With more than 1.5 billion websites on the Internet, the importance of having a strong online presence can’t be emphasized enough.

At the same time, however, developing a site that gets results can be extraordinarily expensive. Whether you own a business that needs a website or want to develop one for your personal use, it’s crucial to find a solution that supports both your needs and your budget. These days, there are basically two ways to go when it comes to establishing an online presence: using a website builder or hiring a web designer.

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Which option is right for you? Read on to learn more.

What is an Online Website Builder?

An online website builder is a tool that allows you to develop a basic website quickly and without any need to manually edit code. Popular website builders like Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix are equipped with visual page editors that allow you to drag and drop various elements to produce a desired result. Although online website builders are fast, easy, and affordable, they don’t allow for much customization, so you can only do so much with them.

What Does a Web Designer Do?

Hiring a web designer lifts the burden of developing a website from your shoulders and onto those of a professional who knows how to design a site from scratch. Because web designers start with a clean slate, they can take whatever vision that you have and make it into a reality. A web designer can produce a far more effective and visually appealing website — one that is truly unique — but the upfront costs can be prohibitive for many.

What Are the Differences Between the Two?

Some key differences between using a website builder and hiring a web designer include:

  1. Price: Website builders can cost as little as $4.99 per month. Pricing for professional web design varies wildly, but it averages between $50 to $80 per hour or so, and there is usually a minimum charge of $250 to $500.
  2. Design Quality: Website builders produce decent but somewhat generic websites, while designers produce gorgeous, utterly unique results.
  3. Speed: You can have a site up and running within a day with a website builder; with a web designer, your site is unlikely to go live for four to six weeks.
  4. Optimization: Optimization tools for SEO and conversions are often included with website builders, but they tend to miss the mark. A talented web designer can develop a site with the best practices for SEO and conversion in mind.
  5. Support: You’re essentially on your own when using a website builder. If things go awry with a professionally designed site, you can always get help from the web designer that you hired.

Who Should Use Website Builders?

Website builders make the most sense for the following:

  1. hobbyists and personal bloggers
  2. startups
  3. small non-profits
  4. solopreneurs generating $75,000 or less per year
  5. unproven concepts

Who Should Hire Web Designers?

The following situations typically call for professional web design:

  1. businesses generating $250,000 or more per year in profits
  2. solopreneurs generating $150,000 or more per year
  3. local businesses in competitive industries or niches
  4. businesses generating transactions of $5,000 or more

Pros and Cons of Using Website Builders

A few of the advantages of using a website builder include:

  1. Speed: You can usually have a site up and running within a single day
  2. Affordability: Upfront costs are minimal, and plans start as low as $5 per month
  3. Decent design quality: Website builders produce basic, solid websites that get the job done

There are definite downsides to using website builders, including:

  1. Not professional quality: When you use a website builder, your site will lack the nuances of professionally designed websites.
  2. Too generic: Website builders rely on templates, and there are only so many of them. This is why so many sites look alike across the Internet.
  3. Poor SEO: Most website builders include onboard SEO tools, but they pale in comparison to the level of optimization that you will enjoy from professional website design.
  4. Time intensive and frustrating: People who lack web design skills are drawn to website builders, but therein lies the problem: that lack of experience often makes using even intuitive builders tricky and time intensive.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Web Designer

Some of the top advantages of hiring a professional web designer include:

  1. Best design practices: Professional web designers incorporate crucial elements like user experience and information architecture into web design, producing effective and harmonious results.
  2. First-rate optimization: The designer that you hire will develop your site from the ground up with things like SEO and conversions in mind.
  3. Convenience: Rather than taking employees away from their work to build a website — or doing it yourself — you hand the work over to someone who truly knows what they’re doing.
  4. Ongoing support: Most web designers stay “on board” and offer continuing support for their designs. If something goes wrong or if you want to make changes or updates, they are always just a call or message away.

Some of the drawbacks of professional web design include:

  1. Steep upfront costs: On average, a professionally designed site will set you back by upwards of $5,000.
  2. Quality varies: Just because someone bills themselves as a professional doesn’t mean that they are any good. Always check portfolios and reviews before hiring a designer.
  3. Extended launch times: It typically takes anywhere from four to six weeks to develop a professional website.
  4. Wide range of prices: Pricing varies so much with professional web design that it can be extremely difficult to determine a fair price.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are pluses and minuses to using both website builders and hiring web designers. It’s in your best interests to do additional research to arrive at a decision that best suits your needs and budget.