We live in an online world where having an awesome website has become an essential component of a successful business. A badly-designed site is likely to have people clicking the “x” in the top left of the screen before they’ve even glanced at what you’re selling. But what’s the best way to get a website: website builder or web designer?
Let’s compare the best ways to get a website.
Should you use a DIY website builder or should you hire a web designer? There are pros and cons to both. Here, we explore the differences between the two so you can discover which one is best for you.
- Before you start: determine your needs
- Different ways to create a website
- Website builder vs. web designer—which is right for you?
- Make a decision based on your unique needs
Before you start: determine your needs
Before you decide whether a website builder or web designer is right for you, you need to determine your needs and get clear on what you’re expecting your website to do for you. Consider all the different pages and functionality you might need.
Do you want customers to be able to purchase something? Then you’ll need a shop system. Do you want to create content on a regular basis? Then you’ll need blogging functionality. Do you want people to fill out a form or create a user profile? Or are they just visiting your website for information?
Another important question to ask yourself is: are you okay with having a more generic looking website or do you want something more unique and custom-built?
Depending on your functionality needs, you’ll be able to figure out how to get your website set up and who you need to work with. This will also have an impact on cost and how long it will take to create your website. Once you have a good idea of what you need and what you expect your website to do, you can consider your options for setting up your website.
Different ways to create a website
So, what ways are there to create a website?
- The template solution: use a DIY website builder
- The custom solution: hire a freelance web designer or web design agency
- The hybrid solution: hire a designer to customize a template
The most common ways are to either use a template-based website builder or to work with a web designer to create a custom website—either by hiring a freelance web designer or by working with a web design company or agency. The third option is to use a combination of website builder and web designer for a hybrid solution.
What is a website builder?
A website builder is a DIY tool that allows a user to construct a website using pre-made templates, without having to design it or write the code themselves. Website builders offer a variety of different design templates from which to choose from. Top builders feature quite a few options, so finding the one that suits your needs shouldn’t be difficult. From there you can add widgets and design elements to your site to customize the template.
There are a number of website builders out there and competition is fierce. A few of the most popular available today include:
These are just a few of many website builders out there at your disposal. Each one has its own specialty and set of templates to choose from.
Website builders are available as online and offline platforms. The difference between the two is simple—an offline website builder is a program that allows you to build your website through a platform downloaded on your computer (vs doing everything through your browser). When you have constructed the design elements of your site, you’re able to upload files from your computer to a web host and publish the finished product online. TemplateToaster is one of the most commonly used offline builders.
Online website builders are platforms that operate online (Wix and Squarespace are the heavy hitters). Using these online platforms, you’re able to build your website completely online with nothing more than an internet connection and browser.
Some website builders also offer solutions for businesses that want to customize their website beyond what their templates permit. That’s what we’ll call a “hybrid solution”—more on this later.
What is a web designer?
A web designer is a graphic designer who can design your website completely from scratch. With a website builder you have to work within the parameters of set templates that are offered, while a web designer will craft your website from a blank canvas.
You can either work directly with a freelance web designer, who creates your web design for you. Or you can hire a web design agency or company that has a whole team of web designers, developers and marketers who can take care of everything for you—from the concept stage to the finished website.
Web designer vs. web developer
Be sure not get web designers and web developers mixed up. A developer is in control of turning your web design into a functioning platform while a designer is all about aesthetics—what your site is going to look like. Web designers create the design for your website, which then needs to be built. That’s where web developers come in. They construct websites; they’re tech wizards who understand coding and can turn a web design into a real, working website.
Freelance web designer vs. web design agency
While a freelance web designer is a single person creating your design, web design agencies or companies usually have a team of people who specialize in different aspects of the project, such as having a dedicated web designer, UI or UX designer and web developer as part of the team. Some freelance web designers are also experienced in UI and UX work and even web development, so they can offer additional services along with your design.
Which option is right for you depends on your needs, the complexity and scope of your project and your expectations and budget. Both are great choices if you want to work with a pro web designer to create a custom web design.
The hybrid solution
If you want a custom look, but don’t want to invest in completely custom development, you’re in luck! It’s possible to start with an out-of-the-box template solution, and customize it with your own unique template.
One of the most popular options for this is to build a website on WordPress. While it started as a blogging platform, WordPress has become the most popular CMS on the entire internet (powering approximately 30% of all sites). There are thousands and thousands of templates out there, but it’s also possible to create your own for a hybrid solution.
So, you can hire a WordPress theme designer to create a beautiful, unique, on-brand website, and use WordPress to power the back-end database functionality.
This is also possible with several other template sites. For example, you can create custom templates or modify existing ones for Shopify or Squarespace, so you can use the platform you like best. Squarespace has even created an Experts Marketplace to match their customers with design experts for custom solutions.
Website builder vs. web designer—which one is right for you?
Is hiring a web designer the right choice for you? Or should you use a website builder? Ultimately the answer to that question depends on your situation, needs, budget, timeframe and a variety of other factors. Let’s explore some of the benefits of both.
Reasons to choose a website builder
There are many good reasons to choose a website builder. It’s probably the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get your website up and running. Here are some of the top benefits of going the builder route—along with some drawbacks to keep in mind.
There are a variety of benefits to using a website builder, but the most obvious perk is the cost. With website builders like Wix or Squarespace, a clean, modern and ad-free website can be yours for a much lower price than if you were to use an agency or get a custom web design.
For example, Squarespace offers their business plan with unlimited bandwidth and storage, a mobile-optimized site, website metrics, a free custom domain, and 24/7 customer support for $26 per month (or less if you pay annually). If you’re a new business looking to get a foothold in your industry and make an impact, these numbers are hard to beat.
Pricing for a quality web designer ranges much higher, but you have to take into consideration that a designer is creating a custom website completely from scratch to fit your needs. You can find a complete rundown of the cost differences between hiring a designer vs. taking the DIY builder route in this article on How much should your web design cost.
The DIY factor
Another benefit to using a website builder is that you can undertake the process yourself in a matter of hours. A website builder makes it possible for you to put together your own site without having to code in any way, shape or form. But keep in mind that you’ll still need to put some time and effort into setting everything up. When you’re going the DIY route, it may take a bit of trial and error to make your site look the way you want it to look.
No design experience needed
You don’t have to have any prior experience to use a website builder. Thanks to pre-designed templates you can pick an attractive template and create a visually pleasing website without needing any design skills. The downside is that your site may look like many others out there. While you can customize certain things, such as your logo, colors and images, there’s going to be a limit to what you can customize yourself.
Built in tech support
Website builders are professional platforms designed to make things as easy as possible. If you have a problem with anything, there will be support people at the ready to walk you through any problem. Should there be any complications with your site you will be able to reach help through chat, email or phone.
Ease of use
Website builders are designed for everyday people to build simple sites. They will provide you with an easy-to-use interface and you don’t need to be an expert to build your website, although it may take a while to get used to how everything works.
Reasons to hire a web designer
Any business looking to make an impact should be able to present a website that’s equally as impressive as the business itself. Deliver a weak website and the competition will leave you in their dust.
Working with a web designer means working with an actual human being—not a tool. This means that you’ll be getting the perk of human touch and precise attention to detail, as well as a custom result that no one else has. This is a factor lost with a builder and could be the difference between a good website and an incredible one. A designer will bring the extra “oomph” to your projects by helping you achieve things a builder can’t. Let’s explore the benefits of hiring an experienced web designer.
A designer can help you create (and maintain) a consistent brand identity
Hiring a web designer isn’t cheap, but if you have the budget to make it happen, it is the best way to create a custom website. Hiring a web designer can also help you maintain a consistent brand identity.
From your business cards to your company logo to your website, a consistent brand identity means maintaining the uniqueness of your business through each element of your brand. Whereas a web builder will offer you design templates that other businesses can also use, a web designer can create a site completely unique to you and your brand.
A designer can make you stand out from the competition
Websites are here, there and everywhere. A website builder will provide you with a very attractive website, but that site might look like lots of other sites.
A web designer will work with you to create a site that is completely unique to you and your business.
No matter what you want your site to look like, a web designer can make it happen.
Attention to detail
A designer can apply the finishing touches that make the website truly yours. Whether it’s a hand-drawn font, a specific arrangement of elements on your homepage, or custom illustrated icons—a designer can make all sorts of unique tweaks to give you the exact website of your dreams.
But keep in mind, hiring a designer to create your site will mean that you won’t get your online presence overnight. Good work takes time!
Once you’ve developed a solid working relationship with a trusted designer, he or she will become your go-to for any changes or tweaks you may want down the road.
Forming an ongoing professional relationship with a designer means that person will have a deep understanding of your brand and can be there to adjust it accordingly as your business grows or changes.
A website created via a builder will have its limitations. If you’re looking for a more expansive build-out to your website, a designer will be able to push past these limits and provide you with tailor-made design solutions.
Maybe you have a complex business that’s hard to explain without the right graphics or perhaps you want to visualize different features or need a totally unique layout? A designer has got you covered. Your designer will be able to tell you what features can realistically be built and find solutions for your specific needs. But keep in mind that you’ll need a web developer (or a designer who’s also a web developer) to turn your web design into reality.
Reasons for using a hybrid solution
If you need something in between, the hybrid option might be the solution you’re seeking. It combines the pros of both web builders and web designers for the best of both worlds. Start off with a template and work with a designer to customize it so it fits your brand and your needs.
This options allows you to have the advanced functionality that comes built-in with platforms like Squarespace, WordPress or Shopify and benefit from the lower cost, yet you’ll still get a custom design that’s unique and on-brand by hiring a designer. This means you still might have to hire a web designer and web developer, which results in extra costs. But your end result will be a lot more unique and on-brand.
Make a decision based on your unique needs
Different situations may call for different ways of creating your site. For example, if your business is young and you’re looking for a starter website, hiring a designer may bend the budget a little too far. In this case a builder is a quick, cost-efficient way to put a nice looking website together. If you decide to go with a builder, you’ll save money—just be sure to choose one that has templates that align with your brand.
If you have the budget or have been around a while and are looking to take your website game to the next level, working with a designer is probably the right move.
Going with a web designer (whether freelance or via an agency or web design firm) will result in a far more unique site and the ability to build custom features that no one else has. While this will cost you more, you’ll get what you pay for.
Or go with a hybrid solution and let a web designer customize a template-based website for you, if you’re looking for something in between.
No matter what you decide, remember to weigh the pros and cons of all the different options to find the perfect solution for you.
Ready to create your new website?
Deciding between a web builder and a web designer is not easy. Hopefully this article has helped you become better informed about both options and set you on your way to making the choice that’s best for you and your business.
Websites are like skyscrapers, the tallest, most well-designed will stand out above the others. So be bold and be creative whatever route you decide to take.
Want to learn more about the process of creating a website? Check out this article on how to design a website.