Lists are a dime a dozen on the Internet, but they often lack the depth we need to make a good decision. In order to know what our best options are, we have to know the details. There are three specific avenues you can go through to receive a website design. All three of them have their own unique pros and cons.
None of them are necessarily superior to the other, but only one of the three options will be best suited for you or your business. How is this possible? It’s a great question! One of many we will answer in this blog.
- How important is my website to the success of my business?
- What do I want my website to do?
- Am I capable of designing a graphically appealing website that is easy to browse from any device or will I need to hire a professional?
- Am I capable of executing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or do I need an expert to do it for me?
- Am I willing and able to maintain a website once it’s up and running?
- What is my budget?
When to Use Do-It-Yourself Website Builders
Often, these DIY services come with catered packages that handle domain name registrations and other configurations, so you don’t have to worry about them. Plus, it’s cheap. Most services start with basic packages that run about $10 a month.
However, you need to keep in mind how you intend to use your website prior to choosing a package. For example, Wix may have a phenomenal design program, but WordPress has one of the leading content management systems available today.
However, if you know your way around HTML and SEO optimization, are looking to create a blog, or you aren’t concerned with showing up on the front page of Google, it’s a cheap and swift way to get a website published. You can choose from templates or start from scratch, depending on your comfort level. Just keep in mind that not all templates are mobile-friendly or mobile responsive.
“Content and HTML matter in today’s cyberspace if you want to rank high on popular search engines.”
The Best Do-It-Yourself Web Design Builders
For those DIY project doers, we’ve put together a list of the top website builders, along with an explanation as to why they rank as well as they do:
WordPress is best known as a blogging platform for hobbyists and professional writers alike. Yet these days it is used for much, much more, including company and e-commerce websites. It features multiple build tools and plugin options that make the sky the limit.
However, there is a learning curve if you aren’t familiar with website building and customization. Unlike Weebly, the editing process on WordPress doesn’t show as a preview of the final product as you’re editing. You have a lot of freedom behind your website’s look and feel, but you want to have at least a good understanding of HTML. Individuals who aren’t familiar with how to navigate WordPress’ backend, but like what it offers, often hire a WordPress expert to do the legwork.
If you don’t have the funds to hire a pro, or you would rather immerse yourself into WordPress and learn how to use it, there is good news. WordPress’ popularity does lend to a large community of users and resources. You can find videos and Google articles on just about any question or concern you may have while learning how to navigate its programs. Just expect to invest a lot of time into this process. It’s more arduous than other options out there, but the results are most certainly worthwhile.
Weebly is perfect for beginners to whip up a website quickly and with ease. The backend is extremely intuitive. The build is a visual, drag-and-drop process from a pallet of basic tools and elements. What you see is what you get, and the templates available aren’t bad at all. You can choose from various visually stimulating options that you can customize to align with your own brand.
Users have access to full e-commerce options and statistics, as well as the ability to make their websites mobile-friendly. You can download your site’s code as standard HTML or CSS, but be careful about making mistakes. There is no “undo” feature on Weebly. The cost is affordable, too, with the basic Starter package priced at $8/month.
The downside is that advanced users may find this plug-and-play design program quite limiting. You can’t place site elements or apps “just anywhere.” Nor does the backend always tell you where you can place these items and where you cannot. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re looking to be very precise in how you want your website to look.
Weebly’s greatest drawback is in its lack of online storage and photo editing. Every photo you use must be re-uploaded each time you want to place it. Also, you can only zoom, blur, darken, or apply four different filters via the program’s image editing tool. You can crop, rotate, and apply a few color effects and borders, but don’t expect to rehaul any photos with these tools.
Moving is easy, too. If you choose to switch your Weebly site to a standard Web hosting service, you can. However, keep in mind that certain apps or widgets may not carry over, such as e-commerce stores and comments.
Wix, like Weebly, is extremely easy and intuitive to use. There are plenty of widgets and elements to choose from, and a comprehensive library of templates to choose from. You don’t have to be a web design Jedi to master its features, either. It’s preview design format allows you to see your website come to life as you build it, so you know exactly what it will look like when you hit publish.
Wix is beginner friendly, with no need for a background in HTML or CSS to get started. Plus, it’s just downright pretty. For e-commerce sites, you’ll have access to plenty of rich features that will help you create a smooth shopping experience with aesthetic appeal.
These services do come at a higher price, but still quite affordable. You can purchase their VIP Package, which features 20GB of storage, professional site review, a shopping card, unlimited bandwidth, and priority customer service support for only $24.92/month.
You also have space to store and reuse photos, videos, and other media. Did we mention you could incorporate videos within your background as well? When it comes to the DIY route, Wix is highly aesthetically enticing.
So what’s the downside? Every web builder has at least one thing that isn’t their strong suit. For Wix, it’s the fact that not every template is precisely mobile responsive. This means it won’t expand or slim down to fit perfectly on any screen size. However, it will create a mobile version of your website for you. Simply click the “Make your site mobile friendly” option.
Keep in mind that Wix doesn’t enable you to export your site code either. Overall though, this DIY interface is one of the best and worth the modest price.
The Pros and Cons of Freelance Web Designers
“Freelance Web Designers are a good option if you’re looking to have someone whip up a website design that you intend to manage.”
Keep in mind though that not all freelance web designers are the same. Be diligent in your evaluation of potential freelance candidates prior to hiring them for the job. Ask around and you’ll find horror stories about freelancers who didn’t follow through on a project, were impossible to get a hold of when you need them, or didn’t meet deadlines.
This isn’t to say that all freelance web designers are bad, or even most. There are multiple talented, reliable, and affordable professionals available. The key is to choose wisely. Don’t hire a freelancer based solely on the content of their website. Do your due diligence by asking the right questions.
What to Look for When Hiring a Freelance Web Designer
A Strong Existing Portfolio: Find a web designer who can provide not just aesthetic web designs, but an actual portfolio of live websites he or she is responsible for creating. This ensures that the examples you are viewing are not just mock-ups. Actual execution of the freelancer’s work demonstrates that they are capable of bringing their designs to life, and that their previous clients were happy enough with the project to follow through with it.
Really browse those sites and test the user experience. Is it easy to navigate? Can you find all the relevant information you need easily? Does it translate well to mobile devices? All of these things matter.
Living, Breathing References: Always ask to speak to references. A good freelancer will never have a problem referring you to individuals who can speak highly of their work. Don’t just settle for written testimonies of individuals you can’t verify. If they can’t produce a single person who can vouch for their work, be wary. Either you’re one of their first clients or they don’t have a history of good working relationships.
Excellent Communication: If it takes awhile for him or her to respond to an e-mail or call you back on an inquiry, don’t expect that habit to change once you’ve hired them for the project. Good communication is essential. While hiring a freelance designer can often be cheaper than taking your project to an agency, if you can’t rely on them to be available for questions, changes, or follow through, you’re losing valuable time—and money.
Also, look for someone who can convey what they offer you in layman’s terms. If they can’t explain their services and how they benefit you or your company in a way you can understand, don’t hire them. A good web designer takes the time to understand their clients and make sure that you understand them. Good business can’t happen without a clear line of communication.
Pricing for a Freelance Web Designer
Here is the hard part about freelance web design. The price range is about as wide as the grand canyon. Plus, you can’t always assume that a higher price tag means higher quality. Every freelance web designer has a different pricing structure, and it doesn’t always correlate with the value of the service.
Sometimes you can find an excellent freelancer for a bargain price. Other times, you may find yourself paying too much for a service that under-delivers. This is why research matters. Know what you’re willing to pay for good service, and then compile a list of freelancers whose portfolio caught your eye. Put each one through an initial screening by testing them for the qualities we described.
If after your screening, you find that none of the freelancers available meet your budget, you may want to revert to the DIY method. If none of them meet the level of service or quality you’re seeking, then perhaps it’s time to consider a web development agency.
When a Web Development Agency is Necessary
These companies employ a team of graphic designers, web developers, and copywriters to construct a website based on your desired functions and aesthetics. They’re often the pro’s in the business because it’s what they specialize in. Still, no two companies are necessarily alike. You want to use the same screening process as you would when shopping for a freelancer to make sure the company can deliver exactly what you need. Search their BBB rating and online reviews as well. Google can tell you a lot about a business.
Keep in mind the price of an agency will likely exceed the DIY and freelance choices. However, you’re also getting a lot more bang for your buck.
“Agencies can offer ongoing maintenance, SEO optimization, blogging services, social media management, and more. Your website is a tool, after all.”
When a Web Design Agency is Worth the Price
Typically, businesses benefit the most out of a web design agency. Why? By hiring an outside agency to design and manage your business’ website, you decrease the cost of hiring an in-house team without sacrificing quality work and delivery.
Agencies typically work through contractual relationships, so when you make your decision, think long-term. Do you like the people you’re hiring? Are they easy to work with and easy to get a hold of? Would you trust them if they were employees at your business? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then give it a go. Agencies are the perfect companion to businesses both large and small.