You may not expect a professional web designer to say this, but DIY web design does have its place. However, when building business websites, the hidden costs of DIY web design are far higher than most people think.
As a small business owner, it can be tempting to ignore these costs. They will still affect you, though — and can easily cost you more than engaging a professional web designer. So consider them carefully before falling for the hype about DIY web design systems.
When To Consider DIY Web Design
If you don’t aim to make money from your website, any money spent on it is pure cost. So then it’s wise to minimise that cost, and doing so has little impact.
However, the situation for any kind of commercial site is completely different. To paraphrase Red Adair, “If you think professionals are expensive, wait until you realise what amateurs cost you.”
How Are Business Websites Different?
Any site that has a chance of paying for itself is an investment. Good investments pay for themselves sooner, then build profits faster. Cutting costs on investments just undermines performance, risking total failure. That’s an easy way to turn a great investment into a pure waste of money and effort.
…but there are other hidden costs, too. Because it matters how well your site competes.
A business website is a key marketing vehicle, that you’re about to enter in a race with your competition — who have marketing budgets and professional designers. Sure, your first attempt at a kit-car could get you into the race — even keep you going around the track. It isn’t likely to help you win, though, is it?
That’s why amateur web design won’t cut it for a business website — and there’s more to learn than you may think.
Learning DIY Web Design
So, you’re using a “DIY web design” platform or program, right? Great — but it takes more than a brush to make an artist, or a spanner to make an engineer.
Search engines will judge your site on the quality of its code, so you’ll just have to hope that’s passable. You’ll also be limited by what the platform lets you do, and few let you move your site elsewhere once you realise that. Still, let’s just ignore that for a moment, eh?
DIY Web Design Skills
Maybe you’re pretty good at photography, graphic design and typography, too. So you know there’s a lot more to it than putting things where you think they look right.
…and sure, you can write — but can you write compelling, search optimised, online sales copy? Even confident, professional writers take time to learn that vital skill.
Now, you do know that you’ll need to design all this to suit your target audience, not your own personal preferences, right? Have you researched landing page optimisation techniques? How about SEO?
Even if you’re great at all of these, each task will usually take at least twice as long as expected — often much longer. Writing, designing and building even small websites typically takes several days or weeks, not a few hours.
That’s before you get to launch, let alone the ongoing tasks of promoting your site, interpreting stats and optimising performance. All of which a professional web designer could help with.
Clearly, the more you need to learn to reach professional standards, the longer that will take, and the more mistakes you’ll make along the way. Both of those points incur costs that are all too easy to overlook.
The True Cost of DIY Web Design
So now that you have a better idea of the true scope of even a simple web project — what are the hidden costs of DIY web design?
The Cost of “Free” Time
Your “free” time is actually the most valuable resource you have, as it’s the one thing you can never buy back. It’s worth at least what you could otherwise be earning.
Unless you’ve been self-employed for a while, your easiest reference point may be a job salary. In that case though, add half again to account for the non-monetary benefits of long-term employment. Of course, if you’re already running a business, staying focused on running that could be worth even more.
Now, how many weeks did you expect to take to learn and implement all this? How much will that really cost you?
The Opportunity Costs of Delays and Mistakes
On top of that, your website won’t be earning as you learn. So the extra delays of DIY will cost you the profit from all the sales you could have made in that period. It will also distract you from other aspects of your business (or business planning), which may lead to other problems.
Then even after launch, a website is never perfect or complete. You’ll need to watch your site stats and keep optimising it. Your competitors will be doing the same, and you’ll have to respond to them.
So even professionals can’t guarantee instant or lasting success. What they can do is give you a better starting point, and more experience at predicting what your competitors might do, and how to respond to that.
Each sale that you lose by choosing DIY instead of hiring an expert web designer adds to the hidden opportunity costs of DIY.
The Hidden Costs of DIY Web Design Platforms
Finally, we’ve already mentioned that you’ll be restricted by what a DIY platform lets you do. That’s often how they really make their profits.
For instance, many use “freemium” pricing — you can sign up to a free level, but features that are vital for business cost more. Those may include costs for using your own domain name, or removing the platform’s ads that will cheapen your brand. Ecommerce features almost always cost more too — and some platforms take a fee for every transaction as well.
Some systems also have “marketplaces” where modules can be bought to add premium layouts and features that not everyone needs. Of course, none can match the hundreds of thousands of themes and plugins available for self-hosted WordPress sites (mostly for free).
These extra platform costs are quite legitimate, and less “hidden” than the others outlined above. Still, they aren’t always obvious before you find yourself locked into using the platform, and can drift a long way from the cheap deal you thought you had signed up to.
So DIY web design can be a reasonable approach for a non-commercial project. For a business website, however, web design is an investment. In that case, the hidden costs of DIY web design will cost you far more than engaging a professional web designer.