How to Get Up and Running with a Website in the “Age of the Internet”
DIY or Hire Experts?
It’s 2017, does your business have a website? As I’m sure you’re aware, the answer to this question really ought to be “yes.” 88.5% percent of the United States population is online, and the days of looking a business up in the phone book are all but over. No business can hope to compete without some sort of online presence, which means you should definitely have a website. And not just a static, desktop-only website, but one that can be accessed by any device, anywhere — after all, as of last year, more users access the internet from a mobile device than a computer when surfing the web.
So where do you start? In this article we’ll talk about the pros and cons of building your own site vs. hiring experts. As you’ll see, both are viable options, and they depend entirely on what your goals are as a business.
Building Your Own Website
For the non-coder, you’re in luck! There are several off-the-shelf website builders out there that let you create a functional, good looking website for free or a modest monthly fee. Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly and WordPress.com all provide you with a hosted website and the tools you need to get a basic website up and running. If you are planning on setting up an ecommerce shop, Shopify and Bigcommerce are your best bets, and let you start selling products online with just a bit of time and effort. These services all provide a number of free templates that you can use, just replace the copy, logos and images with your own.
Doing it yourself can save a lot of money, if you’re willing to invest your own time and energy toward creating a website. There are a lot of tutorials online that can help you get started, and having image editing software like Photoshop or GIMP will go a long ways toward helping you generate high quality, web-safe images. All you need is some creativity, time, and effort.
On the other hand, there are some downsides to using a site building platform like the ones mentioned. They can be difficult to truly customize, and as they are typically on shared hosting, can often run slowly. Optimizing for search engines (SEO) and linking to social media is entirely on you, which can be difficult and time consuming. They also tend to fall short when you need to provide functions beyond displaying text, images and video. Developing forms, calls-to-action, or other web applications can be difficult or even impossible depending on which builder you choose.
A major factor to consider is how effectively your website is able to communicate your brand. Your website functions as an ambassador for your business, and your brand expresses everything from the language you use to the look and feel people associate with your company. If you feel comfortable in your ability to use a pre-made template in order to effectively communicate your brand, go for it! However, you may find that you require custom design work in order to really effectively display your brand.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of using a site builder:
- Save money
- Have complete control of the creative process
- Hosting and maintaining are all part of the package
- Don’t need much technical knowledge
- Best for new, small, or self-proprietor owned businesses
- Hard to customize
- Need to do SEO yourself
- Very time consuming
Hiring an Expert
Unless you are a developer yourself, it can be worth it to hire someone who knows what they are doing to build your site for you. Like building a site yourself, this has its pros and cons, and, generally, you get what you pay for. A good developer or team will be able to customize most every aspect of your site, and bring a wealth of knowledge about not only the technical details of building a site, but also knowledge of SEO, marketing, and optimization for speed and mobile use. Perhaps most importantly, it will save you and your company lots of time and effort if you aren’t geared up to build a site yourself.
Take a look at your company’s business goals, and do some research on whether your business has the time and resources to invest in learning and building a site on your own, or whether it would be worth entrusting your website to experts in order to focus on running your business.
Also, take a look at websites of your competitors. Ask yourself, “can I do that?” Or, perhaps more importantly, “can I do better?” Overall, when making the decision as to whether or not to make your own website or hire experts, ask the following questions:
- Do I have the time and resources to commit to this project?
- Do I feel confident in my design abilities, and ability to learn and utilize my chosen platform?
- Is my platform able to effectively communicate my brand?
- Will I save enough money doing it myself to justify the time I will spend doing it myself?
- Do I have the time and know-how to maintain and run my website, SEO and social media myself?
If you’re feeling uncertain or simply know deep down that you can’t dedicate yourself or your team to building a website that’s ready to work for you, get some help. There’s no shame in that! And, as we like to say around Sage HQ, your website and overall marketing should help you generate better leads, faster.