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DIY web design has hidden costsYou 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. Click To Tweet

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

Learning Web DesignLet’s assume you aren’t planning to code the site yourself. That way, you won’t have to learn (much) HTML, CSS or JavaScript, or what a “LAMP stack” is.

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

DIY web design mistakesOn 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.

Conclusion

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.

Why risk your business on DIY web design?

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