I earn my living building websites so it should come as no surprise that I recommend having a website built by a person who knows how to build websites. That person doesn’t necessarily have to be somebody with a degree in Web Development, Computer Science or Information and Communications because when it comes to skills, qualifications aren’t always everything.
You may remember that in my last post Do As I Say and Not As I Do, that I told you my personal views on performing skilled tasks, without the required level of skill, which is that you shouldn’t do it. Don’t cut your own hair, don’t design your own logos and don’t build your own websites unless you know what you are doing. None of these activities will result in life threatening consequences, unlike performing your own surgery, which I also advise against, but in most circumstances no good will come of it.
The choice between doing it yourself and paying somebody else to do it, usually comes down to money. Small businesses are often operating on a limited budget, so the prospect of spending thousands of pounds on a website is not only unappealing it’s simply impossible. At this point I’m going to say loudly and clearly that if you are a very small business, the chances are that you do not need a site that will cost you thousands of pounds.
For some businesses, a full agency approach involving a team of experts, unique software solutions and complicated system integration is 100% the right approach, but for the vast majority of small businesses it is simply not necessary.
I’m a huge fan of the word free. It’s hard to say no to things that don’t cost any money. The problem is that not everything you can have free of charge is without cost.
Firstly let’s consider time. How much is your time worth? You may not be invoicing yourself and banking payment, but you are still spending money. This is time that you could and indeed should be spending in your core business. Whatever you charge for your hourly rate, you are now spending on building your own website.
Secondly lets look at your reputation. If you have no design expertise and no experience of web development and build your own website, there is a strong possibility that the end result won’t be the polished and professional product that you’d like your business to be associated with. Website builders and template sites are not inherently bad, but without a clear vision, some basic design and enough choices it is hard to create something unique and professional.
Sometimes you have to spend more to get a certain level of quality but when you are operating on a limited budget, whatever you spend has to represent value for money and when it comes to online services, unfortunately a lot of small business owners are not getting their monies worth. A low monthly fee can seem cost effective but introductory deals and additional VAT can mean that over a 12 month period, your cheap website is actually quite expensive.
Having your own business is about finding customers who are willing to buy your products and services and once you’ve found them, building a relationship that encourages them to continue doing so. As a small business owner you are now on a list of prospects for somebody elses business. Endless phone calls asking to speak to the person responsible for dealing with telecoms, energy supplies, printer ink, advertising and increasingly the company website. Dealing with people trying to sell you things is almost a full time job in its own right. I’m not suggesting for one minute that there are sales people out there who would put their sales targets ahead of your budget but…
If you are paying every month, to spend hours of your time building your own website, using a site builder that you don’t fully understand, to create a basic looking website, which isn’t optimised for search engines, then perhaps your money could have been better spent.
If you chose your current supplier as a result of a cold call from a web design expert who didn’t actually offer you any design advice, then perhaps your money could have been better spent. If you had a free domain where the renewal fee is considerably more than paying full rate for both years, then perhaps your money could have been better spent. If you are dealing with a company who has a special relationship with Google but that doesn’t offer any advice on SEO, then perhaps your money could have been better spent. If you have to up your monthly fee to get any level of customer support, then perhaps your money could have been better spent.
If any of this sounds familiar, then perhaps you should be looking elsewhere.