I’ve worked with a lot of small and medium businesses over the years, and this is a question I get a lot. Should they try and build their own website, or should they hire a professional web designer? In my opinion the answer to that question can be answered by asking them two more.

First, how much time can you dedicate to building a website? This is really huge. No matter how technically efficient you may or may not be, it really comes down to time. I think back to the summer that I built my deck. I saved a few thousand dollars by doing it myself, but honestly, it took half of my summer away from me. Every day after working my job all day, I’d work on the deck for a couple of hours in the evening. It consumed my life for weeks. In hindsight, I kinda wish I had just forked over the cash to a professional so I could’ve gotten my summer back.

If you’ve got the time to build a website while also trying to run a business, you can do it. There are so many WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platforms available that if you can build a PowerPoint, you can probably build a website. In fact, I’ve built a few websites myself, and I barely know any HTML (web design code). They’re not the most amazing websites on the planet, but they’re attractive and professional and they get the job done.

wordpress webstartsI built this blog that you are reading in WordPress, which is the most popular service for building websites on the planet. It isn’t exactly WYSIWYG, but there are a lot of free tutorial videos about how to work in WordPress if you want to take the time to learn.

For the first few websites that I built “professionally”, (I use that term loosely here. I’ve built less than a handful for friends.) I used WebStarts. It’s super simple. Insert a text box here. Insert an image there. Put that menu right there. Like I said, pretty simple. And the sites turned out pretty nice. Here’s one I built a few years ago.

The really nice thing about using this service was that I was able to turn the control of the site over to the business owner, who I’m sure wouldn’t mind me telling you, isn’t particularly web design savvy. But he gets it. He can make changes when he wants and he doesn’t have to depend on me for every little update.

Could he have built the site himself? Heck yes. But with a wife that falls asleep at a reasonable hour, I had lots of time after 11pm to work on it for him. Today, if he were to start a new business, I’m guessing he wouldn’t hire me, now that he realizes how easy WebStarts’ user interface is to work.

The second question is this: How much control do you want? In other words, are you going to put a little faith and trust into a web designer’s hands, or are you going to want to pick out every color, every font, every placement of every image? If the answer to that question is yes, then don’t outsource. Just do it yourself because you’re going to be doing a ton of work anyway and you’re going to drive the web designer crazy.

But if you’re like most of the business owners I know, and you have a general idea what you want, maybe even a few specific requests, but you want to let the web designer do what you’re paying them to do, then there are a lot of great professional options. From yellow pages reps who sell template sites, to boutique agency designers, to the guys who do it after their regular job and after their wives fall asleep, there are a lot of choices.

There are, of course, things that a web designer can provide that the WYSIWYG services can’t. Whether that’s a specially designed widget or unique functionality that you require, having an expert building your website can have its benefits. Just know you’re going to be paying for that expertise.

As for control, find out in advance, what’s going to be involved in getting changes made to your site. If your web designer holds the keys, you’ll have to depend on him or her for every little change and update. Most of them charge for this service, but even if they don’t, you’ll still have to depend on them to take the time to make changes for you.

Note: I recommend paying them either a monthly fee for a preset amount of changes and updates or even a “per change” fee. If they offer to do it for free, you may end up getting what you pay for.

In a perfect world, you have the time and expertise to do it yourself. You save money and get exactly what you want. But if you don’t have the time or expertise, consider hiring a professional. And if you’re even semi-web-savvy, look for one that’ll build the site for you and then teach you how to maintain it and make future updates yourself. That’s a pretty good scenario too.

Thanks for reading.

David McBee