The biggest strike against hiring a nonprofessional to design and develop your site is their reliability. Are they going to be there for you when you need them the most? When your web designer heads off to college, will they be there to answer your phone call that your site has mysteriously gone down? Or what about updates, like a small change to your office hours? Or a large addition like adding a new section? What if you just got an email from your registrar informing you your domain is about to expire. Do you have the login information? Do they?
A professional will be there for you, to fix and keep your site up to date. They will be up to speed on the latest changes to the web and have ideas on ways your site can succeed. They will be a partner in the growth of your business. Most importantly, they will have the time to devote to you.
You can also be assured that they will have all your information (web host, ftp, domain registrar and site admin logins) neatly tucked away and backed up for instant retrieval.
One of the most important benefits a website brings is a 24 hour glimpse at your company. If that site doesn’t reflect the same care and professionalism you put into your business, you will lose potential customers. A website that is hard to use, a pain to navigate or is just plain unattractive will reflect those same qualities onto your business.
Does this mean Jimmy down the street can’t build a professional, well-designed site? Not necessarily, but you can almost guarantee that a trained professional will know how to design a site that is easy to use, attractive, reflects your expertise and connects with the customers you are trying to reach.
The internet is fast coalescing around a set of standards. It’s highly unlikely that an inexperienced designer will be up to date on the latest coding techniques. When the day comes that you’re required to turn the site over to a new designer, will it be coded in a way that the new designer can figure out without having to spend hours (read: $$$) de-coding?
A professional designer will know the latest coding standards, and will understand that one day you may choose to hire a different designer. They will code and organize your site in a way that a new designer can easily understand.
Yes, I said cost. You can very well bet that your initial costs are going to be low to get the site up and running. This is the reason you decided to hire this kid in the first place, right? But the combined long term costs of points one and two will trump those early low numbers, potentially by the thousands.
How much lost revenue does a single irretrievable customer who leaves a poorly designed site incur? What about 10? Or 10,000? If your site goes down and your designer isn’t available, what will the costs be to hire someone to fix it at rush rates?
Hiring a professional up front will increase your initial costs. But a site that is built right, customized to your business and your customers, will most certainly be more effective, and more cost effective in the long run.
Perhaps more questions were asked than answered here, and that’s partially the intent. Asking questions like these now, before you’ve had a site built, can save you time and capital in the long run. Even if you’ve already had your site built and find yourself in a situation like those addressed above, hopefully this article will help you avoid future pitfalls.