Should I Build My Own Website?
Coming from someone who sells web design services, one could argue that my answer might be a little bit biased. I build websites for small businesses, start-ups, musicians, etc., so why would I tell you to go build your own website? The answer is simple. Whether I want you, as a client or not (I do), I would prefer that you do what is best for your business.
With that said, here are a couple things to consider before getting a website for your business.
There are some pros to building your own website:
This is certainly the number one motivator and there is no shortage of website builders that let you drag and drop your way to a brand new website. If you have a small budget—or no budget—your best option is likely a website builder.
If you feel that you can create a functional, standards-compliant website that stands up to your own scrutiny, you could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars, but also consider your time as a cost.
You have freedom & control
If your business grows or changes, you won't need to rely on an IT company or web developer to make costly changes for you. I have a client as I write this who has come to me for help building a website with Squarespace because their old website was built by a professional coder. It's a beautiful website but now they have no one in their organization who knows how to update it.
There's pretty good support available
With any website builder (WordPress included) there is a great deal of support available to help you get the most of your website. However, this assumes that you have the time to chat with support for hours, browse web articles, watch youtube videos, learn about SEO and payment gateways, AND run your business.
Whichever website builder you choose, there will be a learning curve of some sort. Each website builder has it's own set of features, benefits and drawbacks, and none of them are quite as easy to use as their marketing would have you believe.
There are also drawbacks to building your own website:
It could become outdated
The only thing worse than not having a website, is having a website that is out of date. I reach out to each of my clients every couple months to see if they have new content, or anything on their website that should be added or changed, and the answer is usually yes.
In most cases, the information would have gone stale and stayed that way for months, or years. When websites sit unchanged for months and years, they fall ever lower in Google's search rankings. It's easy to overlook your website when you have other things to worry about.
It will likely look unprofessional
This is a common story—do-it-yourself projects that start off with a grand vision and good intentions, but ultimately fail miserably and turn out nothing like you envisioned.
In my experience, clients who opt to manage their own websites after the build end up creating dead links, empty pages and a website that is disorganized and hard to navigate.
One of the main culprits of bad design is small, unintentional differences that look like mistakes and cause the brain's image processing to falter. If you're not a designer, you might be missing the little things that are preventing your clients from coming back to your website.
You lose objectivity
Have you ever proofread your own work over and over again, only to have someone else spot a mistake within seconds of looking at it? Staring at your own website for hours on end WILL lead you to a point where you convince yourself that that it's good enough to publish as-is. You may miss obvious mistakes, or leave out important information that is vital to your growth.
One of my newest clients (at the time of writing this) didn't know that there was no contact information on his contact/about us page!
Sometimes the money you think you'll save by building your own website is lost when you have a pointless website with no call to action, or clear direction.
A professional can look at your business with objectivity and align the design of the site with the goals of your business, help you read website analytics, and provide suggestions to help you increase traffic and search engine visibility.
It is not widely known that templated website builders like Squarespace have options in their back end that allow for further customization with CSS, code injections, and other developer tools. With this in mind, you can feel good about building your own website or hiring someone with design sense to to it for you at a fraction of the price of full web development.
A professional can make a plan for your website and build it in a way that doesn't look like everyone else template website and apply SEO best practices that help your business thrive.
What should you do?
There are a lot of articles written by web developers who bellyache about Wix, Weebly and Squarespace.
In their defence, there is a great deal of knowledge and craft that goes into coding a professional website. The truth of the matter is: there is no one solution that is best for everyone. It doesn't make sense for a small business with no capital to spend $10K on a web designer, but there is also no excuse for successful companies who want to shine to be using a website builder.
If you think you can do it yourself, do it. If you've tried to do it yourself and failed, there's no shame in finding a professional to help you. If you have a growing business with increasingly complex requirements and an extensive wish list, get a web developer.