Websites: DIY or Hire a Pro?
There are some pretty easy-to-use tools in the market today to build your own website. From WordPress templates that require minimal coding (but do require some in most cases) to all-in-one solutions like Squarespace with intuitive GUI (graphical user interface) that make it possible for anyone to build a website. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of DIY or hiring a professional to create your business website. In some cases it makes sense to take advantage of these DIY web builders to save money while many business objectives demand experience with API integrations, security or HIPPA, ecommerce, social media or other requirements.
Can you build a DIY effective website that generates business?
Building a business website is more complicated than assembling IKEA furniture and it doesn’t even come with an instruction booklet more cryptic than the product name. With the platforms like Squarespace it is possible to develop a website without writing a line of code. The question is really two parts. First, can you build the website that will accomplish all of your business goals and at the same time feel confident that any potential risks are mitigated? I have heard horror stories of a simple thing like a contact form not being tested costing a business hundreds of thousands in sales because it went unnoticed for over a year. The second conundrum is if this is the best, most valuable use of your time.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of a building your companies website with a DIY tool
- Low cost of entry
- Intuitive tools and technology available for free or low cost
- Easy to update via CMS (content management system)
- Quick time to spin up website
- Responsive frameworks make sites mobile ready out-of-the-box
- GUI (graphical user interface) makes editing the site easy
- Scalable to grow as your business needs change or expand
- Hurting for experience in designing effective websites (CTA placement, etc.)
- Integration of a CRM or other software will likely require developer assistance
- Lack of SEO expertise in best practices to increase organic rankings for key terms
- Limited customization capabilities if you can’t comfortably edit the code
- Templates sites feel like everyone else
- Low conversion will result in lost revenue
- Not the best use of your valuable time
Best Practices that must be in place
This is a good baseline for things that you should absolutely be confident you could implement if you go the DIY route. It is just not enough to have a website in todays marketplace. Your website needs to show up in local searches for the product or service the site is optimized for and when you do drive a potential customer to the website they must be intrigued enough to buy from you. A litmus test on if you should undertake the DIY website is if you have a clear understanding of these essential 10 best practices:
- Information Architecture – Understanding how to structure a website is essential for customers to have an intuitively user experience. The way a site is architected also significantly impacts its organic search rankings along with customer engagement and conversion. Simple things like forgetting to include the click-to-call phone number on sites can make it complicated for someone to call your business from a mobile device.
- CTAs – Calls to action are what drive customers further down the buyer’s journey. Without clear CTAs you add friction to the sale and the last thing you want to do when someone is making an effort to buy your project or hire you is make it harder for them to accomplish the call, email or checkout.
- Quality Images that are optimized – Cheap stock photography is the scourge of my existence as someone who has a degree as a professional photographer. If you have to use stock images there are solid options on a budget like Shutterstock and for higher quality photographs that aren’t royalty free Getty Images is the best. As important as the quality of the photographs is that they are properly optimized. This means that images need to be optimized and saved out at each size that the website will need (desktop, tablet and mobile).
- Page load time – Our attention span is measured in nanoseconds today. Amazon loses $1.6 billion a year in people abandoning a product page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. This means you have to do more than just optimize the images and videos on the site, you must understand how each feature like a slider or video masthead will impact the overall page load time. As you design each page its important to balance the business benefit with the time it takes to render in the browser.
- Quality Content/Blog – You can’t just go copy the text from another site and modify it to fit your business. Google’s algorithm accounts for duplicate content so the days of plagiarism are finally over. How often the content is updated also factors into both organic rankings and customer engagement. By having a blog that’s updated on a regular cadence you can pull that text into multiple places on the website dynamically.
- Security/Hosting – The last thing you want is to have your website hacked or even worse your customers information stolen to be sold on the dark web. A secure site that is hosted with a trusted provider is indispensible to your business.
- SEO – Do you know the difference between white hat and black hat SEO? Implementing a black hat solution, which is trying to manipulate the search algorithm, can have catastrophic negative results when Google catches you. By building the site with best practices for specific keywords that have been researched for volume and competitiveness.
- Ecommerce – Securing your website is the first step but only the beginning. With online purchases comes integration with inventory and bookkeeping software along with the not so simple part of customer fulfillment. If you don’t have experience setting up an online store I would recommend working with an expert at least for the MVP (minimal viable product) version of the website.
- Email Support/ System Administrator – It’s not always as easy as plugging an email address into the contact form. Sometimes there will be issues with emails being blocked by firewalls or other filters. You also get the fun role of Sys Admin who is responsible not only for launching the site but also making sure backups are running and all necessary software updates are done in a timeline manner.
- Digital Marketing – Most businesses today do some form of digital marketing. It could be PPC campaigns, retargeted adverting or inbound marketing. All of these require ongoing maintenance to the site in the form of landing pages, CTAs and workflow integration. To effectively run a digital marketing promotion it requires expertise in both configuring the campaign and optimizing the website to work seamlessly.
- Analytics – Every website today needs to track how traffic comes to your site and how they interact. By looking at the data its possible to continually improve performance incrementally. Even more importantly you have visibility into potentially catastrophic errors that could be preventing customers contacting or purchasing from your business.
- A/B Testing – Once you have the website working well its time to start multivariate testing small incremental differences. You will be amazed with how changing a button text or color can magnify profits 10x.
Freelancer vs. Agency
If you do decide to hire a professional the next choice is whether or not to engage an agency or hire a freelancer. Again, we have advantages and disadvantages with both options; the biggest is cost vs. quality, experience and time. Going with a freelancer is the cheapest route and 99% of the time you get what you pay for. It usually takes longer, and because the freelancer isn’t an expert at every role you need to develop a business website (project manger, designer, developer, tester, account executive, art director, content strategist, digital marketer, copywriter & system administrator) there will be pain points.
Then there is always the question of what happens if this person gets a fulltime gig, drops off the planet or gets hit by a bus?