Additional Features for Your Website

I think it’s natural to want all sorts of bells and whistles for your website. When we’re online we see all sorts of neat widgets and tools on other websites and think how great our own website would be if we just had that extra touch, if we just had that custom program that lets our clients solve their problems.

But there’s a huge problem with this and that is: custom coding requires maintenance. And it is best if the person who maintains the code is the person that built the code, meaning that your expensive developer who you hired to build your site also has to be on call to fix anything that breaks. This is a bad idea. People who build sites usually don’t want to be webmasters. But, far more importantly, the most custom code you have, the more problems you have. And the more problems you have, the more money you spend.

So here is an easy way of deciding if you need some custom work: will your business function without it? If the answer is yes, then don’t get the custom code work done.

Another important thing to remember: if you want a feature on your website, chances are someone else wanted to have that feature already. If a similar widget/app/tool exists already, you might be able to embed it on your website instead of getting something custom built. Often you can embed such tools for free. So, unless it’s easily embeddable into your wordpress site, don’t bother with.

 

Getting a Programmer for Your Site

You may or may not need to hire a developer for your website. Just like with your site design, who you hire (and whether or not you hire anyone) depends a great deal on the type of site you are building. So let’s breakdown if and when you need to hire a developer/programmer/coder (they are one and the same) for your website.

 

Out-of-the-Box Websites

If you are building a site using one of the following website builders, you do not need a developer:

  • Jimdo
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly Wix

The whole point of these site builders is that you do not need a developer to build a website.

Yes, it’s possible to add some custom HTML to these sites but, if you are thinking of trying to further customize your site, you really should change your website to a CMS.

 

Content Management System (CMS)

If you are using a CMS, such as Drupal, Joomla or WordPress, you may or may not want a developer. There are two things a developer could do for you in the case of a CMS site:

  1. Installing and setting up your site
  2. Customizing your theme and other aspects

You should hire a developer for the first step if you are unfamiliar with installing the CMS on a server and setting up your theme. It’s more likely you’ll need a developer if you are using Drupal than if you are using WordPress. WordPress you can set up yourself, if you are willing to spend the time.

But hire a developer if you are not sure what to do. You need to make sure the developer has the following skills:

  • PHP coding experience (the code these CMSs are based in)
  • CSS (design and styling language)
  • HTML (the basic building block of the internet)

The customization of your site is a very, very different question: Normally, you should not overly customize a theme beyond making basic changes to its design (so that it no longer looks like a generic theme). The whole point of using a CMS is to not have a customized site. If you hire a developer to add customized PHP (or Javascript) to your theme, you will need a webmaster going forward, which is an expense you don’t necessarily need if you don’t customize the theme.

 

Custom Sites from Scratch

If you are building a site from scratch, you need a developer unless you know a programming language well enough to build a functioning website. But, as I’ve written elsewhere, you do not need one of these custom sites.

Who Should Build Your Website

Once you have decided what type of website you should have (choose a CMS like wordpress!), you need to decide who is going to build it.

  • If you are using an out-of-the-box website builder, you may need no help, especially if you yourself have an eye for design. (If you do not have an eye for design, you should get help.)
  • If you are using a CMS, you may or may not want to get some help, depending upon your expertise level. If you are okay with your website looking like this one you are on right now, you don’t need a designer, you can just buy a template. But you may want or need help setting up the CMS.
  • If you are getting your site custom built you will need two things, a design specifically for the web and a development team.

Here’s a handy chart:

What You NeedOut-of-the-Box Site Creator (Jimdo, SquareSpace, Weebly, Wix)CMS (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress)Custom Built
DesignNot required, unless you are uncomfortable designing your site. But if you are, hire someone who has designed specifically using your site creator. Purchase a theme template. If you want more of a customized look, you can do it yourself, but you may want to hire someone with experience changing a template. Custom designs are not a great idea.You must have a designer familiar with designing specifically for the web.
Coding/DevelopmentNot requiredOnly required for customizations (not recommended)The only way your site is getting online is if you have a development team

One last piece of advice before we move on to the specifics: do not hire a designer to code your site and do not hire a coder to design your site. Under no circumstances. People will tell you they can do both. In most cases, they are lying to you.