If you’re in the market for a new website (or even your first ever website), you’ve got two main options when it comes to getting one built: hire a professional website designer or take advantage of one of the numerous website builders that are out there such as WIX, SquareSpace and Weebly.
To give you plenty of food for thought and help you make an informed decision that sees you ultimately choose the option that’s right for you, we created this post. We hope you find it useful…
So, website designer or website builder? In a nutshell, the answer is “it depends”. We’ll even go as far as to say that hiring a professional web designer isn’t for everyone – and that’s coming from us, a professional website design agency!
The bottom line is it’s horses for courses, and each option (website designer or website builder) has benefits and pitfalls.
If you are a business that’s just starting up, doesn’t have much spare capital and simply wants to create an online presence ASAP, an affordable website builder is a solid choice. That’s because it will allow you to create a business website quickly and cost effectively, fulfilling a purpose until such time as you want to change it.
However, if you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise, using a website builder could actually end up having a negative impact on your business. We’ll discuss why a little later in this post.
You’ve almost certainly heard of at least one of the popular website builders that are out there. Shopify, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly are all prime examples.
These popular online platforms basically allow pretty much anyone to create a website quickly and cheaply. They remove the need to understand the principles of design and coding by providing free/low cost hosting, tons of pre-made templates and intuitive drag and drop page builders.
Without knowing any CSS or HTML, people can create websites in no time at all.
And you know what? The results that can be achieved with website builders can be amazing when it comes to look and feel.
But before you rush off to create a website with a website builder, you should be aware that they are not without their limitations. Keep reading to find out what they are…
It’s a fair question when you consider the popularity of website builders nowadays. But when you actually analyse the differences between a website designer and a website builder more closely, there really is no comparison, Sure, both produce the same result: a website, but that’s where the similarities end.
First, a professional website designer has made it their business to deeply understand coding, SEO, visual design, UX design and stay on top of the latest web trends, technologies and techniques. All of their knowledge and experience allows them to take a vision you give them (even a really basic one) and turn it into a visually stunning and user friendly reality that is an asset to your business.
In fact, website designers (the really good ones) will go out of their way to understand your business before they even start a project.
What makes it (and you) tick, what goals do you want to smash and who are your target customers. They’ll then create a website that specifically promotes your brand in the perfect way; pleases your target customers in terms of content and user experience; and complements all your other business strategies to help you achieve your objectives.
Remember, your website is your online shop window. Often your first chance to make a positive impression. You want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed in your niche, right? A website that’s been built by a professional web designer will do just that.
Furthermore, a website designer will build you a website that is on brand. In other words, the colours, fonts, logos and overall look and feel will be on point with your business brand and perfectly complement all your other marketing materials and visual assets.
A great way to highlight the difference between hiring a website designer and using a website builder is to think of it like you’re choosing your wedding photographer.
While there’s no reason why you can’t get your brother-in-law, who has just bought himself a new DSLR camera, to do your photography, is it going to afford the same results as if you hired a professional wedding photographer? And will you be happy with the finished product for years to come?
The main benefit of website builders is that they are cost effective. In fact, some are even completely free! So if price is your number one priority, a website builder is often the way to go when you want to get a website up and running for as low an investment as possible.
With website builders, you can literally create a website in a matter of hours – certainly within a day. This makes them a very attractive proposition for people who just want to bring a website online ASAP and aren’t too worried about all the benefits you can afford by hiring a website designer.
You can have your new site up within a day using a website builder. When hiring a design firm, it will typically take 4-6 weeks from start to launch. That’s because website designers built sites from the ground up and incorporate features based on the requirements of the business. Web builders cannot provide this flexibility or level of customisation.
Not too shabby to look at
When you consider that most website builders have a free offering and even the paid plans are designed to be affordable, it’s amazing the results you can achieve. And you don’t need to be a design whiz either. With tons of pre-made templates and design options available, you can create a website that looks great.
You do not own what you create (and you never will)
One of the biggest pitfalls of building a website using a web builder is that you ultimately do not own what you’ve created. There is no way to move the site to another server like you can with a CMS like WordPress. In most cases, if you build a WIX website, a website designer would have to scrap it and start all over again if you ever wanted to migrate it somewhere else.
It’s not nice knowing all your hard work can go to waste, so you may as well get it done right the first time.
A somewhat generic look and feel
Despite boasting tons of templates, websites that have been created with website builders run the risk of looking and feeling like other sites. Furthermore, because they are often free to use and can be taken advantage of by anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, there are heaps of websites out there that have been created using the same website builder, the same elements, the same template, etc.
In exchange for providing free hosting and the ability to create a website from pretty much scratch, many website builders automatically display ads on their customers’ websites. This not only looks pretty bad from a professional branding point of view, but can also interrupt the user experience.
UX design is often lacking
While website builders can be used to create websites that look the business, they often aren’t that user friendly. That’s because the person who has created them doesn’t have oodles of UX design knowledge. As a result, the website can be clunky to use and that’s something which will put visitors off.
Even though website builders now offer better SEO capabilities than ever before, they are still a far cry from what can be achieved when you hire a website designer. Things like UX optimisation, keyword research and intuitive backlinks are all factors that influence SEO – and a website designer can help you with all of them and many more!
Sure, website builders provide lots of templates. But those templates do not allow you to access technical on-page areas and important aspects such as:
Let’s say it’s the festive season and you’re expecting an abnormal influx of website visitors and (hopefully) sales. Would you feel 100% confident that a free website builder solution is going to be able to cope with all that extra traffic? If it can’t, you’ll be leaving money on the table and annoying your customers in the process.
Requires a time investment from you (or someone else)
How valuable is your time? How valuable is your employees’ time? Is a day spent creating a website with a website builder going to represent a good investment? If it is, then great! Or would hiring a professional website designer to do it while you and your employees focus on your business be a better investment?
Can be frustrating
Website builders are designed to make building a website child’s play. But that’s not always the reality when you start using one. Sometimes, they just don’t do what you want/what you expect and that can be extremely frustrating – especially when you’ve got a clear vision in mind.
Lacks Development tools
Websites created with website builders can be great when you’re first starting out, but they often cannot scale with your business. So further down the line, when you want to add new features and integrations, you’ll find that you almost certainly can’t because there is no functionality to implement custom code.
As a result, you will end up needing to hire a website designer to completely rebuild the site from scratch on a CMS or other foundation before implementing the features you want.
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a website designer.
You’re hiring a professional
You (probably) wouldn’t build a home extension on your own – particularly if you’re not a DIY expert. You’d more than likely contact a building professional and hire them to carry out the work. That’s because their building knowledge and experience is invaluable. Well, the same kind of goes when you’re looking to have a website created.
Okay, so a website crashing isn’t quite the same as a wall falling down, but the principle is the same. It goes back to the horses for courses concept and the benefits you reap from getting the best person to complete a job.
UX design experience
If a website delivers a poor user experience, people are unlikely to return to it again in the near future. Consumers today are more fickle than ever, so if your website irks them even slightly, it could result in lost opportunities and revenue.
When you hire a website designer, you can rest assured that their UX design knowledge will benefit your business significantly when it comes to meeting your online visitors’ needs and boost your conversion rates in the process.
Most website builders are designed for looks first and functionality second. But with a professional website designer you get both as a priority. They will design a website for looks and so you generate ROI from it. At the end of the day, what comes after the look is as important, if not more important!
You’ll get something unique
Your business is unique and your website should be too!
Because website designers don’t use pre-made templates (at least the good ones don’t), your website will be one-of-a-kind. In other words, there’s no chance of it looking like another site on the Internet and that means you can really push your brand and your values via your greatest online asset.
Any website designer worth their salt will understand SEO and be willing to help SEO your website as part of the overall build. Whether it’s helping you with keyword research, or creating a website that loads in seconds (Google loves fast websites), a website designer can help you stand the best chance possible of ranking above your competitors in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
When people land on your business website, you usually want them to do something in particular. Now that could be enquire about your services, purchase your products or contact you. But if your website is not conversion optimised, there’s less likelihood that your visitors will follow the paths you’re trying to encourage them to follow, and that can result in missed opportunities.
When you hire a website designer though, all of your conversion points will be optimised to boost the chances of your visitors doing what you want them to.
Help and support when you need it
Of course, website builders provide technical support when you need it. But whether you have to pay for it and how long before your query is addressed often depends on your plan i.e. how much you’re paying.
When you partner with a website designer though, you’ll benefit from a much more intimate level of technical support (depending on the agreement you’ve got in place). The designer will fix problems in the first instance and be the one to liaise with your hosting company if the issue cannot be resolved easily. This means you don’t need to worry about being baffled by technical jargon and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your website is being proactively looked after.
Larger initial investment
Hiring a website design is inevitably going to represent a larger initial investment than if you use a website builder. After all, the latter is usually free. But you’d actually be surprised how competitive website designers’ prices are.
Remember, a business website is an investment and going for the cheapest option is unlikely to produce the best returns (it never does). So before you reach for a website builder and go down the DIY route, why not first enquire how much a professional website designer will charge you.
It can take longer
As we’ve already mentioned, you can use a free website builder and have a new website up and running in less than a day. You’re not going to get the same turnaround time with a website designer (sorry).
But that’s simply because a website designer will work with you from start to finish. They need to get to know you and your business to deliver something that’s perfect, and that takes time.
Remember, a website designer will be building the site from the ground up to ensure maximum functionality, perfect branding and increased conversions. Rome wasn’t built in a day and look how amazing it is!
Here at Visionary Hub Space, we advise our clients that a custom website is going to take a minimum of 4 – 6 weeks and that could be even longer depending on the individual requirements.
You get what you pay for
We’re sorry to say but the web design industry can be hit and miss. After all, anyone with some web design knowledge can create a website and call themselves a “website designer”.
This means you might encounter the odd cowboy and be left with a sour taste in your mouth. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Look for an awesome portfolio and glowing reviews before you even consider reaching out to a potential website design partner.
A good website designer will afford a stress-free build and provide an easy-to-follow project timeline with regular updates so you don’t need to keep second guessing what’s happening.
You might not own your website
It might sound strange but you can find some horror stories out there about people who paid for a website and associated design assets, but didn’t end up owning everything once the project was finished.
Now we should point out that situations like this are rare, but they can happen. Just be sure you understand every aspect of your agreement 100% and ask if something’s not clear, or you’re not sure.
At Visionary Hub Space, every client gets full admin access to their website. They are also granted full privileges to the host panel so they can even migrate their website away in the future should they wish. This approach provides our clients with total peace of mind that they are in control of their website and can do pretty much whatever they want with it.
The only thing we ask is that clients give us 30 days notice prior to doing this, so we can prepare for the move and take a backup just in case anything goes wrong.
What’s your business worth?
One of the best ways to figure out if you should use a website builder or hire a website designer is to look at the associated opportunity cost for each. Not familiar with the term ‘opportunity cost’? It’s basically what you miss out on (the cost) when you choose one option over another.
So, for example, let’s say your business frequently handles high value transactions. What would be the opportunity cost if a website created using a free website builder caused you to miss out on one such transaction for whatever reason (it crashed, it was too slow, etc.)?
The bottom line is that if a website created by a web designer would have been able to successfully handle and secure such a transaction, it would pay for itself many times over, right? And that’s what opportunity cost is all about.
The bottom line is…
If your business generates hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue each year; is in a very competitive industry; relies heavily on SEO to boost awareness and drive sales; and/or handles high value transactions (particularly online), having a website created by a web designer is probably going to be the right decision for you.
What’s the easiest way to decide?
If your website is a core part of your overall business e.g. it features a crucial e-commerce element, houses your all-important sales funnels and/or receives tons of traffic day in, day out, a website builder is unlikely to be sufficient.
Furthermore, a website builder is never going to enable you to create something that is 100% on-brand. The user experience is never going to be perfect either if using a web builder. However, if you choose to partner with a professional website designer, both of these aspects will be completely taken care of.
If you’re not in a position to make a reasonably significant investment in your website right now and it’s more a case of creating something so you’ve at least got an online presence, a website builder could provide everything you need.
We hope you’ve made it this far. It feels like we haven’t even scratched the surface on this topic, but here we are 3,000 words later.
Hopefully, you’re in a much more informed position now to decide whether you why you should hire a Website Designer or use a website builder.
At the end of the day, much of it comes down to commercial intent. If the primary purpose of your website is to generate revenue through e-commerce sales, a free website builder might not cut it. Then again, if you’re a small non-profit, your business idea is unproven or you simply don’t have the funds right now to spend on your website, a website builder could offer the perfect solution.
You work hard. The success of your business is testament to that. So please consider all the factors we’ve talked about in this post before you make a decision on whether to use a website builder or hire a website designer.
Got an idea for a website? We can help you turn it into a reality. And we’ll give you plenty of advice along the way to ensure everything is absolutely perfect.
Check out how we helped 7days Performance transform their sales by creating a brand new website instead of using WIX which was found to be very restrictive
Get in touch today to see how we can help transform your business
Are you looking at multiple raffle/competition websites thinking ‘I want to build a competition website but wondering who made many…Read Article
What is an RMG licence and why do I need one? Whether you’re at the beginning of your competition business…Read Article
What is a competition website/business? Maybe you’re aware of competition websites or have seen ads for them, but don’t know…Read Article