It’s funny that we’re talking about website builders versus custom website design in 2020 because I remember the website builders versus custom design debate in 1996. Should you make a free GeoCities page, or hire someone to create a website in Adobe Dreamweaver? Times really don’t change, technology just advances. In this article, we’ll see what works best for you between website builder vs custom website design.
In any case, the cost of website design in the modern era is a complex subject, because websites themselves have become complex things. The internet isn’t powered by a few lines of HTML and some .GIF graphics anymore. So website builders fill that niche for people who want quick-and-easy results, whereas custom website design is a premium service.
Now the question is, which is best for you? I’ll try to answer that by objectively comparing what you can expect from both.
Comparing the cost: Website Builder vs Custom Website
Custom website design is definitely going to cost more than a website builder upfront. Website builders are intended as cheap and easy-to-use platforms on monthly or annual subscriptions. Some like to point out that you’ll pay higher hosting fees on website builder domains, which is technically true. Website builders charge a little more for hosting because of the convenience factor.
Hosting plans through website builders range from $10 to $25 per month on average, and can also charge you extra monthly for things like additional storage, premium apps on your website, etc. Little nickel-and-dime service subscriptions that quickly add up is how website builders earn their money. It’s a good idea to compare the fine-print services of various website builder platforms, for example here you can see a comparison of the best real estate website builders.
Website design from a professional team is going to cost a lot more upfront, somewhere between $5,000 – $10,000 for small-medium web design, and enterprise ecommerce businesses can expect to pay a lot more than that. However, you’ll pay less in domain hosting, SSL certificates, etc.
What about monthly fee considerations?
While it seems like website design will be a bigger upfront cost and then cheaper monthly costs compared to a website builder, saving you money in the long run, the thing to be aware of is that some website design companies can lock you into monthly maintenance contracts that include things like tech support, analytics, SEO fine-tuning, and that stuff isn’t cheap either.
Depending on the size of your website, the monthly maintenance fees from a website design agency may not entirely be worth it.
It’s kind of like having your car oil and tire pressure adjusted every month by a professional garage, but for some reason, they keep billing you for a clutch assembly replacement. Get my drift?
So the final costs, both upfront and monthly considered, a website builder will typically be cheaper for small to medium blogs or ecommerce businesses, even with somewhat higher domain hosting and storage fees.
For large enterprise business, however, especially an ecommerce website with many pages and scripts to load, the monthly maintenance and support offered by a digital design company is worth it.
As a final note on this section, there is a way to get the DIY aspect of a website builder. With cheap domain hosting. You could use an offline website builder that allows you to export site code. For upload to a domain of your choosing. This requires a little bit more technical know-how than just using a regular website builder with built-in hosting plans but is a great option for saving on monthly fees.
Website Builder vs Custom Website: Time of getting a website running
With a website builder, you’re just slapping together some templates, website elements, and add-on scripts and widgets for your site. You can get a brand new website up and running in less than a day.
Professional website design is going to take much longer, anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the scope of your web project. There’s a lot of collaboration involved, custom code being written, etc.
I mean really, this isn’t hard to imagine. It’s the difference between doing a 16” x 20” paint-by-numbers versus a 36” x 48” original oil painting. Obviously the original oil painting is going to take much longer.
The customization factor
Again, we can use a painting reference. Since an online website builder is basically like a paint-by-numbers. You’re limited to the templates and apps available on the website builder platform. You can put together a really sleek and clean website no problem, but it’s still just a template unless you’re purchasing a unique website theme such as for WordPress.
With custom website design, the sky’s the limit, within reason. Every aspect of your website customization because you’re using custom code.
That’s not to say that a website builder is going to give you a cheap-looking generic website. Some of the platforms do actually allow for a good bit of customization. If you’re familiar with website code like CSS. But still, you’ll see limits by what tools are actually available.
Conclusion: Website Builder vs Custom Website?
There’re so many variables on deciding which is best for you, but it ultimately boils down to this. If you’re a blogger, or a small ecommerce website, or an artist showing off their portfolio. So, a website builder will get the job. It’s your best choice because custom web design and ongoing maintenance probably aren’t even in your budget.
If you’re a large ecommerce website or an enterprise company, you really want custom website design. A large ecommerce website will actually need the monthly maintenance from their designers. It wouldn’t be a good company image if your website looked like a website builder template. It’s noticeable.