I don’t know if it’s that I’m now sat on a train for too long each day and it’s allowing me to think too much, or that I’m just fast approaching that age where you turn grumpy, but recently I’ve started to think that life is too short.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something.
This is something that I am more and more coming to appreciate.
As a web developer, and all round geek, I know far too many ways to skin a cat (figuratively speaking). I’m also capable of doing anything web related, and up until recently I have been. The phrase above very much applies to me, and it has taken me a while to appreciate it.
My skill set lies very clearly in the coding of web applications and the functionality they offer. I can do the visual side of things, but I’ll never win any awards for it. I’m no designer. I’m envious of people who can, I just don’t have that spark.
I can tell the difference between bad UI and good UI, and I can create an Ok UI, but I will never create a great UI.
Anyway, I digress. My big revelation came when i was working on a WordPress installation for a family member. It’s cheaper for me in the long run to buy a theme then create one from scratch. Especially when there are such marketplaces as elegant themes, WooThemes, and themeforest. This time saved can then be spent with my family and not sat in the office working.
These themes are usually < $40, and are to a standard that I could never meet. The time saved (many many hours) cost so much more than the money I have to pay for the theme.
I’m notoriously tight, and won’t spend money unless I have to. My wife constantly makes fun of me for it. For many years I refused to buy an off the shelf theme as I had to pay for them. If I just put my hand in my pocket I would save hours of my time which costs much more than the cost of the theme. I can then spend my time working on the functionality and deliver the site sooner.
Another thing that is worth thinking about when making this decision between buy or build, is the professionalism that will be gained from buying a service and not doing it yourself. Say you’re building an app; you’ll need an icon. You might have Photoshop on your computer, but there is significant skill involved in icon design. Buying an icon for a small amount may be the difference between your app going viral (it wont be) and being lost in the thousands of apps out there. People’s first impressions are priceless and a dodgy looking icon may put them off. I know it does me.
This revelation extends beyond the world of the web. How much does your time cost? It’s worth me paying a gardener to come in and now my garden than it is for me to do it. They will do a more professional job, in a shorter amount of time, and for less money than it would cost me if I did it myself.
This doesn’t mean that you should get someone in, or pay for everything and not do it yourself. If you enjoy doing the task, and it gives you pleasure, then it is most likely worth your time to do it yourself.