What's the best way to set up a website?
Is it worthwhile to hire a web designer to do it for you? what other options are there?
I don't think there is a best way, it really depends on what you need.
With websites, you really need to have a plan.
Why do you need a website ?
1. There are businesses out there use their website as another form of 'business card'.
For a small budget website that works for 'business card purposes only, you can always go for platform like 'wix' / 'webbly' etc.
2. The next one would be wordpress, the cost is vary depending functionality and design complexity of the website that you need.
You can also easily hook wooCommerce to turn your website into eCommerce.
And also wordpress has millions of plugins to work with wordpress. Famous and easy to get started.
3. Custom development. When you need high-end web application like 'airbnb' or 'uber', you definitely need a custom web application development.
Lastly, to consider is maintenance and SEO.
Not forgetting the famous wordpress, most of the time we do custom development because most of our clients have a very specific requirement.
So yes, plan it right so that you dont overcost / undercost.
Hope that helps,
Considering most accomplished solo web designers do not have all the direct skills to cover all key facets of building a fantastic website themselves, building one yourself is not worth it if it is not your area and if your time could best be used on other more important areas.
The days of one web designer that can do it all are almost over. Often you need a team of specialists who are experts in each area marketing, design, shopping carts etc (or arrange your chosen web designer to manage such a team).
Review some of your competitors or other general designs to work backwards on what you may want to achieve. Then exercise your networks to try and find a web designer who has created real business web sites to a similar or better level to which you aim to reach.
Wordpress is a very good option, as Jef pointed out maintenance can be an issue if you use poorly coded plugins and themes.
The best way to maintain a wordpress website I have found is to only used paid themes and plugins from reliable sources. There are a number of places you can buy them from that have good reviews.
If you buy plugins and themes from reliable developers you will notice there are many updates that get emailed to you. The good wordpress plugin and theme developers are making well over $200k per theme or plugin they make so they are not cutting costs when it comes to updates and customer service. Most places will have api keys so the themes will auto update. My Wordpress sites and themes are all set to auto update so I don't have an issue with updates.
It is important though to make sure you don't have too many plugins as they can conflict with each other, they may work now however an update could cause a conflict. A simply rule is, if you need a lot of plugins to run your website you should probably hire a programmer and have them custom build a website for you. For a basic business or eCommerce websites you can do that yourself very easily.
When looking at a website as the answer, the first thing to do is understand the question.
1. How will customers find me?
2. How will customers engage with me?
3. How will customers purchase my product or service?
If the answers to all three of these questions is your website, and you have a solid business plan in place I would recommend investing in an expertly built website.
There are services out there, as Aditya has advised, like Wix and Weebly that allow you to build your own website, and certainly many of these have ecommerce plugins. Alternatively a platform like Shopify was built primarily for e-commerce use.
I have used these platforms myself and I have found them to be serviceable. For small businesses, for 'brochure' sites they can do the job. The advantage however in going to an external provider is their expertise in understanding the online customer experience and building a framework and design that meets and exceeds your customers' expectations.
Just like all beers aren't equal, nor are all website designers and programmers. It is important that you look at their online portfolio - what else have they delivered? Is the website built around a custom Content Management System (CMS) or open source or licenced?
The web team should take the time to map out the customer journeys and the personas of the people using the website and then build the architecture and sitemap to support that. HOW the website works should come before WHAT it looks like. If it looks pretty but no one can use it and no one purchases from it, it is a failure.
Lastly I would recommend you work with a team of designers and developers, not someone solo - the design brain and the developer brain need to operate differently, and often in conflict and you will find the best people do one or the other, and work with someone/s who do the stuff they aren't great at.