Or: “I have Frontpage! Why does it cost so much to put a website online?”
Excellent question! I’m glad you asked.
When the web first started out, there were few fancy web editing tools out there and everyone had to learn how to build websites using Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML). As HTML itself is not terribly complex, and the medium was unproven for generating revenue and leads, many people chose this option. Lots of websites started popping up all over the place. Many of them were just so ugly, it’s amazing people continued to use the web! But the opportunity to connect with customers, constituents and all kinds of interest groups was so readily obvious that websites were clearly not a blip that was going away, despite the Dot-bomb of the late ’90s.
Since the early days, the medium has matured significantly. Now there are lots of software solutions that allow users to create quality websites on their computer. There are also lots of systems that allow designers to put together sites that maintain a consistent look and feel across all pages of a website and add in various modules that can assist organizations in their business operations. In the open-source world, these are even free!
So, if you are even remotely technically oriented, you could choose a platform to build your site (e.g., Drupal), pick a design theme, find a host to put your site and your domain name, possibly add in a customer relationship management system if you need that, and put all the pieces together. Voila – site done and no need for any outside resources!
Well, you could. But should you? If you’re a small business owner, I’m sure you’ve got lots of spare time to play around with all this stuff (yes, I’m being sarcastic). And if you’re a non-profit organization, I’m sure you’ve got more volunteers available that have the technical know-how to do it and the time available to throw at this (yes, still being sarcastic).
Perhaps a simpler question is who checks your accounting at the end of the year? If you tend to be the kind of person or organization that can handle this task internally, there’s a good chance you’re the kind of person or organization that will want to do it all your own. And that’s perfectly fine. For most organizations, outside expertise is used to assist them in making better choices. And so it would be with a web design firm. Depending on the firm, they will do one or more of all of the above steps for you.
They should also help you in areas that you may not fully appreciate. Your focus should be on your business purpose – their business purpose is to help you bring that that purpose online, effectively. The outside organization should be able to help you understand what the purpose of the site will be so that visitors to the site immediately understand what your company can do for them. They should be able to assist you in making decisions that will help you be more effective online, from search engine optimization to hosting choices to software that can be integrated into your site and possibly even to logo design.
But, like your accounting system, remember that ultimately for the site to be effective, ongoing maintenance of the content on the site needs to be performed by you for your organization.