• DIY Website Versus Hiring A Professional Web Designer

    PUBLICATION DATE: 25 Mar 2019 | AUTHOR: Johan van Seijen | CATEGORY: , WordPress, Website Builder, Hosting,

  • Quick Summary: In this article we're going to explore the benefits of building a website yourself versus hiring a professional web designer. We're going to through some of our own experiences as a theme supplier in the mix. So that should make for some interesting perspective on the true added value of a web designer vs using your own skills.

  • The stakeholders

    Before we begin with the pros and cons of DIY vs a web designer we need to better clarify who these people are. And if you don't fit the bill and recognize yourself in the upcoming description of the business owner archetype I'm using, it might be that my conclusions do not apply particularly well to your case. So let's start with business owner.

    The business owner

    In the many years we've been in business we've seen the audience buying our products taking a certain shape and having certain characteristics. For business owners they are the following:

    1. You're working alone or in a very small (< 5) team of people
    2. You're just getting started, might even be doing this part time
    3. Your initial thought about a web design budget is very low (< 1000 USD)
    4. You'd rather spend time than money on your website
    5. You have (almost) zero experience with web design

    The web designer

    The web designers we attract also have certain characteristics:

    1. They have little track record in building sites from start to finish (< 20 finished)
    2. They're just getting started or haven't been in business long (< 3 years)
    3. They are doing web design part time / not as core business
    3. They are at the bottom of the web design foodchain in terms of rates (< 1000 USD fixed price)

    Is web design a dying profession?

    Just think about hourly rates and monthly income for a moment. According to the article " How to Make More Money as a Freelance Web Developer" starting freelance web designers make between 22.000 to 45.000 USD per year before taxes. That means that for some web designers you're almost better off flipping burgers at McDonald's.

    The financial position of web designers receives further pressure from rising competition. The article " Taking Your Career Beyond Web Designer" states: "not only is there a lot of competition from DIY web design software, the web design field is also extremely oversaturated". A couple of lines further you can read "you can find hundreds of web designers but most will not be at the top of the field".

    We see a lot of non web-designers going where the think the money is and placing themselves between the market (a business owner) and a DIY tool. It's these people that can be described as having he characteristics from the "web designer" section in this article. Just getting started, no track record, not doing it full time and asking the lowest of rates to at least be able to attract a client.

    Paying hundreds of dollars for a website feels like a huge deal for the business owner in my description. But it's not a big deal if you want to be able live off it as a web designer. Asking 500 to 700 USD for a website, a rate we've seen very often, would mean a web designer has to be able to acquire several clients a month, each month, to just make a living. But the combination of the time it takes to actually build a site and successfully deploy your marketing and sales to get new clients is impossible for the far majority of web designers. And as a result they just quit and look elsewhere for income.

    As a result web designers never acquire the necessary experience to smooth out their web design workflow and increase the margins. And even if they do it's really hard to start raising prices on just web design services. This is reflected in the fact we've had web designers ask us to raise our prices because we made it too difficult for them to justify their rates. Obviously this isn't the way forward; with increasing competition rates will go down and you have to think of something else to make money. It's also indicative of the web design market and the position of individual freelance web designers. It will prove to be harder and harder to make a living as a web designer in the coming years and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a dying profession in the light of DIY website builders getting more powerful by the day.

    Should you hire a professional web designer?

    If you want to build a simple website for your business and have a small budget (< 500 USD) the answer is "No". The risk associated with hiring a web designer that will want to work for you for a very small budget are greater than trying to do it yourself. These type of web designers:

    1. Use the exact same tools available to you
    2. Will need to add a premium because they are a reseller, which has nothing to do with adding value to your website
    3. Have asked us to raise our prices so they are better able to justify their prices
    4. Take short term actions with detrimental long term impacts, because of their low web design skillset
    5. Are not encouraged to work as effective as possible when using hourly rates
    6. Take on jobs outside their field of expertise relaying the risk of such a decision to the client and supplier (think e-commerce sites)
    7. Ask us (a theme supplier) to fix issues for which they are getting paid

    Should business owners build their own website?

    Let's turn the business owner and see how they fare when building a website, before we conclude that a DIY approach is the right one for your. Although I generally believe that starting business owners should take control and responsibility over the website building process, I also see business owners do the following:

    1. Having unrealistic expectations about what's possible within a very small budget (100 USD)
    2. Taking on responsibility of a piece of technology or a web design process they know nothing about (WordPress, server, theme, plugins, code, updates)
    3. Getting into trouble because of unsufficient (problem-solving) skills and relaying resposibility to the supplier
    4. Being fickle and easily agitated
    5. Rather taking on the role of web designer than content creator, because they can.

    Even with all the above, I still believe it's best business owners should build a website themselves. In part, because the points here apply, to a certain extend, just as much to the web designers they hire, as they do the business owners. So business owners aren't helped by hiring somebody who doesn't have the necessary skillset as well to do some troubleshooting when necessary.

    A last word about the DIY approach

    Part of the complexity of building a website is that a site is not one thing. It's made up of several underlying elements that have to work together seamlessly for a website to properly function. And when those elements (WordPress, theme, plugins, hosting) come from different suppliers the complexity adds up. To the point that the owner of the site will never be able to fix issues on her own.

    What you see happening in the industry is that individual suppliers take diversify their services to be able to offer a more full service concept. Hosting providers start making offering their own website builder, WordPress doing the same with their Gutenberg editor and theme providers offering hosting. This is in response to the challenge of diversification. When each individual stakeholder is confronted with the problems another stakeholders causes, taking control over the overall user experience of the website means taking responsibility over more and more of the underlying components.

    This trend is not beneficial for the role of a web designer. The more streamlined huge companies like GoDaddy and WordPress are in providing a solid website user experience for mere pennies, the less likely the market will want to pay the middlemen. In the end a fledgling web designer just cannot compete with the technological prowess of a multi-million dollar company.

    The integrated solution for DIY web designers

    We're one of those stakeholders that understand the challenges facing DIY business owners in building their own website, and have been at the forefront on optimizing our service to help these people. If you're looking to build a website, you have a small budget at your disposal and the willingness to invest a little of your time, than we are the perfect organization you can turn to. We offer a full-service website product, with hosting and domain name that will get you started very quickly. And we also provide the proper support video FAQ's and video tutorials to help you understand our tools. And we take away the technological hurdles and responsibility that traditionally have bogged down the DIY web designer.

    If this sounds interesting to you, why not see what we have to offer in terms of hosting and / or WordPress themes.

  • About the Author

    Johan van Seijen


    Johan van Seijen is co-founder of Nexus Themes and our lead designer. After gaining a Master's Degree in Information Science he decided to try his luck in the illustration industry, working for clients as Avantgarde, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With the return to the software industry grew the desire to create something to be truly proud of and which could spearhead his ambition of having his own company. And this company is what followed. He lives with his wife and daughter in Amsterdam.