September 28, 2014: If you need to publish a web site for your business or professional blog, there are many options out there.
The first choice you’ll need to make is whether to hire someone to do the work or do it yourself. It’s useful to think about the problem the same way you’d approach a home-building assignment. Should you use a professional contractor or go to Home Depot on your own? A lot depends on what you need, your own comfort level with carpentry and architecture, and, of course, what your budget will allow.
If you’re building a personal blog or “hobby” web site, a free online website builder may suffice. Some online site builders are owned by web hosting companies and offered for free with a hosting agreement (like web.com or Godaddy). Others are stand-alone builders and offer interactive templates for very minimal cost per month (like wix.com or Squarespace). Many services let you build a site without having to know any HTML or having any real CMS (Content Management Systems) experience, which can be a big help for people who aren’t fluent with web technologies.
Free — but there’s a a catch
Many of these builder sites have great user interfaces and their template-driven designs can be attractive. Unfortunately, you’ll often find that the features you really need have additional price tags often tagged to the monthly hosting bill. If you don’t elect to pay, these sites might put advertising onto your site. If you want to sell products on your site, you’ll need to purchase that feature “a la carte.”
These services are similar to what programmers used to call “crippleware” — software whose features are disabled until you sign up for the “pro” account. Call it the “roach motel” syndrome: once you check in to these services, you can’t migrate your site anywhere else. Sometimes the template you used to build your site will be “discontinued,” and your site’s design will vanish without warning. If you decline to continue the relationship, your site may have to be re-built again from scratch. and you might even lose SEO credit, which can stunt your traffic growth.
My nephew, the web designer
If you want to build a build a business site, build it with WordPress. You’ll need to pay for a hosting plan that supports it, but it’s well worth the money. You can edit and publish content more easily than on any other system, there are thousands of useful free/fremium plugins available, and it’s excellent for SEO.
The important question then becomes whether you have the time for all this. Most business people would rather spend time on the business rather than website building and that’s where you run into your next big decision.
I don’t know your family, but the cliche goes “my nephew can build me a site for $200.” My guess is that if he’s charging that little, he doesn’t make web sites for a living, so a big flashing alarm should go off in your head.
You need someone who is dependable and will take accountability for a successful site launch and the maintaining/upgrading that will follow over time. Going back to my home contractor analogy, would you rather live in a house built by a licensed professional home builder or a weekend-only handyman?
There are many reasons why an amateur website designer will give you headaches. You may think you’re saving money, but in the end it you may pay more than you would if you’d hired a professional to begin with.
Freelance or Agency?
Your site designer can give you many options tailored to your vision for your site size and business model (subscription, e-commerce, advertising, etc.). There are many great templates in WordPress a designer can use as a starting point. But it’s usually a mistake to limit yourself to any generic design, because you’re going to have a more difficult time creating a recognizable brand online. You’ll be much better off having an original design that conveys the look of your business branding.
You’ll still need to decide whether a single designer should do the job or a full-service agency. Freelancers can often get the job done economically, because their overhead is low (many work at home), and thus can deliver a good value. Design revisions can be made almost immediately because there is no agency bureaucracy. Sometimes, however, the project can get too big for a single designer to handle. Freelancers often can’t offer the broad marketing support and skill set available at an agency. Need SEO, SEM or content marketing services? The freelancer may not be able to help you. And once your site is built, your relationship with a freelancer usually ends.
At a small or medium-sized agency, a group of designers often collaborates on ideas, and their deliberations can help you to market your business. These extra resources can help you grow your online business faster.
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