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Design your own website or hire a professional?

18th January 2021

So, you are looking to create a website? If this is your first rodeo, then the process can seem a daunting affair and you may feel out of your depth. You will certainly be confused with the array of options, and may even be considering putting it together yourself.

The first thing to remember is you are 100% right in identifying the need to have an online presence. It’s vital to tell the story of your business, product or service and the great thing about the web is that it acts as your digital ‘shop window’ and will always be open, day or night, rain or shine.

Now comes the fun bit: how you make it happen. Are you tech-savvy and fancy having a go at putting it together yourself? Or are you more of a ‘I know what I like, but have no idea how to get there’ kind of person? Or perhaps you’d rather an expert advise you all the way. It’s an important question to ask because there are a ton of options and routes you can go down to create a website, but the end result will be dictated by your early choices.

Create your own website? It can’t be that hard, can it?

Back in the late 90s, when PC World brought the Apple iMac to the high street, lots of people thought they could now be their own graphic designer. Web design followed suit with internet service providers selling domain names with bolt on services where you could create a website using online software and templates. These services have become more sophisticated and have branched off to stand alone companies offering everything to get you set up and online. Some even help you promote your site or products direct from their platform. Sounds great and the TV ads make it look a breeze.

There are of course costs involved and, generally speaking, ongoing monthly subscriptions or high yearly fees are the norm. If you are on a budget, this can be a good way to get you up and running, but the costs keep coming and inevitably increase year on year.

A steep learning curve

As good as these services are, they don’t actually do all the job for you. The onus falls on you entirely to write the text, find the imagery and think about the structure.

The next hurdle is mastering a variety of skills like copywriting, design and maybe a bit of html to get your site looking good and communicating effectively. You will also need access to either bespoke photography or a bank of stock imagery to populate the site. If you are running a business or have alternative employment, this will have to be run in tandem with the day job. Get ready for late nights, weekends and lots of coffee for support!

That said, if you are technically-minded and fancy learning a new skill, what better way is there to do this than by building your own website from scratch?

Inevitably though, you will at some point come up against an issue and need some help. Depending on the platform and package you have chosen, liaising with tech support will involve submitting tickets or trawling through help sections to find an answer. If you are lucky you may be able to call and get some live help but be prepared for lots of hold music and dialling premium rate numbers.

The results

If you have a simple product or service, then building your own website may be a good way to get online. If you are just starting up and want to test the water and see how you go, the DIY method will certainly keep your up-front costs down.

If you are confident in your product or you are moving from your first ‘homemade’ website to the next level, then the decision as to whether to do it yourself or seek expert help becomes more important.

Ultimately, homemade sites will always feel homemade. Putting a site together requires a variety of skill sets, all working in harmony. It is rare to find all of these skills in one person, even in an agency setting they would be split between departments.

Competition is fierce on the internet and attention spans are short. You haven’t got long to get your point across and stimulate a response. Maximising the enquiry level of every visit that comes to your site is vital.

There may be seasonal variations in your business; you may need to react to what is going on locally or globally and adjust your content accordingly. It’s important to accept that when the site goes live, this is the start of the journey. Your shiny new site needs to be nurtured, not neglected.

Ok, I’ll get it done professionally but it’s expensive, right?

Yes, it could be, but launching a badly thought out and executed site could be equally as expensive and more damaging to your business. Pricing will be based on how much help you need and what you already have in place. Ultimately, working with an agency will give you back something money can’t buy – your time.

The advantage of using professionals to create your website is they have a track record of doing just that. They may also have experience in your specific sector and have learnt a few lessons along the way. Either way, they will be well versed in delivering all the elements you need to create the right impression online.

You will have access to a variety of skill sets including specialist developers, designers, photographers, copywriters and most importantly a project manager to keep it all on track and on budget.

A web agency will also be looking forward for you and trying to lay the foundations for future growth and opportunity. Leading a project can be a lonely place and having a team around you that challenges and understands your business will help to deliver a better product.

With template or online site builders the options for specialist functionality can be limited. An agency with experienced developers will be able to build custom features for you to help set you apart from the competition.

When you are ready to take the plunge into other marketing areas, a digital agency will be ideally positioned to guide you and keep your messaging and tone of voice consistent across all platforms.

Lastly, and not to be underestimated, is the ability to speak to someone when you need to. If you outsource the project to an offshore company, you may have to contend with different time zones which can delay your project.

The decision

The final decision is up to you. Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that you will be living with your website for several years before it needs to be updated, so you need to be happy with the result.

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ARTICLE BY:

Graham Walker - Digital Director

Graham has more than 20 years’ experience working in print, design and web production. He has produced results consistently for clients in charity, construction, manufacturing, retail, IT and security sectors.

Married with two children, Graham’s often got his hands full. He’ll either be found by the water’s edge with a fishing rod or down the pub watching rugby with a pint.

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