If you’re time-short and have a bit of cash behind you to get that website built, then you’re probably going to do better by handing it all over to someone else to build yourself. But if the opposite is true, then you might be one of those rare creatures that is positioned just right to learn how to build your own website.
The earlier days of web design
It’s easy for someone who has been building websites since 1996 to say that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to build your own website. After all, it’s easy! There’s tonnes of tutorials out there, a bunch of guided website builder tools out there to help you along, and communities full of experts who will gladly give you a hand when you need it.
Investing the time to learn how to build websites on multiple platforms, has helped me to enter new careers, expand on old ones, and meet people from all over the world. It has allowed me the freedom to work in multiple places, make money from the most unlikely of places and diversify my streams of income. But that did all come at the cost of time. While Netscape Composer and Coffee Cup HTML Builder were great in the late 90s, they don’t hold a candle to the website building giants of today. When I started out, there was no Wordpress, Joomla, Wix or Squarespace. Web hosting wasn’t cheap, and it was hard to find – and even harder to use! There was no GoDaddy or CrazyDomains to do the heavy lifting for you. It was a long, time-consuming process to learn what to do.
When systems like Joomla came along in around 2005, they offered an easier platform on which to add content to websites, and a framework upon which you could load templates to make your website look nicer. Then Wordpress did the same and has been the world leader ever since. Each time once of these platforms came along, web designers had to re-learn how to build websites in a new and different way. And that’s the problem with learning build your own website on the popular open source and self-managed systems like WordPress, Joomla, Sitecore, Drupal and others. You have to learn, relearn, keeping learning and then make sure there is something still in the tank when it comes time to not just build, but maintain and add content to, your website on an on-going basis.
The rise of DIY web builders
A change did come in the form of bundled website and web hosting services, where you weren’t paying just to host a website that you had to build yourself, you paid for the website system as a service along with the web hosting, and often your email address too. This gave rise to services such as Typepad, WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. These systems made it much easier for you to create a website of your own, because the handled all the software maintenance, provided free layouts that you can just enter your own stuff in to, and it all came in at one relatively low monthly cost – or yearly if you wanted a discount.
You didn’t have to install software, or even themes or layouts. There weren’t any messy plugins or extensions to worry about updating as everything on the platform was designed to work all the time with that system. Hacking of these websites was almost unknown. And if it happened that someone guessed your username and password, you could just call the provider and they would kick them back out and you had your website back. Even if they had have hacked the site, the provider could restore your old one quickly and without fuss.
The trouble is that there is still a learning curve. A people with no eye for design, still had no eye for design when they picked a layout, or started changing it because they really like purple and think that animated purple flowers around the edges of the website are pretty. While it might be easier for a child to make a house out of Lego, than by making their own bricks out of plastic and building that house from their very own ingredients, it doesn’t mean the end creation looks any good. In spite of what we’ll say to encourage their creativity!
Why websites aren’t cheap (and why they shouldn’t be)
With all this in mind, the main reason to choose to work with an experienced web designer, isn’t based around money, because it’s not going to cheap. It’s around time and expertise. You are not a web designer, they are. You don’t have experience working with Google for searchability. They do. You don’t have 15 years of knowledge that shows you how to build a website quickly and in a timeframe that seems impossible, considering how long you know it would take you. When you’re paying a web designer for their time. You’re paying for the time it is saving you. If it takes a web designer some 8 hours total time to build your website, there’s a good chance that, to build the same thing, it would take you close to 80 hours of work to do it. You’re not paying for the 8 hours it took to build it. You’re paying for the 24 years it took them to learn how to build your website that fast.
If you’re getting a WordPress, Joomla and other non-hosted system website built, then there is the security and maintenance to consider. Technology changes. Security vulnerabilities emerge. Websites like this are not simple a matter of “build it and it’s done.” There is ongoing work to be done over the life of the website. And chances are that one day your website may reach a point where it simply isn’t relevant to today’s internet user and it has to be replaced with another design, or with another objective in mind. This is all the stuff that a web designer does over the life of your website. They keep it running, updated, secure and should stay in touch with you over time to advise on what you can do next.
Even if they built your website on a hosted service like Wix or Squarespace, a web designer can be useful when it comes to updating your site, doing redesigns after a couple of years to keep your site relevant, and reminding you of how to do things in the site when you forget.
Like I indicated earlier, you’re not paying for a web designer’s time, you’re paying for the time it saves you. And I know that I can often fix something for a client in as little as 45 seconds that has taken them days or internet searches, forum reading and tutorial video watching to get to a point where they just give up. Times like these are when you know you’re spending wisely.
I won’t deny that web designers can be expensive. If you have one of those “marketing heads” or “design eyes” about you, then tackling the build of your own website can be a fun and empowering experience. But you will need to time to learn, make mistakes and keep correcting yourself. And that process will never end for as long as you own your website. However if you have good cash flow, have saved aside some money to get a website done, and want it done right in a shorter amount of time, then choosing a web designer may save you many hours of frustration, tears and confusion.
Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, current Digital Lead at Treeti Business Consulting, one of 7 Community Trainers for Facebook Australia and an accredited trainer for Google & Infoxchange’s Digital Springboard program.