You need a website, but should you hire a designer or use a DIY website builder?

Many new business owners have come to that fork in the road where they need to decide: to custom website, or not to custom website?

At the outset the answer seems obvious. Why drop a few thousand quid on a website that is tailor-made for your new business when you can get a fast, cheap build using one of the many online offerings? Why spend months on a project when you can have a website built in a week for little more than the cost of hosting? Sometimes you wonder why anyone bothers with fancy designers and agencies! Am I right…?!

The painful truth: cheap’n’cheerful doesn’t always equal good

In my many years spent working in various marketing capacities for SME’s, I would have gladly have jumped on that bandwagon if it could save me a bit of time and precious budget. However since going my own way, I can tell you with complete confidence that it’s a false economy.

I’ve had several clients who went down the cheap’n’cheerful route, only to come to me a year or two later looking for a custom build because they’d outgrown their website and there was nothing more it could do for them.

You see, these shiny online builders can have their limitations such as:

  • Maybe it won’t integrate with your CRM system
  • Maybe it doesn’t offer the option to add on advanced functionality such as e-Commerce
  • Maybe the ability to style the website is just so damn restrictive and you can’t get it to look how you want it to

Sometimes clients will have noticed a high bounce rate and wondered “why is no one clicking on my call-to-action buttons?”…and then told me their marketing intern had made it several years ago, by purchasing an online template and changing a few colours and pictures.

A true web designer will have an understanding of UX (user experience) and know that the colour, size and positioning of every single button is a science, not just a fine art. Yep, pretentious but true.

A good web designer will sit down with you to discuss your business goals, struggles, vision and strategy, and then create a website that will meet all of those. The research and discovery part of a website project alone can be a lengthy process, which partly explains the increased cost, but if the website doesn’t meet the needs of your business then why bother at all?

But how much is a custom website going to cost me?

While we’re here we may as well address the sometimes thorny question of cost. A custom-built website on any platform will probably cost upwards of £1500. But think of it this way: How much did your business spend on PPC campaigns that sent traffic to a crappy landing page that didn’t convert a soul? What was your budget for a fancy office coffee machine? Dear god, how much did you spend on printing paper last year??

“A custom website is an investment in the future success of your business”

A custom website should absolutely fall within your budget but it is an investment in the future success of your business. You should be thinking years ahead and not just of what you need in the here-and-now. Before embarking on any website project, ask yourself:

  1. How do I want my business to grow and develop from where it is now?
  2. How will my website need to accommodate that?

Which leads me on to my next point…

A website isn’t just for Year One

It’s for life – or a good few years, at least. When you’re starting up it’s easy to fall in to the ‘but this will do for now’ trap, when really you’ll save money in the long run by investing a bit more in a custom website that will grow with your business.

I shouldn’t need to point out that your website is the shopfront of your business. There’s literally no better marketing tool in this day and age, so the fancy laminated business cards and experimental Facebook ad campaigns can wait. A good website that’s designed with care and consideration, with interesting content that’s search engine optimised, will bring in new leads and help you convert leads.

Keep it fresh

Web designs can start to look dated and no one wants an unwittingly retro website, but a refresh every few years shouldn’t cost the earth when the foundations are solid. Think along the lines of getting your house repainted or your car deep-cleaned every few years; it’s a tiny investment compared to buying a new one.

Wrapping up

You don’t need to break the bank to get a custom website built, but do get the absolute best you can afford and make sure it works for you, not vice versa.

Are you in need of a website that’s tailor made to fit your business?