Congratulations! You've decided to start a business. Better yet, you've already begun developing your branding; so you have a deep understanding of why your business exists and what benefits you provide to your community. The next step? Creating your website so you can let that community know that you're here.
But there are so many options. Do you learn how to make a website yourself? Should you use a build-your-own template? Should you hire someone else to make it? How about your domain? What's hosting all about? The questions can become overwhelming for someone with little-to-no experience in website creation.
With that in mind, here are answers to three frequently asked questions in regards to building (or redesigning) your website:
- Is my website even all that important?
YES. Did I just shout at you? Oops. But let's be real, #sorrynotsorry. You may already have a decent amount of business coming in, but as far as business goes, "a decent amount" isn't exactly enough, and quite frankly it's exhausting to maintain.
We live in the digital age, and if this is news to you, hit that "start a project" button now, because this is definitely not a road you are prepared to travel alone. The reality is that your website can make or break the growth of your consumer base. When potential customers hear about a business, the first thing they do is Google it. Your website is all part of your brand; so if it's outdated, a hassle, or non-existent, that immediately represents how those potential clients will see your services: outdated, a hassle, or non-existent.
Let me also say that having a Facebook page DOES NOT COUNT AS A WEBSITE. Oh, am I shouting again? ...I'm okay with it. Facebook is a social media platform, and while it is very important to your branding and developing relationships with your customers, it does not accomplish the same purpose as a website. Personally, when I see a business that relies solely on a Facebook page, I see nothing more than a person with a well-organized hobby. It's just not professional, regardless of how 'hip' you want to be. Besides, Facebook is no where near considered 'hip' anymore; so your mindset is already outdated for thinking that. In a world where people primarily live through their phones, you can't afford to exist without some digital brick and mortar.
- Can I just use one of those websites that let me make my own?
In short, yes, you can absolutely do that. It's certainly "easier" and "cheaper" according to them. (And don't worry, you'll hear all about this in a future post--stay tuned!) A few things to consider before you commit to this route:
- These sites use templates, which means structurally, yours will look very similar to many other sites out there. Sites that have less of a cookie-cutter feel, use templates that require additional payment. That payment usually requires a yearly renewal and other people can also pay to use that template. If you choose to purchase the template in such a way that no one else can use it, that price skyrockets.
Do you know what kind of content you need? How many pages should you have on your site? What's the right information to highlight? Have you fully developed your branding? What's the best way to present that content to gain traction? How do you write up what your business is about in a clear and engaging way? Do you need graphics? How do you develop those? Do you need to pay a third party to create those for you? What about photos? Are yours high enough quality to look good on any size screen? Do you even know how to tell their quality level? Do you need to hire a professional to take photos for you? What should you ask them to photograph to match the content and layout you've already chosen?
Content is huge. It is 100% up to you to design and develop it through these sites. If you're not prepared or skilled to develop it, you can incur a lot of extra cost to get what you need. But it's not just skill. You can easily go to Fiverr and get cheap freelance work done, but you'll need to have a fully developed idea to give them before they can actually create it. Even if you're not doing the drawing with your own hand, you're still responsible for the full creative process.
- These sites have training videos and customer service emails you can reach out to in times of need, but they're generic and unfamiliar with your project as a whole. There is no personalization or specific insight into your market, your goals, or the foundation of your business. They can provide you with tips to better use their services, but not in a way that exemplifies you.
- Time is money. Figuring out all of the answers above, doing all the additional research, planning the overall layout, developing all the content, putting it together in a visually appealing space, and getting it hosted online with a domain takes a lot of time. You're running a business. How much time do you really have to take away from the daily goings-on of growing your company? What about family, friends, and sleep? Those 168 hours in a week get eaten up alarmingly fast.
So yes, you can use these sites, by all means. But don't be fooled by "cheaper" and "easier" because there are plenty of additional requirements: time, creativity, insight, and unrealized fees.
- Why does web design cost so much?
The short answer? See above.
Have you reread all of those "hidden" costs? Because insight, experience, research, creativity, content creation, customer service, time, and additional fees should be enough of an answer to this question. But let me add one more:
Customization. Speaking for ourselves, we create your website from scratch, so you'll get to see a full layout before we start coding and make changes as you wish. Want a different font? Don't like your photo in that section? Want to integrate specific social media feeds into the site? Not all templates give you the freedom to make those changes. They're limited at best with what alterations you can make without going back to the drawing board to find a new template. (And hopefully finding one that meets all of your needs.) When your site is built specifically for you, any and all changes are possible.
We've really only scratched the surface here, but the general idea is this: so much more goes into creating a website than people initially think. A lower-cost, do-it-yourself process sounds great, and it absolutely can be if you've got the right resources, but generally speaking, people get in over their heads and aren't able to have the final outcome they were expecting. So, before you make the choice about creating your own website or hiring a creative agency, ask yourself these questions:
1. What kind of experience do I want my customers to have when interacting with my brand online?
2. Do I want my professional website to have the same level of quality as someone's personal blog?
3. Do I have the time to commit to fully developing my website?
4. Do I have the skills to adequately develop content for my website?
5. Can I afford to risk losing customers with a sub-par website?
6. What is the real cost of creating my own site versus hiring a professional?