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Web Developers vs. Web Builders

POSTED 09/22/2015
By Josh Kraus

As of March 2015, the total number of active websites has surpassed the one billion mark. If you plan on adding to that number, you will first have to decide how you want to go about building your website. If you’re already a skilled developer, that decision should be easy. If you have little to no experience with Web technologies, you’re left with two options: hire a Web developer or forge ahead on your own using a website builder.

Website builders such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly only require a Web browser to operate, and enable users to build their own website without manual coding. Over the years, these builders have grown more advanced, and offer user-friendly features such as drag and drop, social media integration, and ecommerce solutions.

To help users decide between web developers and builders, we’ve identified three key factors to consider. We’ve also asked web developer Andrew Dotson to share his insights. Dotson is a freelance user experience (UX) designer and developer based in Tampa, Florida, and has created websites for clients ranging from IT consulting firms to t-shirt companies.

Factor 1: Type Of Website

Different types of websites require different capabilities. While website builders can accommodate most basic website needs, anything more advanced, or in need of customization, is better suited for developers.

Dotson argues website builders are more conducive to brochure style websites. Brochure style websites are informational in nature, and exist primarily to promote a business, service, and/or product. They do not require complex features or functionality, and typically remain static. Restaurant websites, for example, are often built in the brochure style, as they rarely go beyond advertising the restaurant and providing a menu. Online portfolios and blogs are also brochure style, and are good candidates for website builders.

Some examples of brochure style websites built with builders:

When a website’s needs exceed those of a brochure style, and require interactivity, unique interfaces, or large-scale ecommerce integration, hiring a developer warrants serious consideration.

“If you need an online store or want to build the next big thing, a freelance web designer or agency would be the best choice,” says Dotson. “A web agency or freelancer can offer practical advice, and is capable of building anything you can imagine. Services like Wix and Squarespace can offer a lot of features from the get go, however they pale in comparison to the custom and personal service a freelancer or design agency can offer.”

Factor 2: Budget

Invariably, budget will play a major role in this decision. Website builders are the cheaper option. Squarespace offers prices as low as eight dollars per month while a quality web developer can be had for a significant investment. Web developers run the gamut in terms of price, but expect to pay into the thousands, and for good reason: they can build you anything. If your website requires advanced functionality, and you can afford a good developer, hire one.

If you can’t afford a good developer, it’s best to go with a web builder. Notice the emphasis on good; in the web development industry, the old adage “you get what you pay for” has never been truer. Developers offering their services for cheap either don’t work enough to know a web developer’s true value, or realize that low prices are their only way of staying competitive. Cheap developers are more likely to be bad developers, and bad developers will end up costing you more in the long run.

“It might be tempting to go with the cheaper developer offshore or a friend down the street,” says Dotson. “However, in the real world you will get more headaches going down either of these paths. I recommend finding designers and developers on sites like Sortfolio, Dribbble, and Behance. It’s a great way to sort through the most popular web agencies and designers.”

Factor 3: Website Purpose

“If you are looking to just go online for the sake of going online, then using a website builder might be perfect for you,” says Dotson. “However most of us are going online to make a profit.”

Blogs, portfolios, advertisements for your business — their purpose is largely augmentative, as they may strengthen the value of an individual or business, but they don’t create that value. Ecommerce stores, entertainment platforms, and other, more multifaceted websites exist to make a profit, or at least drive a large part of it.

The stakes are much higher with profit-oriented websites, and when the business is the website, that website better be top quality.

“Overall it is really a balance of cost, risk, and returns,” says Dotson. “The rewards of hiring an agency can be huge. I have seen companies transform by making a medium to large investment online. I have also seen small businesses benefit from using online website builders, but never to the degree of companies who hire agencies or freelancers.”

Jagged Edge Media JAcom Consultants