Website Builders vs. Web Design Agency: How To Choose?

One common question that many web design and development agencies get asked is “why should I get an agency to build my website when I can do it inexpensively for myself through a service like Wix, Shopify, or Squarespace?”.

The market is flooded with “DIY” website builders like these, and for good reason. It’s more important than ever to have an online presence – regardless of what you’re trying to achieve in your business. However, how you achieve that presence can make all the difference.

So without further ado, let’s explore the pros and cons of using DIY website builders compared with commissioning a professional web design agency.

What is a Website Builder?

These are tools that enable you to create a website without much (or indeed any) coding and technical know-how. They often have “drag and drop” elements that enable you to place content within set parameters – without having to get your hands dirty with coding languages like HTML or CSS. Their marketing materials usually emphasise getting up and running quickly and their relatively simple pricing models. This may sound ideal but they might not be the best choice if you’re trying to create a professional impression.

What is a Web Design Agency

A web design agency is a team of one or more specialist website designers who provide web development, design, and support services to businesses. Similarly, the end user doesn’t have to trouble themselves with coding languages or even know anything about websites to engage an agency. Agencies may not always provide the quickest or cheapest solution, but you’re far more likely to achieve an effective result that is totally tailored to your needs. Additionally, you get to tap into the experience and knowledge of seasoned digital marketing professionals.

Please note that this article hasn’t been written with any particular website builder or agency in mind, so naturally your experience may differ.

Advantages of Website Builder Tools

They’re Inexpensive

This is the most prominent advantage for many budding webmasters. On the surface, DIY building tools generally appear to work out cheaper than commissioning an agency to build your website. They charge a monthly or yearly fee to use their services which can include everything you need to operate a website – in some cases bundling hosting and domain name registration into a package deal.

They’re Usually Quite User Friendly

The companies who make site building software naturally want to attract as many users as possible, so they have to account for all levels of experience. Therefore, their tools are generally quite simple to use. One of their main selling points is not having to mess with any complicated code, which makes them great for those who have no experience with websites. Both setup and ongoing maintenance is relatively painless when viewed in this way.

Disadvantages of Website Builder Tools

Setup is Somewhat Labour Intensive

No matter how easy a DIY builder’s interface is, you’re still effectively setting up a website from scratch. You’re entirely on your own in terms of sourcing original graphics and copy, and you may not necessarily have a trained marketer on hand to play the role of a “critical friend”. The builder may give you a basic templated layout, but the rest is in your hands entirely.

Website Templates Can Be Quite Rigid and Limiting

Overall, websites created with builder tools are heavily template driven, so they can end up looking quite similar. Their layouts have to be general enough to accommodate all kinds of websites, so sites built with builder tools will generally have a certain plain, homogenised look. Similarly, they can be rather inflexible in terms of content and SEO, only allowing you to upload content within preset guidelines.

It May be Difficult to Export Your Content and Move On

This is a point that is often overlooked when discussing site builders. Because builder software is usually totally proprietary to the company in question, they tend to be rather inflexible in terms of exporting or moving your content to another platform. In comparison, web developers will generally rely on open source content management platforms like WordPress or Magento which tend to allow more functionality in terms of importing and exporting. So when your business inevitably grows and develops, you’ll need your website to be redeveloped to reflect that. With this in mind, an agency can be the better party to have in your corner.

Can Be Expensive in the Long Run

Yes, builder tools may appear to be the cheaper option at first glance, but if you use them over a number of years then those monthly fees can start to stack up. There is a larger upfront investment when you commission an agency to create a website for you, but once all work is complete, that’s generally all you have to pay apart from ongoing hosting, domain, and upkeep costs of course.

When website builder costs are split up into an easy and relatively painless-looking monthly fee, it’s easy to shrug this off. But there will inevitably come a point when you’ll have spent more on your builder tool than you would have spent with an agency; money that may be better spent on things like PPC campaigns or ongoing content marketing support.

Impersonal, En Masse Customer Support

This is quite a big problem in our view. Because website builders are so popular, the companies in question are less able to devote immediate, interpersonal attention to every client’s problem straight away. If you have an urgent issue with your website, you’ll probably find yourself battling with online support tickets or waiting on hold before you even get to speak to another person – and then you may just end up being forwarded to someone else. If your website experiences a major hiccup at a crucial time, even the most soothing hold music isn’t going to calm your nerves! Agencies can vary in this regard, but a small to medium organisation will generally prioritise getting any problems solved ASAP because poor service levels can affect their reputation, and therefore their bottom line.

Advantages of Web Design Agencies

Can Provide a More Personal, Consultative Service

Agencies are focused on creating excellent results for each of their clients, and will often spend plenty of time with each client discussing their precise needs and preferences. This approach helps agencies like ours create something that is a true representation of your business and brand. They are also able to provide a consultative approach, suggesting things that may work better or ideas that you hadn’t thought of – all resulting in a better user experience and potentially wider ROI possibilities.

Your Website Will be Totally Unique

Worthwhile design agencies are unlikely to rely on “samey” templates and are more geared towards creating something truly unique for each client. They’ll often take your input and build a completely bespoke site from the ground up with your precise requirements in mind. Similarly, you aren’t being held back by the constraints of any given building tool or layout; the design team will choose the technologies they use for your website very carefully to ensure they’re in line with what you want to achieve.

The Ultimate In User-Friendliness

Builder tools may be user friendly, but working with an agency is a totally “done for you” service. Everything is taken off your hands – not just coding! There’s no awkward learning curve or labour-intensive setup from your perspective; just design and marketing experts doing the hard work for you. Agencies can even source graphics, interactive media, and copy for you if you need.

Ongoing Tech & Usability Support

Say something unexpected happens with your website – your hosting goes down, your site gets hacked, a certain design element starts playing up, or loading speeds slow to a crawl. When you work with an agency, you only need to pick up the phone. Any web development agency worth their salt will always be able to help you through the ups and downs of maintaining your website in a timely fashion. They can also be as hands on or hands off as you need with your site’s day to day maintenance, though a more hands on approach may come with additional cost.

Can Share Their Experience of Related Web Marketing Topics

If you aren’t particularly au fait with the likes of SEO, conversion rate optimisation, or user experience (UX) design, it’s easy to overlook them when you put a site together using a builder tool. However when you work with an agency, your website is likely to be built with multiple marketing disciplines in mind as standard. Agencies serve as a great “second pair of eyes” on your web marketing efforts and often have numerous individuals able to weigh in and share valuable input within their own areas of expertise.

Disadvantages of Web Design Agencies

Higher Upfront Expense

Alas, working with a web design agency comes with more of an up-front cost than using a site builder. However once the website is built and paid for, there’s just upkeep, domain registration, and hosting fees to keep on top of. On the flip side of the coin, the sky’s the limit in terms of website builder costs – you have to keep up with the fees for as long as you want the website to remain live.

In return for the higher upfront cost of working with an agency, you get access to a team of experienced marketers and developers with whom you can brainstorm ideas and hone them into something of enviable quality.

Can Still Take Up Valuable Time to Get Right

Using an agency is still much less labour intensive for the client compared to the DIY nature of site builders, but you do still have to put some time aside for sourcing a good web design agency, meeting with them, weighing up pricing, briefing them, reviewing drafts, and so on. There can be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to get your website right, but this may be a small price to pay for a completely customised site that seamlessly does everything you need it to do.

Conclusion

We understand the importance of a business’s bottom line – but as with most things, you get what you pay for.

Obviously we are a little biased here, but if your budget and cash flow allows for working with a design agency, we would highly recommend it. Think about it like buying a suit. You can buy a perfectly presentable, inexpensive suit off the rack, but it’s unlikely to fit as nicely, last as long, or exude the same level of sophistication as one that has been painstakingly hand-tailored to fit you perfectly.

Similarly, a website that has been personally developed by skilled marketers and designers is much likely to “fit” your business, be adaptable to changes, and to accurately portray your visual brand for years to come. All in all, working with an agency is likely to provide the best possible value to your business in the long run.

So if you’re in need of a new website and you want to explore the agency route, get in touch with the team here at OLCO Design. Our award-winning in-house design team pride themselves on providing personal service to create a website which meets your precise needs in terms of functionality, technical support, hosting, and search optimisation.

Not taking the agency route right now? No problem! We can still help with graphic design, brand development, and print brokerage. Drop us a line today!

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