March 31, 2016 | Sarah Danks
Who’s Going To Build Your Website?
Every business needs a website. This is an indisputable fact.
That being said, how to go about getting said website is another story. Should you hire someone to build it for you…
…or should you go back to college and get a degree in web design? Oh, and don’t forget that minor in web development.
Okay, you’ve decided not to go back to college to learn how to build websites and will instead hire someone to design and develop one for you. But, whom to trust with this colossus of a job?
Well, there are a few different options, but mainly it boils down to 3 choices:
- Freelance web designer
- Web design/dev company
- Advertising agency
Here we’re going to run through some pros and cons to your website design/development choices.
First: The Freelancer.
Almost every single web designer/developer has been a freelancer at some point. What is a freelancer, anyway? Well, it’s a person who has a certain skill set and either works for different companies as a contractor, or has clients and is self-employed but doesn’t have an official company or business.
Pros to working with a freelance web designer:
The main benefit to working with a freelancer is, well, they’re cheaper than hiring a full-blown web company. Oftentimes, freelancers work for themselves so you can pretty much contact them with an update/question at any hour of any day and you’ll likely hear back within the hour.
You’re probably going to receive top-notch customer service (depending on how many clients they have, of course). They’re a one-person shop, so you know you’ll always be dealing with the same person and won’t have to re-explain edits, ideas, etc. to a new person with every phone call.
Cons to working with a freelance web person:
While a lot of freelance web designers are self-employed, many of them still work for other companies. I.e., they’ve got a day job.
Whether a) they’re working on their freelance clients’ work after they get home from the job that pays the bills, b) they only work on freelance projects during the weekends, or c) they smuggle their personal work into the regular 9-5 slot (don’t scoff, you know you’ve done it), freelance web designers can be hard to pin down.
Depending on how much freelance work they have and how hard it is to juggle those projects with their regular job workload, changes can take a long time to implement.
Also, if you hire a web freelancer you might be entering into a shady agreement — see, if a web designer has a regular day job they’ve probably signed some type of non-compete. Also, because they’re a one-person shop, they most likely don’t have processes in place.
You might notice that things happen ad-hoc a lot, or maybe action items slip through the cracks because there’s no system of checks and balances.
Last, a freelancer is just one person. The odds of them being able to not only design and develop your website, but also build it in such a way as to convert visitors is rare.
What about writing the content? Optimizing for search engines? This means you’ll end up having to hire more freelancers who need to work together to create the entire site. Hopefully they all work well together…
Second: The Web Company.
Part 1: Small Business
Notice we’ve segued from freelance into web company because this is most often the natural progression. The freelancer who does good work, retains clients and continues to acquire more business will eventually turn into some type of company.
(Well, that’s our story, anyway.)
Pros to working with a web design & development company:
By this time our humble freelancer has blossomed into a business owner and has acquired not only an office space but also processes, documentation, official contracts, and most likely a business lawyer.
More importantly, they’ve also got employees. This means work gets done quickly and efficiently.
While the web company is going to cost you more to build a website than using a freelance web designer will, you’re still looking at very reasonable pricing (there’s not a lot of overhead with a smaller company).
Plus, with a smaller company you’re still working with the same person (or persons) throughout the design/dev process. Customer service is often good and response time is quick.
And let’s not forget: with a smaller company, the amount of time a project takes from proposal to completion is very quick.
Cons to working with a web design/dev firm:
If the company in question does ONLY web design and development, then you’re dealing with a website that might be built well and user-friendly, but there’s no built-in marketing. That means you’ll still end up having to hire a search marketing company to go in after the fact and try to work with existing structure, content, etc.
That can get expensive, not very fruitful and frustrating since you’ll be working with two separate companies.
There’s a line — not so fine, but a definite line — between a good-sized company and a huge, big-box type of web firm.
Part 2: Corporate America
Maybe we’re not working with a small web design/dev company; maybe we’ve hired a Big Box Web Company. In that case…
Pros to working with a Big Box Web Company:
Talk about processes — big web companies are all ABOUT process. Every aspect of a website project has a timeline and a person assigned to each task. The sheer number of employees is astounding — there are so many!
No problems with projects “bottle-necking” because there are only two designers. Oftentimes, these companies are extremely well-organized, they’ve developed thousands of sites and all the worker bees work together in harmony to create a website in a relatively short amount of time.
Cons to working with a Big Box Web Company:
So, this company has created thousands of websites — and strangely, they all look kinda similar. Because the processes are so streamlined, they can also become quite rigid, meaning your “custom” website is really just a templated design.
Too many employees = too many hoops to jump through to get anything changed on your website. You can become just an account number. If there are too many people assigned to your account, you can end up talking to someone different every time.
You can get charged A LOT of money for not a lot of actual work or services. Or results. Plus, the bigger the company, the longer it takes to get a website completed (it seems). Not because the process isn’t working; because there are so many in the queue.
Third: The Ad Agency.
Now, we’re talking about designing and developing websites — so why are we considering an ad agency? Well, because wouldn’t you know it, ad agencies are trying to get a piece of the web pie.
Some agencies even put out good-looking websites.
Pros to working with an ad agency:
The big advantage to having an advertising agency build your website is they can offer you a plethora of other services besides the branding, web design/development and even search marketing services that good website companies offer.
Ad agencies can be a one-stop shop for traditional marketing, PR, media buys, market research, etc. Another pro is that ad agencies are chock-full of very creative people…
…ergo you’re likely to get a very glitzy website. And a new logo. And lots of zippy headlines.
Cons to working with a traditional advertising firm:
From personal experience: you will most likely overpay for what you’re getting in the website department (beware: they charge by the hour — and they charge a LOT by the hour).
Most agencies, in spite of offering a laundry list of marketing services, don’t excel in the online marketing department. It’s not their wheelhouse. Even though they’re all sorts of creative, most ad agencies don’t have a thorough understanding of online marketing as a whole.
So that fancy website you purchased? It’s probably not very user-friendly (albeit beautiful), and almost certainly wasn’t put together with any of your business goals in mind.
Websites — no matter what business they’re built for — need to persuade visitors to take some type of action. Oftentimes at an ad agency, this isn’t a priority. The goal from their perspective is to dazzle you with bells and whistles…
…regardless of what that means for YOUR bottom line.
Last: Your Business…Your Choice.
Of course there are pros and cons to every available option for paying someone to build your website. Ultimately it’s up to you, the business owner, to weigh the good and bad of each opportunity:
- Web design/development company
- Ad agency
And ultimately you need to do what’s right for your business goals.
Whichever road you decide to travel down, be sure you’ve done your research of every available option. You want to be well informed when it comes to deciding the fate of your business website.