In these days of one click WordPress or Joomla! installs, free content management systems, Google’s “free” do it yourself business sites, hosts with templates and tools that promise you never need to know or touch a line of code, what is a Web Design professional to do? Well first off, don’t panic. Templates have existed for a very long time, but that hasn’t changed the value of what we do and the services we provide. We may have fewer customers than we used to, but the pros and cons of do it yourself versus hiring someone to solve your problems haven’t changed and many people still find value in trusting a professional.
I got into this business because I enjoy combining creative efforts with problem solving. I also believe in the importance of having the right content on the Web. I love all of the templates and options that are available now. It means that there is really no excuse for not having a website for your business. But none of these tools have changed the fact that there are problems to solve when it comes to getting the right content online. In that regard, my job hasn’t changed much at all.
I’ve seen the decision to hire out or “save money” compared to hiring a mechanic versus buying a book on auto repair. You still need to pay for tools, and unless you do this type of work on a regular basis, you still have to face the long and painstaking process of figuring out if widget B fits widget C. There is a world of difference between a kit car and a sleek sports car and you can bet that a mechanic will spend a fraction of the time fixing a car that an amateur would spend. The differences between the guarantees and professional care of someone whose reputation is at stake versus the “get to it when I can” mentality of a volunteer/dabbler show themselves in time and frustration.
Many people don’t realize what they are getting into when they decide to sign up for a host that provides templates, or even those who buy a “cheap” pre-made template and then have to figure out how to customize it. Host sites don’t give you ownership of your template. If you don’t like their service, you can’t easily uproot your content and move it to another provider. In most decisions of this type, it boils down to the value of your time versus the value of your money. Going cheap doesn’t always save money, especially if, once you’ve spent all your valuable time, you don’t have the right content online. So what are some of the pros and cons of do it yourself versus hiring a professional?
Do It Yourself:
- Low upfront cost
- You control the entire process and content
- You might enjoy making graphics and building web pages
- There are a lot of pre-built templates available these days
- There are several web hosts that include free templates in their monthly fees
- It takes a lot of time to figure out how things work
- Free or inexpensive templates are also very generic with limited customization options
- You don’t always own the templates and can’t get copies of the page structure
- Free or inexpensive template providers require a monthly fee, often more than the monthly fee of traditional web hosts
- You are on your own, have to solve your own problems, spend time researching and make your own content
- Software used by professionals to make graphics or website code can be pricey and requires training to use well
- Saves time and frustration
- Web Designers can customize and tweak, giving you exactly what you want
- A designer can walk you through issues, or just handle them for you
- A good designer can manage everything about your site from content to search engine optimization
- Designers have the necessary software to make professional-looking content
- You benefit from the designers knowledge of trends, audience targeting, available resources and hosting options
- A good designer can make your site content work long term without the need for frequent updates and suggest ways to integrate dynamic content such as blogs or social media tools that you can easily manage
- Finding someone trustworthy
- Up front costs may seem high
- Ongoing maintenance may require continuing to use a professional service/designer
- Some companies may try to up-sell their services to keep you as an ongoing client
- Some designers are hard to get a hold of or may not have the kind of experience you need
- There are many technologies involved with websites, not all designers can work with all of them
- Web development and Web design can involve different skills and abilities
- You get what you pay for, so you need to pick between the range of cheap freelancer versus full service firm
There are different types of Web professionals out there just as there are many different web technologies. There are quite a few differences between a Web Designer and a Web Developer. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, just as any specialists do. Designers will be more focused on the visual impact of your site, on the content you put on the site, and on your target audience. Developers will be more focused on the technical aspects of how the site functions, how fast it loads, or how to integrate custom tools like shopping carts, but they usually won’t provide any of your content. Some designers, such as me, have experience with development, but it isn’t their specialty. A few developers will also provide you with content such as graphics or text, but many won’t. You will want to ask questions about the types of services, expertise and content your professional of choice can provide.
What are your hidden costs? You should ask yourself…
- What is my time really worth?
- Do I have the time to spend and what else suffers while I spend it?
- Do I know what I’m doing?
- Can I recognize & fix problems?
- Can I afford trial & error?
- What are my risks?
In the end, this decision will determine how much time it takes for your website to be ready. There is a lot to be said for saving time and frustration by working with a professional versus saving money. You might be surprised just how much “cheap” options end up costing you in the end.