There’s no question that businesses operating in today’s marketplace need an online presence. And for most businesses, the heart of their online business is their company website. A custom company website acts as a central hub where branding can be established and defined; customers can find the most extensive information on products or services; and employees can find important resources that help them do their jobs efficiently. But does having a website necessarily mean you need to hire a web developer?
With the rise of drag-and-drop web building platforms, many businesses are opting to make their websites themselves. Companies like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace can help business owners buy a domain, purchase hosting, and launch a site in a matter of hours. Their visual drag-and-drop editors make web design easy, handling all the coding in the background, and they even offer logo making tools. These tools are easy to learn and supported with tutorials on YouTube so that even beginners can achieve good results.
Given how easy these sites are to use, you might be wondering whether you should choose one of these web development companies to host and manage your company website. Is there really any advantage to hiring a professional web developer?
The answer depends on how your business will use its website and how much time you are willing to invest in managing your company website. This blog post will explore some of the factors you need to consider before deciding between building a company website yourself or hiring a professional to build and manage a website for you.
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Should I Hire A Professional Web Developer?
To answer this question, consider what you actually need from your company website. There are three factors to consider that can help you determine whether or not you need a professional web developer: how critical your website is to your business, how complex your website needs are, and how secure your website needs to be.
- How critical is your website? Are you simply looking to improve brand awareness by giving customers a place to learn more about you? If so, your site will be important, but you’ll be able to continue business operations normally if your site goes down unexpectedly, especially if you also have accounts on social media platforms. However, if customers will be placing orders through your site, then your site is much more important to your business. Likewise, if you’ll actually be fulfilling orders through your site (such as providing purchased downloads like patterns or blueprints, software, or event tickets), then your website is absolutely critical to your business. Any downtime or malfunctions will cost you revenue and credibility with your customers. The more critical your website is, the more you need a web developer who can be contacted directly and fix problems swiftly.
- How secure does your website need to be? Any time you have customers exchanging personal data through your site, your security demands increase exponentially. The last thing you want is a data breach that will very likely decimate your business. An experienced web developer will understand the threats facing your business and the best protections against those threats. In some cases, web developers like TracSoft can even offer security monitoring and automatic data backups for your site so you’re prepared for any crisis.
What Is Technical Expertise Worth To You?
Another consideration when deciding between do-it-yourself website builders and professional web developers is how much technical expertise matters to you. Working with someone who specializes in web development, isn’t essential, but it offers a number of benefits ranging from convenience up to
For one thing, when you work with a web developer, you work with someone who will be able to fix issues more quickly when they arise. Not only can you bypass a frustrating call to a customer service operator, instead getting in touch with your developer directly, but your web developer will be able to find your issue more quickly and resolve it faster because they know your site intimately. Having built it, they understand how it works and the issues they see most commonly with the specific tools they used on your site.
Another advantage is that web developers can provide stronger security and maintenance not just because they can tailor security protocols to your needs, but because the way they build your site will be unique to them. In contrast, if a hacker finds a vulnerability on one web building platform, then all of the sites on that platform are likely vulnerable in the same way. This means a number of sites can be breached very quickly before anyone realizes the vulnerability is being exploited.
Finally, a web developer’s expertise means your site will have a level of customization that sets it apart. Web building platforms work by offering dozens of generic templates that you customize with your company colors. Although you can tweak these templates endlessly, the basic structure of your site will be the same as any number of other websites. This isn’t great from a branding perspective, and means that to really make your site stand out, you’ll have to do a lot more work than these platforms suggest.
Better Performance Comes From Better Coding
Part of what makes a website perform better or worse than other websites is the quality of the coding. Sloppy coding makes for a slow, buggy site that is frustrating to use, while clean, current coding practices will make your site faster, smoother, and more reliable. Like any other professional, web developers work to stay current in their field. They use industry best practices because their clients’ successes bring the web developers success, too. In contrast, web building platforms will be updated periodically, but not nearly as often since updating the tools and platform takes time, and then rolling out updates takes time. (Also, sometimes these updates will break your site or your plugins. Oops!)
SEO, or search engine optimization, is another thing to consider when choosing between a web building platform and a web developer. Good coding helps SEO by improving site speed and site organization, which makes it easier for search engines to map your website. The cleaner your site, the more reliable it looks to search engines, so having a quality-built site will automatically push you up in the SERPs even before you start adding content.
Even if you’re not planning to invest a lot in digital marketing, websites need to be seen. If your site doesn’t come up high in searches, it’s not helping customers find and learn about you. And if you’re not using your site to establish your brand and control your reputation, then someone else is defining those things for you.
A good web developer will be interested in any marketing campaigns you’re running so they can take those campaigns into consideration when designing your site. The goal is for your site to generate a return on investment by bringing you news leads and giving those leads a place to begin the process of working with you.
Finally, for a site to be beneficial to your business, it must be usable. That means the site must be designed for the way people are searching the internet today. A web developer will not just consider how people search on desktops while sitting at home. They’ll consider how people search on mobile devices and through voice search, ensuring your website will work consistently across platforms and search methods. While many web building platforms claim to automatically adapt your site for mobile and voice search, the results vary.
Choosing A Web Developer
Some experts will tell you that hiring a web developer isn’t worth the cost unless you can pay for the best developers out there, and they frequently claim that the best developers are either out of your price range or unavailable. This just isn’t true. There are thousands of talented web developers who have been building sites since they were young, and many of them are within your price range. Choosing a developer to work with because you think they’re “the best” based on what they charge, who they’ve worked with, or what company they work for is unwise and misguided.
Instead, look at the websites of businesses you frequent, businesses you work with, or businesses whose sites you like. Which sites do you like the look of? Which sites do you enjoy using? If the website doesn’t mention a developer or web design company at the bottom, reach out and ask these businesses who did their websites. The best predictor of whether you’ll be happy with a web developer’s work is whether you like their current work. And if those developers worked with companies that are similar in size to yours, odds are they offer plans that are within your price range.
When meeting with a web developer, ask if they are concerned about UI and UX, or just aesthetics? While aesthetics are important when designing a website, you want to work with someone who is concerned about the functionality of your site just as much as how it looks. Don’t commit to someone who can’t discuss how the site will work and how it will be secured.
Ask prospective developers about how their design will drive traffic to your business. If you have marketing strategies in place, make sure they are aware of those strategies and ask how their site design fits into those strategies. A good web developer will be happy to answer these questions and work with you to develop plans that make sense for your business.
Finally, realize that choosing between a web building platform and a web developer doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. Many businesses start with a web building platform and later hire a web developer if their website needs increase, they run into problems with their site, or they need to increase site performance. Many web developers are happy to be hired for specific projects, such as setting up an online store on your website, if those projects are beyond your abilities. This can be a great way to test out how you like working with a web developer before committing to a long-term website management plan.
If you’re looking for a reliable web developer but don’t know where to start, consider TracSoft. We’ve been building websites for businesses in the Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL area for over twenty years. We work with mom-and-pop shops as well as industry-leading national corporations. We can do this because we care about our customers and tailor our plans to each customer’s size and needs. Contact us today to find out how we can make your website dreams come true.