Every business should have a website.
Is it controversial to say this?
We hope not. Today, that statement isn’t a big swing, but rather a pretty foundational belief; having a web presence is just the cost of doing business in 2017, akin to making sure that your brand was properly listed in the phone book’s yellow pages 20 years ago.
So if it’s taken for granted that every business needs to be online, why do so many still insist on cutting corners and taking the easy way out at every turn, using free website templates or, even worse, just calling up a friend or coworker to quote-unquote develop a site?
Before we go on, we should note that, admittedly, we are a little biased about this topic; web design and web development are key to what we do here at Geek. We believe that having a beautiful, functional, high quality website is the cornerstone of any comprehensive approach to content marketing, and we pride ourselves on the pages and campaigns that we’ve helped create for our clients here in Chicago and around the country.
But our position as web developers also puts our team in a unique place to comment on this debate, one that happens for small businesses across industries every single day – to create a site on your own, or to turn the process over to a professional?
Certainly, it’s easy to see the appeal of building a site on your own, possibly with the aid of a “free” web development toolkit such as Squarespace or Wix. In many respects, going it alone on web development is the less expensive option initially, and it’s not hard to see why many business owners would prefer to kick a few cooks out of the kitchen, so to speak. Fewer people working on your web development project means fewer people to have to communicate with overall, making for a job that is more streamlined, more personal, and more manageable… in theory.
So if cutting costs and cutting out the middleman are the biggest reasons why business owners want to build their own websites, what are the reasons to go with a professional service? Well, the reality is that hiring a professional is actually more likely to save you money and streamline your process in the long-term.
Hiring a Website Professional Will Save You Money
While free website builders may seem appealing, the reality is that most actually aren’t free.
No matter what, hidden costs and fees are likely to creep in, whether it’s the cost of hosting your domain or the upcharge that comes with “premium” features that are really must-haves, such as social media plug-ins, credit card processing options, shopping carts, or video players. What’s more, for just about all of those processes, the free web builders offer functionality that is quite limited for the cost. A professional designer/developer will be able to equip you with better tools, often for less total cost.
A professional with design experience will also be able to ensure that your branding is consistent and unique across your digital portfolio – including not just on your landing page, but your social media profiles and email newsletters – rather than relying on the pre-fab designs, monotonous templates, and cookie cutter layouts that are the stock-in-trade of free website builders and amateur designers. Think of functionality and branding like painting: Anyone can put colors on a canvas, but it takes time, skill, and training to combine familiar elements in a new way, to create something that transcends the commonplace and achieves something more, and to apply it wherever it may be needed.
And then there’s the matter of future costs. Even if your site is cheap to build up top, what about future maintenance? What about when your host decides to raise their rates or even allow your site to disappear forever due to some sort of behind-the-scenes drama or some quirk in their terms of service? Should this happen, you’ll find yourself on the hook for building a new website essentially from the ground up, since your old one is usually owned by your “free” hosting service.
In all, that offer of a completely “free” website is usually too good to be true. Even if you don’t have to pay initially, a website is not a “set it and forget it” proposition, and you will still see the costs – of the sort that could be averted with a professional’s guidance – pile up in the future.
Speaking of which…
Hiring a Website Professional Will Save You Stress
We’ve written before about how building your brand’s perfect website can be a lot like finding a “forever home” in real estate. In both cases, it’s important to realize that getting the perfect foundation is only one piece of the puzzle. Despite your best intentions, things are always going to go wrong and require upkeep and maintenance.
In real estate, you’re advised to build positive relationships with service professionals and contractors who know your home and its systems, so that they are better equipped to care for your house should anything go wrong.
Your website works the exact same way! When a problem comes up, it needs to be treated right away, and it’s always easier to work with a web developer who knows the ins and outs of your site, rather than hiring one who may not understand the back end of your unique website. Similarly, an experienced web builder will be able to more effectively diagnose and fix your trouble spots as they come up, particularly compared to a "weekend warrior" web developer; if you’re going it completely alone as a DIY-er, it could take significantly longer to identify the root cause of your trouble or get in contact with a customer service associate at one of the monolithic hosting companies, costing you time that could otherwise be spent running the actual day-to-day of your business.
Plenty of professional website builders will also build long-term service clauses into their initial contracts, meaning that you can keep them on retainer for upkeep or maintenance for quite some time, usually for a fraction of what it would cost to bring on a second team or try to tackle the problem by yourself.
The same goes for inbound marketing, which can be costly and inefficient to attempt to integrate onto a pre-fab website. Here at Geek Chicago, we find that content creation and web development are deeply linked, and we keep both aspects of the process in-house; if you start with a bare bones website and then later decide to ramp up your digital marketing efforts, you may find that it costs a lot more to get your marketing off the ground than it would have for you to build in content creation and lead capture capabilities from the start.
And all of this is to say nothing of the fact that quick DIY fixes or patches can often do more harm than good, causing just as many issues as they may help temporarily repair!
The Bottom Line
In the end, the Geek philosophy is simple: Although you certainly can build your own brand website, it’s almost always better in the long run to consult with a professional, who will almost always be able to get you started on the right path, with better functionality, for less money overall.
Want to talk pricing? Curious about what sets our web design and development workflow apart? We’d love to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to drop us a line today!