DIY website v. custom design: What's right for you?
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So you’ve realized it’s time to finally bite the bullet and launch your new website (or refresh your current one!). Good for you!
But what’s next?
Well all it takes is a quick Google search to realize getting a website up and running doesn’t happen with just one click (wouldn’t that be nice!)
And if you’re anything like me, you can get lost down the Google rabbit hole real fast and by the time you come back up you realize you’re left with more questions than answers.
Which totally makes sense in this case! There are so many decisions to make when it comes to launching a website so today my goal is to help you answer the first question you need to ask yourself…
“How do I want to get this thing up and running?”
Well you basically have three options…
2. Hire a designer
3. Do a mix of both and start from a template
Now there’s pros and cons to each one, and based on a few key factors like your budget, timeline, skill level and your stage of business.
So I’m going to walk you through each option and outline the pros and cons of each so you can decide which one best suits you.
My hope is by the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what your next step is in making your website dreams a reality
So let’s get to it! Shall we?
option 1: diy
I’m starting with DIY cause I feel like this is where most of you are sitting on the spectrum right now…wanting to try and DIY your site to save some $$$.
And I totally get it! Trust me, I know launching a business is not cheap. And it’s tempting to default to DIYing everything in the beginning.
But as with lots of things in business, the cheapest option may not be the best investment of time (or sanity!) for lots of people.
But that doesn’t mean DIYing a site can’t be a great option under the right circumstances.
So here’s what you want to think about if you’re considering the DIY route…
It’s (almost) free: DIYing a site is definitely the cheapest option of the three, and while you’re not paying anyone for their time or expertise, you still have to pay for the service to host your site on the internet. Depending on which website platform you choose (more on this in a bit!), the cost can range anywhere from $5-50/month.
So yes, as with lots of things in life, nothing is completely free. But this is definitely the cheapest option.
You’ll pay with your time: If you’re one of those people who think you can block off a weekend and get a website from zero-launch, think again! Seriously, one of my past clients thought this and she quickly learned her lesson the hard way. Pretty sure she told me her weekend ended with her in tears drowning her sorrows in a bottle of merlot. Don’t let that be you.
If you’re gonna DIY, be realistic with your timing. If you can only dedicate a couple hours a day to the task, it’s gonna take you a few weeks or months to get your site launched.
Get ready for lots of research, learning, and trial and error: If you’re not a website designer, and I assume most of you aren’t (that’s why I’m here!), expect to put in dozens of hours researching, learning, testing things out, testing them out again, and again, and again etc…You get my point.
Like I said earlier, there’s lots of decisions to make when designing a website, especially with the DIY route.
What platform will you build it on? What’s your domain name going to be? Will you use a free or paid theme? What will your colors be? Where will you get your images? How will you design your logo? How many pages should you have? What should be in your top navigation?
These are just a fraction of the questions you’ll need to answer throughout the process, and if you don’t already know the answers, it’s time to enroll in the University of Google and get your learnin’ on. 🤓
Thankfully you can find the answers to just about anything on Google and YouTube, it’s just a matter of weeding through the infinite information out there and picking out what will work for you.
Now there is definitely a big benefit you’ll get from all the research and building it yourself…since you’ve built it from the ground up, you’ve now learned a new skill! The amount of knowledge you’ll gain throughout the process will be huge asset to your business toolbox.
You need to have a design eye: In order to design a site that’s pleasing to look at, it’s important you already have a natural tendency to understand how colors, textures, patterns and objects fit together.
Now I’m not saying you need to have a graphic design degree (I sure don’t!), but you’ll have a lot easier time designing your site if you already enjoy putting together pretty things.
For example...do you love putting together a wardrobe that allows you mix-and-match different colors and textures to come up with something unique, yet beautiful?
Or maybe you love playing around with your home decor..if you’re already comfortable flexing your creativity, then designing a site that looks nice will probably come a little easier to you.
So to recap…
DIYing your site is the route for you if…
✅You have a $0 budget for this project outside of paying for your website platform and hosting
✅You’re not under a time crunch to get your site up and running like...now.
✅You enjoy being resourceful, doing the research, and practicing with trial-and-error until you get it right
✅You already have a natural eye for good design
If that sounds like you, then great! You’re ready for the next step!
Once you decide you’re going to DIY your site, you first need to decide which platform you want to build it on.
I wrote a post all about the website platform I recommend for most health and wellness brands and small businesses (hint--it’s Squarespace!). In this post I also highlight a couple instances where I may not recommend Squarespace to someone so it’s worth checking out.
After you make the final decision on which website platform you’re going with, it’s time to dive into Google and learn everything you need to know about building a site on that platform.
And if you decide you + Squarespace are a match made in heaven, here are a few of my top Squarespace posts…
Option 2: Hire a designer
If you’ve already decided the DIY route isn’t your jam, another option to consider is hiring a professional designer to do it for you.
There definitely are some benefits to working with a professional designer so let’s jump into some things to think about if you’re considering this option.
Money: Hiring a designer is the most financially expensive route you can take when it comes to designing a website (I say “financially” expensive because I absolutely consider my time as a form of currency, and as I mentioned before, with a DIY site, you will pay with your time.)
You definitely need to take an honest look at your budget and decide what you can reasonably afford. Because you can find designers willing to design you a site from $200-$10,000.
But, be wary of any designer whose rates seem too good to be true, because it probably is! Remember, hiring a custom designer is definitely an investment so if their rate is super low, it should send off some warning bells in your head.
Maybe they don’t have lots of experience and are brand new? Maybe they don’t offer a stellar client experience? Low rates usually signal some kind of desperation and it’s never a good idea to work with someone who’s desperate for your business.
As a general rule of thumb, I would caution against working with someone who charges less than $1500 for a basic website. And obviously, there’re exceptions to this rule and there’s probably some great designers out there who charge less than that.
But I wanted to give you a frame of reference and being a designer myself, I would be nervous for you to work with someone who’s not comfortable charging at least $1500 for their services.
Time: Hiring a designer is the perfect option for you if you just don’t have time in your life or business to throw on another huge project.
Trust me, I know running a business and having a life takes a lot of your time. And sometimes it’s worth it to save your sanity to just outsource those things that you’re not inherently good at...like designing a website.
So if you’re one of those people who would just rather pay a professional so you can have the peace of mind that it’s done well without you sacrificing your precious time, seriously consider hiring a custom designer.
But keep in mind that some of the bigger designers do have waitlists, so it’s a good idea to start reaching out to people a couple months before you think you’re ready to actually get started on the project.
And finally, here’s my one major caveat when considering a custom designer…
Even if you have the funds available and you’ve decided you just don’t have the time to design your own site, if you’ve been in business for less than 1 year, I would advise against dropping your hard-earned $$$ just yet.
When you’re brand new in your business, you’re still trying to figure a lot of things out. For example, you may not have a clear idea who your ideal client is. Or you don’t really know what your service offerings are going to be. Maybe you don’t have a good grasp on your brand identity.
And to top it all off, things can change so easily. You will grow and evolve with your business, especially during the first year. And I would hate for you to spend your hard-earned cash on a website that may not serve you 6 months down the road because you’ve realized your new vision and direction just doesn’t match up.
So to recap…
Hiring a custom designer is the route for you if…
✅You have at least $1500 to invest
✅You don’t have the space in your schedule to tackle another big project without sacrificing your sanity
✅You’ve been in business for at least a year
If you’ve decided outsourcing is the way for you, then your first step is to decide which platform you want to build your site on (more on that above).
Most designers specialize in one, maybe two, platforms so it’s helpful to know who you should be looking for.
(If you’re still struggling to answer this question, shoot me a message and I’d love to help you find an answer!)
Once you figure out which platform you’re going with, it’s time to start searching for designers.
Now there is a bit of strategy that goes into finding the right designer for you so let me give you some tips…
Instagram is my favorite place to look for potential designers. It’s a great way to get to know designers and see past examples of their work.
Here’s a few hashtags you can look through depending on which platform you decide…
Squarespace: #squarespace #squarespacedesign #squarespacedesigner
Wordpress: #wordpress #wordpressdeveloper #wordpressdesign
Wix: #wix #wixwebsite
Weebly: #weebly #weeblywebsite
Shopify: #shopifydeveloper #shopifydesign #shopifydesigner
ShowIt: #showitdesigner #showitwebsite
Also, any respectable designer should offer some kind of free consult call so take advantage of them! Once you find 2-3 designers you think you would like to work with, schedule a consult call through their website. And if they don’t advertise them, shoot them an email and say you’re considering hiring them but would like to have a quick chat to make sure y’all would be a good fit to work together.
And if you’re a health and wellness brand or business, let’s chat about getting you a completely custom website!
Option 3: Use a pre-designed template
So what if you’re one of those lucky people who don’t jive with one of the two options above?
Maybe you know you just can’t take on a whole other project all by yourself but you just don’t have the budget to hire someone?
Or what if you have some time to figure it out yourself but you have a non-existent eye for design?
Or maybe you have the funds to hire a custom designer but your business is brand new and you’re still figuring a few things out?
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something in the middle?!
Well lucky for you, there is!
Pre-designed templates are a perfect solution for those who aren’t afraid of a little DIY with some direction and guidance, and who need an option that won’t drain the bank account.
Best of both worlds, right?!
Now if you choose to use Squarespace, third-party templates (like mine!) aren’t exactly what you think of when you think of the word “template.”
Squarespace is designed in such a way that they don’t allow third parties to sell official templates that require just a one-click install on your site. Basically people like myself sell “template design kits” where you basically buy the license to use our design, and after your purchase, you are directed to a series of instructions and video tutorials teaching you how to build the design on your own site.
And when you sign up for your Squarespace account, you will see that they have lots of free templates you can use. In fact, you absolutely have to pick one of the official Squarespace templates as the starting point for your site.
But if you choose your free template from Squarespace, it installs on your site instantly and you’re left to your own devices trying to figure out how to make it your own. Squarespace doesn’t offer any step-by-step help on how to customize it to your business. Basically you’re looking at the DIY option mentioned above if you just use one of their free templates.
That’s why “premium” templates like the ones you can find in my shop are such a great option. They take the basic Squarespace template and turn it into something much more custom for your type of business. You basically get a professionally-designed website without all the headache and trial-and-error.
And the best part is, you also learn how to customize the template to better reflect your brand and business!
So to recap…
Using a pre-designed template kit is the perfect option for you if…
✅You have less than $500 to spend on a website
✅You don’t mind DIY if you have clear instructions and detailed tutorials
✅You need some serious help in the design department
✅You want a website that is strategic for your industry and easy on the eyes without breaking the bank
So have I sold you yet? If not, maybe watching this video about the entire process will answer some of your questions.
And if you’re ready to jump on the template bandwagon, what are you waiting for?!
Okay, well that’s all for now! Any q’s? 👇🏼
I sincerely hope this post helps you figure out your first steps on your website design journey. I’m cheering you on, friend!