This is a recurring question I’ve been asked way back since Frost Digital started. Not too frequently, but one that seems to pop-up every few months right on schedule.
Of course there are a huge number of perfectly adequate answers to the question. I thought, however, I would take some time to outline some of the most typical, and giving a pro’s insight into the benefits, drawbacks, and potential repercussions of choosing to work with a professional, trusted web design agency over, say, a friend/neighbour/colleague/DIY web designer.
For the purposes of this article, let’s pretend for a moment that there are 3 businesses, each of whom represent a portion of a web designer’s potential client base.
- An established business with at least a few years trading, with a recognised brand and a reputation that must be considered and periodically tended.
- A new business with a big idea, enthusiastic growth projections and a plan to put their offerings in front of every potential customer by X date. All this based on a schedule that must be adhered to with little room for error.
- A lifestyle business, second income business or a one-man project that is ticking along.
With adverts for DIY website builders everywhere at the moment, and with the neighbour kid offering the world for a £200 one-off-fee, I can see how these are attractive options for the budget conscious. Especially once you’ve gathered quotes for the 5 leading local agencies, resulting in several quotes inexplicably ranging from £1,000-£15,000.
DIY websites and cheap-and-cheerful websites from international sellers do have a place in the market. Sometimes they do the job just fine, but please consider what’s best for your business in the medium to long-term.
Pros of DIY websites/Cheap Freelancers/International Website Design:
- It’s very cheap
- Very simple designs/basic off the shelf themes are relatively risk free
- With your own well written content and a healthy dose of SEO knowledge & awareness of best practices, your website may eventually find it’s way to page 1 of Google for your local keyword.
- You can always redesign your website with the help of a local professional once things are getting started and cash reserve allows
Cons of DIY websites/Cheap Freelancers/International Website Design:
- Most of the time you’re limited to predefined themes, with no skills/budget for customisation or tailoring.
- It’s very time consuming to do yourself. Whilst no coding skills are required with DIY builders, creative skills to make something attractive and user-friendly are still essential.
- If you’re outsourcing to a web designer abroad, you may find that you are hindered by a language barrier of varying degrees. Time zone differences can also wreak havoc on communication.
- You’re severely limited with regards to features/functionality.
- You’re risking your businesses visibility & reputation by taking your chances with an inexperienced web designer.
- You may come across as an amateur, even if you aren’t.
- There is a much higher chance of being unhappy with the finished project when compared to the hit-rate of a local professional agency.
- Once the website is live, you are on your own. The freelancer or business may move on to something new with no obligation to provide support/fixes to their website.
The cheaper option is not without its merit, or indeed risk. It’s highly unlikely that an esteemed local agency with an expert team of web designers will try to compete with these types of prices.
In my experience this option may be adequate for the ‘lifestyle business, second income business or a one-man project that is ticking along.’ At least to begin with.
These guys may not have the budget for a high quality web system, and in reality they may not need it.
Over the years we’ve seen part-time birthday cake makers, man-with-van, dog-walkers, and a range of businesses of similar shapes call us and ask for advice and a quote. We were able to find a way to work with some of these guys, whilst some of them opted for a DIY website. A small handful of the ‘cheap website gang’ even came back to us 18 months later with a workable budget following some success driven by their own efforts!
These websites represent a perfectly ok and commendable place to start. Once things get moving however, expect to be hindered by factors like search engine visibility, perceived quality, and lack of functionality. (Such as ecommerce, membership tools, CRM integration, job boards etc.)
I would estimate that 20% of the projects that Frost Digital work on are web design projects that involve replacing a DIY or ‘first website’. The beauty of a project like this is that the success metrics are easy to track. The results that we see in terms of search engine visibility, perceived reputation and cold-hard traffic are usually very, very positive indeed.
Likewise, every month we see at least one client who reaches out following a major issue with their existing website, caused either by their supplier’s inexperience or following abandonment or just feeling a little out of their depth on their own. We have some horror stories, as you can imagine, but those are for another time perhaps!
If a business falls into either of the other two aforementioned ‘types’ of client;
- An established business with at least a few years trading…
- A new business with a big idea, enthusiastic growth projections…
Please avoid DIY systems, or the too-good-to-be-true options. The road to recovery from a Google penalty is long and heart-breaking affair, and nobody wants to pay for something twice.
I would like to take a moment to encourage you to talk to a reputable team of web designers, with a track record delivering systems similar in nature and who understand your business and the goals it would like to achieve via a new website. You may find that it’s more affordable than you had anticipated, and it isn’t worth the potential damage to your businesses reputation or google position to bestow your trust in the wrong people.
The better option is to invest what you can in your businesses online storefront, pick the right creative team and collaborate with them to achieve the perfect website for your business. Trust in them to provide ongoing support, to advise on best practices, and to bring your ideas to life.
Our team believes in working with clients, offering training and support which enables them to manage the day-to-day running of their own websites. They can be safe in the knowledge that they have our award winning tech-team to fall back on should they need any help. Should they require new features/functions to be integrated into the web system – we’re only a phone call away.