You have a business, and you need a website. Or perhaps you already have a website and you think it needs to be working harder for you — after all, you’re paying for it. We all know that sales of rainbow-scented widgets are rising nationally… but sales are flat. That isn’t going to do.
So let’s look at your choices.
- Choice One: Hiring a web design firm that specializes exclusively in rainbow-scented widgets.
- Choice Two: Hiring a web design firm that specializes in making websites.
There are pros and cons to both, so let’s see what they are. What you base your decision on depends on what is most important to you, and your rainbow-scented business.
The pros of hiring a design firm specializing in your industry:
- They already understand how a “typical” business of your type operates.
- They will be able to show you plenty of samples of similar-looking work they have done for the same kinds of businesses.
- Because you will be picking from already-developed templates, the initial cost might be less.
- Everything will already smell like rainbows.
The cons of hiring a design firm specializing in your industry:
- Your individual needs are less likely to be a consideration for a design firm that uses a “cookie-cutter” approach across an industry.
- Your business runs the risk of fading into the crowd, looking, sounding, and smelling (online) the same as your competition.
- Copy and SEO, the driving heart of any web presence, will often be the (exactly) same as everyone else in your industry, pushing you down in search engine rankings. This doesn’t simply make you the same as your completion, it actually makes your rankings MUCH worse than those with unique marketing.
Further factors to consider…
Proprietary Software: Some design firms utilize sneaky tricks to force unhappy customers to stay with them, long after they should have left. Primary among them is the use of proprietary software to build your site. While this may be marketed to you as a “customized solution to the unique needs of your industry,” it is — at the very best — no better than a top-of-market application like WordPress. The probability is that it will have much less to offer you.
But… they are the only ones allowed to use it. If you need additional programming to the site, you must pay them. If you wish to move your site to a different provider, you can’t. Your only option is to start over from scratch with someone else. The advantage is to the developer, not you. (Sad-face widget.)
One more thing about proprietary software. The teams that work on these solutions are often small, sometimes just one person. Large-scale concerns like WordPress employ dozens, and utilize communities of thousands in their testing and improvement efforts.
Losing Your Rights: Another trick to watch out for is the provider taking ownership of your URL. This is common amongst the lowest-cost providers, because most businesses are happy to save a buck up front, but unwilling to give up the address they have been sending their customers to for the last several years. That makes them the perfect patsy. Don’t let it happen to you.
Forcing You to Change Hosting: In normal circumstances, you do not need to move hosting no matter who is developing your site. You should pick hosting based on things like backups, change allowances, regular maintenance, updates, stability, and speed. Firms that force you to change your hosting are suspect, and should be regarded as such. Firms that don’t are honest and beautiful and should be believed in all matters.
Using a Web Design Firm That Specializes in Making Websites
Just as an oncologist would not take his car to an oncology lab to replace the timing belt in his Lexus, (because, y’know, oncologists make a lot of money) so should a dentist not go to a specialist in dentists to buy a website. You want someone who specializes in the thing you are buying, which in this case, is a website and an SEO/marketing plan. Makes sense, right?
Time: The primary disadvantage is time. Because a designer who specializes in websites will need to work more closely with you, building a site that shines light on all the individual characteristics that separate you from the pack, this type of process can take a little longer. That may not be what you want, and it is an important consideration to make.
Copy: Because the copy for your website will not be the same as your competitor’s, someone will need to generate it. This can be you, or a professional copy writer affiliated with your designer. Your designer should have a stable of talented writers and other specialists to meet your needs.
Cost: While the initial costs may be higher, (though in many cases they are not) the long-term costs are often much less. No one is chaining you down, so you can take your site anywhere you wish without having to start over, and it is much easier to make day-to-day changes and updates to keep up with your business. Want to expand your line to include Sun and Moon-scented widgets? That should not be a problem. Some hosts even provide a free change allowance covered in the cost of hosting.
Marketing: The one thing you can be guaranteed of with an inside-industry specialist, is that no matter what marketing tools they bring to the table, they are exactly the same as the rest of your competitors who do business with them. But just as each individual business requires distinctive design and copy, so too do they require distinctive marketing and SEO.
Specialization: Just as an oncologist would not take his car to an oncology lab to replace the timing belt in his Lexus, (because, y’know, oncologists make a lot of money) so should a dentist not go to a specialist in dentists to buy a website. You want someone who specializes in the thing you are buying, which in this case, is a website and an SEO/marketing plan. Makes sense, right?
An effective website for your business should not break the bank, but it is an investment in your future. Your time is valuable, but spending your business’ money just to fade into the pack with your competition may not be right the right choice for you, or your company.
If you would like an individual consultation on any of these questions, and how they may impact your site and your business, feel free to ask me via my contact form here or call me at 904-389-9031. This has been an unpaid announcement, and Lena Shore was provided with rainbow-scented widgets free of charge.