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Adam Grim, web development strategist and co-founder of Sparrow Websites – (Photo / )

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In any discussion of business websites, the question is no longer “Do we need one?” The question is “Should we re-do ours?”

There are lots of resources and professionals to help you develop a website, but each option comes with some pros and cons.

At Sparrow Websites, we talk to our clients about cost, ease of use, integration, flexibility and other factors before we begin any design. We’ve outlined three main options below, as well as some of their benefits and drawbacks.

We’ll call the three options “100% DIY,” “100% Custom” and “50/50.” Each can produce a functional, attractive website, but in order to more closely meet your needs, you should consider budget, site complexity and search engine results. Each of these options has greater and lesser strengths in those areas:

100% DIY

Online applications like Wix and Weebly make it possible for anyone to select web page templates and drag-and-drop content.

Benefits:

  • Variety: These types of website builders offer many good template designs.
  • Low cost: Using these applications is very inexpensive.
  • Easy to use: Assembling web pages is easy via the drag-and-drop process. Also, very little design or technical background is needed.

Drawbacks:

  • Lack of flexibility: What you see is what you get with templates. There are no customization options.
  • Challenging to expand: These site designs are challenging to integrate with add-ons. They also don’t offer any advanced features like surveys.
  • Lack of speed: These sites can be slow to load. In addition to making it less appealing for users, it also has a negative effect on search engine optimization.

100% Custom

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the use of a design professional or an agency. These sites are limited only by the imagination of the site owner and the expertise of the designer.

Benefits:

  • Great versatility: If you can map it on paper, you can build it. There are far fewer limits on aesthetics or technical capabilities than with other web design options.
  • Built-in SEO: With a custom design comes the ability to build in keywords to attract search engine traffic and build visibility.
  • Enhanced expandability: Custom-built sites can be designed with the ability to use more elaborate plug-ins – or to make accommodations for future expansion or integration with other features.

Drawbacks:

  • Greater expense: Hiring a designer or an agency requires a much higher budget than a DIY website.
  • Expanded personnel needs: Not only does this design approach require professional expertise to build, but it may also require additional people to manage.
  • Timeframes and turnarounds: A more elaborate website with potentially off-site personnel working on its development will require more time for building, testing and changing.

50/50

This “middle-ground” option includes more robust online applications like WordPress and SquareSpace. It leaves open the option of either taking advantage of a greater selection of drag-and-drop templates, or template customization with help from a designer or agency.

Benefits:

  • Affordability: the 50/50 Option greatly increases the potential complexity of a website design without equally increasing the cost.
  • Improved SEO results: More complex web building tools allow for more coding to improve search engine traffic and visibility.
  • Ease of maintenance: The design templates can be developed in a way as to be easy to make many required changes and additions without having to enlist a specialist.

Drawbacks:

  • Timeframes: While not as complicated as a fully customized website, these types of web development programs still require more time to plan and design than the simpler options.
  • Expertise: A partially customized website may also require some expertise or instruction beyond what you have on hand to build and maintain.

Options for website design are extensive and there is a lot you can do by just going online to explore. But it is still a good decision to consult an expert to provide some guidance that can save you time and money, and improve your long-term web performance.

Adam Grim is a web development strategist and co-founder of Sparrow Websites in Columbia.



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