Should I build my website myself, hire an agency, or find a web designer?
We’ll say it again to appease the search bots: For small business owners, website design is one of the most important investments one can make.
(AKA: who says you can’t have fun with your SEO?)
Investing in a website can be confusing and difficult.
Understatement of the year, isn’t it?
And The DIY route may save you money, but it will definitely cost you time. That’s the trade.
Make sure you’re ok with that.
If you aren’t, the only option is to invest money into the project, outsourcing it to a freelance designer, or agency.
We will revisit that topic, in depth, in a moment…
First, let’s just say the quiet part, out loud. The truth is, you should probably hire a professional designer — but, we recognize that option isn’t always possible.
If you must, then build the thing yourself. You are almost certainly capable, but it may take some time.
In fact, plan on it taking much longer than you expect.
Commit to reinvesting most of your profits into evolving the site by hiring a professional, once you’ve made some money, and gained some momentum.
You’re going to end up paying for this site in either time, or money, so you need to determine what balance of those elements works best for you.
It will likely be some blend of both.
The Real Cost of Building a Website
For many people, building a website is truly uncharted territory, and the feeling is often overwhelming. As you’ve discovered in your research so far, a novice will have a lot of information to take in.
If you’re trying to build a website yourself, especially if you have no experience in website design. It can be hard to know where to start or what direction to go in first.
The big question is: for this project, which of the two assets (time or money) can you afford to spend more of?
Do you have time during your day to devote to chipping away at the mountain of knowledge you’ll need to learn?
Can you do this every day for a month?
What about two months?
What if you have to invest 20+ hours a week into the effort until you finish, does that change anything?
Depending on how you answer, it may make more sense to outsource that work to a pro. Not only can they probably get it done faster, you get to free up that time.
If you’re moving at a casual pace and want to build something up slowly as you learn — you can do that too.
Find what works for you.
No matter who builds it, the guiding principles behind good web design are the same:
- It must provide a way to contact you.
- It must be conversion focused.
- It must be easy to navigate and not get lost.
- It must be visually appealing (on mobile too).
- It must be tailored to the needs of the audience.
- It must be easy to keep up to date.
- It must be fast.
If a small business owner has a website that meets those standards, they are in a fantastic position.
All that’s left is to understand how to make use of it.
Before we move on, let’s talk about item #7…
Speed, Speed, Speed!
We’ve discussed most of those points 7 already, but we haven’t discussed speed in the context I mean it here.
When we talk website speed we are either referring to the accessibility of information (ie. how many clicks it takes to get where we want to go), or we are talking about the time it takes to load any given page.
Accessibility of information is that part I mentioned earlier (when we talked about navigation), related to the structure of our content.
That structure needs to make sense to the user.
Meaning, is there ease of use?
So there’s fast in that context — ie. how quickly they can locate something?
And then there’s load times…
Recent research from Google paints a bleak picture for slow sites. According to a sample audience of 10,000 users, they discovered that 53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.
The real trouble with novice designers is: they don’t know how to build a website for blistering speed.
Just about everything else, they can do a passable job at.
You can build your design, set up your tracking data, make an email address, and all sorts of stuff, it’s only going to take you time and effort, but…
A novice designer will still lack the in-the-trenches experience that a professional web designer has. And load speed is something you get better at with experience. The same goes for ease of use.
Experienced professionals know what to optimize, and how to do it best. We build for speed from the beginning.
A novice might be able to make it pretty, and give it all sorts of cool features, but the site will load like a glacier.
A slow site will sabotage your efforts.
Some people, especially those who know you, will be a bit more patient with a slow site. But we don’t want them to have to be patient. When the world is moving fast, it is rude to force someone to wait.
They are doing us a favor when they visit.
The relationship is a huge factor keeping them from leaving (and never coming back to) a slow website.
We are in the digital age, the internet is a landscape of immediacy, and, we have to meet the standard.
Which do you choose?
If you can make a fast website, with attractive design… If you can write clear and relevant content… If you can ensure your content is compelling, and can produce results… Then there is no reason to pay someone to do it.
That is, unless time is more important to you than the potential cash expense.
If you know what you’re doing, you can produce a basic site in a few hours. If that’s you, then doing it yourself might just be an excellent choice. But…
If you don’t know what you’re doing, remember my words and be prepared for it to take longer than you expect.
If you’re using a website builder service like Shopify, Squarespace, or whatever other similar services pop up, you will probably get something up a little faster.
A website builder is not a perfect solution, and you’ll still have to do a lot yourself, but they certainly have the potential to be a quick solution.
Do your research and make sure you aren’t locked in.
At Wabbit, we like to do our website development on WordPress. The reasons are beyond the scope here, but you can trust their platform. It powers 33% of the web.
Regardless of the path you choose, remember the principles and concepts we’ve discussed.
Let our growth-driven design philosophy be the guiding star for you, or your design team.
No matter how you get a site built, neither you, nor your creatives are allowed to forget:
The website is part of a much larger business system.
If you forget that fact, you are sabotaging yourself.
The do-it-yourself route is, naturally, very self-directed, so we won’t talk too much more about it.
If you’re going to build your site, on your own, we’re cheering you on the whole way.
Remember the principles.
Do the work.
You have a lot to learn.
The rest of our conversation focuses on what to consider when having a expert build (or rebuild) your site…