I always point out to my clients that they have a number of options when looking for a web developer.
- You could do it yourself. Using templates and a CMS like WordPress, it's possible to create a credible site over a few nights or weeks.
- You can use one of the web building sites, such as wix.com, and build your website using their tools.
- You can consider using offshore workers. Their rates per hour are usually quite low.
- You can contact one of the excellent local web development companies, who can produce world-class results, and you have the staff and resources to be able to identify and solve any unique requirements for your business.
- You can deal with a local freelance web developer, who has the skills to create world-class websites, but doesn't have the overhead of the larger web development companies.
DO IT YOURSELF
Doing it yourself is obviously the lowest price option. Modern CMS programs like WordPress make it possible to launch a website without having to learn HTML, PHP or other programming languages. There are thousands of templates available, and plug-ins can be added to perform many functions.
WordPress is an open source "free" program that has amazing support from the open source community. Most hosts have programs available from your hosting control panel that will allow you to automatically install WordPress with the touch of a button.
But most people underestimate the amount of time that it takes for even a professional to properly design and populate a website. WordPress does have a learning curve. Even the beginner tutorials can be 10 hours or more of video. You have a great deal of control over the look of your site, but that is not always a good thing. After a few months many WordPress sites look very ragged, as the various changes made have altered the original look and feel of the template.
WordPress is being constantly updated. It is essential that you immediately install any updates that WordPress issue. Many of these updates include changes to the core functions, but most are due to the discovery of security holes that need to be immediately plugged. You can't delay installing these updates without putting your site at severe risk. While you may think that your website is too obscure to attract the attention of the bad guys, you are wrong. As soon as the vulnerability is discovered the evildoers launch thousands of "bots", which are programs that comb the web looking for WordPress websites that haven't yet been updated. As soon as they find one, they attack, using the vulnerability that the latest version plugged.
This is not an inconsequential problem. I have been contacted by people whose sites were so infected, corrupting the operating system, that we had to move to a new server, and do a completely new rebuild, before they could get their site to work.
If you have extra time available, and you have the discipline to not alter the original look and feel of the template, this can be a good option.
WEB BUILDING SITES
If you are just starting out, and just want a "brochure" website, You can consider one of the online web building sites such as wix.com or web.com. Some of the hosting sites, like GoDaddy have web building tools, and QuickBooks, now has a web creation service. Some of these sites are "free" but most have a monthly fee to get important options. If you add their limited eCommerce options, the monthly fee jumps to around $30.00 a month or more.
These sites are quick to set up, using their templates, and if your needs are basic, and you just want a quick brochure online, this can be a good option.
Of course if this was the perfect option, people like me would no longer be in business. So what are the downsides?
- Even though they have many templates, they also have millions of customers, so even those with a 100 templates available, you will have 10,000 to 20,000 sites that look just like yours.
- You don't have total control over the look and feel of your site, or its functionality.
- You cannot make any changes to their code. They are closed systems, and they do not allow any third party developers to make any changes to your site.
- The eCommerce platforms are somewhat limited
- YOU DON'T OWN THE CODE. If you leave them, you do not own any of the site that you built on their platform.
But if you are just starting out, have some time on your hands, and don't need the site to do anything other than show a little information about what you do, this can be a good option.
OUTSOURCE YOUR PROJECT TO AN OFFSHORE CONTRACTOR
While it may be possible to have a good experience dealing with offshore programmers for your Web Development or Web Design project, my viewpoint is like that of the Emergency Room doctor's opinion of motorcycles. I've seen the carnage, and I would not recommend it. See my blog posting about this issue at Should You Use An Offshore Web Developer Or Web Designer?
USE A LOCAL WEB DEVELOPMENT COMPANY
Vancouver is blessed to have some World-Class web development companies based here. They have also spun off dozens of smaller agencies that are also producing top-quality, creative work. Most of these companies take on the functions that were previously the purview of the large advertising agencies. They work with their clients to create a total branding solution that includes their websites, their social media sites, their public relations, and even their print media.
If you have the budget to afford their services, this is an excellent route to take. You're dealing with talented local people, who care about their community and your business. They offer some of the finest design services available on the planet.
Unfortunately most of these companies won't look at projects that are under five figures. It is not that they are gouging their customers. To provide the talent and services that they offer their fees are good value.
Hiring a local freelancer can give you the skill set that is available from our city's top agencies, but without the overhead that is built into their operations. For many companies, this is an excellent option.
You have the opportunity to personally meet with the person who is actually doing the work on your site. You get to work with someone who understands your community, its culture and its spirit.
With most large companies, you are dealing with an account representative. He takes your requirements to a systems analyst, who determines what is required and passes your work to a project manager. The project manager then gives your work to whatever programmer is available that day. In most cases, you do not get to communicate with the people doing the work, nor are they likely to make any suggestions for improvement or additional features. When working with a freelancer, you have an open flow of communication.
Experienced local freelancers have usually worked on big company sites and on large projects. They can bring this big company experience to your project, and give you the functionality and design that would usually only be available from the larger agencies, for a considerably lower price than you'd pay for an agency's services.
You will also get someone who is interested in a long-term relationship with you and your company. Your local freelancer is hoping to earn your business for ongoing support and SEO Search Engine Optimization services. Therefore when he's designing your site, he's taking into consideration the long term performance of the code that he's writing. Your project will be SEO friendly out-of-the-box rather than require recoding to make it rank well with the search engines.
Of course the freelancer I'd like to recommend, is myself, Brian Irwin. I spent many years working with large, NASDAQ listed, American companies, and I remain on retainer with some of them. I've also worked on some very complex local projects, and I have been pleased to see them build into serious businesses.
The best test of a web developer's ability to get your site highly ranked in the search engines is to find how their site ranks. My site, www.BrianIrwin.com, is on the first or second page of Google for my top three keywords, Web Developer Vancouver, Website Developer Vancouver and Database Expert Vancouver.
So if you are considering your options for building a website for your business, there's more than one way to successfully create a website. I wish you good luck with whatever method you choose.