Website Designer vs Website Builder

As a new business owner, you’re constantly thinking about how to get the most value for your money. And when you’re on the internet, you’ll find a lot of articles suggesting website builders as a smart bargain option. Which begs the question, “Why do people still hire web designers when there are website builders out there?” When it comes to the discussion on website designer vs website builder, here are the facts.

What is a website builder?

Web builders are tools that let you design a website without any coding knowledge. You can use their in-built functions to drag and drop options from a menu. There are generally a fixed number of templates. A few popular web builders include Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly, and Squarespace.

What is a website designer?

A web designer is a professional who will custom make a design based on your business’s specifications. This includes not just your business model but also brand identity, target demographic, and product options.

When comparing the two, you have to look at all the factors which result in a successful website.

Website Designer Vs Website Builder

1.  Design

A massive reason businesses go to web designers is because they promise to give you a personalised, custom design that fits your brand aesthetic. The layout builds on your business model and how you expect prospective customers to interact with your design. Here a designer will take your business model and the products and services you sell into account. The ultimate goal is to make navigation easy and intuitive, so the maximum number of leads convert into sales.

Some agencies even offer long-term support, which means you can catalogue how users respond and ask for changes to boost your site’s appeal. This can mean color scheme, CTA wording, logo placement, third-party apps, or a host of other site features. A web builder doesn’t do any of this. Depending on which one you’re using, you have a fixed number of layouts and designs to choose from.

While some web builders have a wider selection, most are pretty generic and don’t allow a lot of creative freedom. And that is something that is done on purpose because they want their templates to appeal to a broad range of website creators. When you’re creating a website and a brand image to set yourself apart from the masses, using a web builder template seems counter-intuitive.

2.  Seo-Friendly

It doesn’t matter how great your design is if it’s not doing its job. And if you want your site to result in increased sales and high profits, you need to integrate it with the latest SEO techniques. Google is continually updating its algorithm, so the only way to consistently make your website rank higher is by making it SEO friendly. 

A good web designer can help you get organic traffic with white hat SEO techniques that make it easier for search engines to efficiently crawl each page. They do this by using on-page and off-page optimization strategies. From selecting the right keywords and placing them in tags and meta descriptions to URL and internal link structure, web designers have years of experience in their field. While you can eventually learn how to do these things yourself, it will take time that would have been better spent growing your business.

On the other hand, if you’re using a web builder, you have to go in knowing that you’re unlikely to end up with a high-ranking site. Most of these tools offer the bare minimum in terms of SEO features. Remember, regardless of whether you’re picking a web designer or builder, don’t be fooled by the shiny button which says “SEO optimisation.” Figure out exactly what they’re offering and how far it will get you.

3.  Time efficiency

This is probably one of the few factors where a web builder takes the prize. When you’re hiring a web designer, you’re paying for more than just the colour scheme and design. There’s competitor analysis, market research, brand understanding, and A/B testing, leading to multiple iterations and revisions before a design is finalised. While all of these stages contribute to the success of the final site, they do take time.

And if you’re on a strict schedule or need to get your site up and running immediately, this may not be for you. In that case, you’d be better off choosing a web builder, if only as a starting off point. With a web builder, you only need a few clicks to get your site up and running. There’s no coding involved, no A/B testing, or design revisions.

Generally, you just pick a web builder and use their in-built functions to drag and drop features from the dashboard. You’ll find a few premade layout options; however, you can’t make changes to these designs or add plugins or templates. You can only use it the way it’s been made, and while this can feel limiting in the long run, it works if you’re a beginner with a time constraint.

4.  Back-end coding

What are the issues with website builders? The selling point for web builders is the readymade qualities that let you use them without ever writing a line of code yourself. But on the flip side, you have to consider that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. For many web builders, the back end code is often a mess.

If your website has sloppy coding or an overly complicated design which serves no purpose, the aesthetic layout won’t help you one bit. Why? Because you’ll end up with a site so slow, customers will leave before they ever make it to your products. As a new business, there are places where you’ll have to compromise for lack of a bigger budget, but user experience should never be one of them.

5.  Mobile functionality

When it comes to why you shouldn’t use a website builder, mobile functionality tops the list. If you’re designing a website in 2021, mobile functionality isn’t an extra feature; it’s a requirement. Over 53 percent of online traffic and 63 percent of retail traffic comes from mobile users. That means your mobile interface doesn’t just need to be as good as your desktop version; it has to be better.

With a website designer, you don’t have to worry about any of this. Whether it’s placing a search bar above the fold for the mobile version of a site or a click to call option, a web designer will make sure your site is suited to all devices, with no lagging or slow load times. But with a web builder, you are responsible for how you design, place, and post, which inevitably leads to poor design decisions like badly sized images and iframe embeds that make it beyond frustrating for customers to use your site. 

6.  Expense

Your budget will play a massive role in who you hire to build your site, but what you have to understand is that your website design is an investment in your business. And the expense is not a matter of more vs. less but rather long-term vs. short-term. Web builders are definitely cheaper in the short-term. The initial cost is low, which tends to appeal to new business owners. However, this impacts the long-term profits of your business because of the limitations in the framework.

When you decide to use a web builder, you do so with the understanding that you’re compromising on speed, accessibility, useability, and aesthetic appeal. That means the other parts of your business need to work in overdrive to catch up. Whether it’s the quality of your products, the speed of shipping, or the content you’re posting, there’s no room for mishaps. And the same steps that would have taken you from level zero to level 20 will only get you to level 5.

Because that’s the thing, when you hire a web designer to build a custom design, you’re giving yourself a leg up in the first half of the race. Essentially, you’re starting on level 10, which makes it easier to get to level 20. So when it comes to cost, it isn’t a matter of picking the cheapest option but rather what you are willing to invest in your business.

7.  Customer support

Once you’re past the initial setting up process, you will need help running your site. And this is where customer support comes in. With a website builder, you have constant access to online support to guide you through the process. That is not to say that website designers don’t offer this support, only that it isn’t always a given.

On the other hand, one of the challenges faced when creating a website is the type of problems you encounter. Suppose you built a site on a web builder, and now you need to update your DNS. Before you can ever get on live chat with tech support, you’ll have to spend hours looking into what a DNS is, how it works, and so on and so for. You don’t have to worry about these issues with a designer or agency because they have experts to take care of them for you.

When you’re hiring a design agency, you have to make sure you ask them if they offer long-term support. At Web Design Depot, we continue to assist our customers long past the initial design. Whether you want to update your design, add new information or features, our experts are here with you every step of the way.

8.  Quality disparity

If you’re hiring a web designer, you’re paying a significant sum for a product you haven’t seen yet. And therein lies the rub. The lack of standardisation and low entry barriers mean that not all people who call themselves “designers” are equally qualified. In fact, there are quite a few people who will mislead you as to their actual qualifications and capabilities.

This is a problem business owners generally face with freelancers. And while it is less common with design firms, it is still something you need to keep in mind. That’s why it is in your best interests to always go to a reputable firm with verified credentials, a strong portfolio, and a significant number of client reviews and testimonials.

Because once you hire them, you’re stuck with them till they deliver the finished site. And if, after all that fuss, you don’t like the final product, you’ll still be stuck with it. So make sure you know what you’re getting into and hire the right agency, even if it costs you slightly more. The risk of a low cost and unverified designer is rarely worth it.

Then you have web builders, which generally offer mediocre, yet standardised services across the board. While you have quite a few options, with WIX, GoDaddy, Weebly, and Squarespace being a few, the end result that they offer is of a similar calibre.

Web Builder

Pros

  • Quicker to set up
  • Low initial cost

Cons

  • Generic design
  • Low conversion rate results in lost sales
  • Poor SEO optimisation

Web Designer

Pros

  • High quality design
  • SEO strategies that result in high rankings
  • Better leads to sales conversion rates
  • Custom built to suit your business’s needs
  • Long-term customer support system

Cons

  • Higher upfront cost
  • Takes longer to set up
  • Quality varies depending on the agency you choose

Conclusion

Many new businesses start off using a web builder thinking they’ll be able to transfer their site once their business gets off the ground. But that is easier said than done. While some builders allow easy transferability, others like make it extremely difficult for you to move to a new platform.

So, is it better to build your own website or use a website builder? Building your own site definitely gives you more freedom over the design and has a bigger payoff in terms of sales. While web builders are definitely the cheaper option, you do end up sacrificing value on a number of factors. And at the end of the day, knowing the value a website can bring to your business it’s up to you to decide whether the loss of quality is worth it.