I was recently asked by someone if I could help transition their website over to SquareSpace, a current and popular website platform. Their current site was built from scratch, and running on WordPress, the world’s most prevalent content management system. However it was made many years before WordPress matured into the software that it is today. The existing site was awkward to update, and they had been experimenting a bit with a trial of SquareSpace. They were excited to show me how easy it was to make a page, and add some basic content.
I tried my best to make a case for WordPress, and the brilliant platform it has become. I suggested the client carry on with WordPress and have a new more up-to-date website built. However, budget was a big concern and it appeared to me that their their mind was already made up. After all, SquareSpace makes the whole signup process very easy so it hooks you right from the get-go. Which really got me thinking; are there good reasons to start with, or to switch to a DIY systems like SquareSpace, or any of the widely-available off-the-shelf WordPress themes?
The first thing that comes to my mind is that acquiring a new tool is not the same as acquiring a new skill. As a designer and a WordPress developer by trade, (and at heart <3), I am inherently biased toward WordPress. With that out of the way, I want to try to break down as impartially as I can some reasons why you should, or should not, consider an inexpensive do-it-yourself solution.
Three Good Reasons to Try an Off-The-Shelf Template or a Hosted Service
1. You Have a Very Limited Budget
Not everyone has the budget for a one-of-a-kind professionally developed website and it’s true you can get a new website for very little money. If you have little in the way of budget, a DIY solution or a freelancer is your only real and best option. Design firms typically bill websites starting at $15,000, and there are many good reasons why they can, and do regularly exceed that. When you’re ready to take your site to the next level, they’ll be ready for you.
2. You are Patient, and Willing to Compromise
Finding a suitable template that meets all of your requirements requires a lengthy search that often yields only satisfactory results. With so many developers creating themes that target the broadest possible target market, the digital marketplace has found itself inundated with countless themes that are good enough for many, and perfectly suited for few. There are good themes out there, but they are few and far between—and when you do find them, they’ve already been found by tens or hundreds of other organizations. Perhaps some are even your competitors. If your needs are extensive, you’ll also have to search for plugins that do what you need, and then try to integrate them with your chosen theme which can often be a nightmare to implement, or impossible. Finally, many themes have serious security holes that may leave you and your website vulnerable to hackers and other bad guys.
3. Your Website is Temporary or Has a Significant Probability of Failure
If it’s likely that your site will have to be replaced or removed very soon, you don’t have clear plans or direction for the future and you have no financial safety net, it may not make any sense to engage a professional services firm to develop your online presence.
Four Reasons to Avoid off-the-shelf Solutions
1. Tools ≠ Skills ≠ Expertise
A major misconception is that acquiring a new tool is the same thing as acquiring a new skill. Cameras are a great example of this. We all know people who fall into the trap of believing that buying a $5,000 DSLR, or a $35,000 medium format camera is somehow going to make them a better photographer. They’ll continue to take the same poorly-framed, poorly-lit photos without investing the additional effort to learn the principles of photography or how their gear works. With amazing tools like smartphones, anyone can take a picture, but it takes years of practice to take a good photograph. This analogy holds true with websites.
2. You Have No Time To Waste
Clients often come to us immediately after having their website developed by someone else. Sometimes, their results didn’t meet their expectations and they need to start from scratch. In other cases their internal procedures required that they follow an RFP process to identify the best offering, and in the end the result was lackluster, hard to maintain and a bad fit for their needs. We don’t respond to a lot of RFPs, but feel clients should choose us because we have the expertise to fulfill their requirements and are the obvious best fit for the job—and they frequently do. If you don’t have the time to for a mulligan, consider doing it right the first time with us.
3. Your Site Is Already on WordPress
When your site is already built on WordPress, it often makes good sense to stick with what you know. Once a new site is developed and the keys to the castle are handed over to you, things should be familiar and the transition will not be as jarring as it would be had you switched to a completely new tool. We don’t believe in a carbon copy approach to migrating your website content from your old site to your new site. In fact, the only content that typically survives from the old site is the blog content which in some cases reaches back as many as ten years. Everything else should be carefully re-framed and rewritten to align with your communications and content strategies.
4. It’s Your Best Chance of Success
Successful people ask for help. Identifying your own challenges, accepting them, and aligning yourself with others who possess the expertise you need affords everyone the opportunity to do what they do best, working in harmony towards a shared goal. It can be difficult to relinquish control and delegate, but it frees up your time to do what you do best. For more info on that subject read ‘How asking for help actually helps you’ on Fortune Magazine.
Benefits of Hiring Professional Services
A Wealth of Expertise
A design and development agency brings with it a host of people, with varied skillsets, and often decades of combined experience. Manoverboard has specialized in crafting web properties and identities for socially responsible businesses, principled investment groups, and mission-driven nonprofits for many years. Continuing to focus our growth on these sectors allows us to hone our skills that are pertinent to our clients and lets us to concentrate our efforts on helping clients that align with our values. We recently renewed our B Corp certification with a significantly higher score and we are actively engaged in the B Corp community and our local chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), the only national organization supporting the design profession in Canada.
Quality Content Matters
Creating a beautiful website is easy, but making a website that sings is hard. The web is rank with gorgeous but hollow websites, full of half-hearted content, written to meet inhumane content quotas laid out by un-managed managers with only foundational understandings of SEO and content strategy. We partner with our clients to guide and generate great content and communications strategies leading up to the launch date—and onward for the foreseeable future.
Managed and Long-Term Growth
The launch of your new website is a beginning, not an end. Websites need to be cared for—and fed a steady, healthy diet of great content, good ideas, and enjoyable experiences.That’s why we deliver all of our sites with a highly customized interface enabling you to manage and expand your website. All of our sites are built from scratch for WordPress, the most prevalent content management system on the web today. That means that even if we were to vanish in a puff of smoke, you’d be able to carry on without us—but that won’t be necessary. We offer excellent maintenance plans including daily backups, regular updates and support, as well as time devoted to you every month if you need help with something you hadn’t anticipated. Your data is safe, so we’ve always got your back… and your backup.
A Proven Process
Firms often have an established process in place that guides a project from inception to completion. Our own process has a proven track record of discovering what our clients really need, and providing them with strong solutions that hopefully exceed their expectations.
Discovery > Sitemap > Wireframe > Content > Coding > Testing > Delivery > Maintenance
We make no claims to inventing such a process but we stand behind its efficacy. At the same time, we’re always tweaking our processes and workflow. Each project we complete helps us refine our work, yielding better growth both for ourselves and our clients.
A Website Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts
On the surface, a website is a simple vehicle, but when you take the deep dive into all that a website is, all the people that contributed to its creation, and all that it must do, it quickly becomes apparent that is much more than just a website. It is a technological marvel made of many small pieces, working together harmoniously like a well-oiled typewriter. A typewriter is a fine analogy for a website—simple on the surface, complex under the hood, and purpose built for generating and sharing important content.
We believe that a website will remain the most powerful communications platform over the next decade. If you are seeking a partner to help you build an online strategy and website that will get in front of your audiences, please give us a ring.