The DIY dilemma

Squarespace and other web building platforms like Wix, Weebly and Worpress.com now make it possible for the layperson to build a functional and professional-looking website without typing a single line of code or having to worry about hosting or security upgrades. That said, building a website with these platforms is not always as easy as the advertising might suggest.

If you’re about to embark on your first foray into the world of web development, here are a few pros and cons to consider first.

The pros…

Why DIY?

  1. You’ll save money.
  2. You’ll develop a good working knowledge of the platform’s content management system (CMS). This will make it easier to add to and alter your website in future.
  3. You’ll get a great sense of achievement and you’ll love your site all the more for this reason.

And, the cons…

Why outsource?

  1. It’ll save you time.
  2. Chances are, a developer will do a better job. They’ll be able to suggest features and functionality that you might not have considered and they’ll have a better idea how to design it to serve its purpose.
  3. It’s less stressful.

Before we weigh up these pros and cons in more detail, it’s useful to step back and take a look at how using Squarespace differs from hiring a web developer to build a site from scratch. A useful analogy – and one I’ll refer to throughout this article – is to liken Squarespace to an Ikea kitchen.

Employing a web designer is like getting a cabinet maker to build you a kitchen. They’ll comes to your house, consults on the design, measure up the space, offer some options for finishes before building and installing the cabinets and benches. It’s easy, but expensive.

Alternately, Ikea allows people to design their own kitchen with its proprietary software. They can choose from a set range of finishes and fixtures and then a week or so later a flat-packed kitchen arrives ready for assembly. It’s significantly cheaper than hiring a cabinet maker, but of course, some assembly is required!

Like an Ikea kitchen, Squarespace provides the elements needed to design and build a website, which users then assemble themselves. It’s significantly cheaper than having a developer build a site from scratch, but does pose some challenges.

Time Is money

So, to DIY or call in the experts? To answer this, it’s important to understand how long it will take to do it yourself and how much a specialist will charge.

The developers at Squarespace have done a commendable job of building an intuitive CMS. And while this makes it relatively easy to build your own website, there is a learning curve. How steep this learning curve is will depend of a number of factors.

It’s worth noting that a good percentage of the time you spend building your site (content creation aside) will involve learning to use the CMS. So, in the same way that a ‘handy’ person will be able to assemble an Ikea kitchen much faster than someone who is not, your computer skills and web savvy will dictate how long it takes to build your site.

The extent to which your design deviates from the Squarespace template you select will also affect how long it takes to build a site. For example, if you’re building a website for a pizzeria and you find a template designed for a restaurant that includes all of the pages you want; landing page, about, menu, contact, etc. you can simply replace the existing content with your own. If this is the case, building a site can be quite quick and simple.  

On the other hand, if the layout and structure of the site you want to build varies from the template you’ve chosen, you’ll need a better understanding of how to use the CMS, which, of course, requires a bigger investment of your time.

See this blog post if you’d like to learn more about Choosing a Squarespace Template.

Taking the time to learn the Squarespace CMS when building your site may, however, be time well spent if you plan to regularly add new content. Many website owners don’t touch their site once it’s built. And while this is fine for some, others will want to regularly upload new content. If you consider yourself among the latter, then learning to use the CMS while building your website will be beneficial in the long run.

Of course, when weighing up whether it’s worth the time it takes to build a Squarespace website, you need to consider how much it will cost to have a Squarespace specialist design it for you. As much of the time you’ll spend building a site will involve learning the CMS, it stands to reason that someone who already knows it will be able to build a site in a fraction of the time. So, where it might take someone with no experience of Squarespace 50 hours to build a site, someone experienced with the platform might do it in 10.  

If you’re interested to know how much it’ll likely costs to have a website designed for you, our pricing page, will give you a good idea. You can also take a look at some of our case studies. These all include detailed billing information.

Building a good user experience

As well as potentially being more cost-effective, employing someone to build your site (provided they know what they’re doing) should also result in a better user-experience (UX). If you’re unsure what UX is, you can check out this blob post: UX Sells. It’ll give you an idea why UX is so important.

In much the same way that an experienced kitchen designer can tell you the best place to locate appliances and convince you of the benefits of installing an extractor fan, an experienced web designer will also be able to make suggestions that will improve the overall look, feel and functionality of your website. If getting found online is important, they should also have an understanding of how search engines like Google and Bing will index your site and will be able to suggest ways to improve ranking for your target search terms.

In summary

Like installing an Ikea kitchen, building a website with Squarespace can be both rewarding and incredibly frustrating. Before undertaking either, it’s important to understand that neither are as simple as the advertising might suggest. Learning to use the Squarespace CMS and getting a handle on the different content blocks and what they do will take time. That said, once you do get your head around it, it’ll let you create something quite remarkable. If you’ve got a question about designing a site with Squarespace, leave it below and I’ll do my best to answer it. Likewise, if you get stuck and need some help with your site, we’re happy to take on ad-hoc work.