Did you know…88% of consumers search for a product online before buying in store?
As you may know there are tons of platforms and programs available to create your own website. There are also services like The Grid that claim your website will simply build itself. There are also website builder products that are widely available, like those from GoDaddy, Squarespace, Weebly, and WIX that promise an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop approach to designing and building your site. In addition to the tools needed to build your site, each of these products also provides a location for your site to be hosted. In that respect, building your own website is a completely manageable solution. That said, like most things in life, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It’s probably safe to say that all of the mentioned products offer pretty much the same stuff, so we are not going to evaluate each of them or even compare them. The costs are, on average, somewhere between $10-$15 dollars per month. Now let’s take a look at when it makes sense to build a site yourself and when you should hire a professional.
While the website build tools are, typically, easy to use, they are often not very flexible. For example, if your site goes beyond a couple of content-based pages, you may be compelled to look at a more comprehensive website platform and/or content management system. The most popular website publishing platform on the web is WordPress, (which is what we at Fabulous Business Solutions recommend) powering over 40% of all websites on the Internet. The WordPress platform is free and open source, which is one of the reasons it is so popular. However, it does take a certain level of technical know-how to implement a site in this way. For that reason, we don’t considerate it a legitimate option for the average do-it-yourselfer. But before you do anything, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
Purpose of site
Before you even think about BUILDING your site, it is critical to take a step back and be clear about the type of site that you need. This will be driven by the nature of your business and the overall purpose of your website. This will naturally lead to thoughts, or discussions, around features and functionality. What must the website DO to fulfill its purpose, as you’ve defined it? For example:
The least complex of the sites, from a functional standpoint is the brochure website. These sites consist of a series of pages of content (text, and images) that might need to be updated periodically. Think about advanced functionality that you commonly see on businesses websites, like e-commerce, appointment scheduling, complex forms etc. Let’s look at a few of these.
Any site that processes electronic payments fall into the e-commerce category. Therefore, if you intend to sell your products or services online you will need an e-commerce site. If your website is more for marketing purposes, and you don’t sell anything directly from it, building it yourself is not as risky. The most common type is retail selling to consumers, although commerce is not just limited to business to consumer (B2C) businesses. E-commerce sites tend to be complicated simply because of the baseline requirements needed to facilitate the sale of products online. Shopping cart software, sales tax and shipping calculations are just some of the things you’ll need to consider and address. We highly recommend hiring a professional for this purpose as you would hate for something to go wrong with making sales transactions and you have no idea how to fix it.
Maybe your product isn’t easily sold online, or you simply are not ready to sell your products online. In that case, your strategy might be to use the website to help generate leads. Leads that can be nurtured over time, and ultimately converted offline. Again, there are specific features that you would want to enable on your site to facilitate the lead capture process. For example, blogging, email customer relationship management (CRM), lead capture forms, etc.
As you can see, due to the limited feature set necessary, a brochure site can be an excellent candidate for the do-it-yourselfer. On the other hand, e-commerce or lead generation sites are much more complicated and therefore merit the consideration of hiring a professional. But remember, it takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website, decide whether they like it and whether to stay or leave. In short, if your website must be a finely tuned conversion machine with 100% uptime, you should probably hire someone. Amateurs often miss things like slow loading times, 404 errors, security issues, certificates and other vulnerabilities that can impact the performance of your website and ultimately frustrate customers prompting them to go elsewhere.
Once you clearly understand what you want your website to do for you, it’s time to access your own actual capabilities. Building a professional website requires a particular mix of skills, both graphical and technical. Do you have the skills required to implement the website that your business needs and more importantly, keep it updated and maintained should images become corrupt, links drop, errors occur, etc.?
Think about IKEA for example. The reason they’re able to charge so little for their furniture is they pass on much of the work (that other furniture manufacturers would do) to their customer. It’s the same concept if you build your own site. The truth is, when you’re assembling Ikea furniture, you’re not a professional furniture builder, and therefore the quality and the output is not going to be as good. The same concept applies to website design. Most people are not professional digital marketers or designers or any of those things. And so, not only are you using all your time to build the website but then you’re not getting as high-quality an output as you would as if you hired someone who did that full time.
Based on our experience, most of the people we work with do not have the technical expertise required to hand code a website. Yes, you can likely create a site using one of the previously listed website builders as those products were specifically created for the non-technical customer. In fact, if you can use PowerPoint, you can use a website builder. But there are graphic design considerations. Do you have the ability to create content and images that are not only useful to the site visitor, but also visually engaging, and carry your brand online? If you have a good handle on color theory and are comfortable using a tool like Photoshop, odds are you can put together a decent-looking site. Again, it is important to be honest with yourself. Bottom line, if the look and feel of your new site is important to you (and your site visitors), it is likely best to use a professional.
How picky are you? This is an important question for all the perfectionists out there. Even website builders, although their templates are great, can cause headaches if you’re a perfectionist. Templates are not always as flexible as some people would like, and unless you know HTML and CSS, there isn’t always an easy way to make them do what you want. So, if you are the kind of person who would be upset if things didn’t line up perfectly on the page; if the color was one shade off from what you really want; or if the menu navigation isn’t as great as you’d like, you should probably hire someone and avoid all that frustration.
Site Repairs and Maintenance
The biggest issue (and what we believe is most important to address) is what happens after the website is built. This is often an area where many people believe that DIY sites have an advantage. “Why should I pay someone to do updates on my site once it’s built?” The truth is, they should provide you the tools necessary to update the content on the site without any intervention from them. Keep in mind, however, often this only applies to content. Whether you work with a developer, or use a site builder tool, there will be portions of the site that you will not be able to change.
A successful website requires more than just a good design and catchy name. Once your website is live, it will require continuous maintenance and updating to ensure potential customers keep coming back. Although it is fairly easy to create a website with the modern development software tools out there, these applications are not very useful if your site starts having problems. HTML or other code errors, broken links, corrupted database files are always a concern for busy websites. Therefore, unless you or someone at your business has the ability to quickly troubleshoot and resolve issues that might arise with your website, using a professional to design, monitor and maintain your business website can save you and your site’s visitors a lot of aggravation in the long run.
We offer a 7-day maintenance period to make sure things function properly and many reputable companies, like Fabulous Business Solutions even offer additional services like monthly updates, backup, and security options if they build your site. The key difference here is that if you work with a professional company or agency, you will have resources at your disposal to make those types of changes should you need them.
Ask yourself this. How much time do you REALLY have to invest in this? On one hand, if you’re in a rush and only need a basic one-page site, your best bet is probably just to do it yourself. On the other hand, if you need your website up quickly and it needs a lot of features you would more than likely save time by paying someone. You are busy running your business. Is it worth saving a few bucks to spend hours building a site when you could be investing that time into your business, sales, marketing, etc.? Building a website is not a trivial task. Doing it right takes time and effort. Spending time on the website project means letting other tasks take a back burner. Ask yourself, what is the impact on the business should you not spend time on those other things because you opted to build a website yourself?
And think about this, even if you DO have the skillset to both design and develop a website, it’s important to consider your role in the company and if building a website is the right use of your time. This isn’t a question that we can answer for you, and again, one that requires you to be completely honest with yourself.
Let’s face it, the decision to build a site yourself, or hire an agency almost always hinges on cost. When you get to this point in your project, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Building a website is not a trivial exercise and as we can see requires a specific mixture of skills. Depending on your demographic, the average cost to create a website ranges about $3,000 – $5,000 for a simple brochure website. Costs can go up from there depending on complexity, with e-commerce sites running nearly $10,000. Keep these benchmarks in mind as you begin your evaluation.
Spending $10,000 on a website might seem like a lot of money. And to be fair, it IS a lot of money. But as you think about this investment, look beyond the transaction. You are not just buying a website. You are buying the expertise of the agency who will create it with you. When you hire an agency, you are hiring a team of experts with specific skills. These individuals build websites every day and keep up with the latest trends in the industry. When you consider what it might take to retain expertise like that on your payroll, we believe the investment becomes a no-brainer. And just because a website looks simple doesn’t mean it was fast, easy or cheap to create. For instance, Wikipedia doesn’t have any fancy design. But the sheer amount of content and depth means it costs millions of dollars a year to maintain.
Don’t Forget Additional Costs
So, let’s talk about maintaining your site for a minute. A website can be inexpensive to launch, but expensive to maintain. Or it can be expensive to both launch and maintain. What’s interesting is that these costs vary a lot depending on whether you use a professional to build your website. Not so much if you do everything yourself. Best case scenario? It’s affordable to start it and grow it as your business grows. It will make better sense if you look at the table below:
|DIY approach||Website Builder||Custom Development|
|Setup (web design) Setup (web design)||No extra costs. Just need a lot of time to get started.||No extra costs. It’s the fastest option here.||Very expensive. Developers will usually want an initial fee + milestones for each extra step.|
|Website templates||You can actually find website templates online, both free and premium||Free templates included. You can also buy premium ones.||Included in the setup price. Still need to pay if you change your mind later.|
|Web hosting||Need to buy it from somewhere.||Included in the price||Can be included, or you might have to buy it yourself from somewhere.|
|Domain name||Need to buy it from somewhere.||Need to look at different options. You usually get a free domain name for one year.||Can be included, or you might have to pay extra.|
|Email address (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org)||Need to buy it from somewhere.||You usually need to buy it from somewhere.||Can be included, or you might have to pay extra.|
|Adding and updating content||No extra costs and fast.||No extra costs and fast.||Expensive and possibly slow.|
|Security and maintenance||No extra costs, but time consuming.||No extra costs. All done for you automatically.||Expensive and possibly slow.|
|Adding extra features later||No extra costs, but time consuming to integrate.||You can find free plugins or add-ons. Premium ones are also available for monthly fees or one-off payments. It’s usually just one-click installations.||Expensive and possibly slow but you can add whatever you please.|
So, to get back to the original question, do you really need to pay someone to build your website? As you can see, the answer depends on your specific business situation as well as your skill set. Like we said before, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. As you can see, there are many factors to consider as you tackle this very important decision.
Hopefully, you can see now that you CAN create your own website affordably but also that when you work with high-end web designers, you’re not paying for something different. You’re paying for a higher quality version of the same thing. Someone who knows how to code better, someone with a better understanding of design. Hopefully, someone who knows marketing better. In truth, that’s what you’re paying for and isn’t that ultimately what you want?
So, before you begin, settle on how your new website fits into the larger strategy of your business, and what it needs to do for you. From there, it’s all about evaluating the resources you have at your disposal and balance that against the overall project requirements.
Often people think they should work with a large agency for their website because they’re going to do a better job. They go to the office and it’s a beautiful office space in a nice part of town that looks to be quite luxurious, etc. That usually leaves them asking themselves, “I wonder how they can afford to have all this nice office space?” Well, truth is, the price of creating your website is going towards those things and although you meet with a head executive, you end up working with a junior-level employee that’s really your day-to-day contact who is quite new and will be dealing with them throughout your project. At Fabulous Business Solutions, we are a small all-female company with less than ten employees and do not have the expensive overhead. As a small business starting from nothing, we understand about small businesses needs and budgets and can proudly offer quality services, and one-on-one customized attention to detail at affordable rates because of that.
Overall, the one thing we would advise when it comes to choosing a website is to focus on the result. Ask yourself one final question. At the end of the day, do you like their work? Do you like the quality of their portfolio? And then, trust your own judgment. Trust your own judgment and don’t be clouded by the thrills or pageantry.
If Fabulous Business Solutions can help you create a website to fit your needs, schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation at: www.fabulousbizsolutions.com/calendar and download our website building checklist here: