Hire A Website Designer – You Need One | Shiny Toy Robots

Oh! I’m glad I’m not the only one who disagrees with Mitz Pantic:

Hire A Website Designer – You Need One

Random Thoughts | By Robin on January 9, 2012

Sometimes I come across a blog post that just annoys me because it’s inaccurate and misleading. Today I read “Don’t Hire A Website Designer – You Don’t Need One“, and it inspired me to write a response. Even a small business owner with a limited budget can get a lot of benefit from hiring a good website designer.

Yes, WordPress is great

The article argues that WordPress, as a free content management system with downloadable themes, makes it completely unnecessary for small businesses to hire a website designer.

WordPress is great. It makes hosting and administering a professional website easy and accessible. There’s lots of free support out there in the form of the WordPress codex, forums and blog posts. It’s the most popular content management system out there for very good reasons.

But a content management system is what makes a website work…it isn’t a website in itself.

Those ‘tricksy’ website designers

The biggest flaw in Mitz Pantic‘s argument is the suggestion that custom design has no benefit over a downloaded WordPress theme (commercial or free).

But you don’t need to customize your layout beyond adding your company logo (which you can do from the WordPress menu). Any professional-quality layout, like those included with WordPress, will put your customers and clients at ease. Spending extra money to create a custom layout won’t attract new customers or increase your sales—it’ll just waste your money on something you don’t need.

This is dead wrong.

There are great WordPress themes out there. Many of them are really high quality, and can be a great way to get started. They can give you a solid, professional looking website, with some customization options to brand the site, but it’s very difficult to make it truly “yours”.

The suggestion that there aren’t significant potential benefits in a custom design is really misleading. Spending extra money to create a custom layout can attract new customers and it can increase your sales and conversions. Sure, you don’t need to customize your layout beyond adding your company logo, but you’re hardly differentiating yourself from the crowd if that’s all you do.


The advantages of great web design

  • A genuinely unique look and feel to your site (not a cookie cutter approach)
  • Real “ownership” of your brand and design
  • Calls to action specific to your customers
  • Bespoke options and functionality that might not be available as part of a theme
  • Strong code structure that naturally gives solid SEO
  • A web designer who can answer your questions and give you honest feedback and advice

No theme, however exceptional, can provide all of these benefits. Gary Vaynerchuck in his awesome book ‘Crush It!‘ points out that getting custom web design is a possible exception to his general rule that anyone can start their own business without the need for financial investment.

Make an informed decision

I’m not criticizing WordPress themes. Many of them are genuinely great, and they can provide a really strong foundation for a new business, at a reasonable price.

Of course if you are a big wig with a big budget then you cannot go wrong with a customized designed website, but for the average person, see the cheap and stress free way to get a website.

What frustrated me about the article was the implication that custom web design is only for these “big wigs”, and that web designers were likely to unethically pass off an existing theme as their own design work. Neither of these accusations is universally, or even commonly, true.

One of the huge benefits of open source (and free) content management systems like WordPress is that they’ve made great web design accessible and affordable. You don’t need to pay for a bespoke content management system (and, indeed, you absolutely shouldn’t). A good web designer can help you differentiate yourself while still using a free platform. Often for a very reasonable price.

Custom web design will cost you more than using a free or commercial theme. Good custom web design will also provide a lot of additional benefits. If you choose to go with a theme, then that’s great. It might well be the best option for your business. Make it an informed choice, not a choice based on the false impression that a generic theme is indistinguishable from great custom design.

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