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Website Builder vs Hand Coding (A Guide for Web Designers)

When it comes to website builder vs hand coding, here’s what you need to know as a web designer about best practices and pricing.

Website Builders vs Hand Coding | Blog Graphic | Kristen Leigh

It really irks me when people say you need to hand code a website in order to charge X amount of dollars per project. And it makes me super frustrated when members of our online community share stories about being put down due to using page builders to build websites. One member was told she should feel bad about charging $3K+ because she uses a page builder. Thankfully, she wasn’t told that by one of our community members!

I know so many people who download “learn to code” apps and instead of feeling more knowledgeable, they feel overwhelmed and unsure if web design is right for them. There’s nothing wrong with learning coding. In fact, knowing some code is an added benefit when designing websites. But you don’t need to know code to build websites.

Coding shouldn’t be the first thing you try to learn when getting into the field of web design. Website page builders should be.

My Personal Coding Knowledge

When I first started my business back in 2017 I didn’t know any code – some HTML here and there but if someone asked me to code a square I would have been like… huh?

Years later and yes, I know some code but not a whole lot. I wouldn’t know where to begin with coding an entire website. The code I do know allows me to manipulate elements of a website that I’ve built using page builders.

A “learn to code” app didn’t give me the coding knowledge I currently have either. When a new project I was working on required me to learn a bit of code I would head to the Google machine. For the most part, coding is Google-able.

Today I know enough code to get me by and to make the websites I design have a certain amount of flair to them. But as you can see, I didn’t start by downloading an app to learn code. I started by mastering a page builder (Divi by Elegant Themes, if you’re interested) and learned bits and pieces of coding as I went along.

Website Builder vs Hand Coding: Pricing

This is the question everyone really wants answered: “If I know code, can I charge more for my web design packages?”

To answer this, I want to use an analogy so bear with me for a minute!

The Chevy GMC Analogy

In 2019 my husband and I were looking for a truck to tow our new travel trailer. After a terrible experience at one dealership we ended up at a Chevy dealership. Our salesman was amazing. Instead of pressuring us into buying a more expensive Chevy to get a higher commission, he guided us over to the GMC trucks.

You see, Chevy and GMC are owned by the same company. The trucks come off the same manufacturing line and use many of the same parts. Chevy isn’t as superior to GMC as hardcore Chevy drivers would have you believe.

So why is Chevy more expensive? Because of its perceived value. It doesn’t matter that it’s built with the same parts as GMC trucks. The parts aren’t what drive the price… the process to make the Chevy truck isn’t what drives the price. The perceived value is what drives the price.

The Sunglasses Analogy

This situation can be found literally everywhere. Just this morning my brother-in-law and I were chatting about the fact that I can’t, for the life of me, keep a pair of sunglasses for longer than a couple months. I either lose them, sit on them, drop them in the sand or scratch them. For that reason, I buy $15 sunglasses off Amazon.

How to Make Web Design a Number One Source of Income Without Any Previous Web Design Skills | Free Training | Kristen Leigh

My brother-in-law immediately ran upstairs and grabbed a pair of sunglasses he had purchased from Amazon recently. He laid them on the kitchen counter and then laid a second pair of identical sunglasses next to them.

Sunglasses 1: A pair from Amazon – a knockoff brand called Jim Halo.

Sunglasses 2: An expensive pair of Maui Jim’s.

Two identical pairs of sunglasses. One which cost less than $20 and one that cost over $100.

In my opinion, people who believe they can charge more for a hand coded website are like Chevy and Maui Jim.

You can be like Chevy and Maui Jim, too. As a web designer who uses page builders… you can be like Chevy and Maui Jim.

Value Drives Pricing

Clients don’t care about the process it takes you to build a website. Throughout the many web design projects I’ve worked through, never once has a client said to me, “I’d like this to be hand coded.”

Clients care about the end product. As long as the website looks and functions how they want it to, client’s don’t care if a site is hand coded or built using a page builder.

To be a page builder web designer and still charge $3K+ for a website – $5K+ like our students and even $12K like one of our online community members – you need to be able to translate the end product into higher perceived value.

When I say perceived value, what I don’t mean is offer low value but make leads believe they’re getting more value than they really are. That’s schemy. And that’s something that gives web designers everywhere a bad name.

What I mean when I say perceived value is, you need to make leads recognize the value the end product you’re designing and building for them will provide. What type of improvement will the lead experience in their business by having you design them a page builder website? Hand coded or page builder website, both provide the same amount of value – even if a hand coding web designer tells you differently.

As long as you can communicate the value your page builder websites provide clients, you can charge whatever you want. Yes, literally whatever you want.

Side tangent real quick: Many people say you can only charge what the market will pay. True and false… if you want to raise your prices higher than they currently are, you adjust your marketing and target a market that will pay your new prices. Chanel has proven that people will pay anything for a purse if they see the value in it. Fashion week has proven that people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for clothing that isn’t even functional – or really that flattering – because they see the value in it (that value being status).

Communicating your value as a web designer is so important that it’s actually part 3 of the web design income system. The Web Design Income System is the solution I created when I made web design the number one source of income in my virtual assistant business allowing me to reduce my hours worked from 40 to 30 hours per week. I actually teach all about it in an on-demand training so if you’re interested in learning more about it, click here! 

Make leads see the value of your work and you won’t have to charge GMC or knockoff brand prices. You’ll be able to charge Chevy and Maui Jim prices. Anyone who tells you any differently, ignore them. Tell them Kristen says to back off!


How to Make Web Design a Number One Source of Income Without Any Previous Web Design Skills | Free Training | Kristen Leigh


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