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Should Your Company Website Be a DIY Job?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 10/20/2011

Before you pay someone to build a website for you or your company, there are some things you need to think about. Can you trust the developer with your online identity? Do you know what kind of experience they have with websites? Are they really worth what they charge?

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    If you need a website to promote your business or organization, or maybe even some special event, you will have to either do it yourself or get someone to make it for you. You’ll most likely wind up having to pay a web developer unless you happen to have connections with someone who knows how to make a site and what is required. There are many pros and cons of hiring a professional website designer or developer, and they have to do with everything from cost, trustworthiness, loyalty, and reliability.

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    Website Basics

    html Do you even know what is required to have a website? First, you need to register a domain name like yourbusiness.com. This can be done online through a variety of registrars and the price is usually around fifteen dollars. Next, you’ll need to set up hosting, which is space on a web server where you can store the files and images that make up your website.

    Your host can also provide email addresses for your domain name, handle online applications like shopping carts, track visitors, and much more. Hosting can cost anywhere from $5-100 per month, or more. Once you’ve got a domain registered and hosted, you still need to build the site. There are some web-based editors that can be used, but the results are varied and you may still need some graphics editing program to optimize images (if you know how) and buying a full featured editor like Dreamweaver can be expensive.

    Go to your local Barnes & Noble and you’ll find a whole shelf full of books on web design. There are books on languages like HTML, XML, Javascript, ASP and more. You’ll find various guides to Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Expression and other applications used to build a website and make graphics. Additionally, you’ll find many titles on the subject of web design and how to make a website that doesn’t suck. Unless you know how to do all that, you might need some help.

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    Finding the Right Developer

    If you go with an advertising agency, you’re going to pay top dollar for your website. Probably a couple thousand dollars just to put your company logo online. I’ve worked with these type agencies before and sometimes they do good work and other times they just exploit the technical ineptitude of their customers. Be sure to take a long hard look at their portfolio to see what other sites they have made. There is a huge difference between print design and web design, and just because some graphic designer knows how to make a pretty flier does not make them a good web developer.

    For the more budget-minded option, you could go with an independent developer. These are people who often work from home or do websites on the side, in addition to a regular day job. Because they don’t have a fancy office downtown, their minimal overhead allows them to undersell the big wigs. Again, you need to look at their online portfolio and see what they’ve done. Some really good developers start their own business and work for themselves once they get established, so just because they are independent does not make them unprofessional.

    One really good way to find local web developers is to look up the websites of local businesses and see who made them. Most web developers leave some kind of ‘designed by’ type signature at the bottom of their pages, so scroll all the way to the bottom and look for it. You may even have to call the business to find out who did their site.

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    Things to Consider

    It’s tempting to bypass all the web pros and hire the kid down the street because he says he can make you a site for a hundred bucks. Maybe he can and that’d be great, but what happens if that kid loses interest in the site or leaves town? Would you even know the login information for getting into the site so you can hire a replacement? I’ve taken over sites after other developers and even gone through the process of changing web hosts, and it can be a lot of work.

    Also keep in mind that if you have a falling out with your web developer, they could very easily change your company website to be full of pornographic images and links. Imagine trying to explain that to your clients. You should always know a little something about the person you are dealing with, because you’re hiring them to represent you to the rest of the world, via the Internet. It’s a pretty lofty task and if someone rubs you the wrong way, don’t hire them.

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    Money Matters

    Wallet Money is, of course, the biggest thing to consider. Depending on the nature of the site and what content you wish to have, the cost of developing the site should be up front. Get a final quote before the developer gets started, so that there won’t be any surprises. Also consider whether you want to pay a one-time fee and be done with it, or if you want to pay the developer a monthly update fee. Most any website developer would love to placed on a monthly retainer, but it may be more cost effective to just pay them per update unless you have a site that is constantly changing.

    If you have a car dealership, for example, then your inventory is going to change on a regular basis. In such a case as this, then you would want to pay a monthly update fee or even consider hiring a part time web developer and pay them that way. Another option would be to hire a developer to set up a site that you can update yourself, but that will require advanced coding and you may have to pay more for such a service.

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    The Bottom Line

    If you’re willing to take the time and learn the software necessary to build a website, then more power to you. Web development requires a combination of technical skills that many people don’t have or don’t even want to have. Just consider that the time you spent trying to learn how to make a website may have been better used on something else. Are you wanting get into the business of making websites, or do you just want a website for your business?

    The bottom line here is to make sure you hire someone who you can depend on. Be sure to check out their references and see their other work, and also make sure you have contact information for them. If you can get a good price with a local ad agency, then by all means go with them. Likewise, you might find an independent developer that is more willing to go the extra mile. Just remember that the website you have built is meant to represent you or your company online, and first impressions do matter. Make sure you get a true professional who will do things right, otherwise you may regret it later. Nothing sends people clicking for the Back button faster than a poorly designed website.

References

  • Image credit: HTML by svilen001, royalty free
  • Image credit: Wallet by lusi, royalty free
  • Based on author's personal experience with building websites since 1997.