Easy, fast, and sometimes even free. For generation Y, this has become a standard in our day-to-day lives. If it doesn’t offer instant gratification, then why use it? In the digital age, there is no exception. More and more startups and young entrepreneurs are turning to services that can offer websites almost instantly in an effort to cut back on costs or speed up production, such as Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. Although there is a market for these types of services, there is still an incredible amount of benefit in utilizing an agency to help grow your business and transform your brand. It comes down to exploring your goals, both short and long term, to determine a solution that is appropriate.
When it comes to online web builders, there is no competition about costs. They are usually (but not always) significantly cheaper than what an agency offers, and in a lot of cases they include hosting options, which are necessary for the site to be accessible. From an agency perspective, the saying, “You get what you pay for” applies. With an online website builder, you’ll receive a design that is available to most, if not all, other users of the service on a platform that is universal, and typically limited across all subscriptions. Your site will resemble countless others. When you work with an agency, you typically receive a 100% custom design for your site, with hosting and setup that is customized to meet the needs of your site and visitor base.
When it comes to speed, website builders often make it easy to sign up, pay, pick a theme, and add some content and graphics. It’s portrayed as if it can be done in minutes. Although it is possible, it is more realistic to expect a couple of rounds of edits and some time to gather content. This might mean it will be close to 1 to 2 weeks before it’s ready to launch. This is still pretty fast when you consider a standard 12-14 week timeline provided by industry-leading agencies. I say standard, but most agencies are flexible and willing to expedite the process to meet certain goals.
Here is where we start to see a shift. Many times, web builders are advertised as simple and easy to use. Often that is true, but it also comes with a price. Ease of use on a generalized platform means that you’re limited on how it can be used both for you and your customers, and often times those limitations may not align with the needs of your business. For example, if you are launching a website for your restaurant, and you are trying to incorporate an online menu, it is usually quite easy to simply type out your menu, the price, and nutritional values. However, on the user side, that format may not help them calculate their meal’s nutritional information. With an agency, you work hand-in-hand with a dedicated team focused on creating a site catered to your goals. In this example, the team could custom build a site equipped with a nutrition calculator and an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) for you to quickly add, edit, or delete menu items, prices, and nutritional information.
One of the most obvious factors is arguably your website’s purpose. Is your purpose to simply get a domain name and publish a site with your name, hours of operation, and contact information? Or, is the primary purpose to attract potential customers and help them take an actionable step, such as calculating the amount of carpet needed for their bedroom remodel? If it’s the latter, your site would need custom integrations, such as tool that provides an estimated cost based on your company’s current pricing, accompanied with a “Buy Now” button and online payment form.
Furthermore, what is the scope of your marketing plan? If you are putting your new website on company vehicles and printed marketing materials, in addition to word of mouth promotion, there is little need for robust search engine optimization (SEO) tools. Often times, the quick online website builders are equipped with basic SEO tools. An agency, on the other hand, is able to optimize your site for current search engine standards and provide you with accurate knowledge and walkthroughs on how to keep your website a well-oiled machine that is continually ranking highest on Google and producing a positive return on investment (ROI) from your paid search ad on various websites found in the Google Display Network.
At the end of the day, nobody can fight the “cheaper and faster” argument for online website builders. They provide an easy-to-use interface for generating informational websites with decent designs shared among their entire user base. However, cheaper and faster does not always mean better. Agencies are able to provide custom designs for businesses who would like the opportunity to stand out against their competition. They can also provide a longer lasting and more robust platform to incorporate unique and dynamic web-based applications like calculators and online communities to engage a business’ users. Perhaps the most important and valued advantage to an agency is the personal touch. Quality agencies are able to provide you, the client, with a representative who is your partner, someone whose job is to ensure success by driving traffic to your new site via SEO, online brand monitoring to protect against hacking, and helping you grow from a basement startup to a Fortune 500 company