When you decide that you want a website, the natural next step is deciding how you’re going to bring it to life. To this end, there are two primary methods of getting your presence established: Website builders, and design agencies. Both options have their ups and downs, and reasons for using one over another.
What is a website builder?
A website builder is a service offering its subscribers easy to use templates for making their own websites, even as a total beginner. They typically come bundled along with hosting, security, and a bit of search engine optimization (SEO) as well. They also provide the option to customize certain aspects of the chosen template, such as color schemes or fonts. The extent to which a template can be customized varies wildly depending on the cost of the service.
Why use a website builder?
Usually, one might choose a builder if they don’t have grandiose intentions for their website. For instance, a one-time event, a hobby blog, or even just a photo gallery doesn’t need much in the way of hosting resources or traffic management. They are also relatively inexpensive, with builder sites ranging from free to under five hundred dollars. Compare this to private design studios or contracted web development, which typically starts at upwards of three to five thousand dollars. Intent and budget are the main drivers toward using a builder to make your website.
Website builders offer a quick turnaround time—most allow you to create a website in less than a day. If you are on a time crunch and need a site launched yesterday, a website builder can be a good option.
That said, website builders are not without their disadvantages. While builders are inexpensive and easy to use, those benefits come at the cost of website complexity. Websites created using builders are usually limited in design options and features, both of which vary wildly from one company to the next. It is often not possible to include specific features, and the market for third-party expansions can be very small or nonexistent.
What about design agencies?
There’s no way around the fact that hiring a design agency is more expensive, as it is with any situation that calls for industry professionals. However, there are many benefits to creating a custom website through a design agency. Having your own, custom-built website means you aren’t nearly as reliant on a single company. For instance, instead of being bound to the company providing your build template, a website you own can usually be moved between hosting providers at your discretion. Industry standard platforms such as WordPress allow for third-party plugins–sometimes you need a feature that just isn’t possible without a custom plugin. Some design agencies will even custom-build websites from the ground up, meaning the sky is the limit when it comes to features and options.
Another obvious benefit to hiring a design agency is the fact that other than providing input on design choices and features, the entire build process is handled by someone else. This can be a great advantage to busy professionals who can’t dedicate time to creating a website.
Which option is best?
As stated before, intent and budget are the biggest stopgaps in web development. The truth is, there are times when a website builder might be the best option for you, and that’s okay.
As a design agency, we will often tell prospective clients who may be looking for a simple website within a short timeframe that a website builder is the better way to go. Sometimes a sort of “hybrid” approach may make more sense—for example, a client may wish to have a fully custom website but may not need a complex E-Commerce solution. In that case it may be better to integrate a cloud-based shopping cart such as Shopify. This is especially true in the case of someone that only offers one or two products online, or who isn’t interested in growing their online sales operations. It all comes down to what makes the most sense for your current situation.
If you are in the market for a website, but still aren’t sure which approach makes the most sense, please feel free to reach out to us for an honest assessment.