike Wix, Squarespace makes it easy to switch templates while retaining all your website’s content. This lets you experiment more, but again can require more tweaking and figuring out.
If you’re more concerned with high-end, modern design than total creative control and beginner-friendly usability, Squarespace might be the option for you.
Shopify (E-Commerce) – From $29/mo
Wix and Squarespace do both offer business / e-commerce accounts from which you can setup products, process payments and run an online store. That said, Shopify is undoubtedly the king of commerce-focused website builders. Whereas most other builders include e-commerce capability as something of an afterthought, Shopify was developed entirely around e-commerce.
Shopify utilizes templates and does allow you to customize your site code. It also takes tons of app integrations (many available directly from the Shopify app center) that let you put together exactly the kind of store and user experience that you need. That said, properly setting up apps and performing serious customization can get a little technical in Shopify, so the ease of use is perhaps lesser than Wix or Squarespace.
If you’re looking to start a commerce-based website of any kind, Shopify might be the best option for you.
Ultimately, every business is different. There is no perfect right or wrong as far as setting up a small business website. It really comes down to your budget, priorities and the stage and goals of your business. Need more help deciding what’s best for your business? We’re happy to offer 30-minute consultation for free, just get in touch. Whatever you decide, get out there and build your fire!