A Cost Benefit Analysis of Custom Design vs. Website Builders

If you’re looking at building a website, it’s likely because you’ve decided to start a new business. According to recently published statistics, as many as 20% of new websites are related to a new business… and more still are being built for a business which previously had no website.

We’ve entered the age of ecommerce. Online sales and transactions will account for over 10 percent of all retail transactions by the end of the decade, and according to the Forrester research group, the internet will be used to make decisions in over 70% of retail purchasing decisions. And no matter what you need or want to buy… you can bet there’s a store for it online. And if you’re like most small business owners, you’ve decided to capitalize on that, and start a web store to make some extra cash.

But should you use a custom designed website or a website builder for your ecommerce website? The answer’s a little more complicated than you might think.

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Using a Developer for a Custom Website

Most people are already aware that hiring a developer will be more expensive. According to data published by WordPress.org, WordPress developers charge $50 per hour on the average, and can spend weeks working on projects, for a total bill of thousands of dollars. And if you’re paying for custom html or CSS, you might be paying as much as $100 an hour.

But the higher costs don’t end there. Website owners will need to pay for hosting, which can cost anywhere from $4 to $100 a month depending on hosting needs (you’ll be paying more if you need to be PCI compliant), and you’ll need to purchase a domain. If you’re not buying a domain from a reseller, this might be a small investment, anywhere from $1 to $25. And then there’s content, like images and videos, which will usually cost anywhere from $1 to $30 per file.

And then there are other considerations, like incorporating payment gateways, paying for hacker-proof security and firewalls, and the time it takes to arrive at a completed file, typically anywhere from two weeks to two months.

The benefits, however, can be substantial. For such a high cost, you can get a unique-looking product custom-tailored to your brand, with absolutely stunning visual features and layout. And while many business owners will consider the investment worthwhile for the dramatic impression, there’s one thing to consider which most new website owners don’t factor in: updates.

The nature and capabilities of computers and the internet change so fast that usually new capabilities worthy of making dramatic updates or website updates occur approximately every 2 years. And sometimes these updates are critical to maintaining customers or SEO, such as the 2015 shift to website responsiveness.

Using a Website Builder

Website builders are cheap. Dirt cheap, compared to hiring a developer. Most cost anywhere from $15 a month to absolutely nothing. No, you’re not reading that wrong: sometimes website builders will help you get a free website. And whatever you pay will often bundle in hosting and a domain name, and for some website builders, even includes free stock images and logo generation.

But things can get a little more expensive- anywhere from $20 to $50 a month- if you tack on special features, like email newsletters to subscribers or interesting third-party additions to your website. It’s important to read the fine print when considering which website builder to use, because policies can vary wildly on what add-ons cost.

And the time to a completed website using a website builder is often a matter of days, not weeks: simply because all the coding is already complete! All you’re doing is picking a basic format or theme that you like, and plugging in your own content. But the obvious drawback applies: your website will look a little more generic, and it’s rather likely that your visitors will be aware of other websites which are using the same basic layout.

But website builders also usually handle all the more technical aspects of running a website, such as security and compliance issues, and they’ll often update their own codes and capabilities organically as technological advancements improve, and will generally prompt users about items which might need updating.

The Bottom Line

Whether or not you use a custom website or a website builder will depend heavily on your current cashflow and your brand. For example, expensive luxury goods or services can really benefit from the unique look and feel of a custom website, which can lend an air of exclusivity to the brand. But more basic services or goods, or small businesses without a lot of cash-in-hand are likely best served by using a website builder, which is cheap, swift, and easy to manage.

Mars Cureg

Web designer by profession, photography hobbyist, T-shirt lover, design blog founder, gamer. Socially and physically awkward, lack of social skills, struggles to communicate with anyone who doesn't have a keyboard. Willing to walk to get to the promised land. Photo and video freelancer, SEO. Check out more on my Google+

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