We’ve all seen poorly designed websites. Some are obviously do-it-yourself attempts and others are honest efforts by someone who’s dabbled in a little code. Still others are built using free website builders that are offered by website hosting companies or built using a website template.
Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?
Depending on your budget, your needs and your time frame, you may choose to work with a professional website designer or you could try to create your website yourself. I say “try” because depending upon your technical skills, the complexity of your website and the amount of time you have, it may not be the best choice for you.
Assuming that you’re probably looking for the most effective and cost-efficient way to get your website built and launched, I’ll briefly discuss some of the pros and cons for 3 of the most popular options.
#1 – Build Your Website Yourself:
- HTML (HyperText Markup Language) – Even if you use a program to generate the HTML code for you, can you maintain it? If the code “breaks”, can you fix it? Do you know how to set up a test environment and troubleshoot changes?
- Creativity – Do you have the skills to create eye-catching graphics? Do you know how to resize photos and optimize them to load quickly? Can you design an attractive, professional looking site?
- CGI and Database Programming – Do you want your site configured so that the results from a contact form or survey are emailed directly to you? Do you want to offer live help to your web visitors?
#2 – Using a Website “Builder” or Template to Create Your Website:
- Free – Many website hosting companies offer free website builders that you can use in exchange for hosting your site with them. If you go this route, make sure that if you decide to host with another vendor that you can move your website. In many cases, you can’t. This would mean that you would have to rebuild your site if you ever wanted/needed to host it elsewhere.
- Advantages – Generally, website builders are easy to learn and easy to use. They can be a perfectly appropriate solution for you if you only need a small website without a lot of bells and whistles.
- Templates – Many website builders include ready-made website templates that you can customize. It should be relatively easy to change colors and fonts while keeping the main structure and navigation menus in place. There are limits to what you can change. Several vendors license the rights to use website templates. There are also free templates to choose from. Be sure to read the license agreements.
- Branding – One of the most important/ critical elements in building a successful business is your brand. Your domain name is a major branding element. If someone offers to host your site for free, make sure that your site will be hosted under your domain name. That is, you want your potential customers to go directly to www.YourBusiness.com and NOT a sub-directory of your hosting company.
#3 – Hire a Professional Website Designer:
- Budget – Don’t necessarily rule out hiring a professional website designer because you don’t have a big budget. Think of your website as an investment. It is going to be your virtual storefront. You may not be able to afford to do business with a high-end design firm but you should be able to find a reputable designer that you can work with.
- Time – Time is definitely money. If you don’t already have the skills to build a professional looking website, is now really the time to learn? I’m not talking about a website to share family photos here. I’m talking about the backbone of your Internet presence. Just ask yourself if this is the best use of your time.
- Flexibility – Do you really need a totally unique site or could you benefit from a site that starts out as a template but is customized to be part of your brand? This option could definitely help you to maintain costs while still utilizing the skills and knowledge of a professional designer.
- Complexity – If you need a complex website that requires a database of customer information and/or a secure shopping cart, you should seriously consider hiring a professional website designer. With all of the security breaches we read about nowadays, many states are implementing laws (along with serious fines) to ensure that data you collect is secure. Some things are best left to the professionals.
Any of these options could possibly work for you. Factor in your budget, your time-frame and what you need your website to be. Regardless of which route you choose to go, you absolutely need to keep in mind who you’re building your website for. You cannot lose sight of your target customer, the need you are fulfilling and why customers will want to buy from you. Keep in mind that there’s nothing that will lose an online sale quicker than an unattractive, unprofessional looking website.