Building an online presence for your local business may feel daunting after you realize the amount of time, money, and effort required. However, fear not! As a web design company, I’m here to guide you through this journey of launching your very own professional website. By enlisting the expertise of a professional web designer like myself, equipped with the necessary design, professional tools, experience, and coding skills, we can create a polished website that truly represents your business. It’s worth mentioning that professional services do come at a higher cost, but the results are undoubtedly worth it.
Alternatively, in today’s digital landscape, it has become increasingly popular to leverage website-building platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or Shopify. These do-it-yourself (DIY) website builders provide an enticing option for small business owners who seek a fast and cost-effective online presence.
DIY Website Builders: Empowering Your Business
The market is flooded with user-friendly website builders that are consistently updated by developers to offer better features and enhanced capabilities. The rise in popularity of blogs, e-commerce, and social media advertising has contributed to the surge in DIY platform-based websites.
Notable options in the DIY website builder arena include Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Shopify, BigCommerce, and an ever-growing list of alternatives. It’s understandable that navigating through these choices might seem overwhelming. Are you planning to sell products online, generate leads, or share captivating blog content?
While most website builders possess similar features and capabilities, some are more intuitive than others. Platforms like Wix boast comprehensive WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, making it incredibly easy to get started. On the other hand, Shopify heavily relies on customizable themes, necessitating some basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other elements to make significant changes. It’s crucial to carefully assess these aspects to identify the platform that best aligns with your business goals.
Enter WordPress.org: The Versatile Website Builder
It’s important to note that In this article when I refer to WordPress, I am referring to WordPress.org and not WordPress.com. The .com version is a paid service while the .org version is open source and free to use anywhere. Here is a quick article that will help explain the differences a bit in detail.
Considered the elder statesman of website builders, WordPress.org initially gained popularity as a blogging platform. Bloggers across the internet swiftly embraced its user-friendly interface and robust developer community. It is a website builder and a versatile content management system (CMS). You can download and install WordPress on your own web server, have me set it up for you on one of my hosting plans, or opt for one of many hosting companies. This flexibility empowers you to manage your website’s content effortlessly, contributing to WordPress’s enduring popularity.
While WordPress may pose a learning curve for beginners, just like any other website-building platform, it remains one of the best content management systems available. Offering ample customization options and solid search engine optimization (SEO) integrations, WordPress has gained the trust of numerous professional website designers.
Pricing: A Consideration for Every Business Owner
As a local business owner, it’s understandable that you want to maintain control over your financial resources. Even if you’re an employee representing a local business, understanding website pricing is crucial for effective communication with your team.
Hiring a Professional for Custom Website Development
Beyond nominal domain and hosting fees, the average cost of hiring a professional to build a custom website for a small business ranges from $2,000 to over $25,000, depending on the project’s scope. Many marketing agencies such as myself, also offer ongoing management services.
Utilizing DIY Platforms like Shopify
Given Shopify’s recent rise as an e-commerce solution for merchants, it serves as an excellent point of comparison. Their “Basic” Shopify plan starts at $29 per month, appearing to be an enticing deal, right?
However, it’s vital to consider the long-term implications of this pricing model. Over a decade, you could spend close to $3,500 solely on the basic membership fee. Additionally, you’ll likely need to purchase a domain and a design template. Keep in mind that Shopify retains the right to modify their prices in the future, which increasing the cost of all their plans is inevitable, including the “Basic” one.
Suppose you opt to use Shopify apps and extensions. In that case, you’ll also be subject to monthly fees in addition to the “Basic” plan for those additional functionalities. Let’s assume you spend $50 per month on Shopify applications. Over ten years, you’d be allocating an extra $6,000 on top of the membership fee. With this option, you are solely responsible for the website design, maintenance, and management unless you choose to hire a professional for assistance.
Furthermore, it’s essential to recognize that your Shopify website is essentially temporary, akin to leasing a car. You don’t own the code or the design, which means that if you decide to transition to a different platform in the future, you’ll need to start from scratch. In case Shopify raises its prices or introduces changes that don’t align with your preferences, you’ll face a challenging decision.
Additionally, you become reliant on Shopify’s platform stability. If Shopify undergoes maintenance or experiences downtime, your website will also be affected until the issue is resolved. However, it’s worth mentioning that Shopify boasts a dedicated team of experts who actively monitor their platform, potentially delivering better stability compared to other options. Ultimately, the choice boils down to the level of control you desire.
The Verdict: Customization and Long-term Value
Now, let’s dive into the core differences between the two approaches:
The first scenario represents employing a DIY website builder:
Imagine searching for a new home. It’s a significant investment, but you don’t want to squander your time or money since it’s only temporary. After browsing listings, you stumble upon a fully furnished apartment at an attractive price.
You’re satisfied because you’re saving money, and the rent is affordable. However, as you get to know your neighbors, you discover that they inhabit the same apartment with identical furniture. This realization slightly bothers you, but you dismiss it as inconsequential.
The second scenario represents working with a professional developer or marketing agency:
Now envision yourself acquiring a plot of land instead of renting an apartment. You plan to build a custom house from the ground up, complete with all the personalized features you desire. Although this option incurs higher costs, it constitutes a long-term investment with boundless possibilities. Most importantly, you become the proud owner.
Your business timeline and budget are crucial factors to consider. Treat this website development process as a long-term project and meticulously plan your course of action. Will your website serve as a temporary solution, or do you envision it as the permanent face of your business? Do you prefer a website that mirrors your competitors’, or are you eager to create something distinctive that sets you apart from the crowd? Ultimately, the right decision hinges on aligning with your business’s short-term and long-term goals. Prioritizing your business objectives simplifies the decision-making process.
Essential Factors to Weigh
When you find yourself at the crossroads, torn between employing a DIY website builder or seeking professional assistance, several key factors come into play:
- Budget: Assess your financial capabilities and conduct a comparative analysis of the pricing models offered by DIY platforms and quotes from developers or marketing agencies. Remember that DIY platforms often entail subscription-based payments, which accumulate over time. In contrast, professional services involve a one-time fee for delivering a fully functional website. Both options may require ongoing support, management, and updates, necessitating additional fees. Consider hiring someone specifically for those tasks. For most small businesses, the website falls within the marketing budget, as it serves as the cornerstone of other digital marketing efforts.
- Time: Determine the amount of time you’re willing to invest in your new website. Regardless of your choice, both options demand a substantial time commitment, from conception to launch. If you engage a professional, you’ll have less concern about design and functionality since they will handle these aspects. However, you’ll still need to invest time in collaborating and communicating with the developers. On the other hand, opting for a website builder means dedicating much more time to learning the platform, designing the entire site for all screen types which includes 40″ widescreen to 5″ phone screens, and ensuring its functionality independently for all browser types and versions. Building a website from scratch with a developer or agency might take longer, but you won’t bear the burden of doing it all yourself.
- Technical Proficiency: Apart from time and budget considerations, the educational aspect must not be overlooked. If you lack experience in website development, expect a learning curve throughout the process. Although choosing a DIY website builder initially appears simple, familiarizing yourself with the platform’s backend still requires time and effort. Additionally, managing your domain poses another learning curve. While you can acquire the necessary technical skills over time, the rate at which individuals learn varies. For the sake of your peace of mind, hiring a seasoned professional with years of experience in the industry might be preferable. Remember, launching the website is only the first step; ongoing content management necessitates technical expertise.
Determining the Right Website Solution for Your Local Business
Regardless of your decision, ensure that your website serves your business rather than the other way around. Consider your strengths as a business owner. Are you proficient in website building, or does your expertise lie in your business’s core offerings? Do you aspire to become a professional website builder or prefer to invest in a professionally designed website?
If you value 30-60 hours of your time more than saving a few thousand dollars, then find a qualified, professional web designer/developer with great reviews to help you build your online presence. I check all of those boxes and am more than happy to have a free consultation to see if we are a good fit. I am local in the Hilton Head and Bluffton area. Contact me today!