Your long-gestated business idea is ready to see the light of day. You’ve done the paperwork, lined up the resources, and have a rock-solid plan to steer you to success.
The only thing missing is a website.
After searching around online, you’re even more confused than you were before. Who really should design your website? A single freelancer, an agency, or should you save money and just do it yourself?
A decade ago, this would have been an absurd question. The only way to get a decent website built was by going to the experts, i.e. an agency.
But, the web design landscape has changed drastically since then. Better tools and training mean that Joe Freelancer is as equipped to deliver a smashing website as a $50,000 agency. Moreover, with new age development tools, even a motivated DIYer can put together a great looking website.
So which option should you choose for your website? In this article, I’ll look at the pros and cons of each approach, and how to decide which option to choose.
Working With a Freelance Designer
Working with a freelance designer is easier than ever before. Thanks to the massive number of freelance platforms like UpWork and Freelancer.com, there is an army of highly talented and experienced designers ready to work on your projects.
And it’s not just the search that has become easier. The growth of the “gig economy” means that more and more people are moonlighting as freelancers, even those from top agencies and tech companies. It’s not unreasonable to expect to find a former Googler designing your website.
Hiring a freelance designer is cheaper than working with an agency for obvious reasons. Freelancers don’t have the overheads of an agency. Nor do you need to pay for half a dozen people. You pay for the freelancer’s time, and that’s it.
This often means that you’ll get more intimate service with a freelancer. Agencies can sometimes appear distant, but with an individual freelancer, you’ll usually develop a close relationship – or even a friendship. For some clients, this alone can lead to better project outcomes.
There are downsides, of course. It’s next to impossible to find a freelancer who is equally well-versed in every aspect of designing and developing a website. You’ll have to compromise on some aspects of the project, unless you hire multiple freelancers.
Freelancers also move from project to project and client to client. Should your website need future maintenance, new features, or support, you might find that the freelancer is busy or has even moved on to a full-time job.
With that said, let’s look at all the pros and cons of working with a freelancer:
- More personal service and better rapport
- Significantly lower costs and faster time to hire
- Freelancers tend to be more flexible and will often accommodate new requests
- Less administrative work, including signing contracts, NDAs, and keeping up with communication requirements
- Finding qualified and experienced freelancers can be hard
- Individual freelancers rarely have deep expertise in all the fields necessary to bring a complex project to life
- Single freelancers can struggle to support the requirements of a complex project
- Ongoing maintenance and the future support can get compromised if the freelancer gets a full-time job or works on another project
Choose to work with a freelancer if you:
- Have a small project with limited requirements
- Are comfortable compromising on some aspects of the website
- Have a smaller budget and prefer the more one-on-one relationship with a freelancer
Hiring an Agency
An agency is essentially a company that brings together people from various fields of expertise under one roof.
A web design agency, as you guessed it, brings together web design talent. A typical web design agency will have a number of experienced professionals handling different aspect of website development – programmers, designers, testers, and researchers. Many agencies also offer marketing services to help you spread the word about your new website.
Because of their experience and breadth of services, agencies are a great fit for enterprise-grade solutions and unique design approaches. A top agency will usually go to great pains to understand exactly what kind of customers you serve and how best to meet their needs. They’ll undertake customer surveys, interview users, and do tons of prototyping before settling on a design.
Additionally, because agencies have a range of available talent, they will often implement virtually any feature you ask them to – a user account control, a payment system, and complex integrations.
The downside, of course, is the cost. Web design agencies typically work with larger clients and expect a big paycheck for their services. Most tend to bill by the hour with rates starting at $50 and up.
On the whole, here are the pros and cons of hiring a web design agency:
- Access to top-notch and experienced talent
- Professional service and high standards
- Better support and maintenance
- Expensive; agencies can cost tens of thousands to hire
- Large agencies work with many clients and might ignore smaller accounts
Choose an agency if you:
- Have complex requirements or need a completely unique site
- Need enterprise-grade support and maintenance
- Have evolving needs that will change over time
- Have the budget to afford an agency (plus maintenance costs)
Design it Yourself
Can you create a website all by yourself, even if you have no technical knowledge?
As surprising as it might sound, going the DIY route is more feasible than ever today. There are countless design tools available on the market that will help you create fairly complex websites without writing a line of code.
And, should you know even the most basic of HTML and CSS, you can use one of the many available frameworks (like Bootstrap) to create some incredibly powerful websites.
The biggest advantage of the DIY approach is that the cost is next to nothing. Even the most expensive tool will be a fraction of what a freelancer or agency will cost you. Plus, you have complete control over the entire process. There are no contracts to sign, no requirements to communicate, and no specs to worry about.
The downside is that even the most advanced tools can only create certain type of websites. Need a social media app with user account control? You’ll have to look elsewhere. But, if you need a basic website with a few pages of content, the DIY approach can be incredibly cost-effective.
On the whole, here’s what you can expect by designing it yourself:
- The cost is next to nothing
- You don’t need technical knowledge
- You have complete control of the design process
- There are no admin or communication issues to worry about
- You can only create basic websites, unless you know how to code
- You’ll have to spend time in development that may be better utilized elsewhere
- If you’re using a DIY design tool, your designs will look cookie cutter
- Self-made designs usually have a distinct amateur look and can’t compete against professionals in terms of polish
Choose a DIY approach if you:
- Need a very simple static website with a few pages of content
- Have some basic understanding of design principles – or are willing to learn the same
- Have some time to learn a design tool
- Are comfortable with a more amateurish design
Where to search: Consider tools like Wix and Squarespace for ready templates with some customization. For more customization, consider WordPress. For a truly DIY approach, use a framework like Bootstrap.
Over to You
It’s a great time to build a website. You’re spoiled for choice as far as options go. From a cheap $10/month tool to a $10,000/month agency, there is a whole range of designers, developers, and services to choose from. Pick the path that is right for your budget and requirements, and take your site live!