Build vs Buy

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Build vs Buy

There’s a question that comes up often in the dark corners of web development board rooms and meetings between peers: why invest in a custom built website when you could pay for a quick, all in one service? It’s a messy question that lingers at the forefront of everyone’s mind as services that offer the sun and sky, for pennies, continue to make appearances in the media and across social platforms. Thanks in no small part to formidable marketing budgets, the overwhelming presence of these companies is far from unwarranted - they offer a viable service with some unique advantages over developing custom. However, web development agencies continue to thrive, and for good reason. With that said, let’s take a look at why you might opt for one or the other, and pit build vs. buy.

Round 1: Time 

This one’s a no-brainer. If you need a website tomorrow, you’re going to use an all in one service. Offering templates that you can populate with all of the content you have on hand, this option can be taken live in no time. However, if you’re in a position to consider your market’s niche needs and your business’ specific goals, your results will skyrocket. The benefits of thoroughly mapping these targets and building an experience that's customized to help you reach them, will always outweigh an expedited launch. To establish a quality first impression between your website and your audience is far more important than getting to them right this very moment.

Round 2: Design 

Like you even need to ask! All in one services will offer you a catalogue of templates. They may be varied, they may seem unique, but somewhere out there other websites will look and feel just like yours, in one way or another. This is the result of catering to millions of users who could be anywhere on Earth. It complicates the process of consulting with each of them, understandably. Arguably, one of the best parts of teaming up with an agency is working with a team of designers to fully harness your creative vision and craft an effective, useful destination - the website of your dreams. With modern technologies, there’s very little that can’t be done when you throw the template aside, and as a result agencies produce some of the coolest websites around.

Round 3: Functionality 

OK, so functionality could probably fall under design, but in my mind there’s so much more to the function of a website than what intuitive design encompasses. Yes, a well designed website will paint a clear path from your landing page to your conversion pages with plenty of utilities to help users find it, but an experienced designer will know the techniques to get them there and have them do what you want them to, and the common pitfalls along the way. Running usability tests, fine tuning specific elements, and generating ideas you might not have come up with in a solo effort. Both a template and an agency can get your horse to water, but an agency is your best bet getting it to drink.

Round 4: Insight

Modern all in one services offer analytics reporting, basic training on how to use their content management system (CMS), and the introductory information you'll need to get elbow deep into what's working, what's not, and what to do about it. For the very basic website owner, that's great. For businesses and serious marketers, not so much. Capitalizing on analytics reporting is intensive, and learning a CMS takes more than an animated manual if efficiency and familiarity are on the agenda. The beauty of a web development firm is the freedom to ask a question, to book a meeting, to seek out the insight of the professionals who are hooked on making your experience smooth and your website awesome, both for you and for your users. Anything less wouldn't be up to par. Once you've established a partnership with a web design firm, leverage that resource to master Google's whims, get a handle on the stats, or master your CMS.

Round 5: Cost 

Upfront, you’re going to pay less for an all in one service. Signup fees and template costs will appear to be a fraction of what an agency quotes you for something custom. But here’s the catch (I know, why does there always have to be a catch, right?): your website will be live for a long time if you play your cards right, and the cost of an agency’s work with you will look like a dreamy alternative when you’re years into a service subscription that you can’t walk away from without bringing your site down. These guys are running a business, after all; ensuring that your website or the work you’ve poured into it is compatible with other CMSs, or even a transfer, is not on the front of their to-do list. ‘You get what you pay for’ is a saying that has stood the test of time.

Round 6: Content 

You’ve heard it all before - content is the heart and soul of your website. Though that may be true, you can be certain that all in one services won’t be guiding you on how best to reach your audience, the most realistic ways to write for the web, or how to create a content calendar that will keep you on track and posting with effective keywords and titles. For the organizations and professionals who count on this insight, and on the word of a copywriter or editor to sustain the impact of their content long term, an all in one service simply isn’t an option. If you’ve built and paid for a website that isn’t attracting user sessions, then all has been for naught, and a strong content specialist is the best way to secure the eyes and ears of the right people.


As much as I’d like to say that an agency will always be your best bet, that simply wouldn’t be the truth. Like any partnership, take the time to consider what your needs are, and what you can offer. If you need a landing page with modest functions, or you have a lean budget, browse the all in one services (WordpressSquarespace) and even consider using a social media page like Facebook for events or LinkedIn for a portfolio. If you’re a business in need of a professionally constructed website that will mirror your brand’s commitment to its customers and its products, then do work with professionals, and seek out an agency. The pros of working with a team of passionate designers and developers will shine through in not only your website, but in the process of building it. If you're not sure, it never hurts to stop into a firm and discuss your requirements.

Bonus Round: Let's Chat

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