As a business owner or entrepreneur, you may have realized that some sort of web presence — whether you own a brick and mortar establishment or an online store — is paramount to getting the word out about your business. And as someone who’s used to taking charge of his or her business, you’ve probably considered taking your web presence into your own hands, either by starting up a blog or using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website builder. In this following blog post, I’ll lay out a few pros and cons of creating your website yourself (either by learning to code or by using a WYSIWYG builder) and of hiring a web designer.
At the basics, that means learning CSS and HTML which helps to layout the design and content.
DIY Website Builders vs. Custom Web Design
This is when you get into the real nitty gritty. True DIY means learning to code… At the basics, that means learning CSS and HTML which helps to layout the design and content. But for advanced functionality, you’ll need to learn jQuery and PHP, at the very least. For some of us, learning new languages (computer or human) is easy — the logic and the beauty of the language come naturally. For the rest of us though, it takes hours and hours of hard work and practice, and even then, you still have to carry a dictionary — or have a handy Internet connection — to look things up.
However, the benefit of putting your own blood, sweat, and tears into your website is that you own everything. You own the code, you own the design, you own the content. But if you’re so busy working on your site, what time do you have to actually RUN the business? Imagine website building as something akin to fixing up a car. Sure, it’s fun to do — and extremely rewarding — when you can make that ol’ junker start, but you need time, money, and resources to really learn the ins-and-outs of your car.
Of course, you don’t have to dive into the deep-end of coding to build a good-looking website. Content management systems like WordPress or Joomla — and countless others — are well-supported backends to make running your site easy. A quick search for “free templates” or “free themes” will get you hundreds of results. And there are some great looking templates out there, but you have to search through a lot of awful ones too. And let me tell you, a lot of other people have found that same theme as you. As a business, you want to separate yourself from the pack, not look exactly like them!
But some templates are easy to tweak, especially if you did put some time into learning a bit of code. But then you have to worry about what happens if you ever break the code or mess up the CMS. And I’ll let you know a secret… the customer support from template developers are often nonexistent.
But hoo-boy, when you DO get your website to do exactly what you want it to and to look like you want it to? That’s reward enough for all the classes, practice, and hard work you put into it. But what if you don’t have time to invest in building your website?
But aside from that, the biggest, most important part of staying away from these website builders? The fact that you don’t REALLY own your site.
WYSIWYG Website Builders
Popular website building services have one great thing in common: they are easy-to-use and you don’t have to learn any code. The design elements are drag-and-drop and easy to maneuver. And they can build some good-looking websites.
But because it’s user-friendly, the backend is often bloated which can create slow website loading and weird visual elements. And to make the frontend as simple as possible, most website builders are very basic and often don’t have much in advanced functionality.
But aside from that, the biggest, most important part of staying away from these website builders? The fact that you don’t REALLY own your site. Sure, all the content is yours, but all of it is hosted on a proprietary CMS. What if you want to move your site from a popular DIY host? No way. You have to build it again from the beginning.
It’s like leasing a car at a dealership, a common thing, right? But imagine that now, whenever the car breaks down, you have to go back to that same dealership to get it fixed or buy parts. You can’t take it to any other dealership, even if now you’ve moved across the country.
And what about eCommerce? There are great services like Etsy or Storenvy which allow you to list your products for a fee — for Etsy, it’s a listing fee, for Storenvy, a fee when you sell the product — and Storenvy even has some basic customization for your storefront design. And both have amazing communities behind them. But again, how do you identify yourself ahead of the pack when your store looks exactly the same as all the others?
If you must go with WYSIWYG for whatever reason, there are some services out there that have great customer support and features. Squarespace, for example, supports eCommerce, and the sites created on the platform are often sleek and modern.
These sites can be great if you’re just starting off or only need to present some basic information… but if you really want to set yourself apart from competition, then what you really need is a web designer.
A good web designer will be able to get into the core of your brand and create a website that truly reflects that. A unique website for a unique business.
Hiring a Web Designer
Some of you may be thinking, “Why hire someone to do something that I can do myself?” Like I already mentioned, for some of us, learning how to build your website — the true DIY route — or having control in an easy-to-use interface — like in WYSIWYG editors — may be rewarding enough. But you’re often blocked by your own lack of experience or by being locked into a proprietary website builder. Another option that’s as powerful — if not more powerful — than the DIY route is hiring a web designer.
Okay, bear with me here. Hiring someone is the complete opposite of the do-it-yourself ethic, right? But let me use the car-mechanic analogy again. Let’s say your commuter car breaks down. Are you going to wait until the weekend to start work on it, or are you going to take it to a professional so you can return to work ASAP?
That’s how I view website development as well. You may have an old classic Pinto that you’re fixing up in the garage on the weekends, but that Pinto isn’t the one getting you to work. That Pinto is like a personal blog, a site about your hobbies, etc… but when it comes to getting a custom site built for your business, you need to hire a professional.
A business website isn’t just a money maker… it’s an expression of your identity. And that’s what a WYSIWYG website builder won’t do for you… they can’t show your true identity. A good web designer will be able to get into the core of your brand and create a website that truly reflects that. A unique website for a unique business.
A good designer knows what it takes to create a successful web presence: proper SEO, security, speed, and continued maintenance. And he knows that those standards are always changing, so a good web designer keeps up with modern trends and best practices. Consider how websites looked even 5 years ago, 10 years ago to how they look now. Nowadays, we have to take into account the rise of mobile devices… which means the rise of responsive and sleek designs that look good on both desktop and mobile.
And with an experienced web designer comes a working relationship. Have a new idea for your site? Run it by your web designer and they’ll let you know if it’s doable. Like any good mechanic, they’ll know the ins-and-outs of your website so if your business needs evolve, your designer can jump back in to change or add features.
Web Design is a Craft….
Web design isn’t merely a business. It’s a time-tested craft which encompasses theories and best practices from print media, graphic design, psychology, and typography. For many designers, this is their life and passion, not just a hobby. And it’s entirely possible that through hard work and constant practice that you can get to that level too — heck, how do you think professional web designers became professionals? But for now, and for the sake of your business, hiring a web designer — someone who understands how a business works and keeps up with modern trends — is just the start to a beautiful relationship that will grow as your business grows.