For some galleries, hiring a web developer is the right move; for others, it's not.
Before making a decision for your gallery's website, weigh the pros and cons of working with an outside developer, and consider other available options.
Why hire a web developer?
Galleries often consider hiring an outside web developer when they have a very specific vision in mind for their website.
Unit London's website, for example, has many complex graphics and transitions that can only be created with the assistance of a developer.
The benefit of working with a developer is that they are specialists at what they do. Most website developers also have a decent amount of design expertise. They will take your ideas, make custom recommendations, create mock-ups and ultimately build you a website unlike one you've seen anywhere else.
But there are trade-offs.
What are the downsides of working with a developer?
First, you have to find one.
Many galleries discover that finding a developer who does high quality, reliable work is a huge hurdle in and of itself. The vetting process is time consuming and just like any other contractual work, you may find yourself in a lot of dead ends.
If you are looking for a developer, be sure to ask for references and recent samples of their work. The best case scenario is to get a recommendation from another gallery who is happy with their developer.
Once you find a developer, be prepared for the costs. Designing and building a custom website can cost anywhere from $2000-$5000 in upfront fees. And if you want to work with a talented developer who really knows their stuff, expect to pay the higher end of the range.
Beyond that, any major changes or updates you want to make in the future will also cost you. Developers charge anywhere from $150-$250 per hour. Again, the more experienced the designer, the higher the hourly rate you'll pay.
Developers have many clients, not just you.
If you're like most galleries, you can't afford a full-time web developer, so you'll hire someone on a contractual basis at the rates mentioned above. That means your developer isn't fully invested in your gallery, because they also work for other clients.
While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it can cause a significant amount of frustration.
Many galleries complain about developers who are unresponsive or take a long time to return their emails or make promised updates to their websites.
It takes time on your part, too.
When working with a third-party, you'll need someone at your gallery to serve as the main point of contact with the developer. That means one of your staff members will need to devote some of their work hours to dealing with a developer and keeping your project moving along, rather than selling art.
If you have a dedicated marketing hire, most likely s/he will be the point of contact with your developer. Whoever it is, be sure you allot sufficient human resources to ensure the project is completed on time and up to your standards.
What are the other options?
In the past, anyone who wanted a website had to find and hire a developer.
The good news is that times have changed, and now any person or small business can create their own site with inexpensive, easy-to-use website builders.
Mainstream website builders
Some galleries choose to use website builders like Wix or Squarespace to build and host their websites.
The good news is that these options are inexpensive and easy to use, and your inventory management system may offer some sort of code snippets you can copy and paste into the custom HTML section of each web page.
The bad news is that those code snippets may not work with every website builder, and one of your staff members may need to do double data entry to keep the website up-to-date.
Gallery-specific website builders
Many management systems (including ArtCloud) have integrated site builders that eliminate double data entry, so your gallery staff can focus on selling art and working with clients.
Just be sure your management system provides an integrated website that is optimized for mobile-first indexing, uses responsive design, and also has built-in components to boost your SEO, like effective navigation menus.
The Bottom Line
Whatever route you choose for your website, be sure to weigh your options and carefully consider the long-term implications of your decision, both in terms of direct financial costs and your staff's time.
At the end of the day, you need a website that is focused first and foremost on your clients and creating a great user experience, as well as one that is optimized for SEO.