Why do people still hire web designers when there are website builders out there such as Square Space, Wix, and Weebly? What are the issues with these online website builders?

Hiring a professional website designer is not cheap. The cost of working with a design company can start at £1,000 and go up from there.

So, why then would you pay so much money for your corporate website when you could use another service such as Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly and build a site yourself for free?

Let us compare web designer vs website builder.

Web Designer vs Professional Website Builder?

The truth is, hiring a professional web designer or design company is not for everyone.

If you are a new business without much cash, then using an affordable website builder is exactly what you should be doing.

However, if you own a small or medium sized business, using a ‘free’ website builder could cost your company many tens of thousands of pounds in wasted hours and even more money in the opportunity cost of lost potential revenue.

In this article, we will address several aspects of the debate, “web designer vs website builder?” Who would be better off hiring a professional and the specific advantages and disadvantages of doing either?

What is a website builder?

So, the first question to ask is what exactly is a website builder?

Long story short, a website builder is a tool that substitutes design and coding knowledge. Instead of having to know design fundamentals and knowledge of Photoshop you can select from a pre-made template design. Instead of needing to know CSS, HTML and other coding languages you are relying on the website builder’s pre-set functions and code.

The analogy I like to use is that of a DSLR camera. Back in the day, it took quite a bit of skill to take a nice-looking photo using a manual SLR camera. Today all you need to do is point and click, and you can take a nice-looking picture.

That is basically what a website builder does. It allows anyone to quickly and cheaply set up a website that does not look terrible or sometimes even looks very good.

What does a website designer do and how is it different?

So, what do you get when you hire a professional website designer?

The short answer is it depends on who you hire. But assuming you hire someone good, what a web designer or design agency brings to the table can be so much more than you ever realise.

First, a good web designer can take your vision and bring it into reality. They can take the concept that is stuck in your head or heart and turn it into a living breathing website design that you can see.

If they are really good, they can get an understanding of your business and your customers and tailor the design and structure of your site to facilitate conversions to help generate more sales.

A good website designer can also help you have a unique and interesting design that sets you apart from your competitors. Nowadays all websites are beginning to look very much the same and having a custom designed website can help your business get noticed in a crowded online space.

Going back to our camera analogy let’s imagine that you were planning your wedding day and wanted to have pictures taken to capture this momentous event. One option could be handing your friend a posh camera and have them take pictures of the big day.

Hiring a web designer would be the equivalent of engaging a professional wedding photographer to take artistic and beautiful photos that you could treasure for the rest of your life.

Web Designer vs Website Builder

Who Should Use a Website Builder?

Should everyone hire a professional website designer?

No not really. In fact, for many, it is completely the wrong move. Should your business fall under one of the following categories, you should probably go with a website builder:

Hobby: If you’re a hobbyist and looking to share your passion with others, you don’t need to hire a professional designer. Build the site yourself and it will be fine.

Blogger: Unless you have a mature blog with an established audience, there is no need to professionally design your site at first. You can always improve your design later and import all of your previous posts at that time.

Unfunded Start-up / New Business: Do you have a new business or unfunded start-up? You should probably just start with an affordable website builder.

You have yet to prove the concept, and you are better off just getting your idea out into the world to see if there is even a market for it. Once you have an established customer base and are generating income, then you should probably look into upgrading your website with a professional design.

Small Non-profit: For small non-profit organisations that are high on passion and low on funds, there is nothing wrong with using a website builder for your company.

So, what’s the deciding factor?

When it comes to whether or not you should hire a web designer vs using a website builder, it’s all about the money.

The bottom line is – paying for a website should pay for itself. If hiring a web designer is a money losing proposition, stick with a website builder

Who would be better off hiring a professional website designer?

If website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly are so affordable, why shouldn’t everyone use them?

If a professionally designed website could cost over £1,000 and a website builder costs £50/month, aren’t you saving lots of money by choosing the website builder option?

Not really. The reason is that it’s not how much a professionally designed website costs.

It is how much it will cost you and your business if you do not have a professionally designed website.

Remember: The fee to your website designer will probably be a one-off charge. Sure, this will dent the bank initially, but then that’s it.

If you are paying for your website monthly, then that might initially sound like a better deal, but please work out the longer-term costs. £50 per month might not sound much, but after a couple of years that £50 will have turned into £1200.

If you run a professional services business making a decent turnover, and need help with your professional services web design project, you will be much better off hiring a professional.

Website Builder: Advantages and Disadvantages

So now that we know who should be going with a website builder let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using one.


Affordable: The main benefit is obviously the price. For a small monthly investment, you can have a website up on the web in no time.

Fast: You can have your new website up within a day or so using a website builder. When hiring a design firm, it will typically take 4-6 weeks from start to finish to launch.

Decent design: Many of the current website builders offer fairly decent looking designs and templates. The key to making them work is to copy the template design exactly. Any additions you make to the design will probably only mess it up.


You probably won’t own your website: Be very, very careful when using a website builder. Make sure you have full ownership of your site once the website has been built.

Whilst it is very difficult to think about leaving a company, just when you start to use them, this must be part of your thought process.

Most online website builders will handcuff you to their proprietary technology and if you ever want to walk away, you can – BUT YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO TAKE ANY PART OF YOUR WEBSITE WITH YOU.

DIY: Yes, website builders give you all the tools to build the website of your dreams… but Microsoft Word gives you all the tools to write the next great best-selling novel. But when is the last time you did that?

Not professionally designed: While many website builder templates look good, few of them look great.

You also won’t have the benefit of someone who understands marketing and visitor conversions to help optimise the conversion design of your site.

Generic: A lot of people have recently been jumping on the ‘free’ website builder bandwagon, and because of this, there are a ton of people using the same templates and designs. Most website builder templates are all beginning to look the same giving them a generic and unoriginal feel.

Never Finished: You could spend 15 hours building your website; and then another 15 hours tweaking it. Then you may learn that your site is not working the way you wanted it to, or not portraying you as you’d like. You could have used that valuable time elsewhere doing something within your actual business where you real skill set lies.

Looks like a template: It’s hard to put a finger on it, but we can almost always tell when a website is using a builder template. There’s just something about the look that has that template feel to it. I think most people can spot a template as well, which is not that great if you’re using one.

Poor SEO: Here’s a little secret. Most website builders have terrible Search Engine Optimisation. They do not offer very robust tools when it comes to optimising your website for search traffic from Google.

A good design firm can offer a ton of benefit when it comes to proper keyword research and website optimisation. Therefore, in this instance of web designer vs website builder, the designer wins.

Watch out through, if you build the website yourself and then ask for SEO help from a website designer, they will probably just say no.

Lost potential sales: As we discussed earlier, the opportunity cost of lost potential sales has to be factored in when considering the cost of using a ‘free’ website builder.

Can be frustrating: While the backend user interface of these website builders is meant to be easy to use, they often aren’t. It can be frustrating to work within a rigid framework trying to realise a vision you have for the site.

You may also find that the tools you need to use to do something just isn’t available.

Time intensive: What is your time worth to you?

Better yet, if you have employees and they are busy working on designing your website, what is your employee’s time worth to you? What else could you be doing with that time? This all needs to be factored into the true cost of the website project.

Website Designer / Developer: Advantages and Disadvantages

Still not sure whether or not you should hire a professional website designer? Here is a look at some advantages and disadvantages of going down the more professional route:


Professional design: When you hire a website designer, you are hiring a professional. Someone whose job it is to understand design best practices, fonts, colours, harmony and balance. They also understand user interfaces, information architecture and how design impacts visitor flow. All of these skills are brought to the table when you hire a professional.

Unique design: Hiring a website designer allows you to have a unique and original design.

ROI: You’ll likely see more significant return on Investment with a professional website designer.

Optimised for conversion: Most templates are not optimised for visitor conversions. They really can’t be because they are trying to appeal to a broad number of user types and can’t be designed to create a clear conversion path tailored to your specific user path.

When hiring a web designer, at least when hiring a good one like Clarke Website Design, they will help structure the design in such a way that it is designed to optimise conversions – which means more leads and more sales.

SEO optimised: A good website designer will have knowledge of Search Engine Optimisation and be able to do keyword research, help identify the best keywords to rank for and make sure your site is tagged and structured to be optimised for those keywords.

Most website builder platforms have minimal SEO tools.

Ongoing support: Ever been on a live chat with tech support talking about how you need to update your DNS when you don’t even know what the heck a DNS is?

Not fun. When you hire a professional, those problems go away, and you get to pick up the phone and talk to a human being who will solve those problems for you without being made to feel like a simpleton because you don’t understand tech jargon.

Saved time: Is your time worth anything to you? What is your hourly charge? When you hire a web designer you are buying your life back, or at least many hours of it, by paying a professional to deliver results rather than spending countless hours banging your head against a wall or teaching yourself a new skill that has nothing to do with your profession.


Higher upfront cost: The main challenge with hiring a professional design firm is to pay the high upfront cost. If cash is tight, this can especially be a problem.

Clarke Design do offer a staged payment for this that can help with your cashflow.

Longer time to launch: Having a custom designed site takes time. The development time alone can take 2-3 weeks, so expect to take about six weeks to have a professionally designed website. When using a website builder, you have the instant gratification of having a site up right away.

You may not love the design: Here’s a scary thought. You might pay a web designer hundreds of pounds and not love what you get.

Make sure that you get free redesigns as part of the contract and that they have a money back guarantee. The answer is “yes” to both of these when you choose Clarke Website Design BTW.

Quality varies: The web design industry is a bit like the building trade. There can be a low barrier to entry to call yourself a website designer.

Because of this, the quality varies quite a bit when choosing a designer. Two things to judge a design firm by are their portfolio and their reviews. If both of those aren’t great, keep looking.

Clarke Website Design are happy to showcase our website portfolio and we’re also happy for you to speak to any of our customers about us. Just ask.


So back to our question, web designer vs website builder? Which one is right for you?

The bottom line is, most websites are built with a commercial intent. The purpose of your website is to make you and your business more money.

Whether or not you should hire a website designer vs. using a website builder comes down to risk vs. reward.

Use a website builder when you need to get a website up and running quick and cheap.

Hire a professional website designer when you need to see a return on your website investment.

If you aren’t making much money, don’t have much money or have an unproven concept – haven’t proven it can make money, then you should go with the most affordable option available and not spend your money hiring a design agency.

If you are making money, value your time and also the time of your employees. If you don’t want to feel that you are losing potential business by not having a professionally designed site, then you should hire a professional website designer.

After reading this article on web designer vs website builder, should you feel a design agency is right for you, then naturally Clarke Website Design would love to hear from you.