Designing and building a professional, functional website that showcases your company in its best light is essential to the success of your online marketing efforts.
To make the right decision about how to build your website, you need to know what options are available, and consider all the related costs including hardware, internet access, web design and development, hosting and maintenance, and future growth.
1. Do It Yourself
The least expensive (but likely most time-consuming) option is to design and build the website yourself. From free theme templates for self-hosted to wordpress.org sites, to fully-hosted services such as Squarespace, there are plenty of ways for you to get your website online with little or no knowledge of HTML or other coding languages (though some working knowledge of HTML and CSS may be helpful if you need to customize templates).
As a general best practice, you’ll want to host your website yourself through a web hosting service (who will charge you a monthly fee to keep your website files on its servers). Choosing to host your website using free services such as Tumblr or wordpress.com blogs means that you will subject to their terms of service (which often change), and if they find you in violation of those terms for any reason your website can be taken down. Because your website is such a critical marketing tool for your business, you want to be in control of the space where your website lives.
When you build your own website your primary costs will be a web hosting plan and your time, so if you have minimal knowledge of web design and development it may be worthwhile for you to hire a web professional and spend your time operating and growing your business instead.
Before choosing to build your site yourself, ask yourself: Do I possess the necessary design skills and knowledge of website functionality to launch my site? Am I willing to put in the time to learn how the platform I am building on works, and gain enough web administration skills to maintain the site?
2. Hire a Student
Hiring a student can be a cost-effective option for a small business owner on a budget. A skilled, enthusiastic student can design and build you a basic website, and possibly even advise you on search engine optimization and other internet marketing techniques. The cost of the hiring a student depends on the nature of the relationship. You may be able to hire a student for as little as $25 per hour or even on a contract basis.
Keep in mind, student are still learning not only how to design and build websites, but also about how to interpret a client’s wants and needs, and balance them against a site’s required functionality. If your website will require extensive development work, it may be worthwhile to hire a more established professional.
If you do choose to hire a student for your web project, be sure to ask to see a portfolio first. You can find students through local colleges that offer web design certification, such as BCIT, Langara and Capilano College. In addition, there are a number of private schools to choose from. Try searching Google for “web design schools” in your area.
3. Hire a Freelance Web Professional
Hiring a freelance web designer or developer means hiring a professional who has the necessary web design skills and knowledge, but doesn’t have the overhead of a traditional design agency.
Freelancers are generally less expensive than a design firm, and offer a direct line of communication – you are only dealing with one individual, as opposed to a multi-person team at an agency. They usually provide trouble-shooting, maintenance and upgrade services at reasonable rates.
However, they may not have all the required development or internet marketing skills you need to satisfy all the requirements of your website project . Additionally, if a freelancer suddenly becomes temporarily or permanently unavailable for work, then you will have to find another web professional to maintain your website – which can be a problem if you don’t have access to your files (and your domain name) or your website is built in a manner that makes it difficult for another freelancer to take over.
Costs of hiring a freelance designer/developer vary significantly. Some freelancers charge on a per project basis, but more often charge by the hour. Current rates average $50 to $100 per hour, and the total cost of building your website will depend heavily on the scope of the project.
4. Hire a Design Agency
If budget is less of a concern or you have complex development needs, then you may want the full-service approach that a design agency offers. Agencies will assign your project to a team of professionals which may include a project manager, creative director, designer, developer, and content strategist. This team will work together to ensure all aspects of your web development project are in sync. Web design agencies may also offer print work to ensure their client’s online and offline messages are complementary.
Web design firms often charge a flat fee for an entire project, and their hourly rates average from $100 to $150 per hour.
Making the Right Choice for Your Business
There’s no “one size fits all solution” when it comes to building your business’ website. Ultimately, how you decide to build your website – and who you enlist to help you do that – will depend greatly on your specific requirements. Simple brochure-style websites may be suitable for an ambitious DIYer to tackle. However, complex and dynamic sites that require integration with third-party services and plugins will likely require the intervention of a web professional.
Whichever route you take, be sure to map out your website requirements in advance, and remember that making an investment in a well-built website now can save you and your business time and money in the future.