There are systems and resources out there that can turn just about anyone into a website “professional”. With the ability to install a theme or drag-and-drop photos and videos anywhere you want on a page, anyone can become a guru. This gives the appearance that there isn’t a difference between these website “professionals” and actual website developers. Don't be fooled there is a difference.
WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace and so many others offer the most basic website users the opportunity to build websites without any “programming knowledge” at all. You’ve probably seen the commercials.
The reality is, some of these systems work great for some people some of the time.
It really is possible to put together a website that looks pretty decent with these do-it-yourself systems. You can even update your “About Us” or “History” page, sell products and services, and even create a news feed or write blog posts.
Unfortunately, what they don’t allow you to do very easily is make any significant changes to the overall structure or the design. Once you pick a theme, you are basically stuck with it. Maybe you can change some colors via the GUI (Graphics User Interface) Editor provided, but moving sections up and down or eliminating and adding sections can be really difficult. Most of the time this is related to the limited functionality of the systems themselves, but it's also heavily due to the lack of programming ability of the “professionals” who use these same GUI Editors to sell their clients "custom" websites.
Have you hired someone like this?
Our goal with this post is to help make you aware of those that claim to sell custom websites, but don’t actually do anything custom at all. There is a HUGE difference.
Here is some of the value that you don’t get with these so-called website “professionals”:
- As we mentioned in a recent post on website development, clean code is important for search engines. By using themes or drag-and-drop editors and not having the ability to actually edit the code itself, these so-called pros can only deliver the way a website looks. They also offer very little value when it comes to how the search engines see a site The lack of clean code will always place you lower on search engine results, and thus, response or traffic as well as the impact on the bottom line will not be as high as it could be.
- Purely from a design perspective, we acknowledge not every company or organization needs a completely custom and unique web site look and feel. In all transparency, we have developed a few websites for clients that started with a theme we purchased for $15 from a third party provider. (Usually due to budgetary restrictions.) However, we never deploy that theme as it was delivered to us. We always modify it to have a unique code structure and present the best possible page hierarchy to search engines. We also make modifications that present the client's brand and content in its best light. Sometimes this requires dramatic changes, others much less so. We have no drag-and-drop system that mandates how we work. As a result, when we're done, we believe it's no longer just a purchased theme, but a relatively unique presence for our clients. While this is important, the most valuable take away from this point we are always very clear to communicate to our clients they have options. We can design and develop a completely custom, from scratch, website or we can start with a theme. There is nothing hidden.
- Themes are designed to do everything. They aren't usually designed to fit a specific purpose. This typically means they aren't a perfect fit for the goals or content structure a client brings to the table. If your developer cannot make edits to the code, they are going to be extremely limited in the types of structural changes they can make to fit your brand or content. As a result the website "kinda" fits the content or the flow "almost" gets the visitor to the checkout page. It's very much like moving into a house built by someone else. There's a pretty good chance you're going to have to either buy or sell a couch to make the living room work.
- We stand firm on the belief "If you build it...it doesn't mean they (visitors) will come." Once a site is live the project isn't over. There is always effort necessary to get it climbing the search ranking. Sometimes it's even necessary to make changes to the design or structure of a site. Since we have an intimate knowledge of the code used to build the website, we have the ability to go in and make any changes necessary to accomplish the mission they set out to accomplish with their website in the first place.
Hopefully you're starting to see the difference and the value of a true developer. Here are a few questions to ask before you hire a website developer. Whether you choose Midwestern or someone else, these will help you make the best decision for your company or organization.
- Ask your Web Company if they employ or are Programmers themselves. If not, how will they manipulate the structure of the website to best fit your brand, content and goals?
- Ask if they use drag-and-drop editors or if they write and modify the code themselves. If they have limits to what you are paying for, make sure you fully understand this. Drag-and-drop editors are designed to allow the most basic website users to build their own websites, not necessarily for professionals to do it. Maybe Brett Favre can build a site for you?
- Ask if they can make custom changes to the design even if they start with a theme.
- Look at their portfolio and see if every website they list looks basically the same.
If you find they don't have the ability to program, write or modify code, we believe you may not be getting the value you should expect from someone claiming to be a Professional Website Developer.
Here at Midwestern Interactive, we are committed to providing custom website development first and foremost. This means, when we sit down with our clients to discover their needs and goals:
- We aren't searching for a way to plug them into theme we used for our last 10 projects. We believe every client's project deserves to stand on its own and be unique. That leads us to consistently look for new ways to design and develop each project.
- We aren't secretly hoping nothing difficult comes up that we can't accomplish with a drag-and-drop editor. Our design and development staff have the skills to bring just about any idea to life. As a result, we are always looking for the best way to deliver a project that will meet our client's needs and accomplish their goals.
- We aren't flying blind when it comes to the code hoping it all works out. When we look at the code, we don't see a bunch of letters and numbers that don't make sense.