Do I Really Need to Pay Someone to Build My Website?
by Kevin Hofer
It seems like not too long ago that if you wanted to build a new website, it almost always required hiring a professional to get the results you wanted.
Today, with the ubiquity of built-it-yourself website tools, there are many options available to you to build a site yourself. That said, like most things in life, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
In this post, we will explore when it makes sense to bootstrap your web development build - and build it yourself - and when it makes sense to hire a professional.
The current DIY landscape
If you are looking to try and build a website yourself, you will have many tools from which to choose. From entry-level, website builder products, to more full blown content management systems, there are a plethora of options available. There are even services out there, like The Grid that claim your website will just build itself. Seriously.
The website builder products that are widely available, like those from GoDaddy, Squarespace, Weebly, WIX, and Squarespace, 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, it is a completely managed, one-stop solution.
We won’t evaluate each of these products, or even compare them against each other. However, we will make the assumption that they all offer pretty much the same service - where you can build a site without any real technical know-how - and it can be done (generally speaking) for much cheaper cost than hiring a free lancer or an agency. The costs are, on average, somewhere between $10-$15 dollars per month.
While the website build tools are, typically, fairly easy to use, they are not very flexible. If the requirements of your site go 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, powering 30% of all websites on the Internet (Source: Kinsta). The Wordpress platform is free and open-source, which is one of the reason 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 believe it to be a legitimate option for the average do-it-yourselfer, and is therefore outside the scope of this post.
What is the purpose of the 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 purpose of your website within the framework of your overall business strategy.
Thinking about the purpose of your website 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. To illustrate, here are a couple of examples of the more common types of websites:
- Brochure site
The least complex of the sites, from a functional standpoint, the brochure website is often an extension of your existing sales and marketing collateral. These sites consists of a series of pages of content (text, and images) that might need to be updated periodically.
Do you intend to sell your products or services online? For our purposes, any sites that process electronic payments fall into the e-commerce category. The most common type is retail selling to consumers (think Amazon.com), although commerce is not just limited to 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 considerations to be addressed.
- Lead generation
Maybe you aren’t ready to make the leap to sell your products online, or maybe your product isn’t easily sold 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, landing pages, lead capture forms, etc.
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.
Once you clearly understand what you want your website to do for you, it’s time to take stock of your own capabilities. Do you have the skills required to implement the website that your business needs. Building a professional website requires a particular mix of skills, both graphical and technical.
Based on our experience in the racing industry, most of the people we work with don’t have the technical expertise required to hand code a website. That’s OK, and totally expected. You can still likely create a site using one of the website builders. Those products were specifically created for the non-technical customer. If you can use PowerPoint, you can use a website builder.
Then 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 are also visually engaging, and appropriately 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 good looking site. Again, it’s important to be honest with yourself here. If the look and feel of your new site is important to your (and your site visitors), it’s likely best to consult with a professional.
One issue that we believe 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, if you work with a reputable agency, they should provide you the tools necessary to update the content on the site without any intervention from them. Therefore, there should not be a difference - in terms of post-launch maintenance burden - between the two solutions.
Do keep in mind, however, that 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. The key difference here is that if you work with an agency, you will have resources at your disposal to make those types of changes should you deem them necessary.
Even if you have the skill 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, requires you to be honest with yourself.
Building a website is not a trivial task. Doing it right takes time and effort. Spending time on the website project means you be unable to spend time on other tasks. What is the impact on the business should you not spend time on those other things?
More often than not, the decision to DIY, or hire an agency almost alway hinges on the project budget. 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 requires a specific mix of skills. You should expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 - $5,000 for a brochure website. Costs can go up from there depending on complexity, with e-commerce sites starting in the neighborhood of $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, that’s because it IS a lot of money. As you think about this investment, however, look beyond the transaction. You are not just buying a website. You are buying the expertise of the agency who will create your website with you. When you hire an agency, you are hiring a team of experts with very specific skills … designers, developers, account managers, digital marketing strategists, etc. 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, our belief is that the investment becomes a no-brainer.
So, getting back to the original question, do you really need to pay someone to build your website? As you can definitely see now, the answer depends on your specific business situation. There are many factors to consider as you tackle this very important decision.
First, 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 - be it, human resources that can be redirected to a website development project or, cash used to hire an agency - and balance that against the overall project requirements.