Do you need a web designer or can you “build-it-yourself”?

At a couple of recent networking events I’ve attended people have said to me that the “build-your-own website” services now available must be giving web developers “a run for their money.”

cheap-web-design

In my opinion this isn’t the case. None of our clients – in fact nobody that I know of – is rushing out to use one of these automated build-your-own website packages. Why not? With 13 year’s experience in the industry I can honestly say they’re no match for a team of professionals that know what they’re doing.

That may sound big headed, but let me provide a breakdown of the ingredients making up a good website:

Design

Can an automated package, suitable for a novice user, provide beautiful, functional design? If the answer’s yes, the chances are it’s using a set of pre-built templates which are in use by thousands of other websites. Think of it like an off-she-shelf business card with no originality or imagination – this isn’t the image that most businesses want to portray.

Speed

Because websites produced in this fashion are often modular (which is actually a good thing) they often incorporate dozens of hefty libraries and linked files (usually a bad thing as far as speed is concerned). As you add more and more content and features, the code is likely to balloon without someone who knows how to write it efficiently, which means your site will become slower to load.

Search Engine Optimisation

Some tools are better at search engine optimisation than others. Basic SEO is fairly straight-forward to accomplish, for example making sure your site has meta tags and relevant content on the pages. More advanced SEO is harder for an automated package to achieve, at least without specialist knowledge in the subject, and these include things such as prioritising and re-ordering code and content, thinking about URL naming conventions, etc.

Best practise

Should your homepage image be a PNG, a JPG or a GIF? If you want to include an embedded font should you host it locally or load it from a content delivery network (CDN)? Does your HTML markup validate without errors? Does your site work with JavaScript turned off, and if not does it matter? I’ve yet to see an automated tool that follows all best practise guidelines and successfully takes away all of the difficult decisions from the person making the site.

Customisation

You might have a unique product that needs to be presented and sold in a particular way. Perhaps your site needs an online quotation system or customer login area. Specialist functionality requires… well, a specialist.

“Create your own website in minutes!”

“Drag & drop editor allows you to add modules to your pages quickly and easily”

“No coding knowledge required”

“Hundreds of superb designs to choose from”

Above are a few quotations from various build-your-own website services. Whilst it all sounds great, I must confess that even a very basic website will usually take us at least a week to build. If we could do it in “minutes” by “dragging and dropping” things into place I’d be either retired or redundant by now.

When all said and done, build-your-own website tools are just that, tools. You can fill a kitchen with as many electric whisks and utensils as you like, but without a good chef, that 3-course meal isn’t going to win a Michelin Star.

I do admit, however, that as web developers there is one downside to these packages. Perception. Whilst swathes of our clients and potential clients aren’t flocking to use these tools, it does create the perception that web design is easy. That’s something that’s always been an issue with something produced on a computer behind closed doors, but that belief is now stronger than ever.

Now let me get back to work on that client’s website…

2 replies to “Do you need a web designer or can you “build-it-yourself”?”

  1. JB says:

    Not to mention the time it would take to build your own properly. As you`ve pointed out it isn`t a particularly quick process and most business owners would be better spending the time on things they specialize in

  2. Aaron says:

    These days do business people really sit around designing their own logos , letterheads & business cards ?? Its the same thing except websites are more complicated than that

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