We get calls all the time from people who want a website but say they can’t afford to spend anything. Why is that? Well, some of the website technology (servers, content system) is actually free and I suppose that some people think that it is as easy as 1-2-3 to throw together a website. Here are some reasons why a free or very low budget website will not cut it…
Use a Web Professional
To use a professional service costs money (cf the legal profession). A web professional will have invested in the best software tools and will have to cover other costs such as rental of premises or salaries. With that you will be working with someone who will have industry and business experience and will be prepared to offer the very best advice on how to create a successful website. They will most likely review or challenge your business objectives (we do) and offer very valuable consultation on your website objectives and marketing strategy.
It takes time to get it right
When you are paying for a website it takes time to get it right. Yes, your web designer will want to be as productive as possible and deliver it in the shortest time possible but it takes time to do this. Creating a website page is not like creating a Word document, code has to be written, images retouched and re-sized, interactions with a Content System may need to be defined or templated. Content Systems need to be installed, work needs to be checked across several browsers. Menu systems can take time to code. Hosting has to be sorted out, files have to be uploaded, meta titles and descriptions have to be written, robot search files (robots.txt) need to be created, xml site maps need to be generated. A web professional will be thorough on all of these points.
Legal aspects of website design
A good web designer or studio will offer you advice on legal compliance. There are certain requirements for a Limited company (to state the registered address and number on their website) and every website owner should be made aware of the UK Cookie law (effective in 2012).
The Limitations of Templates/Themes
You can download and install websites with Content Management Systems (such as WordPress, Joomla) that will give you a very presentable framework in which to create a website and add content. Although it can be very quick to get a template site up and running it can be much more complicated to tweak it – your web designer may end up editing templates that generate code rather than just editing the pages and style code, it may take longer (and be more costly) to move the layout around. What seemed like a quick and easy route to a website can be more expensive to change in the long run.
The problem with using free WordPress templates
I have come across a very interesting article where a search was conducted for “free wordpress templates“ see http://wpmu.org/why-you-should-never-search-for-free-wordpress-themes-in-google-or-anywhere-else/ – you really should read this. 8 of the initial 10 search results contained downloads contaminated with malware. Using free templates is a short-cut to a likely disaster.
Website and marketing consultancy
Most web designers should be able to analyse your business and use their experience to help make your website successful. For example, have you thought about the â€œcall to actionâ€ for each page? What do you want your visitor to do as a result of visiting a particular page? Many templates don’t take account of this. Have you thought about where that will be located on the website?
Website Builder tools
The TV advertised web-building-tools may look quite appealing as they are displayed for about 3 seconds on a TV ad yet I have come across so many disappointed website owners who can’t change their logo or add a contact form or some other functionality. So my advice is to leave these well alone. They may one day achieve a level of sophistication that may make them flexible and adaptive enough but I have seen so many disappointments that I would suggest against this.
SEO â€“ will your website be found by the search engines?
Don’t assume that your website will automatically be found by Google. It won’t! Getting your website found takes effort to optimise your pages, research your target audience and their searches then getting the titles, headings and content right so that your site receives credit for relevancy. This process takes time and is ongoing, it should be reviewed monthly and tweaked. A continual effort should be made to build links into your site and to create new and relevant content. A good web agency will be able to help you drive traffic to your site but expect to pay a monthly cost. It won’t happen by itself.
At the end of the day, I’m a strong advocate of the phrase â€œyou get what you pay forâ€. Don’t skimp on your website!