Posted on 18th September 2018

Is a DIY website builder right for my charity?

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DIY (do it yourself) website builders have become more sophisticated over the past few years. Cloud applications such as Wix and Squarespace provide attractive, customisable websites that need little (and often no) coding experience. The technology behind these services is usually robust enough to offer small companies a low-cost alternative to paying a professional designer.

But as a charity, is this the right choice for you and your organisation?

There has been much talk in recent years of increases in artificial intelligence and machine learning. With 35% of jobs in the UK at high risk of automation within the next 20 years, many professional service providers are concerned about the prospect of losing their livelihoods. However, for website development professionals, the chance of automation is deemed “not very likely” at 21%.

Why is this? The answer is relatively straightforward – jobs that can be automated and systematised most easily are ones that don’t require complex cognitive or emotional decision making and are generally quite repetitive.

And the reason why DIY website builders are often the wrong choice for charities is the same reason web designers won’t lose their jobs to robots any time soon.

Designing your charity website with empathy

Skilled website designers who’ve been trained in the profession and worked in it for many years understand that the key to effective web design is empathy and understanding. A DIY website builder provides plenty of tools but it can’t tell you how to use them effectively. Only experience and intuition can do that.

If you’re a charity and you’re tempted by a DIY builder, it can be a reasonable place to start, especially if the cost of paying a professional is the main issue. But when you work with a professional, you get a raft of expertise, guiding you through everything from structuring your content and web pages, to choosing the right payment processor for handling donations, to tips on how you might develop a blogging strategy. By using intuition and hard-won experience, a professional designer can help avert the mistakes that befall so many people who choose to take on the task themselves.

It can be very easy to make information hard to find or your web pages inaccessible to those with disabilities.

A DIY website builder provides plenty of tools but it can’t tell you how to use them effectively. Only experience and intuition can do that.

Think of working with a professional web designer – especially one dedicated to charities – as a trusted resource for your whole digital presence.

When you should use a DIY builder

It wouldn’t be a balanced viewpoint if we didn’t cover reasons for using a do-it-yourself website builder. And there are times when this could be the right choice. Let’s take a look at a few.

You’re just starting out

New organisations – whether they’re for-profit businesses or charities – need to keep their costs down in order to ensure cash flow is positive. Therefore, as a temporary solution a product like Wix or Squarespace could be a great option to get something online.

You have in-house skills

If somebody in your office has an eye for design, understands marketing and has a good grasp of web technologies, a DIY builder could be right up their street. Remember – these web builders provide the tools but you still need to know how to get the best out of them – and if you have these skills available in your charity this could be a viable option.

A little will do

DIY builders offer quite a lot but it can be overwhelming if you’ve never made a website before. However, you could select a pre-defined template, add some basic information about your charity and you’re good to go! Chances are your website won’t feel like it belongs to your charity and things may be disjointed with your wider brand identity, but the core information will be there and in some instances, this is enough.

The final word

So, should you hire a web designer for your charity, or roll up your sleeves and do it yourself? It really comes down to two points of discussion:

  • Can you afford professional services?
  • Will you benefit from professional services?

When you work with a professional web designer you bring a raft of skills into your charity that can boost your digital marketing efforts massively. In nearly all cases, this is the preferred option for improving your website, upskilling your staff and building your brand among supporters and service users alike. However, if you simply can’t afford the investment or you have appropriate skills in-house, using a DIY builder could be the right fit for your organisation.