Web Design Agencies vs Online Builders

Web Design Agencies vs. Free Website Builders

Using a web design agency over a free website builder is a dilemma we hear about a lot from clients. But are these ‘free’ online builders really all that they make out to be?

Website builders often offer the prospect of a website for what seems to only be pennies, however what is often not clear is what your actually getting for your money and the differences between using a web design agency.
Web design as a whole is often something that’s undervalued with these online builders giving the misconception that creating a website is a quick & easy thing to produce. Take retail giants Marks & Spencer as an example, who back in 2014 spent £150m on launching their new website (even if it was a huge flop!). Obviously it’s very unlikely you will spend anywhere near that amount, but it gives you an insight into how businesses recognise the importance of a quality website.
Obviously as an agency ourselves, you would expect us to advise against online website builders at all costs, but that’s not the case. There are often instances where they can be a perfect fit for some businesses, or for when the budget is fairly restricted. There may always be a requirement for the ‘drag-and-drop’ website builder, but understanding the advantages and dis-advantages is often where the issues arise.

Why your website is so important

Your website is often the first thing that your customer see’s when they research you, so first impression is everything! It only takes 50 milliseconds (a blink of an eye) for users to form an opinion about your website, so its vital that you get it right. Think of your website as similar to a physical show… You wouldn’t expect your customers to come in or buy from you if your shop looks unattractive or unprofessional. The same logic applies to your website.
The decision to create or re-create your website is one that you shouldn’t take lightly and deserves a lot of time and planning as it can have a huge impact on how your business performs moving forward.


As with everything in life, you get what you pay for.
Most of the website builders nowadays will offer a cheap base option where you can choose from a gallery of templates, add your logo and text, and that’s as far as the creativity goes. Although this may seem a good option for those just looking to get off the ground as soon as possible, its often the case that your left with an unprofessional looking website that just doesn’t represent you at all.
With a lot of these website builders, there are usually chargeable ‘add-ons’ further down the line that are needed which slowly bump up that ‘cheap’ price that you saw at the beginning.
You will also generally pay a monthly fee for that website which of course builds up over time, and at the end of a long period of monthly payments you still don’t own that website! When you work with web design agencies on the other hand, generally once the project cost is paid, you own all rights to your website… simple as.

More than just a ‘website’

One of the biggest plus points of using a web design agency is of course their knowledge. Being able to lean on a team of experts for advice and guidance is invaluable on something as important as your company website. They will not only suggest the best solution for your requirements, but will also look beyond just your website and help put you in a great position to build your brand in the future.
Unfortunately when it comes to online website builders, they tend to offer very limited amount of support, and any support they do offer will just be based on troubleshooting their website.

When things go wrong…What can I do?

Sometimes things can go wrong with websites, there is no escaping that. I’m sure you have visited a website before that has gone down, certain links don’t work, or some images aren’t displaying.
If for example your website went down (stopped displaying), what would you expect to do? Suddenly your customers can no longer visit your website to contact you or are unable to purchase products online from you.

With website builders it can be fairly difficult to get through to someone to raise the issue in hand. I find nothing worse than having to wait 20 minutes in a call queue to then be told that ‘they will log a support ticket’ or ‘pass this on to someone else to look at’. If there is a big issue with my website, I want it to be resolved urgently.

The difference with an agency is that you can rest easy knowing that if you ever have a issue or need some advice, you have a dedicated team of experts on the other end of a phone that are happy to help. A website being down even for a couple of minutes can be very damaging to a company, not just because of missed sales or opportunities but also because of how it portrays your brand, so knowing you have a reliable team to help (on the rare chance that something does go wrong), is very reassuring. 

Domain names & SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is continuing to be as important as ever to how your website performs. Have you ever wondered what it takes to get to the top of page 1 in Google’s search results? Well haven’t we all! Unfortunately there are a numerous factors that search engines take into account when it comes to ranking a website in their results. Whilst a lot of information is kept hush by the likes of Google as to what these factors specifically are, there are still plenty of areas we are made aware of that will help your website performance such as;

  • Mobile-friendly/Responsive (if your website is optimised for mobile/tablet devices)
  • Meta information (including titles & descriptions)
  • Headings
  • Quality of content
  • Image optimisation
  • Website speed

Whilst all of these things will be the norm for web design agencies, online website builders will ultimately fall short on most SEO factors. You would also not expect someone who is creating their own website online to know how to optimise their website without having had some previous experience.

Your domain is also a key factor to your website’s performance, not only because of how it can affect your SEO, but also more noticeable because of how it looks/reads.
Most website builders will actually only offer a branded version of your domain to begin with unless your willing to pay a premium to have your own. This may look something like www.mybrand.buildmywebsite.co.uk for example. I’m not sure about you, but straight away this would give me the impression that this wasn’t a professional company.

Summary… Decision time

Whilst these ‘free’ website builders can often look very tempting and a little too good to be true, there is still no doubt a place for them. If you aren’t looking for a sophisticated website and feel that there is really a need for an agency for help and advice then they can certainly meet your needs.
Website builders often offer a large collection of templates that can offer a quick and easy fix to get online and are great for the likes of cafes, restaurants, one-man-band’s, etc.
It’s when you are looking for specific requirements or to stand out from the crowd that’s when a web design agency are the right solution for you. They can offer you a tailored website that will not only give you the online presence you are looking, but also take your business to the next level in the digital world.

We would love to hear if you have previously used online website builders or web design agencies, and what your experiences were.

If you would like to speak to any of our digital experts about working with us, call us on 01373 458501 or email digital@futurform.co.uk