The days of weighing up whether or not you need a website for your business are long gone. These days, if you don’t have a website, it’s almost impossible to run a business. The big questions that companies ask themselves today are all to do with how to best create a web presence that works for them.
The most pressing of these questions is whether it’s best to use a website builder yourself, such as Squarespace or Wix, or to go down the professional route and have dedicated web designers and developers create you a bespoke website tailored to your requirements.
There are benefits to both website builder tools and the more professional bespoke solution. Which is right for your business very much depends on your circumstances. So let’s have a closer look at how they both stack up.
There is no doubt that turnkey website builders are the cheaper of the two options in the short term. The platforms they use have mass appeal and can be very cost effective if you need a simple website that works in the here and now.
However, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. And despite plugins offering the chance to keep sites up to date, turnkey websites can often look tired and dated quickly. Plus, there is minimal support and you are often left with a website that doesn’t quite look, feel or work the way you need it to.
Hiring a web designer and developer to create a bespoke website may cost more but they do offer a more complete service that involves a certain amount of after-completion support. Included in the extra cost is a comprehensive service where you get to work in tandem with a designer and developer to create a website that really works the way you want it to. This shows off your business in a better light and is more appealing to customers, many of whom can easily spot a generic turnkey website the moment it loads.
As your business grows or develops, it is much easier for a bespoke website to grow with you, meaning your initial investment starts to work harder for you over time. Also, not every web developer works in a big shiny office and charges a fortune for a website. These days it is a much more democratic and affordable process, and you can get your own bespoke website at a very good rate.
The way we use the web is always changing. For the first time, more people look up websites on their phone than on their computer or laptop. Turnkey website builders are notoriously slow to keep up with developments, meaning you could be falling behind in terms of functionality and web technology.
As you grow and add more levels and dimensions to your site, a bespoke service will be able to cater for this better than a simple platform site, which can be limited in scope and scale. Your bespoke website will also be designed to work seamlessly on all platforms, meaning you can have a solid presence in all formats.
The pace of technological change moves quickly, so creating a website that is future proof is essential for getting good value for money.
If you decide to go down the turnkey website builder route, you can browse through the themes and plugins, deciding how you want your page to look and work. It’s like choosing from a big menu in a restaurant. All the options look appetising and there are loads of meals that you like. It feels as though you’re getting lots of choices.
But then imagine instead of going to a restaurant to eat, you have your own personal chef. And that they are willing to cook you anything you feel like eating. Suddenly you’re not limited to a menu that the chef has prepared time and time again, serving up uninspired food. You get fresh creations with exciting flavours.
That’s the difference in the levels of control you get between website creation tools and professional web design and development. With one you are limited to an, admittedly, extensive menu. But with the other, you get to have exactly what you want.
Some people wrongly believe that by using a developer, it is harder or impossible to upload content themselves. Because bespoke websites are created by specialised web designers and developers, you need to somehow have the knowledge they have to edit content. But this is not always the case. Many developers use content management systems that are easy to operate, using platforms like WordPress and Craft CMS. This means it is straightforward and easy to upload and edit content, even if you’re not a developer.
The developers’ skills lie in using these platforms and CMS to produce sites that look distinctive and professional but are still easy to use in the back end. Meaning that you can have full control over content, making changes and updates as and when you want them.
Your choice about whether to use a professional website developer or simply to use a builder tool often depends on what you need the site for. If you’re a blogger or small one-person operation selling handmade soap out of your garage, then a simple homemade site might be the most suitable option. But even then, you have to consider factors such as online shops and security. These can be tricky to get right, and we all know how frustrating it can be when you can’t make the correct purchase online.
Sites like WordPress started out as simple blogging platforms, and while they have come a long way, it’s still relatively straightforward to create a blog. For most blogs, a simple WordPress, or similar, site is more than adequate. And you can always update and grow your site later when you’ve got thousands of readers hanging on your every word. But when there is a business element involved, using the various plugins and e-commerce elements, it really needs a professional touch.
Privacy & Security
Online privacy is big news right now. With the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandals in the papers every day, keeping data safe has never been more important. And there is a new EU wide initiative that will govern the way our online data is handled, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The GDPR is the single biggest online privacy measure taken to date, enshrining into law all the previously suggested and toothless legislation in this area. And even though it only applies to EU citizens, its net covers any site that stores information from an EU person. Which basically means any site in the world.
Even though your business might not be the size or scale of Facebook, the chances are that you store personal data in the form of customer contacts or even on a forum. This means the new laws apply to you. And with big fines for non-compliance, the lawmakers are not messing around.
Fines can be up to €10 million or 2% of annual worldwide turnover for the previous year, whichever is higher, for any business that does not comply with the new GDPR. For companies that suffer a data breach where the personal data of EU citizens is accessed illegally, fines can be up to €20 million or 4%, whichever is higher.
Despite the qualifier term ‘up to’, those numbers are frightening so you cannot afford to fall foul of the law in this area. While web builder platforms are working hard to incorporate this new law into everything they do, it might very well be a good idea to use a developer who knows exactly how these kinds of things work to cover your back.
If nothing else, it makes good business sense to keep your customer’s information safe and let them know you’re doing so. At a time when data is a hot topic, it’s great PR to let them know you’re not like these big online firms who are betraying their trust.
As you can see, there are a number of benefits to each form of website construction. You need to weigh up the cost, ease of use, control and security factors and how they relate to you. This should help you to make a choice as to which is the most suitable option for you.
However, you should remember that in these digital days, a website is probably the most important business tool at your disposal and it’s not worth scrimping. Look at your site as an investment in your business future. It might be possible to knock up a site yourself that does the job. But is that good enough and is that the impression you want to make on customers? Studies show that it takes less than three seconds for people to make a visual judgement about a website and, consequentially, your business. So, it’s really worth going all out to make sure you use this time as wisely as possible.