I’m often asked what option is better: custom web design or website builders. As you can see from my website, I’m an avid website builders’ advocate. However, I’m also a big WordPress fan and I equally adore custom web design. I believe that none of the options is inferior to another. Each is good, especially when used wisely. And each may have its downsides. So, in this post I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of both. I hope this article will help you decide what direction you need to take.
Website builders: Modern website builders are very flexible, and some can even compete with WordPress and other powerhouses in the web building/publishing industry. Surely, building a feature-rich website for a large-scale business offering sophisticated, unique user experiences needs and requires absolute professionalism. DIY website builders aren’t the best option in this case. However, they can be effectively used for creating basic business websites, web stores, blogs, online portfolios, real estate and restaurant websites. Check out the compilation of websites built with uCoz to see the variety of website types site makers can support.
Custom design: Custom design wins when it comes to complex websites with user profiles, automatic uploads and sophisticated, interactive features. These sites require professional expertise and often – ongoing support.
Website builders: Website builders are affordable, and some – ridiculously affordable. Most of them (99%) you can try free of charge – no commitment, no contracts and no credit card details. So, you risk nothing but your time and effort. Speaking about pricing policies, based on my experience I would group all site constructors into two categories: subscription-based and license-based. Weebly for example, belongs to the former camp and thus charges monthly fee ($0-$25 including hosting). While MotoCMS website builder belongs to the latter camp: it sells templates (which are almost ready websites) at a fixed price and lets users host their websites anywhere on the web without monthly fees.
Custom design: Custom design is definitely pricier. The same project (with the same list of requirements) can cost for instance $1,000 – $5,000 depending on the agency. You won’t find fixed prices in the manual design segment as many professionals offer their services at pay-per-hour basis.
Website builders: Undoubtedly, they are faster. No doubt about that. It will take you less than an hour to create a basic ‘text and picture’ website with one of them. Since most are based on drag-and-drop editing principle, all you need is just to point and click, drag and drop. Because there will be no middlemen, you’ll be able to publish your website faster and with less effort: there will be no need to review and approve different versions of the design and wait for someone to upload your content. You’ll be in charge of everything. When I tested Wix it took me 25 minutes to publish my website (5-7 minutes I was selecting a template :)). The same is about Zoho Sites: thanks to their intuitive interface one can design a website, fill it in with unique content and even connect a custom domain within one hour.
Custom design: Manual design may require inordinate amount of time to bring about your ideas. At first, you’ll have to write down all your requirements and form a technical assignment. Be ready to spend long hours discussing these requirements with your contractor, receiving, approving/disapproving and sending back different versions of the most various website elements (background, buttons, favicons and alike).
If you plan to build a simple, informational website that will serve mainly as a virtual business card, site builders are just what you need. But if your ambitions go beyond the average site builder’s feature set, it makes sense to hire a professional.