DIY vs. Design

For over two decades, I have been paid to design websites, solve technical problems and give people advice about websites, web publishing and WordPress web design. Should you pay me? Should you do it yourself? I cannot ask that question without recognizing my bias (ie. Pay me!). My North Star is ROI. When the fees overpower the returns, I start to question my role in a project. I ask, "should this be a DIY project?"

Who should DIY their own site?

Here's a checklist of candidates for a DIY project vs. hiring a professional:

Are you web savvy? If you are competent and understand FTP, WordPress, hosting, domains, SSL and responsive design-- question why the work would leave your desk.

Are you valuable? High paid professionals should hand over the web design work to someone else. Even if they are skilled, they should ask about the return on investment. Is hiring a designer for 50 hrs. of $90/hr. a better option than a DIY where they will forego 50-to-100 hrs. of their own paying work?

Does the technology matter? I like WordPress and Drupal is good too. There are lots of DIY website builders -- Wix, Squarespace, Gator Builder, Nationbuilder. They are good allowing someone to belt out a design. WordPress is really strong when it comes to making a web site that is easy to find. If you have a captive audience, may be SEO isn't the make-or-break element. Taken to an extreme: It would be overkill to develop an application for your site. Even WordPress may be overkill. One of the rolled-up services could suit you. Maybe a blank Bootstrap template could give you what you want.

DIY website are not meant to fulfill a long-term investment approach. They are there to publish ASAP at the expense of extensibility. They’re great when you need a website really fast and really cheap.

Not to mention—you’re gonna find yourself hitting your head against design & functionality limitations. If the builder’s limitations hurt you at this point, they’re really gonna hurt you in the future when your business expands.

If you have more than a few weeks and over a couple thousand dollars to invest in your business, you should consider hiring a designer.

Yes, website builders give you all the tools to build the site of your dreams… but Microsoft Word gives you all the tools to write the next great American novel, and when’s the last time you did that?

You could spend 10 hours building your site. And then another 10 hours tweaking it. And then you may learn that your site is not working the way you wanted it to, or not portraying you as you’d like. You could have used that time elsewhere.

Need to sell things in a shop? Need to collect email addresses? Look classy & elegant? Convince people to trust you with their data? The business of user experience is finnicky. When it matters, leave it to a professional who does this all day long.

There’s someone out there that knows how to make the tools do exactly what you need to do. A designer knows how to get to business goals through design elements including but not limited to: proximity, color, shape, and balance.

To summarize…

Use a website builder when you need to get a website up quick and cheap.

Use a website builder when you have a captive audience of readers who don't need to discover you via Google or Bing.

Hire a designer when they are cheaper than you.

Hire a designer when you need to see a return on your website.