Can I build a website myself?Published
Short answer is yes, yes you certainly can. Now this may sound strange coming out of a freelance web developer, but there are circumstances where you don’t need a web developer to make a website. You may be just starting out, or on a very tight budget where hiring a web developer just doesn’t make complete sense. But does that mean you should go without a website? Certainly not. As explained in my previous post it is vital in this day and age to have a digital presence, so what options do you have? Web builders!
Do-It-Yourself Web Design
(Before we begin, I should stress that I have no affiliation with any company that I mention in this article and I use them simply as a reference. I make no recommendation to the quality of their services. Now with that out of the way we can continue).
You may have heard of them while watching a YouTube video sponsored by them or come across their advertisements near a bus stop - companies such as SquareSpace or Wix offer users the ability to build their own websites using simple drag-and-drop components with an easy-to-use interface. You also have e-commerce builders such as Shopify for a more focused e-shopping experience. There are also Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress but that (while still relatively easy to use) requires a little bit more no-how to set up so I will cover that in a future article. But for now, we’ll take a look at web builders proper.
Web builders such as Wix allow you to create a site in a similar manner that you would with a word document or PowerPoint presentation. You create boxes to write in text, drag-and-drop images, add animations and transitions, etc. A trade-off for this ease of editability is that most websites made with these builders look similar. There are plenty of themes, colours and fonts to choose from but, if you have an idea that you think will make your site and/or business unique, a web builder isn’t the way to go. It simply lacks the tools necessary to make that unique idea of yours a reality.
Ikea, but without the hot-dogs at the end
I like to think of web builders being the Ikea of web design; now this isn’t a knock against web builders or Ikea, quite the opposite. Ikea provide affordable, functional furniture that also looks good. They have a great business model being able to mass produce furniture cheaply by having customers put it together themselves.
In fact, most of my furniture is from Ikea. However, it’s cheap for a reason. Take a purchasing one of their tables for example (you’ve moved into a new home and you need a table); it will be made out of plywood with a vinyl skin wrapped around it (it may also come in several different colours), and you’ll have to assemble it yourself. Because it’s so cheap and mass-produced lots of people buy the table, and when you see that table at a friend’s house (and it may even be a different colour than yours) you know it’s a table from Ikea. There’s nothing special about it, nothing unique, nothing that says much about who you are other than you needed a table. And that’s perfectly fine & reasonable. Sometimes you just need a table.
This goes for build that digital presence that’s so important. You’ve just started your business, now may not be a good time for a custom-made site. Sometimes you just need a table.
Why hire a web developer?
Using a web builder is a great way to get started when building that vital digital presence but at some point, you’ll reach the limits of what a web builder can do. It’s at this juncture that you should think about investing in a web developer. Let’s take the Ikea table example even further. At some point you might be in a position (like moving to a bigger house in a more affluent area) to invest in a more robust table (one made out of oak for example), a table that’s possibly been expertly hand crafted to meet your tastes which will last for decades. A really well-built table could be something your children could inherit! (That’s quite the table).
Hiring a web developer means not only not having to build your site yourself, but having an expert build something that’s unique to you, built to your specifications. That unique idea you had before that couldn’t be implemented with a web builder can now be done with a qualified web developer. Just be careful here, because if you’re still on that tight budget you might let that shape your decision as to who to hire. I’ll explain in a future post why this is a bad approach to hiring a web developer.
Try before you buy
In the end I would advise that you give a web builder a try. A few of them allow you to create a site for free (with a few caveats such as only available for a trial period or not being able to use your own domain). Again, this might sound counter intuitive coming from a web developer but this is a good way to get a sense of whether it’s the right path for you.
This might be a tangent but bear with me. Now, I love to cook. I find it’s a great way to relieve stress, get creative, and enjoy something I made myself. There are meals that I can make that when I order them at a restaurant, say a lasagne, I feel disappointed by. This disappoint comes from the thought that I know how to make this dish myself, and I can make it the way I like it. I don’t feel I’m getting my money’s worth. I don’t want any of my clients to ever have that feeling when it comes to their website. What’s more I have a greater appreciation for the dishes I don’t know how to prepare so for those meals I enjoy them even more! But enough about food.
Anyway, this is why I recommend giving web builders a go. One of two things will happen: you’ll design a site that you’re happy with that won’t cost you the earth (you might find you even like making websites) or you’ll hate it, think the amount of time and effort you’ll need to invest isn’t worth it. Ultimately it will give you a good idea of what kind of work goes into a website, and if you decide to go the web developer route, you’ll be better able to communicate what you want using that experience you’ve acquired.
The Next Step
Take a look at what all those web builders have to offer and see if it’s right for you. But you might feel that now is the time to hire a web developer. While you meeting your budget may be the first thought that comes to mind when looking for someone to hire, you’ll find it’s not always the most important criteria. Before even deciding any of that it’s important to know what exactly web development it & what goes into making a website. Once you know this choosing the right web developer will be that much easier. In the next article we’ll dip our toes into the murky depths of web development.