SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix are just three of the dozens of companies offering drag-and-drop web creation. Broadly speaking, the cost ranges from ‘free’, which means a limited set of presentation elements plus an advertising banner on your site (Wix runs banners, SquareSpace does not), perhaps less robust support from the company (support ticket only versus chat, for instance), to $300 and up per year, depending on the level of support, the sophistication of the templates, the amount of bandwidth and storage requirements. E-commerce deployment adds a significant cost dimension.
The interfaces for the three companies I mention here are simple to learn and use and the resulting website looks nice enough. There are limits to site and page customisation. Access to the developer’s platform with SquareSpace requires the higher-priced plans. From there, the stock templates can be customised by editing the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
Even so, the site cost is less than $400 a year, all in. So why hire a developer? Easy – time is money. Building a site of any level of complexity takes time.
Let’s say the purpose of a site is to feature a start-up public relations company. The newly-minted CEO signs up, chooses a template, builds a few pages, done, right? Wrong. What about newsletter or e-mail blast integration? Metrics reporting? Social media integration? What about developing effective content to magnetize natural search results? Who will manage these functions for the organisation so that the effort has some tangible, ongoing effect on the development of the brand?
A key role of the developer is to look at what the organisation needs in terms of brand identity and marketing and to suggest an overall strategy that culminates in an effective action plan. In order to remain effective, that plan must be maintain on an ongoing basis and reviewed periodically. That takes time, discipline, knowledge and some experience. In the example of the public relations start-up, who will fulfill that function? The CEO is busy drumming up new clients and managing existng ones to keep the lights on. The marketing/sales/HR/R&D/facilities manager is already wearing a coat-rack full of hats. Realistically, what will happen to the media marketing effort started so valiantly?
A very small company usually doesn’t need a developer, or marketing engineer, as I like to think of the role, on anything like a full-time basis. The level of support an organisation needs in this regard is dependent on what’s being done or made. An intern is not the answer. Sure, a novice with an expensive education should get you the cutting edge in all things media, but that’s just not the case. As a professional in your own area of business, you likely remember how shaky you were until you swept some experience under your belt. Who paid for that experience and for those mistakes? Your employer did back then, but now, you’re the employer and although we’re a few paragraphs further into this article, time is still money. Further, unless you’re experienced in marketing, advertising, content creation, systems analysis and all of the other knowledge and experience that goes into creating a real presence in media for your business, it’s likely you won’t have a clue as to what to look for or what to monitor when your intern or first-timer starts.
So, start with a marketing plan and understand the goals of your web presence further than, “I want to get more business.” Talk to actual web devs who know something about creative, marketing (which is not the same thing) and importantly, research. That’s probably not going to be Tim The IT Guy who runs a Warcraft blog. If your web presence is something more than a marketing vehicle, you’ll need to find developers that can deliver secure web-based applications that work. No, it’s not easy, but if it was, everybody would be doing it. And, in fact, everybody is doing it, just not doing it well. The challenge for the business professional is to be circumspect and humble enough to understand that he or she may not fully understand what’s needed in terms of expertise. Of course, you could hire a analyst like me to uncover your needs, propose unbiased solutions and help to move your plans in the right direction.
Web marketing and application development has matured to an actual discipline that can be very powerful for your business. Don’t sell you business short with a D-I-Y solution that, in all fairness, probably won’t help one little bit.