You have probably seen lots of adverts on TV lately, telling you that creating your own website is quick, easy and cheap. The adverts tell you that you can create a "professional" website in easy steps - choose a template, add your content and publish your site...
So why, if it is so "easy", is this new trend for DIY websites not putting professional web designers, with their years of experience, out of business?
Any professional web designer worth their salt has years of experience in creating easy to navigate websites with attractive layouts and colour schemes. He or she will also spend a lot of their free time time keeping up with new technologies and learning new skills because the internet is constantly developing. They will have intimate knowledge of the web servers they work on, and the software those servers use.
They will also have extensive knowledge of internet security so they can create websites that are safe from hackers and other miscreants who take pleasure in destroying sites that have little or no security.
While the new trend for DIY websites is flooding the internet with home-made websites, the tools that are available to those going this route are extremely limited and incapable of producing professional quality websites, and indeed incapable of creating secure websites. The limited range of templates such sites use means that no DIY website can be unique to the business it is to represent, so there will be many other websites out there looking exactly the same.
This is ok if you really don't care about your business image online, but it also means that your new DIY site has little chance of ever becoming a commercial success.
Websites should be much more than just an online business card. An experienced website designer will incorporate interactive features for your visitors that will turn the website into a real asset to your business. But that does takes years of learning, not just the trade, but also the latest developments in the trade.
I've already had several clients who have tried the DIY route and some have spent weeks and months using the DIY tools that had promised them "it will be quick, easy and cheap". But if you have to take yourself away from running your business for several weeks or months then you are losing money, not saving money. How much is your own time worth when running your business? If you normally make £25 an hour running your business then you are losing £1,000 a week or over £4,000 a month while you are struggling to create a DIY website - while you could probably have paid a professional web designer quite a bit less to create a custom website design for you that would have been unique to your business.
Even once you have managed to create your DIY website, you will now probably have to spend hours every week trying to refine the look of the thing. Plus you will now be in charge of keeping it up to date, applying security updates for the core system and any plugins as they are released. This means spending more hours not being able to focus on your business, which means more lost earnings for you and your company.
For the DIY creator large parts of every month can be spent in this manner, updating core software, applying security updates, tweaking text content in an attempt to get your key phrases into the search engines etc. And every minute you spend doing this you are not running your business and are therefore losing money hand over fist.
Hiring a professional web designer in the first place leaves you free to run your business and ensures that the final design is as individual as your company. Not only that, if you retain your web designer for updates to the site, you can rest assured that whenever you want new content added to the site (which might take you a week of experimenting and tweaking) a simple email to the designer gets the new content added for you so quickly it costs a fraction of the money you would have lost taking time away from your business to do it yourself.
i.e. if it takes you a full day to add a new page with several photos - and you lose £200 because you weren't earning for your business while you did it - but your web designer could have done it in a few minutes and charged you £20... how can DIY make any financial sense for your company?
Another big issue with DIY websites is security - most DIY systems are offered by cheap hosting companies, and the only reason any hosting company can be cheap is by skimping on security and other vital services.
CMS Wales have been hosting websites since 1995 - and from our monthly costs for the server suite it is the security systems in place that are the greatest portion of the costs - approximately 60% of our monthly outgoings on servers is just for their security.
So we could offer hosting cheaper - but then it would not be secure hosting. Why is that important? Because the last thing you want to see when you wake up in the morning is that your site was hacked in the night and is now showing pornograhy or peddling dodgy pharmaceuticals. This is the risk you take with cheap hosting providers, but they "pile 'em high" and "sell 'em low" and can easily afford to lose a few customers because they got hacked (it is interesting to note here that almost all "cheap" hosting providers also offer a "premium" hosting service, in the hope that if/when you get hacked you will upgrade to their more expensive, secure service).
This is why we don't skimp on hosting costs, we don't do cheap, insecure hosting, we never have done. We only offer premium, secure hosting, because we feel it is our responsibilty to keep our clients secure.
So back to the original quesion; why are DIY websites not putting professional web designers out of business?
Because hiring a professional web designer to help your business is as vital as having a professional accountant do your taxes, or a professional mechanic service or repair your car. Yes you could do your own taxes, yes you could repair your own car. But it will take a lot longer, it will cause you stress, and will leave you with a nagging doubt that you may have missed something.
So before embarking on a DIY website for your business you should be asking yourself "how valuable is my time to both myself and my company?"
Then you have the choice; spend weeks designing and constantly tweaking a website yourself, a website that can never be unique because many others could be using the same DIY Template - or hire a professional designer with years of experience to do it for you quickly and create a custom design website that is unique to your company and as unique as your company.