DO YOU DO YOUR OWN?

Should you do your own website? Meh.

DIY Websites. We weigh in.

Do you hire a professional web designer or do you go with a do-it-yourself option like Squarepace, Joomla, or WordPress? A jury of professionals, web designers, customers, and users has weighed in. The unanimous conclusion: hire a professional.

The Internet is not a forgiving environment. If your website is good (i.e. user friendly, beautiful and search engine optimized), you’ll be noticed. If it is bad, you’ll draw ridicule or worse, you won’t get noticed at all. Unless you have experience in web design, you shouldn’t be designing your company’s website.

Small business owners, though encouraged by CMS companies like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace (despite having one of the 5 worst Super Bowl 50 commercials), should leave the business of web design to a professional, even if they want to use these services. The difference in the finished product is very different in the hands of an experienced web designer. Anyone may be able to throw a website up and publish it, but unless your small business is in the field of design, it’s not going to look good, work well, or draw business.

There are tell-tale signs. Self-styled websites done by an accountant or other non-designer professional lack in aesthetics, while websites executed by large corporations lack personality and often user-friendliness. “I can tell if a website has been done by a business owner,” said a source who asked not to be named. “My accountant did her own on Vistaprint and it was just bad—worse than her generic business card. If I didn’t know her personally, I would never have hired her.”

Then, there is the frustration factor for the DIY-er. Business owners get in and all of a sudden find out that they are over their head. Only 2% of amateurs succeed in this endeavor. [3] Bloggers are usually part of that successful group, but many bloggers also hire web designers. Food blogger and Kitchen Ninja Julianne Pucket (yankeekitchenninja.com) was a professional user experience (UX) tester for a large web design firm. “I hired a web designer because I knew she would do a better job than I. I know UX, but I don’t know the intricacies of WordPress. I can upload a blog, but don’t make me do the initial setup or custom CSS. I cook and write for a living.”

Web designers don’t seem to care what language they are using: “We’re not purists. Sure we like HTML, but if a small business or writer wants to have a website done using WordPress or in an environment like Squarespace, we don’t mind. We’re experts in those platforms, too, and we teach our clients how to update their websites with new blog posts, so they never have to worry about breaking something,” says Kathleen Buczko of Chapelure Media. “We take a service that makes it easy and we make it even easier—and a lot better looking. We have assets that the average person doesn’t, like a library of photos and the ability to get into the back-end of a website and make specific tweaks.”

This also applies to larger companies as well. Our anonymous source has experience in user interfaces created by small and large corporations. “I can also tell when a site has been designed by committee. The committee I had experience with had no idea what the users’ needs were. They didn’t ask why the user was coming to the site or what they were looking for. I think the formation of the committee and the new web design was just a ploy for someone to get promoted—not that it didn’t need to be fixed, it did. Unfortunately, the representation of the company online was diluted due to the lack of leadership, and it shows.”

“Unless you have a serious, dedicated design team, you should outsource if you want to keep it up to date, relevant, and maintain the on- and off-site SEO,” Buczko explains. “In large companies and government organizations, we have found that internal employees get pulled in too many directions. Often, designers are multi-tasking with revenue-driven client presentation graphics and social media duties, or worse. Your graphic designer might be capable, but their skills could be limited or rusty. A dedicated team from outside the company is invaluable.”

Can any type of designer perform web design tasks? Renowned designer Massimo Vignelli’s ethos was, “If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” but is any designer going to create a good website? While Vignelli was certainly talented in many facets of design, we wondered about the digital realm. Does it make a difference whether the designer has an education in web or say, architecture?

“Of course it makes a difference!” exclaimed interior designer, Stephanie Robbins. “People spend a lot of money getting educated…they learned things in the field that you didn’t. And, they probably have better taste than you.” She emphasized that she is not being a design snob, though she did attend two prestigious design schools. “It’s a matter of training. People dedicate a lot of time to this. They have better insight and know more things than a lay-person. They have a library of ideas, resources, and applications in their head. That’s worth a lot of money.”

Robbins continued, “I’m educated in design, but I shouldn’t be put in charge of redesigning my company’s website. I can make your home or office a beautiful reflection of your personal or company’s personality, but I don’t know all the possibilities available on the web. I’d certainly never hire my web designer buy my furniture. That would be a disaster.”

But, how much is good web design actually worth? “We found that almost half of small businesses dedicate only 20 percent or less of their marketing budget to digital marketing. Small businesses have been slow to adopt digital marketing strategies, even though these strategies can be highly advantageous.” So says clutch.co, an online web design company.

If you’re serious about business, it is worth a lot. “The look of a website that is done by a designer is just more professional,” explains Kenny Millen of Millen Music, a small business owner who has worked with multiple web design firms. “Getting traffic to your site is more effective for small businesses when using a pro. Otherwise, you are just hanging an ornament on a tree in the forest.” Evidently, that’s true. If you are a small business owner, chances are you know nothing about search engine optimization (SEO) or backlinks or search engine marketing (SEM). “Also, professional web builders are on the cutting edge, constantly researching and learning what resonates with an audience—what is new and hot. The right web designer is always trying to stay ahead of their competition.”

“For a good, optimized, multiple-page website, we charge between $6,000 to $10,000,” says Buczko. “If you’re a bootstrapping start-up, that can be a hefty investment, but the complete package is worth the price tag. We had a small business client who came to us after her website was hacked. She paid a kid $600 to put it up and less than a year later, the site was taken down by her hosting company for sending out spam. We had her back up and running with a beautiful new website in less than a week. She’s back in business. That’s the difference between DIY and a professional company.”

Even if your business is web design, hiring another professional web designer can be advantageous. Buczko admits, “A web design company can end up like the cobbler’s children, who have no decent shoes. Hiring [an outside] designer can be key to getting the project off the ground. For our in-house projects, we like to establish direction, gather details, content and code and then hand it off to a good freelancer to finish it off…the job always gets done that way.”

Web Savvy Marketing says it very succinctly. “Our website development process includes a 90+ point project plan that is broken out into project kick-off, collection of client deliverables, research and planning, custom theme design, website build, and final optimization for search. This project plan is tracked electronically in a project management software package that manages tasks, owners, and due dates… When done properly, the process takes a 6-8 weeks to complete all the tasks and make sure they are all performed properly. Yes folks, that means building a good website requires a lot more than whipping up your logo, throwing in some text, and picking some colors.”

Bottom line: Don’t do your own website. The digital representation of your company is too important to risk. Allowing it to be done in your spare time or by a team that does it as an additional duty is not advisable. Your talent is in your business, be it accounting, music, tools, aerospace or interior design, not in web design. Even if it is, leave your digital presence to the professionals. It’s worth the money.

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