If you’re ready to take the leap into digital space and get a website up and running for your business or hobby, then you have probably asked yourself “Do I hire a web developer or use a free website builder?” This article will answer your question.
What are online website builders?
An online website builder is generally advertised as a free website builder. The more common builders are Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. What these sites have to offer is a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) builder, so building a site is quite an easy task. Marketed as an easy to work and use platform, they are a popular choice amongst people looking to come into the online world.
What does a web developer do?
A web developer will create a website to your specifications within a budget that you set. Web developers can customise special features for your needs that free website builders simply cannot do. Web developers can use Content Management Systems for the client’s ease of use as well as hard coding a website that specifically requires certain features. A web designer can be considered two jobs in one. The design element which allows your website to look stunning, and the development element which is more behind the scenes with coding and getting the features to work.
What are the benefits?
The major benefit that is portrayed with the online website builders is ease of use. They have set templates that you must choose from and then allow you to create a website utilising the easy to use (WYSIWYG) system. It is simple to learn and looks quite effective. Content can generally be added and removed without too much of an issue and access to the site is quite easy.
The benefits of using a web developer for your website is you will know what you are getting. A web designer can build the exact site you are thinking of with or without the needs of templates. Certain special features of a website can only be achieved by a web developer. The developer can also create a website for you using a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress that allows easy editing and access for the client.
What are the differences?
There are numerous differences between an online website builder and a website created by a web designer.
- Ownership: When you use a free website builder such as Wix, Weebly or any of the others, they retain the rights to the website and you will never be able to move the site somewhere else. Once you choose one, you are stuck with them. If you purchase a domain through these builders as well, they make it extraordinarily hard to retain the rights of it. If you decide to go with a website developer instead, it is yours to do with as you please.
- Expense: A basic site will normally be listed as free for X amount of space. These free website builders are notorious for hidden fees and extra’s that turn out to be a necessity. You may find yourself forking out $30+ a month for a “free” website. And don’t forget, they will retain the rights to the website. These costs add up over time and they are designed this way, they want you to pay more and more and make it as difficult as possible to leave, nothing is ever free on the internet. As most web developer charge upfront it seems intimidating and costly, however this is a once off unless you later need more work done too it. The price of a website increases with the size of the site and the features it needs. The initial price can be a deterrent but look at it as a piece of real estate for your business. Rather than renting a space you own the space and it will increase the value of your business.
- Design: An online website builder is restricted to the use of a few un-editable templates. This makes your site at risk of looking like the next person who decided to cut costs on their website. The advantage is that most of these templates are free to use. Custom designs for websites made by a developer can be quite expensive depending on the level of work put into them. If no templates are used, the design is usually wire framed and pre-designed before being coded into the website you are looking for. Designs like this are costly but give you a fully customisable website. However using CMS like WordPress cuts down the design process by using editable templates that allow for much more flexibility than free web builder templates
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): SEO is now a crucial part of owning a website. Most online website builders have their own in-built SEO software which sounds great to a client that may not understand the way search engine optimisation (SEO) works. Companies pay a lot of money to effective SEO strategies put in place, if you are serious about your business and want to be found online you will NEED to invest in a proper SEO strategy.
What should I use?
Online site builder are never the best option. As a business owner it important to invest money into your advertising and marketing. A mobile responsive website should be on top of your list. 90% if people looking for a service are online, and in 2012 there was 113.9 million people who engaged regularly in online shopping this is now. It is a huge market to skimp on. Here is a great article on why even the smallest of businesses require a website.