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If you’re a start up business, a sole trader or a small business, it is inevitable that you are going to think about getting your first website or upgrading your old, outdated website. If you don’t have a limitless budget and you’re not looking for a website that has lots of functionality then this leaves two main options for you… an off the shelf website from someone like 1&1 or Vistaprint; or using a freelance web designer. It’s a question I have thought about a lot being that I am a freelance web designer, so I will obviously be bias. However, I will promise to try and stay as objective as possible.
With budget being the main factor when you are looking for a website, it won’t take you long to find a solution for as little as £10 per month. Companies like 1&1 and Vistaprint offer a quick fix for minimum initial cost. You can build a website from a choice of templates and personalise them with your own content including images and a logo.
The main benefit is that these systems are relatively easy to use, so you can sit at home and literally build a website in a few minutes. I personally admire the technology that goes into a website like 1&1, it’s a great achievement that we can now build a respectable looking website without the need to know any html, css, jquery etc… however, there are limitations.
The main disadvantage of this option is the ongoing cost. Even if the monthly fee is quite low, you will eventually pay much more than necessary for your website. There is also the issue of limited functionality. In some cases this won’t be an issue for you, but you might want something a little more technical like a scrolling banner or a design that you can’t find a template for? This is something that you may find restrictive in the future.
Another factor to consider is the ownership of your domain name. In most cases you can purchase the domain name (www.yourdomainname.com) with the DIY website and you own it outright. However, there are cases where you do not and this can be an issue when you need to move the website away and want to keep the domain name or the design the same. This is worth checking before you proceed.
All things considered, they are a great, quick fix solution at a low initial cost but in my opinion, should not be considered a long term solution.
Again with budget in mind, going the Freelance Web Design route can be significantly cheaper than using a professional web design company but will have a larger initial cost outlay than an “off the shelf” solution like 1&1 or Vistaprint. It is worth noting, some freelance web designers do not charge anything until you give your final approval on the design. If you don’t like the result, you don’t have to part with any cash.
The main benefits of using a freelance web designer, is the personal service and the bespoke, unique design of your website. In most cases, by using a freelance web designer your website will have a unique and more professional looking finish compared to a lot of the template websites you find on the internet.
Depending on the freelance web designer you use, your website can include some nice functionality that a template website can’t offer. You may want a dynamic news feed, a blog, social media integration, a scrolling banner, a bespoke contact form or a unique design… All of these things you would expect as standard from your freelance web designer.
One of the main benefits to an “Off the Shelf” website is you can easily edit them from the comfort of your own home computer. Any good freelance web designer will normally build your website into a content managed system (CMS) as standard. This means you can also easily edit and update the website using your own home computer.
Another main benefit is the personal touch. In most cases, if you need help, or you want something changed on your website that the CMS does not offer, you have a real person to speak to that knows your website intimately and can help give your website ongoing development and support hopefully at a minimal cost.
The most important benefit (that can also be seen as a negative depending on your budget at the time?) is you normally pay a fixed fee for the website. A one off cost will normally include all the required domain name purchase and hosting for the first year. For example, a ten page static website with a unique design, including hosting and set up costs could cost you anywhere from £400 – £700 with all of the technical stuff will get taken care of for you.
I would definitely ask your Freelance Web Designer all of these questions, it is very important to check what they charge for help with updates and any potential future design changes that the CMS does not offer.
Onsite Seach Engine Optimisation (SEO) is also very important when building a compliant website to the latest web standards. In my experience and from a techy point of view, template websites are bulky and usually not W3C compliant. Some template websites even make your site invisible from search engines until you pay extra for SEO.
A good Freelance Web Designer should build you a website to the latest W3C standards with all the relevant on-site SEO. This basically means that your website will be organically visible to the best of its ability in all the major search engines. It is important to point out that on-site SEO is much different from an external SEO campaign, an external SEO campaign will normally cost a lot of money, but is a successfully way of making sure you are highly ranked in search engines where there is stiff competition. Essentially, the more money you put in the higher ranked your website will be.
Hosting should be relatively cheap. You don’t really want to be paying any more than £50 – £100 per year, for hosting your website yourself. If you have purchased your own domain, as you know this will only cost you £5 – £10 per year, very little ongoing costs.
You should also get free, unlimited emails included with the website. For example, you may want – [email protected] and [email protected] – in most cases there should be no ongoing separate cost for these, but it does depend on your web designer…another thing definitely worth asking.
When you are getting a bespoke, unique website, as you can imagine you will get a great deal more input to the final result of your website. This will inevitably take more of your time than an “Off the Shelf” website and you will have to ask a few more questions to make sure you know what you are getting. Any decent freelance web designer will detail what they are providing in writing so both parties are completely happy before you make a decision.
In conclusion, the two options are very different. However, being that I am a freelance web designer of course I am going to say freelance web design is a better option than a template site… but I do genuinely believe it is. The initial outlay is much more in the short term, but it is a good longer term investment, with no contractual commitment and you have more ownership over your website.
In my opinion, if you are looking for a website with a limited budget, but you want something a little more exciting than a template website, then go the extra mile and speak to a Freelance Web Designer.
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