DIY vs professional website

As a business start up, should I get a DIY vs professional website?

Despite everything that’s been thrown at us the last year, many more people are taking the tentative first steps in setting up a new business. Figures from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) show a 13% increase in new business incorporated in 2020 compared to 2019. And remember this only accounts for businesses officially registered, not the kitchen table start-ups and the many more people that have become self-employed.

Whether the increase in start-ups can be attributed to the negative consequences of COVID through redundancies and business closures, or the opportunities it has presented with people finally realising their dreams of starting their own business, each business will face the same obstacles of starting up and getting clients.

One of the first considerations for many new business owners is whether they need a website or some form of online presence (to which I would say a resounding definitely) and how they go about getting online.

To help you with those decisions I’ve put together a quick overview of getting online and whether to create a DIY website or get one built by a web developer.

A note of impartiality here. I’m not a web developer and neither do I earn any affiliate commission for web builder companies.  I work with clients to get them online and / or improve their current visibility. So, I deal with both web developers and clients who have built their own websites.

Before you decide which route to go, you may be asking:

Do I need a website?

If you need to get your message out there quickly and have little time or budget, then start with social media and directory listings. Make sure you tick off these:

If you are serious about your business then a website is not a nice to have, it’s essential.  The next question you may ask is what type of website you should get. Should you build it yourself or get it built by a web developer?

DIY vs professional website

There is so much choice when it comes to creating a website, but the starting point is to determine whether you want to build it yourself or outsource the build. There isn’t a straight answer as to which option is better. It depends on your approach to tech, your budget and your time among many factors. To help determine what would work for your business, I’ve listed the main pros and cons of a DIY vs a professionally built website.

Pro: DIY website

Cost

A website designed and built by yourself will be relatively cheap, or even free (if you don’t count the cost of your time). Your main outlay will be the monthly or annual fee, and extras such as a custom domain name and SSL certificate.

Speed to launch

It can be very quick to create your own website but this does depend on which platform you opt for and how long it takes you to master it.

Con: DIY website

Your time

Is creating and maintaining a website is the best use of your time? If this is something outside of your existing skillset or something you have to do outside of your core hours, then the answer is probably no. If the revenue you can bring in, by focusing on other aspects of your business, exceeds the amount you would spend with a web developer, then use your time and money wisely by outsourcing the build.

Experience

Often the value a web designer or agency brings isn’t just their time; it’s their experience and expertise. Creating a site that offers a good user-experience, looks professional and successfully converts users, is no easy task.

Limits

You’re going to be limited by themes. Limited in functionality. Limited by how well you can optimise it and how easy it is to add more content. Expect frustration along the way as you run into these limitations.  Some of the themes do look good, but this also makes them very popular rather than being unique to your brand. Your website can end up looking very similar to others.

Hidden costs

Many website builders have done a good job at becoming more user friendly and bundling things like domain registration and email.  But if you want extra features, like email forms, mailing list integration, or e-commerce, you may have to pay extra fees or upgrade your account.

Moving on

Some DIY platforms make it very hard to transfer your content out to another provider should you wish to make a switch down the road.  And the moment you stop paying that monthly support, your website, and your potential customers, will go into a black hole.

Pro: Professional website

Expertise and quality

If you work with a professional web developer you will get experience and industry knowledge. You’ll be working with people who know best practices and can advise you. They should consider user experience (UX), legislation, optimisation, design and understand how to deliver a website solution that is right for your customers.

Design

Looking to make an impact? A professional developed website can be tailored to fit your brand – style, colours, visuals all bespoke to your business. But this isn’t a given for every web developer. Some are much stronger on the technical development, so you may wish to involve a graphic designer to get the bespoke look you are after.

Ongoing support

Something breaks on the site? Call your developer and let them handle it, while you get on with your business. Can’t decide which hosting company to use or how to register your domain? Your developer can take care of those details. And they should regularly review the site, along with analytics to look at site performance and traffic to keep your website optimised and working well. (Of course you can always choose to work with someone like me who specifically focuses on getting the most out of your website, particularly if this is an area your web developer is weak in).

Con: Professional website

Cost

There’s no getting around it, a professionally built site will cost you more – especially at the outset. But remember to factor in the cost of your own time to build and maintain the site, against the cost to outsource.  Hiring a developer can be expensive but shop around. There are plenty of solutions that fall under the £1000 price tag. You need to spend time researching and asking questions.  In particular: what platform will they use, can you update and add content yourself (a content management system CMS), will they lockdown features so you have to pay them every time to update, will you own the site and copyright if you choose to move to a new agency?

Time to market

Depending on the amount of custom work and the complexity of the site, it may take longer to complete your web project.  Some developers provide package or template websites which have a much faster turnaround due to their simplistic nature. In fact, some developers work with the self-build web packages as they provide all the features they need. The difference is they will be able to build it far more quickly and get the UX and functionality right without tearing their hair out.

Still not sure what is right for you?

Here’s my takeaway:

If you are short on money, have time to spare, love a challenge, aren’t afraid of tech (and fancy yourself as a bit of a creative) and want to have total control – a DIY website is the right solution for you. Here’s a list of website builders to get you started Website builders

But if you have a marketing budget set aside (even a small one), have a phobia of anything tech related, want to use your expertise on building your business and delivering your services / making your products, and want something that will wow, do consider outsourcing some or all of the build.

And remember there are people like me to help you along the way – get your strategy right, select the best build solution and get your website working wonders long-term to bring you lots of lovely customers.

Good luck if you are starting out in business and I look forward to seeing your DIY vs professional website creations – please share them with me.