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Website builder is one of those tools that are very popular today. It makes it easy for people to design and build their own websites in just a few minutes or hours. And, they can do it all by themselves, without having to hire a web designer. It is no wonder many web designers and developers are afraid of it. When people can use a website builder, is there any future for web designers? Yes, it is. Let’s take a look why web designers don’t have to fear website builders.
The upside of using a website builder
Let’s start with on a different note. Instead of talking about the downside, let’s address the upside of using a website builder. The main reason why some people use website builder instead of hiring a web designer. As usual, it is about the money. A lot of people, who want or need some simple website, have only small budget. They can’t afford to find and hire a good web designer. Imagine some guy or girl who needs a website because she wants to start a business.
Or, maybe she just wants to build a website for her hobby, maybe a blog. Now, think about the average price you ask for designing and building a simple website. How much would you ask for? Or, we can take a look at job boards such as Freelancer and Designcrowd. Even in case of a very simple websites, such as landing pages one page websites, the price is still somewhere around $150. This is still relatively high.
What I mean by relative is that our imaginary guy or girl have no plans to make money out of it. This means that the money, he or she spends on the website, will never return. Now, think about using a website builder. Sure, the prices vary a lot. You can find a website builder that costs more than those $150 we used as an example. However, it is not so hard to find a website builder with more friendly pricing. Some of them are even for free.
And, we should not forget that when you pay a monthly fee for a website builder, you will usually also get a free hosting and a domain. If you think about it, this is quite interesting offer. You pay a few bucks every month and you can play with your website as you want, and your hosting and domain are taken care of as well. This will help you avoid a couple of headaches and make your monthly or annual payments easier. Instead of paying for multiple things, you pay for one.
The downsides of using a website builder – Why hiring a web designer is better
These were the upsides of using website builder. As we saw above, using a website builder has a lot of advantages and benefits. The most obvious are making the task of designing and building website much easier and faster. Another benefits are additional services you get when you decide to use a website builder. These services often include free domain and hosting, some small storage and even analytics. Some website builders also offer some basic SEO optimization.
As we discussed, this makes website builder a very good option for people who don’t want or can’t invest in professional web design. You know, people who want a website for their hobby or blog. Now, let’s talk about the downsides. As they say, there are two sides to every coin. So, if these were the upsides, what are the downsides? In other words, why some people should consider hiring a web designer and not use a website builder?
Lack of differentiation
One big downside of using a website builder is that your website will lack differentiation. Sure, website builder of your choice may offer hundreds of distinct designs. However, sooner or later, even this variety of options will not be enough. The more people will use the same website builder, the higher the chance some designs will start to repeat. Sure, you use your images, your fonts and your color palette. However, the basic layout is more or less the same. It is like buying a template.
Well, if you think about it, website builder is basically a template generator on steroids. It has a preset of elements and layouts you can use to create custom designs. These presets are what gives you the main advantage. However, they are also your biggest constraint. When you run out of presents, or ways to customize them, you are done. This means that sooner or later, there will be a website looking similar to yours. If you don’t care about distinctiveness this is not a problem.
On the other hand, what if you do care about distinctiveness of your website? What if you do want to have something nobody else has? In that case, you can either change the expectations you have about your website or you can change your mind. In other words, forget about using a website builder and hire real web designer instead. This is one of the main reasons people hire web designers, and other professionals. These people want to have something custom and unique.
This is the biggest advantage every web designer has, her creativity. This is the reason why people still want to hire web designers even though they can use a website builder. These builders can replace a lot of things. However, creativity is not one of them, at least not at this moment. Now, your creativity and ability to create unique and distinct designs is one of the reasons why you don’t have to be afraid of website builders.
Provides only basic service
The second downside of using a website builder is that it doesn’t provide a “full service” package. Meaning, creating and coding layout is only one part of the job, usually the last. Web designer has to think about the user experience, content strategy, information architecture, branding, SEO optimization, code optimization, cross browser testing, accessibility. These are some services you can get when you hire a professional web designer.
Well, I should mention that not every web designer will do all these tasks. There are many web designers who specialize on some of them and then either don’t do the rest or outsource it. Anyway, my question is following: Will you get these services if you use a website builder? Unless you find a very good website builder, and pay a higher price, you will have to do all these jobs. You will have to be your own UX designer, information architect, content strategist, SEO specialist, etc.
Again, I know that not every web designer offers this type of “full service” package. Still, if you chose a web designer with a few years of experience, chances are that he will be at least good at many of them. And, this is hat you are looking for. You don’t need an expert in all areas, or master of all trades. You just need someone who knows at least something about it. This will be always better than doing it by yourself and having no idea what are you doing.
So, it is nice to get a simple website builder with drag & drop feature with free domain and hosting. However, there is still tone of work you will have to do to make your website ready for production. When you hire a professional web designer, she will do most of these tasks, if not all of them, for you. Or, she may at least help you find someone who can get these tasks done. In the end, it is a question of money, comfort and time.
Do it yourself, learn it yourself
Let’s stay on the topic of time and learning for a moment. Let’s say you decide to do it all by yourself anyway. Then, forget about having the website up and ready in a few minutes or hours. Working on all these areas will require a decent amount of time. Do you have the time it may take? The biggest advantage of using a website builder is saving both, money and time. You can have your website up and running in a few minutes or hours for low price.
The problem is that this doesn’t take into account other parts of the web design process we discussed above. If we do include all of them, we are no longer talking about designing and building a website in a single day. And, we are not talking about something that is comfortable, unless you like to overwhelm yourself with all the stuff you have to learn to build a single website. In this case, the main advantages website builder offers are pretty much gone.
Sure, not everyone needs to know about all these areas of web design. If you want a website for your hobby, you will probably need to have a good visual taste to put together some average layout. Nobody wants to have an ugly website. In addition, you should also know at least the basic of SEO so your website has at least some chance to appear in search and people will find it. Then, everything else is nonessential.
If you need a website for a business, we need to have a different conversation. A successful website for a business requires a lot more work than just putting together a few pictures, some text, adding a structure and pushing “Publish” button. Doing so would not help your business. In a fact, it could be even harmful. There are many things (areas we discussed) you need to get right. This is why people who are serous about their business often work with professional web designer.
Another option is to use a website builder and then hire people on SEO, copywrighting, content strategy, etc. Although this could be cheaper and easier than hiring a web designer it still requires additional investments. It is simply beyond the options a website builder can offer. You may avoid paying for some work, but there is still a lot to do. Do you have the time for these things if you have to take care about your business? And, are those few dollars saved worth it?
Website builders and AI
What about AI-powered website builders, such as The Grid? This question is hard to answer. Yes, there are some website builders using AI to create layouts, such as The Grid. And, some of these generated layouts look quite good. However, take a look at couple of examples and soon you will start to see some repeating patterns. But, this is not bad at all. Take a look at dribbble and you will start to see repeating patterns as well, even though designs posted there come from different people and not just one AI.
Design is built on patterns. These patterns make products more familiar and easier for people to use. Anyway, is AI something web designers should be afraid of? I don’t think so. Even if someone creates AI that will be able to “think” creatively and create completely new designs, I don’t think we should fear AI-powered website builders. I think we should take it as an opportunity. Why should it be humans against machines? It can be humans with machines. We can work together.
AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie who is the best (human) Go player in the world. Before that, deep blue defeated Garry Kasparov, the best chess player in the world. A lot of people saw this as a disaster. However, this is only one part of the story, or one side of the coin. Do you know happen after the triumph of AlphaGo? Ke Jie started to train with AlphaGo. And, the results were remarkable. It helped him improve his game. Chess players are doing do same with AI-powered chess engines.
Think about using AI-powered website builder in the same way. Instead of seeing it as your competition, see it as your teacher. Imagine having a mentor with database of all great, good and also bad designs ever created. Can you imagine how quickly could such a builder help you improve your design skills? Having this mentor could help you spot even the smallest flaws in your work. Then, it would help you correct them.
Yes, it is possible that AI-powered website builders will replace web designers. Maybe, it is inevitable. However, it is also an opportunity for us to improve our skills and up your game. Image a world where every website looks great. It can be scary, but it can also raise the bar and quality in web design industry. Browse the Internet for a moment and tell me that this is something we don’t need. Web is full of crap some people have the courage to call design. It is time to raise the bar.
Closing thoughts on using a website builder and why it is a good thing
We discussed a number of reasons why you, as a web designer, don’t have to worry about website builders. Now, I want to give you one reason to like and embrace them. The truth is that these tools are actually helping you. How? These tools help you filter out clients who can’t afford your services anyway. When these people go directly to a website builder, you can dedicate your time to clients who can afford to pay you fair price for your services.
You no longer have to explain why $150 is just not enough. And, you don’t have to try to convince them to increase their budget. You can simply recommend them some good website builder. Then, you can go look for clients who can (and are willing to) pay for professional services. Your goal should not be doing every work that comes around just to make a few bucks. This is not the best place to invest your time and energy.
Instead, spend these valuable and finite resources on find and getting clients who have potential. And, one more thing. Before you try to argue that there are no high-paying clients in the world, think about where you are looking for them. If you want to find clients willing to pay for “premium” web design, you have to go beyond job boards and similar places. You will never find this type of clients on these places. They know they will not get the quality they want here.
What should you do instead? Start reaching out to people you would like to create a design for. Use cold emails or calls with a proper structure and content (more on this in future article) to get their attention. Use that email to convince them you are worth the time and they should listen to you. Your goal is to schedule either a call or face-to-face short meeting. Then, finish it. You should also ask people for referrals. This is how you get lucrative clients, not by competing on job boards.
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