WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS? DIY WEB DESIGN, BESPOKE OR HYBRID?
As a start up business owner or if you are looking to redesign/revamp your existing website, there are a few options to choose from – DIY web design, bespoke or hybrid:
- DIY web design
A very limited option with little room for expansion, with a very generic and lifeless feel to it.
- Bespoke web design
The most expensive option by far. Coded 100% from the ground up using raw code and various design languages. If you want your website to be all singing all dancing, with seriously complex functionality and programmed by an experienced web developer and then assembled by a professional web designer. This is largely unnecessary in today’s world of CMS platforms and advanced frameworks such as WordPress and Joomla, and carries an astronomical price compared to the below option.
- Hybrid web design
This option is by far the most common and value for money option. Over the last decade, CMS platforms such as WordPress and Joomla have taken up the market share of all website designs currently online. With almost the exact same opportunity to expand and update as the bespoke option, many add-ons and plugins can achieve what you would usually pay hundreds (if not thousands) of Rands for. Templates can be selected if required, but this isn’t required, or even beneficial most of the time.We believe the Hybrid web design is the best option for 95% of all start up business. Why do we suggest this option…read on!
We are part of the DIY generation. If we can google it, we can do it, so why spend money on ‘unnecessary’ services when we have a vast abyss of knowledge right at our feet? However, even though this may be true in some cases, when it comes to building a professional and effective website, it needs to be left up to the professionals.
As a start up business, it is very tempting to scrimp and save as much as possible. Sometimes this is done in completely the wrong areas and this is simply down to inexperience and shooting from the hip, without proper research and planning. We see the same thing all the time – new businesses breezing over the importance of having a professional web designer construct their online presence. They feel that a DIY site builder is the best option for them in the beginning, but this decision soon comes with deep regret.
A quick solution implemented at this stage immediately limits your future in more ways than realise. The following points are going to dispel some myths that are often associated with DIY web design and online website builders and investigates the limitations to DIY websites.
1. IT SAYS IT IS FREE, SO IT IS FREE
Unfortunately nothing in this world is free. Except for hugs, hugs are free. The reason that most people go with a do it yourself website builder is because they are under the impression that generating it is free of charge. Although the cost might not surface in terms of an online fee (at least not straight away), it does surface in the form of time and bad quality.
We’ve all seen the adverts and the posts “Create your website here – it’s FREE!”. I’m referring to automated DIY web design services where you pick a generic template and add you own text. Then choose from a limited number of boring, uninspiring images that just leave your website flat and boring. “We’ll have you up and running in minutes” – a bold claim and absolutely false. The “website builder” is often offered to you as you purchase a new domain name, these are confusing and a poor choice in all respects. Costs seem low to begin with, but this all changes in time and we’ll discuss this a little later.
Everyone likes freebies, but when we receive things for free, we do not necessarily want the world to know that they were free. Hence why it is rather difficult to ignore the big banner that is spread across the bottom of your website advertising the company you used. Free online website builders make money through advertising, therefore when you create a website with them, they use your site as a platform to advertise not only themselves, but the rest of the commercial world as well. This is where quality control comes into play. If your customers somehow manage to identify your product after playing a game of Where’s Wally on your website, they will not just brush over the large banner that reads: ‘CREATE YOUR OWN WEBSITE FOR FREE!’ at the bottom of your page. First impressions are vital and if your customers feel that you have not invested money, effort or time into your website, why should they?
Speaking of time, before you undertake the task of setting up a website yourself you should determine the cost of your time. If the time you will be spending on your website could be spent managing and growing your business instead, DIY web design will cost your company. If you, for example, sell products online or implement a customer management system, designing and maintaining a website will be time-consuming. For online products, you need to ensure that each product has an original title and description. This means that you will have to create a new page entry for each individual product. Furthermore, if you want to optimise your website for search engines (which is pivotal in attracting customers), you will need a constant influx of fresh content. In other words, creating a website is not a once off thing. Websites need updates and maintenance, which take time.
2. I’M FAIRLY TECH-SAVVY – I CAN DO IT MYSELF
Many people assume that these DIY site builders are easy – they heard a friend of a friend has done it, so hard can it be? Confusing, if you aren’t computer savvy and used to online computer interfaces. Many people try to save time and money with these online options, but soon realise that there is much more to it than just typing some text and selecting a few pictures. Often they abandon the race and come to their senses, other end up spending a horrendous amount of time before they eventually quit. Then there are some who refuse to let it beat them and post the site live for all to see. They then wonder why their business is crumbling before their eyes.
Not only are these online builders more confusing than they lead us to believe, the lack of functionality in terms of what you’re looking for on your website and what you want leads to frustration and sometimes horrible results.
98% of all DIY (Do-It-Yourselfers) fail to even complete their website design
3. I DON’T NEED A LOT OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
Adding extra features to your bog-standard website is again a tough pill to swallow. Whereas CMS platforms such as WordPress and Joomla have many thousands of plug-ins offering all kinds of updates and expansions little or no cost. With the “quick & easy” DIY site builder, you are now at the mercy of a specialist developer within the company, who will now charge you astronomical prices to create these modifications (if they’re even possible).
Many online site builders will only allow for a limited number of functions (such as 5 fields in a form) or even limit the number of pages you can have, before charging you a premium. What a lot of people don’t realise is that for a good website to function, you will eventually need more than this limit and will end up paying a lot more for this in the long run.
4. IT IS LOW MAINTENANCE
As mentioned before, once your website is live, it will require continuous maintenance and updating to ensure that potential customers keep coming back. Although it is relatively easy to create a website with an online website builder, it is not very useful if your site does not feature on Google’s hot pages or if it starts giving problems. These are all things to consider when designing a website. Maintenance is necessary for more than just search engine optimisation. It is also required for running a smooth and operative website.
5. SO WHAT IF IT’S NOT MOBILE FRIENDLY
The majority of DIY site builders do not display well at all on mobile devices such as tablets and phones. They are also not updated regularly, so as soon as a browser is updated, your site may now be unreadable..and unfixable!
6. I SHOULDN’T NEED SUPPORT – IT’S SO EASY.
What most people don’t realise with DIY web design, is that it takes many hours and lots of experience to render a website on multiple devices and browsers. When a new business owner signs up for a DIY website builder, they only expect the fun creative (although very limited) part and not the hours of trouble shooting to edit the code for each display. Most online solutions don’t offer any support for these common issues and even if they do, it comes at a cost.
7. PEOPLE WILL STUMBLE ACROSS MY SITE
The reason why people will not stumble upon your site if you make use of an online website builder is because of something called Flash. Most online website builders are created on this platform and it is not search engine friendly. Online website builders like WIX, for instance, limit you to just one page per website. Flash is what causes the illusion of multiple pages even though there is only a singular. One page, means that there is a decrease in content and a decrease in content results in having fewer keywords. Less keywords means that your website has less of a chance of popping up in search results (which is essentially what generates traffic for your website). Flash is also a technology that isn’t compatible with the majority of mobile devices and is any empty page as far as search engines are concerned. Again, once a search engine changes its algorithm, the website may also drop dramatically in rankings.
If SEO if a vital ingredient to your website’s success then a DIY site builder isn’t they way forward.
Online website builders produce basic sites that are more suitable for personal use rather than business. This is especially true if you plan on selling products online. You may be able to produce an attractive, functional site with some of the tools at hand, but you have to have at least some experience in coding and programming to add advanced features such as customer management solutions, a shopping cart application or membership management.
8. MY SITE IS ORIGINAL (HAH!)
Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to have an original website if you use an online website builder as a platform. The supply does not meet the demand in terms of templates versus active sites. Take WIX for example, they have 351 different templates listed and 14,184,264 websites up and running. It thus, goes without saying that your website will have thousands of competitors with the same design.
All DIY websites come from a very limited range of templates. Most of which are unsightly and plain, but these make up the bulk of the “Thousands of templates to choose from” Leaving just a handful of designs that you would even dare to use as your online representation. Unfortunately, you are not the only one looking through these templates, so the best of the bunch will have been chosen by thousands of other customers. Leaving your website the same as everybody else’s and just as uninspiring. You are massively limit as to what you can change – while many vendors offer expansion packs for money, they are still very basic compared to what is available with a CMS system. If your website is an important part of your business, I would look elsewhere just on this basis.
9. I DON’T NEED A LOT OF CONTENT
Being able to update and add to your website is an integral part to owning a website these days. Many website builders are without options for blogs and limit the amount of pages you can add to your website. This will hinder and attempts to promote and expand your site further down the road. This may not seem like a big deal now, but just about any web design company cant do anything with your website if it has been created but one of these online web builders. We will need to start from scratch every time.
A professional web designer creating a custom solution or using a hybrid solution such a WordPress or Joomla, will be able to transfer and backup files, transfer all files and databases to new hosting as well as pick up exactly where another designer may have left off. Online web builders lock in all your content and you cannot transfer your website to another hosting company.
Not only is the code unprocessable to any external developers or web designers, the site can’t be transferred away from the company. So if you wanted to change hosting providers or change your domain name, you have no option but to start again from scratch. You are also not protected from an attack from a hacker, so once your site has been destroyed, you wont have the expertise on hand to rectify the situation.
10. I DON’T REALLY NEED MY OWN DOMAIN
Not having your own personal and unique domain name screams that you are not a serious business. This will instantly deter any prospective clients who are looking at your website. It could be enough for them to loose faith and simply move on to the next company in the search results. Yet another opportunity (if you’re lucky) for the software company to charge you more money for this privilege…it’s all starting to add up isn’t it? Domain names are cheap – under R10 per month, yet online DIY site builders charge a premium for linking your own domain to your website.
11. WHY WOULD I NEED ADVERTISING OR REMOVE IT IF IT’S THERE ALREADY
Most DIY websites won’t let you use external advertising on your site – a viable option if you decide to promote with this feature. They will however place their own annoying adverts all over your website, in order to recoup some income from their free or low cost website option. Again this feature can sometimes be removed, but guess what…at a price. This advertising may be totally unrelated to your business and I assure you, it wont be long before you decide these ads are completely ruining your already boring and bog-standard low cost website. It screams “cheap” which may not be the image you want to portray to your customers.
12. WEB DESIGNERS OVERCHARGE
This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding DIY web design and development. People have the tendency to look no further once they have spotted the letters ‘F-R-E-E’. Thus, the comparison between standard web designing fees to ‘the lack of cost’ with WIX gives birth to the concept that web designers overcharge. The previous four points speak for themselves. In short, creating and maintaining a properly functioning site, is not as easy as it may seem. It has many different layers that need to be attended to in order to generate and continue generating traffic. Online website builders lack severely in these departments and thus, although advertised as free, they end up costing you more than what any decent web designer would charge you. As much as we love DIY, some things should just be left to the professionals. In this case, don’t do it yourself.
THE COST OF SAVING MONEY
A recurring theme has been rearing it’s ugly head right the way through this article…extra charges. What first seemed like a quick, painless and low cost option, is now becoming expensive and unrewarding at best. With the simple addition of a blog, a few extra pages and a personal domain name, the “free” website has now cost you 1000’s for the year, including hosting. Now lets look at the cost of this site, should you decide to keep it (your business will be well and truly buried by now) for 5, maybe 10 years. You are now paying more than you would for a professionally designed hybrid website, with 10% of the adaptability and 1% of the class.
If you are serious about creating a website for your business and want it to be taken seriously, hire a professional and be proud of your online presence. Your time should be spent on much more important things, such as building stock, accounts, promotion…and your family or loved ones.