DIY or Not? Site Builder Site vs. Professional Website Designer

February 9, 2016 | Posted in B2B, Software & Services, Technology and tagged , , ,

Take a look at your to-do list. If you’re like most of us, you probably have a good 10-15 tasks awaiting your attention on any given day, 6 of which you swore you’d knock off today. Proposals need to be written, phone calls returned, and oh yeah, your aging website needs to be dealt with.

And those are just the business to-dos. That’s before you even deal with everyday life stuff like fixing the squeaky door hinge and arranging a meeting with the daycare director because your toddler is going through a biting phase.

Ah, the joys of running a business, with its double-edged sword of freedom and tyranny. But being the go-getter you are, you dig in and start mowing those items down. A double espresso helps you power through the proposals and phone calls, you charm the daycare lady with a promise to volunteer at the next munchkin excursion, and with one quick trip to the home improvement store, some deft turns of a Phillips head screwdriver and a spritz of WD-40, you’ve rendered that hinge silent.

You’re a force of nature. A rainmaker. You da man (or da woman).

So now you turn your eye toward that rusty website of yours and begin contemplating your options. You’re no designer or developer, but a lot has changed since you hired that guy from Craigslist. Website builders abound online these days and their compendium of templates sport some pretty nice looking designs. There’s an impressive list of features – some you didn’t even know you needed, and the monthly fee looks a bit easier to choke down than a huge outlay of cash, which is always in shorter supply than one would like.

You look at your shiny new hinge and back at the site builder designs and begin to feel your DIY muscle getting twitchy. Could you really Bob Vila that broken down website into something worthy of a big reveal?


Maybe. But is it worth it?

Website builders have a lot of pros. They offer some attractive designs, they offer lots of options and features, and the barrier of entry cost-wise is low as compared with hiring a professional. In addition to that, they are like an all-inclusive resort – they handle everything from hosting your website to setting up your email, all from behind the scenes. On your end, you can set everything up to your liking and even make a few tweaks now and then, all without learning a single line of code.

The truth is, website builders are great for some people. You simply have to decide if you are one of those people. Chances are good, though, that you’re not.

Here are some things to consider as you make your decision.

Getting Personal with Customization

Say you find a killer template design on a builder site that you absolutely love. Do you see the problem there? “Template”. If you find a template design really attractive, you can bet there are dozens if not hundreds of others out there with tastes just as refined as yours. And that means dozens or hundreds of websites that will look eerily similar to yours. Not good.

Customizing is a benefit that applies to more than design. With website builders, you may be paying for a slew of features (or the option to add them) that you will likely never want or need. And you may need something that the website builder doesn’t even offer.

A professional website designer like Somethumb will customize a website just for you, creating a design that is uniquely yours, and including only those features that you require without front loading you with a bunch of extraneous stuff you’ll never use.

Hosting Your Own Account

The all-in-one benefit of a site builder website becomes a lot less attractive should you ever decide to change hosts or switch to another company. Transferring your website and moving files becomes a nightmare, if it can be done at all.

A web designer can seamlessly transfer your entire website to a different hosting company or make changes and additions to your design very easily without the disruption or anxiety of changing the entire ecosystem that would arise by switching companies.

Pay Once vs. Paying…and Paying…

Subscription models have become very popular for many online products and it’s easy to see why. Paying $50 a month for a piece of software sounds a lot less jarring than forking over $595 at once. It’s very easy to get lulled into thinking that a low monthly fee is a great deal. However, a monthly fee paid over a few years could quickly add up to a far more expensive proposition, especially when you are paying for a template and a handful of usable features as opposed to a fully customized and serviced website. Even more so should they decide to up the monthly fee.

What’s that? You won’t use them forever, or you’ll simply switch companies? Please see the previous bullet point. The barrier of entry is easy. The barrier of exit is more like the Hotel California – you can never leave.

Development & Design Sense

It may be stating the obvious as the profession is, after all, called web DESIGNER, but it requires a certain amount of know-how to put together a professional website. It’s not simply about making the website attractive. It’s about knowing the best practices for web design. It’s about understanding that mood music will irritate, that long loading times will test visitors’ patience, and what design elements have long since been relegated to the museum of extinct websites of the early 2000’s.

A professional website design company will also take SEO matters under consideration, weaving and blending words and phrases into each web page to optimize discoverability.

Web designers construct their websites from the inside out to create the best possible product, maximizing your investment.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Locally Sourced Web Design

While this is an advantage that you don’t see touted as often as others, one thing you might consider as you weigh pros and cons is the notion of choosing a local design firm. While certainly not a necessity, there are some decided benefits to choosing a designer in your own backyard.

First, if you happen to be a local business yourself, catering to your geographical location, then choosing a local design firm who understands the cultural landscape, the customs, and idioms can really infuse your website with local flavor that will help endear you to your patrons.

Second, there is something almost virtuous about shopping local – it’s like going to the farmer’s market. This is the digital version. Plus, supporting local businesses is good karma, and who doesn’t need that?

Website building companies have their place and serve a distinct and grateful market. However, as a business owner, it is highly likely that the so-called benefits of a cookie-cutter website will quickly prove restraining at best and an expensive disaster at worst.

Somethumb has been providing un-cookie cutter website solutions to the San Francisco Bay area and beyond for 13 years. Please give us a shout to find out how we can customize the perfect website for your business.

About Scott Weiss

Scott Weiss is the founder of Somethumb, a creative services agency focused on web design and development. "Like" us on Facebook, "Follow" us on Twitter, "Plus-One" us on Google+, "Connect" with us on LinkedIn, and view our portfolio on

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