December 10th, 2018

You want a new website. What are your options?

We’re not in 1998 anymore. The internet is no longer in its infancy, and most of us use the internet on a daily basis. We’re not here to persuade you that websites are critical components of a successful business, you probably know that already. Yes, there are businesses that don’t need a website, but their numbers are decreasing on a daily basis.

Google is the Yellow Pages for the modern consumer to help them find anything and everything – a new cafe to have brunch, how a giraffe cleans its ears, and where to go on your next holiday. Heck, you might even buy stuff on the interweb instead of in an actual shop. Guess what….that’s through a website or an app.

You might even have a website, but either now or in the future it’s going to need a new lick of paint. Or it might be that your business is wanting to rebrand and you need a website to suit its new look. Or the management are in agreement that a new website is important for the continued growth of the company and you are looking to invest. Regardless of your motive, you’ll want to know what your options are when it comes to a new website design.

Free Website Builders

Free website builders are easy to use platforms that have been created so that people who can’t code can create a website fairly painlessly. If you’ve Googled ‘how to build your own website’, names like WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace have probably been presented to you as the answer to your problem. Or you’ve seen an advert with a smiley Victoria Secret model or assorted celebrity promoting the virtues of the bigger players and believe that they can give you the website of your dreams.

As a web design agency, these platforms form part of our competition and if we’re honest, they do serve a purpose. Think moonlighting. Think non existent budgets. Think MVP (minimum viable product). They certainly have their advantages, but they come with a downside too.

Advantages

Out of all the ways you could build a new website, this is your cheapest option. Annoyingly for us, the technology is improving constantly meaning that these platforms do offer the very best solution at a no budget, entry level position. Even the premium versions rarely cost more than a round of drinks – a very attractive proposition indeed! It also means that you don’t need to be able to code in order to build a site.

Before website builders, to get a brand spanking new website you had two options. Become a website developer, or pay for one. Today, website builders provide a viable third option. They’re relatively easy to use and you can have a functioning website set up within a day if you so please. All you have to do is pick a pre existing template, then embellish it by dragging and dropping images, content and forms onto a page. Hence the name ‘drag and drop website builders’. These platforms are genuinely fantastic resources for people who want to create a new website with little hassle and on a limited budget.

Disadvantages

Let’s face it, having Karlie Kloss evangelise how she apparently built her own website on Wix via a high production promo video is very tempting. A beautiful woman making a beautiful website, in her equally beautiful Scandinavian inspired ‘office’ makes for very compelling advert. But don’t believe everything you see on TV kids.

Yes, these adverts promote the ease of creating your own website by promising that “if a supermodel can build a website, so can you”. And you can. Quite easily in fact. But it won’t look anything like the ad.

Everybody likes to think that they have an eye for design, the same way everyone likes to think that they have style. The truth is not everyone can make a website that looks great. I run an agency and I’m not confident of my abilities to create something that would be competitive. Our designers could, but I couldn’t. Similar to photography, there are nuances that us mortals cannot detect. They may be small, but they make a big difference. You can still have a go at designing your own website. The result will be the same as the majority of websites built on these free drag and drop builders. For some strange reason, they look like a template website. They have a whiff of underlying cheapness akin to faux chrome wraps on cheap plastics.

Let’s face the facts. If the free website builders were that good, web design agencies would have become a thing of the past by now. That may be the sad truth waiting for us in the future, but the reality right now is that the world needs website designers. Luckily, there are still individuals out there (and in the Yellowball office) that have devoted their careers to perfecting the art of web design.

Bringing in a designer (to amend a template)

Right. You’ve found a template on a free (or nearly free) website builder which you like. You’ve accepted the fact that you’re likely to muck it up if you try to do it yourself. So the next logical step is to get someone that knows what they’re doing to help you out.

This option is going to cost you more, but not as much as a new, specially designed website. Not even halfway. If free website builders are Hot Wheel toy cars and bespoke websites are brand new Ferraris, amending an existing website template is like one of those sit-in electric cars that the rich kids had when you were 5 years old.

But this might seem like the ideal middle ground option. You’ve managed to get round the issue of not choosing to study website design yourself without having to fork out a fortune for a website designed from scratch. Ha, you might be thinking, I’ve beat the system. I guess you have.

But wait, there’s a curveball. Well actually, two curveballs. Firstly, these templates and website builders are not the free roaming, liberal platforms that they pretend to be. In order for them to deliver this drag and drop capability, they need to have restrictions. You’ll find that you are confined to specific grids and shapes, as opposed to it being like an online collage that you can design how you like. So you can forget being able to make any meaningful alterations to the template regardless of how good your new designer is. Turns out, free website design isn’t that liberating.

Secondly, by choosing this method you may be employing a designer (or developer) that works on templates.  What’s the problem with that, you may ask. Well, the problem is this. Regardless of ability, a template designer is restricted by the template itself whereas a bespoke site is, well, bespoke. People say that a bad workman blames his tools, but it’s rather hard to create something awesome with half your your tools and one hand tied behind your back. You also have to weigh up whether a template designer has the breadth of experience as an agency side designer – again this may well be as a direct result of template restrictions.

The result is an improved website, but one that can remain relatively basic.

Using a bespoke web design agency

Bespoke website design is unsurprisingly the route that is likely to deliver the best result, but we’re biased on that front. There are clear advantages and some potential pitfalls. It is usually the best options for those looking for genuine results, particularly if you are the owner of a business and are wanting a professional presence online. By hiring a web designer, you can get an engaging, eye-catching website that goes above and beyond what can be achieved from the free website builders. However, if you haven’t gathered by this point, bespoke websites do cost more. But what you’re paying for is the creative power of a website designer and their precious time to build it. You get a specialist that will assess your needs and objectives, analyse any analytics data and create a site that works towards a specific requirement. Bespoke websites take substantially more time to create, and that costs money.

Finding the right team

The good news is there are fantastic agencies out there who will work with you to develop a website that you can be proud of. We might even know of one.

A professionally-designed website can be an online home for your business, with a room and furniture for every one of your needs. It can be the point of contact between you and your audience, and a selling point when talking with prospects to convert them into customers. Yes, there are a lot of agencies that will sell you the stars, shoot for them, adjust expectations for the moon halfway through, and give you a website that’s akin to landing in a shopping trolley in a canal near Dalston. The website will show it as well. A website designed from scratch that’s done badly will look no different to a template site. But that’s the risk you take.

Luckily, there are agencies who are professional, reliable and will deliver website design at its finest. The easiest way to see if an agency is a good bet is to see who their clients are and what their respective websites look like. Check out client reviews on the service they’ve received from an agency. While you’re at it, see what the agency’s own website is like, check out whether they know what they’re on about. Doing a little bit of homework on different website design agencies is worth it if you end up paying for a website that does everything you want it to and looks good doing it.

It all comes down to cost

Depending on your budget, your time frame, and how unique and individual you want your website to be, you can have a website that fits all, or at least some of your needs. You pay for what you get with website design. If you opt for the free or cheaper website builders, then your website isn’t going to look that impressive, but it’ll work. It’ll probably fit the bill just about if you have a smaller budget and cannot afford to hire a web designer. If you invest in a professionally designed website, then you’re going to have to be willing to do your research beforehand, pay a lot more than you would for a website builder, and be patient while the design wizards do their magic. It may sound a lot, but the end result will a website that you can call your own, with no compromise on design. The choice is yours.

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