The design and development of a website is a big business decision. It can be a large cost and time commitment so it’s understandable why free website builders like Wix and SquareSpace have become popular. But are they the best decision if you’re looking into building a new website?
Not so long ago, there would have been no question of hiring a professional to get the results you want, but thanks to the rise of online website builders, it has become much easier for the non-techies among us to build a pretty good website. However, just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should – are there some projects that a professional should be doing that cannot be replaced by a tool?
Here are the main 3 routes you can go down
- Online website builder options
Website builders – Squarespace and Wix are 2 of the most popular choices – and offer some of the easiest and least expensive paths to create a web presence. In general, website builders are less powerful than a system like WordPress, but are easier to use. Website builders generally have visual page editors that make it easy to edit elements of the website. On the other hand, they aren’t very flexible, so they are best for smaller sites. Website builders do include hosting and sometimes cover the registration of a domain name, so you don’t need to worry about that configuration. Website builders commonly price their services at less than £10 per month.
WordPress is a powerful content management, however it is also more abstract. Unlike website builders that allow you to drag and drop, WordPress users can choose a “theme” from the thousands available then use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface to add and edit content. Users may also have to employ the occasional bit of code to edit a theme or plugin in WordPress, which makes it better suited for those with at least a little experience with HTML. While it’s free, WordPress does require you to find a web host and you will also have to pay annually for the domain registration.
- Professional web design
There is also the option to task a professional to create your entire site. This is by far the most expensive option and really depends on the company doing the work and the size and nature of the site. The costs with this option are significant, however the possibilities are limitless.
What kind of website do you need?
In order to decide which option is best for you, you’ll need to determine what kind of site best matches your business. A ‘brochure’ site is the simplest site, and as the name implies, it’s a showcase of what your business does. The primary purpose of a brochure site is to give a company a credible web presence and provide some basic information to prospective customers with text and images. It’s a good way to show your business mission, pricing, examples of what you sell, and basic contact information.
If you want to be able to take payments, then you will need an e-commerce site. An e-commerce site is able to handle payment processing and allow you to easily add, remove, or edit products and services. Sites like Shopify now host millions of online stores in a simple and affordable way.
For some businesses, the site itself actually is the business. Web applications like project management tools or price comparison engines are all examples of web applications. While brochure sites and even e-commerce sites are possible to build with a CMS or website builder, an application is something you should only entrust to a professional website developer. If this is something you’re exploring, be prepared to spend more money for a custom app that will stand out and function smoothly.
Some websites combine both e-commerce and an application function (e.g Amazon). Unless you really know your way around website design, a hybrid site that will process a lot of requests and information should also be built by a professional.
Another way to look at this is to ask yourself how important it will be to your business. If you’re a consultant, for instance, whose business is primarily based on existing relationships, you probably won’t be relying on a website to generate a large percentage of your business. The general rule of thumb is if your website is generating less than 20 percent of your business, a simple brochure site should fill your needs.
If your site will generate a more significant bit of business, perhaps more than 60 percent, it’s likely to be a site that will have more user demands and will have to perform multiple functions. Even if your website is simple, if it’s going to be responsible for the majority of your business generation, it’s best to hire a professional developer.
What’s your skill level?
If you’re a programmer and can build a website from scratch, then go for it. However for the majority of us, there are options available for almost every skill level.
Website builders are the most basic tool, but are also most limited. However, they are extremely easy to use, and you don’t need to know anything about coding to jump right in and build a clean-looking site. WordPress requires a higher comfort level with basic web hosting and HTML, but is still a relatively easy system to use. It is more flexible and customizable than a website builder, but you do have to explore the WordPress community to find the best design templates and plugins for your needs. Your creative skill also comes into play here – you will be in charge of the content and creative elements.
What’s your budget?
Most professional developers will charge at least £3,000+ to build a nicely designed, mobile-friendly website and if you’re building an e-commerce site, expect to spend a little more, as they are more complicated. A website builder package that includes quality e-commerce features will typically cost about £250 per year, while a developer will cost at least £5000, but the cost could be substantially more if you have even slightly more complicated functions on the website, like product categories or real-time inventory management.
Finally, evaluate your options
Businesses that are reliant on custom apps or that expect to generate 100 percent of their business from the website almost have no choice – they need to be hiring a professional. In these cases you’ll need expert guidance and know-how to make your site work best for your business.
For those who expect to generate less than 20 percent of their business from their website, and who feel comfortable with basic programs like PowerPoint, a website builder is the best bet. You can get a professional looking site without spending a lot of time or money on an overcomplicated project.
And in between you have a myriad of options to choose from, including using the extremely popular WordPress platform, which provides a great cost savings, but can be made to serve a huge variety of needs. In general, though, the higher the percentage of revenue you expect to generate from your website, the greater potential ROI you’ll get from an investment in your website.