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Website Builder vs. Professional Web Designer: What’s Best for my Business Website?

Website Builder vs Professional Web Designer

The creation of a website can be an exciting step on a startup journey – but it can also be a daunting one. The good news is that there are ample tools to make that journey more fun and straightforward. In this article, we help you make one key decision: whether to hire a professional website designer or use a website builder.

First things first: what’s a website builder? Think of it as a shortcut between you and your finished site – a tool that cuts out the need to learn coding and all the nitty gritty of web design. Web hosting companies like IONOS offer website builders to help you with everything from design to navigation and other functionality, making the process quick and, crucially, very easy.

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How do I know if a website builder is the right choice for me?

Whether you opt to hire a professional web designer or choose to go for a website builder, there are pros and cons. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. A website builder is by far the most cost-effective option.
  2. With a website builder, you can have your website up and running very quickly. The process with a web designer can take a number of weeks.
  3. A website designed using a website builder and a free template can sometimes feel quite generic, whereas one created especially for you by a professional is more likely to look completely unique.
  4. The SEO credentials of a site are more likely to be rock solid if you hire a professional, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s worth paying attention to when you choose though, whichever path you go down.
  5. Most website builders are very user-friendly, but not all offer great customer support. A professional web designer will likely charge by the hour, but you’ll always know that there’s a real human there to help you.
  6. Professional website designers are experts at all things sales and conversion in the context of the web. Basic websites with simple needs don’t rely on that kind of expertise to the same extent – but if your website is your most important sales portal, those skills can be invaluable.
  7. In order to keep charging for maintenance and support, some web design agencies don’t give you full ownership of your site. This can come with devastating consequences, not to mention huge costs.
  8. Consider the investment of time as well as money. If you’re not ready to invest the big bucks just yet, perhaps test the waters with a website builder first?

Generally speaking, a website builder is a great option for startups and smaller organizations, while it’s often worth investing in a professional designer when embarking on a website project for a bigger business. The up-front cost of hiring a professional is simply too prohibitive for startups, while a website builder is more forgiving and a great place to start.

How do I choose a website builder?
website builder screenshot / by Ionos.co.uk

How do I choose a website builder?

If you do end up opting for a website builder, there are things you can do to avoid the main pitfalls and make it work for you.

  1. Read up on their reputation
    Find out about the company behind the website builder you’re looking at. How long have they been around for? Can you find any reviews of their tool? A little bit of digging should be enough to uncover any red flags.
  2. Browse the available templates
    With a website builder, you’re reliant on the available templates. What’s the selection like, and how customizable are the templates? At what point on the customization journey do they go from being free to eating into your budget? All builders have their own pros and cons, so you need to find one that suits your needs.
  3. Consider hosting and custom URLs
    Some website builders are compatible with a range of web hosts, and you can connect your own unique domain name to your newly designed site. Others are less flexible, and some don’t even give you the option of adding a custom URL. The latter will be key for any self-respecting business, so do your research on this one.
  4. Check out the customer support
    What happens if there’s a major issue with your site? Take a close look at the customer support options. Naturally, if you opt for a free template, you can’t expect VIP treatment – but you should never need to feel like you’re completely alone. Great customer support says a lot about a website builder, and it can save your sanity many times over.
  5. SEO, apps and plugins
    If the company behind the website builder takes SEO seriously, you’ll be able to find information about the credentials of a site designed with their builder. Even if you’re not worrying about SEO right now, make sure that there are ways to up the ante in due course. Similarly, it’s a good sign if your website builder of choice offers other functionality, including apps, plugins and widgets. The more options, the more likely that you’ll remain happy with your choice for a long time to come.

Do I need a professional web designers?

People say that you get what you pay for, and to some extent that’s obviously true. If you have a huge budget, you’re less likely to need to compromise – but that’s not to say that you should be throwing money down the drain. Ask these questions before you get started, and you can make that budget last longer:

  • Are you the sole and complete owner of your site once it’s ready?
  • How many drafts, redesigns and tweaks are included in the agreed price?
  • What’s the delivery date, and what happens in case of delays?
  • Is maintenance included, and if not, what are the terms and costs of any extras?

Conclusion

For startups and smaller businesses, our recommendation is usually to start with a website builder. It’s simply not that big a gamble to try one out, because it’s not a huge investment. But whichever route you go down, your key priorities will mostly be the same: you want a site that looks the part and shows up in search results, and you want a solution with scope for growth as well as some technical support should you need it. Now that you know what questions to ask, you should be able to get set up in no time.

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