Building a website for your local business may seem overwhelming once you realize the amount of time, money, and effort it actually takes. Although it’s an exciting endeavor, getting to the point where you can finally launch your website can be tough. Hiring a professional web developer with the necessary design and coding skills allows you to build a professional website. But it costs more.
These days it’s become popular to build your own website using a website building platform like Squarespace or Shopify. These do-it-yourself (DIY) websites function just like any other website. You’ll be online fast at a low cost.
They require a combination of technical aptitude and design skills on your part and some of their capabilities are limited. Depending on your situation, a DIY website builder could be a great option for your local business. But it could also cost you in the long run.
DIY Website Builders
Most website builders available to the public are super user-friendly and are consistently updated by developers to include better features and increase the capabilities. The recent shift to DIY platform-based websites has grown with the popularity of blogs, e-commerce, and the ability to use social media to advertise.
Some popular DIY website builders include Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Shopify, BigCommerce and the number of options to choose from will continue to grow. It may seem confusing to some and you might not know which platform to choose. Are you trying to sell products online? Looking to generate more leads? Do you want people to read your blogs?
The majority of these website builders are very similar and overlap in terms of features and capabilities. But some are more complicated than others to use. Sites like Wix have very comprehensive WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors that can make it easy to get started.
Other sites like Shopify rely heavily on themes. You can edit or create your own themes, but it’s not as simple as using WYSIWYG editor. You need some basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and possibly other things to make any serious changes. So make sure to compare these aspects to see which platform works best for your business.
WordPress is considered to be the village elder of website builders. In its humble beginnings, it was solely a blog builder. Bloggers across the net were quick to adopt this platform and for good reason. WordPress is free and open-source — meaning anyone is freely licensed to use, study, and even change the software to improve it. The developer community is outstanding and this is one reason why it’s become so popular.
Although it is a website builder, WordPress also functions as a content management system (CMS). It’s software that you can download and install on a web server of your own or with any number of web hosting companies. This means that you can use WordPress almost anywhere as a tool to manage the content you put out on your website. This is another reason it has remained so popular.
WordPress can be complicated for a novice to use, so it may not be your best option at first. But it is by far one of the best content management systems out there. There are plenty of custom coding options and some solid search engine optimization (SEO) integrations. And you’ll be in good company as many professional website designers use WordPress as well.
If you’re a local business owner, money is usually something that you’ll want to manage yourself. If you’re an employee working for a local business, it’s still important to understand website pricing so you can communicate what you think is best with your team.
Hiring a Professional to Create a Custom Website
Besides domain and hosting fees (which are very minimal) the average cost of hiring a professional to build a custom website for a small business starts at around $2,000 and can exceed $10,000 depending on the scope of the project. Most marketing agencies offer an on-going management service as well.
Using a DIY Platform like Shopify
Because Shopify has grown fast recently as an answer to many merchants’ e-commerce needs, it’s a good platform to compare to. The “Basic” Shopify plan starts at $29 per month, which sounds like a deal, right?
Well, it could be depending on the amount of time you plan to use the platform. Over the span of ten years with this option, you would spend close to $3500 on the basic membership fee alone. You’ll most likely need to buy a domain and a design template as well. Shopify can also change the price in the future, and make any of their plans, including the “Basic” one more expensive.
If you decide to use the Shopify apps and extensions, you’ll need to pay monthly fees for those. Say you spend $50 per month on Shopify applications — over ten years you’d be spending an extra $6,000 on top of the membership fee. With this option, all the responsibilities of website design, maintenance, and management would fall on you, the business owner. Unless of course, you hire a professional to manage it for you.
More importantly, your Shopify website is temporary — similar to leasing a car — and you don’t own the code or the design. If you want to move to a different platform in the future, you will have to start designing all over again. If they do raise their prices, or change their platform in some other way you don’t like, you’ll be forced to make a tough decision.
Plus, you’d be dependant on Shopify to make sure your site stays running. If Shopify goes down for maintenance or even crashes, your site also goes down until Shopify resolves the problem. On the other hand, Shopify has a team of experts to monitor their platform, so they may do a better job here than other options. It’s really a matter of control and who has it.
In general, because these DIY website builders lack the ability of customization, you’ll be worse off in the long run. And it’s nothing against Shopify, we think they are one of the best platforms — almost all DIY website builders come attached with similar problems.
The Real Difference
Let’s get down to the brass tacks. The word “custom” may sound a little pretentious by now, so let’s break down the difference for you here…
The first scenario represents using a DIY website builder:
Imagine looking for a new home. It’s a big investment but you don’t want to waste your time or money because you know it’s temporary. You browse some listings and find a fully furnished apartment for a great price.
You’re happy because you’re saving money and the rent is cheap. While getting to know your neighbors, you realize that they have the exact same apartment with the exact same furniture as you. This bothers you a little but you don’t think much of it.
The second scenario represents using a professional developer or marketing agency:
Now imagine instead of renting an apartment, you decided to buy a plot of land where you planned to build a new house from the ground up with all the custom features you want. While you’re paying a much higher price in this scenario, it’s a long-term investment and the possibilities are endless. More importantly, you get to own it.
You have to take into account your timeline and budget as a business. Treat this process as a long-term project and plan out your course of action. Is this website temporary or will it be the permanent face of your business? Would you rather have a site that looks and performs like your competitor’s site?
Or would you rather create something different that separates you from the pack? There really is no right or wrong answer because it all depends on the short-term and long-term goals of your business. If you prioritize your business goals, it becomes easier to make a decision.
When it comes to the point where you have to choose between using a DIY website builder or not, there are a few key factors to consider:
What can you afford? Do the math and compare the different pricing models of the DIY platforms to a quote given by a developer or marketing agency. Just remember that the DIY platforms are subscription based, and recurring payments can really add up over time. A developer or marketing agency will charge you a one-time fee for a fully functional website delivered.
Fees for ongoing support, management, and other changes will be required for both options. You may want to hire someone specifically for those tasks. If you’re like most other small businesses, also keep in mind that your website is part of your marketing budget. And without a website, you can’t really engage in any other digital marketing efforts.
How much time are you prepared to commit to your new website? From scratch to launch date, you’ll be spending hours on this project with both options. If you hire someone to deliver you a website, you won’t have to worry much about designing and making the site functional. But, you will spend some time collaborating and communicating with your developers.
If you choose to use a website builder you’ll be spending more time learning how to use the platform and apps, designing the entire site, and making it fully functional yourself. It may take longer for a developer or agency to build you a website from scratch. But you won’t be the one spending your time doing it.
Putting time and money aside, there is an educational aspect. If you have no experience with website building, there is definitely a learning curve to the whole process. Choosing to go with a DIY website builder may seem easy at first, but it still takes time to learn how to use the back-end of the platform.
And if you decide to go at it alone, you’ll be responsible for managing your domain (another learning curve). You will gain the technical skills needed over time, but everyone learns at a different rate. It may be better, for your own sanity’s sake, to hire a professional with years of experience in this industry. And don’t forget, launching your website is just the first step. The on-going management of your site’s content requires technical skills as well.
Should You Use a Website Builder for Your Local Business Website
Whatever you decide just make sure that, in the end, your website works for you and not the other way around. Keep in mind what your strengths are as a business owner. Are you a professional website builder or a professional at what your business sells? Do you want to become a professional website builder or buy a professionally designed website?
Have an opinion on the effectiveness of DIY websites? Share an experience you’ve encountered while building your own website. Comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!