Small Business Websites: Agency built or DIY Website Builder (Squarespace, Wix)?
Are you a business looking for a new website or a redesign of your existing website? If so, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions right now:
- Should I DIY my website?
- What’s the cost difference between DIY and agency-built?
- Why is there such a price difference between agency and DIY?
- What are the pros and cons of my options?
We’re here to help you answer those questions! Let’s start at the top…
Question: Should I DIY my Website?
Since we’re an agency that spends a lot of time designing websites, you might think that we’d say “No way!” – but that’s not always the case. If you have:
- A solid understanding of design principles
- Some basic HTML skills
- The ability to write clearly and concisely
- A decent amount of time, and
- A small budget –
We say give it a shot… with a few caveats. Choose your platform carefully (we’ll get to that later) and make sure you understand the limitations of a DIY-built site. Our opinion is that it’s never a long-term solution for most businesses (especially local businesses), but if it gets your business online and allows you to allocate more of your budget to growing your online business presence, it’s a great way to get started.
Question: What are my options?
The options used or discussed by most business owners that we work with are Wix and Squarespace, along with custom-built. Let’s take a look at the differences between these choices.
Wix has been around since 2006 and is known as the “simple” way to get a website launched. It has a huge library of plugins that allow you to add forms, videos, and more. It offers a drag-and-drop editor and hundreds of ready-to-go templates that are simple to work with and easy to customize to a limited degree.
Wix is best for: Businesses that don’t need to rely heavily on Local SEO and who plan on using other methods to grow their brand and revenue. If your business is already well-known in their area and you use other channels to drive traffic (social, paid), Wix does the trick.
Squarespace is a sleek website builder with an assortment of pre-built templates available to customize. It’s pretty, easy to use, and offers pre-built templates that are far superior to any other website builder out there. It’s a little less intuitive than Wix, but significantly more eye-catching and professional looking.
Squarespace is best for: Photographers, bloggers, restaurants, online shops – businesses that need a heavily “visual” presence.
An agency-built website may be built from a fixed template or from the ground up. It’s typically built on a CMS (content management system) to allow easy access into the website after a training session. This is the “top tier” option for businesses. An agency website (note: from a reputable agency!) offers full ownership of the entire website.
Agency-built is best for: Businesses that want full ownership of their website, unlimited SEO accessibility, individual branding, and don’t have the time to commit to design and ongoing maintenance.
Question: What is the cost difference between DIY and agency-built?
We’re not going to discuss all plan levels here because we don’t think any branded websites (Wix/Squarespace logo at the bottom) or options with limited bandwidth (your website may load slow) are smart decisions for any business. Below are their plans that we think are worth considering.
- Unlimited: $14.00/month. Includes 10GB of storage
- VIP: $25.00/month. Includes 20GB of storage
Worth noting are their extra fees: $5/month per email address for email hosting, $14.95/year domain registration fees
Also worth noting are their monthly fees for additional functionality. If you want to add elements such as FAQ, a social media stream, unlimited guest comments, a form builder, unlimited site search, an events calendar, built-in video, testimonials, ratings, and more – prepare to open up your pocketbook. These elements are easy to add, but they cost $5-$10/month each. What starts out as a $25/month website becomes expensive quickly when you add elements (which most businesses need) on your website.
- Business: $25.00/month. Includes unlimited bandwidth and storage.
Limited extra fees: $5/month per email address for email hosting, $20 -$70/year domain registration fees.
Squarespace doesn’t have an app store similar to Wix, and if you want advanced adjustments of the template – you’re going to have to find a Squarespace developer.
Agency pricing varies significantly and often depends on multiple factors: agency years in business, the market that the agency serves, specific elements included in the design, and what’s included with the plan. You’ll typically have choices regarding hosting, maintenance, email, updates, speed improvements, etc. Some agencies bundle those items into fixed prices with monthly payments (we do this).
- 270net’s Engage Basic Pricing: $275/month. Includes… a lot!
- Other agencies: Between $3,000 and $10,000 up front
Potential extra fees: Domain pricing, SSL, and email may be an additional fee, depending on the agency. Hosting ranges from $20/month to $100/month.
At first glance, this seems expensive when compared to the other options. The difference lies in what’s included. We’ll get into that next.
Why such a cost difference between agency and DIY?
This is a question we get quite often! Let’s look at the two scenarios:
Scenario 1: You need a website. Maybe you haven’t had one before, or maybe you have and you’re ready for a new one. Either way, you’ll spend a few hours researching to find the perfect DIY builder platform to work with and template to use. You’ll sign up and get on your way.
You spend a few hours here, a few hours there working to get things juuuust right. You write content, you pick colors, you create pages and a nav bar. You take a pause and think, “Well, if that area was a little wider, these two elements overlapped, and that space was a little smaller, it would look great!” Unfortunately, you aren’t able to make those changes because they are either fixed into the template or a developer’s skills are needed (around $100/hr on average).
It’s time for content. You know that you aren’t the best writer, but you give it a shot – because who else will? You spend a few hours researching and learning how to write website copy. There are a bunch of new terms thrown your way: USP, authenticity, branding, CTA, Johnson Box (you don’t even want to ask what that is…), positioning… and on and on. You’ve got a slight headache by now and have spent at least 20 hours learning, building, writing, and tweaking.
You step back, you’ve done all right. You’ve got a pretty decent starter site!
…. And then you look at your competitor’s website. You see the different elements they have, how their branding works, and you notice their compelling CTA. *sigh* Back to the drawing board you go!
Scenario 2: You call an agency that’s been in business for a while, has good reviews, and can build what you need within your budget. After you make your choice and sign the contract, you’ll discuss what you like, dislike, and a bit more about yourself and your company with the design and marketing teams. You’ll be assigned an account manager and schedule a kickoff call where both you and the agency get to know one another. Typically, you’ll learn who your new website design team is. At 270net, that’s an account manager, a designer, a UX specialist, and often a member of the marketing or content team.
After the kickoff call where you chat with the agency about goals, messaging, branding, and voice, the team gets to work on the following steps:
- The UX team builds a wireframe to help you approve and understand the new structure of your website.
- The account manager listens to your feedback, and you may have a call with the UX team in order to get the wireframe juuuuust right.
- After that, the design team gets to work on your concept – which you also offer input on and approve.
- Now it’s time to program your website! The developers build your website by hand, to your specifications on WordPress CMS.
- You have one final walkthrough before launch, and you’re off!
You spent the website design process offering input and letting the professionals do the hard work while you ran your business.
After reading those two scenarios, it’s pretty easy to understand where the cost difference lies. In scenario 1, the work was done by you. In scenario 2, you leveraged the experience and education of a multitude of professionals for your project. You can expect an agency to charge between $100/hr – $250/hr for their services, and in exchange you have experienced specialists at your fingertips.
What are the pros and cons of Wix, Squarespace, and Agency-Built websites?
Wix Pros & Cons
Pro: Over 280 templates, ready to fill with your images and content.
Con: Lack of total control and customization. It’s not always easy to make those *just right* changes that set your brand apart from others. There might be 200 templates, but there are tens of millions of users. It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd!
Pro: Huge app market to easily implement advanced forms, site search, video, and more.
Con: Bring your $$, because those apps aren’t free.
Pro: Fast startup time that can be measured in hours.
Con: Patience might be a virtue, because “fast” and “top-notch” aren’t interchangeable.
Pro: A multitude of DIY resources for help and support.
Con: Do you have time to dig for answers? If not, you’ll want a solution where you can pick up the phone and call a real person.
Squarespace Pros & Cons
Pro: Squarespace is an all-in-one platform. You won’t need to pony up additional money for plug-ins.
Con: You’re limited to Squarespace add-ons. Found an awesome photo gallery plugin you’d like to use? What about a top-notch SEO plugin? You’re out of luck.
Pro: Hosting, security, and backups are included in your website service.
Con: Is it the hosting level you need? Do you want control over your site speed? It’s a one-size-fits-all solution, and if you don’t fit perfectly into that box, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Pro: Better SEO opportunities than Wix.
Con: Still not enough. In some templates, there are inaccessible areas that are important for SEO – and you won’t be able to optimize those areas. Ever.
Pro: Elegant, sleek, templates that look good.
Con: They don’t look GREAT. If you’re looking to stand apart from the crowd, you’ll have a difficult time. Squarespace websites are relatively easy to spot and often look similar. If you want your user’s visit to your website to not register as “another one that looks the same as the others,” you might want to avoid Squarespace.
Agency-Built Pros & Cons
Pro: 100% custom to your business needs and goals.
Cons: The combined talent that it takes to produce a website can be costly – so the website will be, too.
Pro: You own the website. You can move it or host it wherever you’d like to!
Con: More responsibility lies on you, the business owner. If your files are lost or corrupted – you’ll need to ensure they’ve been backup up properly. Choose an agency that offers secure, nightly backups. We include them in our packages.
Pro: Optimized for lead generation. You’re not just tossing seeds into the wind – you’re hiring digital landscapers who are planting a carefully crafted garden specifically built to produce the best flowers at the right time. Those flowers? They are your leads.
Con: It costs more to build a custom garden. However, as with a home, professional landscaping is considered an investment into an asset. A website operates in much of the same way.
Pro: You’ll oversee the entire process. The agency team works for YOU.
Cons: If you don’t hire the right agency…. they might not work completely for you. You’ll need to make sure that you have full ownership of your website files prior to launch.
Pro: Your website is designed by designers, user experience specialists, and marketers who understand what makes users tick – and click.
Cons: Third time’s a charm – it costs more. But it can be argued (easily) that increased sales and leads will more than make up the cost.
Questions You Should Answer Before Making a Decision
What is the purpose of your website?
Your website is THE singular foundation of your marketing strategy for today, tomorrow, and years to come. It’s where your clients go to research your products, learn about the team, see completed projects, and find reviews or testimonials. If you have a local service business, or any medium or large business with a revenue-driven objective, these elements are a MUST, and you shouldn’t DIY.
However, if you are a hobbyist or work in visual/digital space (art, music, photography) Wix and Squarespace will be an excellent fit.
How much time do you have?
Will you be able to maintain your website and make necessary changes? Your website should be living and breathing, just like your business. Business owners are always doing something: offering new products or services, completing projects, updating terms and conditions. You’ll need to be certain you can set aside time to give your website some love on the regular if you choose to DIY. If you’d rather make a phone call on the way to a job to get your website updated, go with an agency!
What’s your budget?
If you are scraping together the money needed to operate your business, don’t use the last of it on a website. Consider a DIY as a stop-gap while you focus on offline business growth methods. You can circle back to a custom design once you have a little bit of profit coming in.
Wrapping it Up
There’s a lot noise out there in the world telling business owners they should do this, that, or buy a product. Most agencies will tell you that you should never, ever DIY your website. But we’re not most agencies. We think there’s a time, place, and a market for DIY websites and have seen business owners stretch too far (think: eating ramen) or have expectations too high (expecting a custom website will immediately bring huge returns) in a way that sets them up for disappointment and failure. We’re here to help you navigate through that noise; if our experience tells us that a custom website isn’t a good fit – we’ll tell you. We’ve been helping businesses grow for 18 years and wake up every morning with that same goal in mind: to make your online business presence better, one day at a time.
Shameless Plug Time
To be honest, we feel obligated. We’ve developed the best custom website package for small businesses that exists in the market. A not-too-pricey-but-full-of-awesome website service that bundles all of the necessary elements of a website. Think of it as hiring gardeners who are so good at gardening they’ve learned how to do it right, do it well, and do it quickly. That’s us. Just slap on some overalls and call us digital gardeners, alright?
What’s Included in EVERY Engage Website Package?
- 100% custom design
- WordPress content management system
- Dedicated Account Manager
- UX consultation
- In-house design & development team
- Comprehensive kickoff call
- Custom style & typography guide
- Site structure analysis & content plan
- Content migration & installation
- Wireframe with walk-through call
- Concept development with walk-through call
- Blog setup & social media integration
- Lead magnet/email subscription integration
- Website analytics installed
- Unlimited content updates
- Always up-to-date technology
- Premier hosting, email, & website security backed by an in-house IT team
- One-on-one website training
- Ongoing customer support via email
All for $275/month with no setup fees! Want to learn more? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.