Are you ready to build a website?
Every business now needs their own website in order to boost their profile or make sales in an online store. It’s not really an option to do without – you will be losing business if you do. Globally, ecommerce sales hit $2.8 trillion USD last year, with that figure predicted to climb to $4.8 trillion by 2021.
If you want your own slice of the pie, a professional website is necessary, but how should you go about building a website? You’ll find that there are a lot of options open to you, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to compare the DIY route, using a website builder or similar to the done-for-you option.
Building a DIY website
What’s involved with taking the DIY route to build a website? Looking at the advertising for many of the website builder tools, it often seems like an easy option. A few clicks here and there, then your business website is done. But is this really the case?
Here are a few of the basics you need to know about if you’re building your own website:
- You need a domain name. This is the website address via which internet users will find you. Typically, you can buy your domain name from a domain registration service such as GoDaddy. The thing to find out with any sort of website builder (such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify etc.) is whether you can use your own custom domain. Some don’t allow it, some do, but most will for an extra fee (or higher tier service package).
- You need web hosting for your website. This where a hosting company provides space for your website on one of their servers, so that your website is accessible to internet users. Many website builder services include hosting as part of their package. You could also opt to completely build a website from scratch (using something like WordPress), and elect to find your own web hosting plan, for example Bluehost.
- You need website building software (or the ability to write code, such as CSS or HTML yourself). Some common options include drag and drop website builders such as Wix or Weebly, or a platform such as WordPress where you can build up your website using a WordPress theme and plugins for functionality.
- You need a website design. Website builders usually have templates or themes you can choose from. These often involve a drag and drop interface where you can move elements around to where you’d like them. If you choose a WordPress theme, you may have some customization options available, but those really depend on whether you’re developing the whole website yourself, or if you’re using a platform such as WordPress.com, where the site is hosted for you but there may be restrictions, depending on your package.
- You need content for your website. Once you have a website design that you’re happy with, you need to create the pages for your website including any written or visual media content. You need business logos, high-quality images, product photos (for any online store) and all written descriptions. You need a reliable content management system to store and deliver that content (this also helps to speed up your website, an important factor for retaining visitors).
- You need a way to monitor the performance of your website. This helps you to make any needed improvements. Google Analytics is a popular option for doing this, or some sites have their own analytics packages. (The WordPress dashboard provides some information, but is not as comprehensive as a full analytics tool).
Pros and cons of DIY websites
Let’s begin with some of the pros of DIY websites. A lot of people take this route because they are looking for a cost-effective way to build a website. Sometimes you can even build a free website, but there are some restrictions around these which often make them unsuitable for businesses. (They might suit you if you’re simply starting your own blog).
DIY websites tend to be cheap. They’re often easy to get online quickly, trusting you’re able to master a drag and drop interface, or that you know how to write code yourself. You aren’t required to have design skills yourself if you’re using a template and usually, website builders offer some level of customization.
Moving onto the cons of DIY websites, here are some of the biggest disadvantages:
- Time – You may choose a quick and easy website builder, but you’ll still need to spend a lot of time on creating website messaging and content.
- Website design – You might be happy with the generic template you can get from a website builder, but there’s a good chance you’d like to have some design customization that is not offered. Sometimes the look of a website builder is not especially professional for a business.
- Limitations – There may be all sorts of limitations, depending on the package you have. For example, you might be limited on the size of your website, the features you can have or even how fast the website performs. Sometimes if you are on a shared hosting package (where you share a server with many other websites on the same platform), you can experience very slow loading times.
- Lack of help – Sometimes you really need more help than what is provided on a website builder or other DIY site. Customer service may be poor, or perhaps you need help with something they don’t assist with. It can add up to a lot of time spent trying to achieve the website you’d like.
If you’re not going to build a website yourself, your next option is a done-for-you website. Just like the DIY route, you have many different options available. To build your new website, you might:
- Hire a freelancer
- Hire a big agency
- Hire a smaller web design and development company.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each, so let’s take a closer look:
Freelance web developers
There are thousands of freelance website designers and developers out there, giving you a lot of options. You can even shop around and hire someone who doesn’t live in the same country as you, especially if you’re looking for cheaper options.
It’s possible to find some very qualified and experienced freelancers who will do an excellent job of your website. Cost will vary – you can expect to pay well for an experienced freelancer. In return, you should expect high-quality work.
On the other hand, finding the right freelancer can be challenging. Many people have had bad experiences when freelancers have taken a long time on a job, not produced work to a standard expected or even disappeared partway through the project.
You’ll also find that there is huge variation in terms of what is included by a freelancer. There may be a lot of things you still have to organize yourself, such as web hosting and the content for your website.
Large web agencies
Have you ever checked out some of the bigger web development and design agencies? They often have large, impressive portfolios and big teams onboard servicing them. A large agency knows websites and they’ll have plenty of suggestions for getting yours built.
On the positive side, you can usually expect a very professional website, customized how you’d like it and set up for high performance. You’d expect a professional agency to have taken SEO (search engine optimization) into consideration during the website build and to have created your website according to best practices.
One of the biggest cons is that the cost is usually very high to get your website built this way, which can be prohibitive for small business. Agencies tend to run with high costs, so naturally they pass these onto their clients. Many businesses have also found that their new website build can drag out for months with a larger agency. They work with many clients at once and even with large teams, it can seem that it takes a long time to get your final product.
Smaller web development companies
There are many smaller web development companies out there who run following various business models. For example, we’re a smaller company here at One Week Website. We operate by offering different packages to give clients options over how much they want included with their website build. Our simplest package is as our name suggests – your website is up and running within a week.
A smaller web development company will tend to cost you less than a large agency, but you can still expect to pay for their skills and experience (potentially more than an offshore freelancer). You’ll often find that you get more attention from the smaller team and that your website is completed within a shorter timeframe.
You’ll usually be able to get customizations that you’d like, although sometimes they may not be part of your package deal. Another very important thing to consider is your messaging – is that taken into account, or is a website simply thrown together? Some companies will help you out with devising appropriate messaging and building your website to suit (this is something that we take pride in).
With any of these done-for-you options, you should be able to get a website that you have control of and which performs to your needs, a key difference from many website building platform options. You can also choose someone who works with your preferred website type, for example a WordPress website, and you often have choices for a hosting plan.
What is the best option to build a website that’s right for you? The factors to consider include:
- How much time you have available
- Your own level of skill with coding and customizing
- What you need the website to do
- The level of customization you require
- Your budget
There are pros and cons to both DIY website building and getting it done for you, so it’s important to know what you need first and weigh these factors. Which will you choose? Your online presence depends upon it.