Some things are best left to a professional. I learned this the hard way when I tried to make bathtub gin. However, when it comes to building a website, the question is a bit more complicated.
So, should you build your website yourself or hire a professional?
The good news is that building a website yourself has never been easier. While being proficient in coding may have been required a few years ago, dozens of simple tools now exist that will allow you to build your own website without learning how to code—and they’re relatively cheap.
But first, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
1. How complex does your website need to be?
This matters a lot. If all you need is a basic one-page website with an email address, phone number and maybe your business address, you can absolutely do that yourself. There are many website builders and one-page templates you can use to get up and running quickly.
Now consider advanced functionality that you commonly see on businesses websites, like:
- appointment scheduling
- complex forms
- a support library
You may find a suitable plug-in (basically an app that sets it up for you), but you may also consider hiring someone.
2. How much time do you have?
This is a critical factor that can actually work both ways. On one hand, if you're in a rush and only need a basic one-page site, your best bet is probably just to do it yourself. On the other hand, if you need your website up quickly and it needs a lot of features you should probably pay someone.
Having more time basically gives you two things. First, the ability to take it slow and build it yourself. This will allow you to create a more complex site and not have to rush. The second factor is that even if you are going to pay someone, time will make it cheaper since anything that needs to be done quickly tends to cost more.
3. How much do you want to spend?
There’s a misconception that building a website is expensive. The fact is, it has never been cheaper or easier to get online with a website that will put your MySpace page to shame. Website builders such as Squarespace, Wix or Weebly, can cost as little as five dollars a month. More expensive platforms such as Shopify start at $30 USD a month (we're not sure why a Canadian company charges in American dollars either) or more but also provide a lot more e-commerce functionality.
That said, even if you plan to hire a developer to build your website, most now use templates as a base to get started which significantly reduces the cost compared to building something from scratch. There are thousands of templates available for platforms like WordPress, Shopify or Drupal, so there’s really no need to build something from scratch (unless you have a looooot of money).
Depending on how much content you’re adding or customization you need, a good ballpark is about $5,000 to have a website built by a developer. Still, a pretty small price to pay for something so fundamental to your business.
4. What is your appetite for learning?
Do you like to learn new things or does the thought of computer code make you queasy?
Truth is, learning to code, even a little bit, is a handy skill to have. If you’re at all curious, learning basic HTML and CSS is a fun side project, and can open up some other options for you such as customizing the templates available on website builders, creating a simple HTML website from scratch (great for a personal website) or messing around with smaller platforms like Ghost.
“Back in the day, I had to hire a company to create my website. As time went on there, there became so many more resources to create and manage a website on your own. And eventually, Shopify came along, which is pretty intuitive and easy to use on the back end”
- Alison Gledhill, gracedesign.ca: Globally inspired accessories made in Canada
5. How critical is your website to your business?
Every business should have a website. However, what kind of business you run might determine just how mission-critical your website is.
If your website is more for marketing purposes, and you don’t sell anything directly from it, building it yourself is not as risky.
If your website must be a finely-tuned conversion machine with 100% uptime, you should probably hire someone. Amateurs often miss things like slow loading times, 404 errors, security issues, certificates and other vulnerabilities that can impact the performance of your website.
One thing to remember if you’re building your own website: don’t forget your SSL certificate.
6. How picky are you?
This is an important one for all you perfectionists out there. If you are the kind of person who would be upset if things didn’t line up perfectly on the page; if the colour was one shade off from what you really want; or if the menu navigation isn’t as slick as you’d like, you should probably hire someone.
Even website builders, although their templates are great, can cause headaches if you’re a perfectionist. Templates are not as flexible as some people would like, and unless you know HTML and CSS, there isn’t always an easy way to make them do what you want.
So, what will it be then? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and build a website yourself? Or are you going to leave it to the experts? Asking yourself a few key questions can help you make the decision that’s best for your business.
While we’re here, we’d like to drop one tip as the .CA domain registry – if you plan on hiring someone to build your website, make sure you register the domain name yourself, using your own contact and login information. That way, you’ll have access to your domain settings even if your relationship with your web designer/agency doesn’t last.