There Can Be Only One!
Okay, so the heading is a little dramatic and not entirely accurate. As a website designer, I have to admit, begrudgingly, that free builders do have their uses. The truth is, each has its place in this ever-growing cyber landscape but there are some things you must consider before making your decision.
Pros and Cons
Whether you hire a professional designer or use a free builder, you need to understand the difference between the two. Each option presents its own unique benefits as well as some downside.
WIX, Weebly and the Gang
Website builders have come a long way in recent years, offering more options with some pretty stunning templates from which to choose. But is it right for your website? Let’s see.
PRICE: The most obvious pro of using a website builder is cost. The cost of building a website through one of these builders is incredibly affordable on any budget and in some cases, they are actually free!
Simplicity: The second pro is how simple it is to build a website with one of these builders. Literally anyone basic cognitive skills can build a fully functioning website in just a few hours. Builders like WIX and Shopify use premade templates and a drag-and-drop interface, making it very easy to design nice looking websites.
Easy eCommerce: While most, if not all, builders provide some eCommerce options (that are somewhat underwhelming for the most part), this pro specifically relates to Shopify. Shopify is a very powerful eCommerce tool with built-in analytics, simple tax and shipping rate setup, and a multitude of payment gateways.
Ownership: While you may technically “own” the website you build with one of these builders, you don’t have full control over it. Most if not all website builders require you to host your website on their servers. This means you can never transfer your site to another hosting provider. This may not seem like such a big deal on the surface but it is. What happens if the website builder you are using goes out of business? You guessed it, you lose your website and all the hard work you put into it! I realize that is quite a drastic example so I’ll give another. What happens if they decide to increase their pricing? Well, you’ll just have to pay more or lose your website. This is by far the biggest con to using a website builder and the number one reason I personally advise against them.
Hosting: Your website can be the most visually stunning work of art ever created. It can have all the bells and whistles a website can possibly have but it is all for not if you have terrible hosting. Any good website designer knows that hosting plays a huge role in the performance of a website. There are several factors that go into the success of a website, chief among them is page load speed. The biggest contributor to high bounce rates is page load speed. There are several things you can do to increase your page load speed but these things have a minimal effect if you have slow hosting. Find out more about our hosting packages here.
Learning Curve: While using these website builders is quite simple (a pro) there is a massive difference between a nice looking website and an effective website. There a multitude of factors that go into creating a website that performs as well as it looks. Building a high performing website requires a lot of time and knowledge.
Time Consuming: Although building a site with a builder can be done relatively quickly, keeping up with the maintenance and updating the site can be very time-consuming.
Poor SEO: Chances are you are not an SEO expert. SEO stands for search engine optimization and is an industry in and of itself. What’s more, even if you were skilled in SEO most website builders offer little to no SEO tools for getting your website ranked.
Professional Website Designer
As with any industry, website designers are professionals in their field. They have spent many hours training and studying and they know all of the ins and outs of website design. Also with any industry, the skill that comes from those many hours of training and expertise comes with a price tag. So the only question is, is it worth the money?
Quality: This one is kind of a no brainer. While the quality of work will vary from designer to designer, any designer can build a higher quality website than a novice.
Effectiveness: This pro is closely related to the first one but it’s worth mentioning on its own. As we discussed in the previous section, a nice looking website and an effective one are two very different things. I will say, however; that not all professional designers are equal. This is where you have to do your research and find the right designer for your website.
Minimal Effort: Hiring a professional to build your website means you will have more time to focus on your business.
Maintenance and Support: A website requires quite a bit of time-consuming maintenance. Technology is advancing at an incredible speed, which means your website must keep up if you want to stay competitive. At Sitecribs, we are a one-stop-shop, providing website design with blazing fast hosting and maintenance services to keep your site protected and up-to-date. (Shameless plug)
It’s Your Website: With most website designers, you are free to host your website with whichever hosting company you choose. This means your website truly belongs to you. But be sure to do your research and ask this question upfront. Some firms may impose extra costs for this or, like the builders, may simply not allow it. I would strongly advise against using such design firms.
SEO Optimised: Again, this depends on the quality of the designer you hire. A professional designer should have advanced knowledge of SEO principles to make sure your website ranks as high as possible.
Cost: There is no beating around the bush about it. The cost of a professionally designed website is much more expensive than drag-and-drop builders. Prices vary wildly from designer to designer so I suggest shopping around until you find the one that is right for you and one that is within your budget.
The Right Design: You may not like the design. Like any artist, every designer will have their own personal style and it may not be right for you. Again, research is key. If you aren’t impressed with a designer’s portfolio, chances are you will not be pleased with their work. On a side note, if a designer doesn’t have a portfolio, then move on to the next one.
Longer Lead Time: A professionally designed website simply takes more time to build that when using a drag-and-drop builder. Typical lead times can vary based on the complexity of the site but you can expect a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks.
So, should you use a website builder or hire a professional designer? A professionally designed website is better in every way but one. Cost. If your budget allows for it, go with a professionally built website from a reputable firm. If you simply can’t afford a professional website a website builder can provide an immediate web presence without breaking the bank. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. Hopefully, I provided a little guidance to make the process a little easier.