But now you’ve made the decision to invest in a website, what are the options available to you?
There are a whole host of companies that provide online software you can use to build your own website at a fixed cost. Alternatively, you can take the more traditional route of hiring an expert – a person or agency who eats, sleeps and breathes websites and will build you something tailored to your business, at a cost.
So what are the pros and cons; the cost implications and which is the best solution for your business?
Because DIY website packages predominantly use template systems, it is possible to build a basic website in a very short timeframe. This may tick an important box for you, but bear in mind that the time involved in building this sort of site will be your own. It’s worth asking yourself how much that time is worth to your business, and whether – if employed elsewhere – the net cost of employing a website agency may be less.
A reputable web development agency will want to understand your company and your objectives, research and plan the project, customize the design and functionality, and build something unique that is optimised for search – all of which takes time – but will ultimately deliver more.
If you have a very limited budget an off-the-shelf solution may be your only option. If it’s a temporary online presence you are looking for, or your requirements are very simple, that won’t be a problem. But, as with most things, you get what you pay for.
Whilst using a web development agency comes with a price tag, it’s worth thinking ahead to understand if your investment may pay off in the long run. A website that has been carefully planned out, tailored to fit your business and attract your own customers will be far more likely to deliver the right traffic and convert that traffic into leads and ultimately revenue. Investing in a bespoke site is far more likely to pay for itself in the long run.
By opting for a package from the likes of Wix.com or Godaddy.com you are signing up to build your website from a choice of templates. This can be a bonus if you don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about design. But beware! A template that looks great in an example can turn into something that looks quite unprofessional by the time you’ve populated it with your own content and imagery. You will also sacrifice any originality. Whichever template you choose, many other companies will already have used it.
A bespoke option can be designed to work with existing brand collateral, utilising and even developing your company’s visual identity and removing any requirement to update other material to match your website. In many cases a website will feed and inform your marketing activity, sitting at the heart of all your business communications, so it’s important to get it right. If you’re starting from scratch, an agency can work with you to develop a design that appeals to your audience, fits with your website's functionality and encapsulates your brand better than a template ever could.
The functionality available from a ‘build-your-own’ website will be limited. Simple information pages won’t be an issue, but if you’re looking for more advanced functionality (i.e. payment platforms; integration with 3rd party APIs; libraries or plugins), you may run into problems. Most systems do a good job of integrating popular technologies, but remember they need to cater for the majority, so any bespoke refinement can be a frustrating user-experience and could turn a visitor off for good.
If you can get the functionality you require from an off-the-shelf solution, be aware that the coding required to cater for all of the various page types the template option offers will sit behind the scenes of your website, even if you’re not using the majority of that functionality. The result is that your pages may be much slower to load, which could frustrate potential customers and send them looking elsewhere.
A bespoke website with advanced bespoke functionality may not be cheap, but the end result could be worth it’s weight in gold. A site that is quick and easy-to-use and does exactly what your potential customers need will not only deliver repeat visits (and custom), but will also score points with search engines that will help you climb the ranks.
If a simple site does fit your current requirements, it may still be worth asking yourself where you see your business in a couple of years time, and what that means for your website longer term. If your business model isn’t reliant on building an online presence and growing an online audience – the template option might well be for you.
A DIY approach won’t be able to understand your future plans or predict your future needs in the way an experienced agency will. They will consider the future when they scope the project and build you a scalable site that both fits your current requirements and allows for future ones. A DIY option may not prove as flexible, and you may still need to consider investing in a bespoke site further down the line.
Many package options include domain names and hosting, which is certainly one less thing to think about. This often involves bundling your website onto shared servers with lots of other sites, and may also mean your site is hosted on a different continent. Whilst this keeps what you pay to a minimum it can make your website slow and unresponsive, or even vulnerable.
For a cost, a bespoke website can be built with the right level of security on a dedicated server that can grow with your business. Whilst this may not be necessary for a small local bakery, for example; an online boutique that collects customers’ data would be wise to consider a more dedicated approach when it comes to hosting, security and ongoing support.
The human touch can be both a blessing and a curse, and in some instances it may suit you to have online support and forums that answer your queries in real time. You’ll never have to wait for a call back, and bank holidays aren’t an issue.
However, that sort of support is never pro-active. An off the shelf system won’t ask you questions, won’t take time to understand your business or offer up a new perspective. A web developer who takes pride in their work, with a vested interest in the end product (which they may wish to use to promote their own services) may be able to suggest alternative functionality you hadn’t considered, recommend different ways of doing things or just give you honest feedback. They’ll know your website inside out and be able to react quickly to issues and even provide support in other areas such as data management and email marketing.
There are some clear benefits to using a DIY platform; they are quick, they are cheap and you don’t need much design or technical expertise to use them. If you’re looking for a simple website in a hurry and on a budget, they’re a great option.
But if your business requires a little more finesse; if you want something in keeping with your brand that’s built for your audience; if you want something that will grow with your business and keep visitors coming back, a bespoke approach is probably the only sensible choice.
Can we help? If you would like to find out if a DIY or bespoke website solution is right for you, get in touch with the Rifle team.