If you’re planning to build a business website there’s a good chance you’re considering a DIY solution such as Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. These companies advertise extensively online and their offers are very tempting. The idea of quickly putting up a professional-looking website in minutes is especially attractive to people who aren’t tech-savvy or who don’t have a dedicated design or IT department to create their website. Before you sign up for an “instant website,” however, you should consider the drawbacks as well as the benefits. As with anything, there are both pros and cons. The following are some of the factors that you should take into account when considering a DIY solution for your business:
When you look at the websites for DIY websites, you’ll probably be impressed with the attractive templates they offer. The downside is that these are very large companies with lots of customers, all of whom are using the same templates. They may wow you with their hundreds of templates, often specific to certain industries (e.g. restaurants, salons, dentists, etc.). When you consider how many customers they have, however, you’ll realize that many, many websites are sharing the exact same template.
An effective business website needs to be unique. You need to separate yourself from the competition. When people see a generic website, they may not consciously realize it but they’ll notice that they’re not looking at anything new. Even if you customize the templates, you’ll be sharing the basic look with lots of other businesses in your industry. If you want to stand apart from your competition, it’s worth considering a more customized solution.
Your website won’t do you much good if your potential customers can’t find it. You need your site to be optimized for the search engines. SEO is a complex field that requires all kinds of fine-tuning and a customized approach. A DIY site may advertise itself as Google or SEO-friendly but these types of services are actually very limited in this all-important area. When you are serving the needs of thousands of customers all over the country (or world), you can’t pinpoint the needs of every individual website owner.
SEO gets more competitive all the time. Furthermore, Google frequently changes its algorithms. Large DIY website builders are not able to keep up with these rapidly changing rules. Nor can they attend to the specific needs of your website. Of course, if you’re an SEO expert yourself, you can provide the right kind of content, keywords, on-page optimization, and attend to the many other factors you need to rank well with Google. In that case, however, it isn’t DIY as you’re doing much of the heavy lifting yourself. Speaking of changing algorithms, you never know when Google will specifically target a certain type of generic website, such as when Wix websites dropped in the rankings due to issues with their web sites being indexed in Google.
Lack of Support
DIY website services promise you great support. They might indeed offer support by email, phone, and chat. What you need to realize, however, is that you won’t be getting personalized help. The staff at such companies are well trained but in a very limited manner. They are dealing with many thousands of clients every day. Their support is very good at answering generic questions about how the features work. For example, if you need help in learning how to embed a video or change a font, they’ll be able to help you.
However, if you want to build a successful business website you have unique needs. You may find that not all of the features work for you. Unfortunately, these sites run on the “one size fits all” philosophy. In exchange for convenience and a relatively low price, you won’t get much in the way of customized help. This will tend to make your website fairly generic, as you’ll be using the same features as everyone else and getting the same type of support.
Requires Know-how and Maintenance
The main selling point for a DIY website builder is that it’s easy to use. All such services have a tagline that says “No tech skills or coding required” or something similar. You may be surprised to learn that using such a service isn’t quite as easy at it looks. While it may be true that you don’t need to code such websites, you do need to learn how to use a long list of features. You’ll also have to revisit these features and possibly learn new ones if you ever want to make changes to your website (which you inevitably will).
Although one of the drawbacks of a DIY website is that you’re stuck with generic templates, you do have limited options for customizing features. You can, for example, change fonts, colors, and layouts. There’s a learning curve, however, to learn how to use each feature. The more customized you want your site to be, the more time you’ll have to invest in learning how to use the features. This leaves you in a conundrum. On the one hand, the whole reason you signed up for a DIY website is that it was supposed to be easy. Yet to really get the maximum benefits, you need to invest the time to become an expert.
Before you sign a contract to build your site using a DIY service, be sure to read the fine print. In many cases, you don’t own the website yourself. This means that if you decide the service isn’t right for you, you’ll have to start over from scratch. If you build your own website, on the other hand (or hire an agency to do it for you), at least it’s your own property. You have much more flexibility to make changes whenever you want.
Not as Cheap as it Seems
Many businesses are drawn to the DIY website solution because of the low cost. Why pay a designer when you can get a website for a low monthly fee? When you consider all of the variables, however, these sites aren’t quite as economical as they first appear.
- • You get what you pay for. All of the limitations already discussed, should make you question how reasonable these sites really are.
- • They offer multiple plans. DIY website builders usually advertise free or cheap plans. However, these often don’t include basics such as your own domain (essential for branding and SEO). You may also need to upgrade to get even basic SEO capabilities or to remove the company’s logo from your website (also crucial for branding). When you start looking at the cost for upgraded plans, it’s no longer as cheap.
- • Poor ROI. Ultimately, what counts isn’t the dollar amount of the money you invest in your business but the ROI. It will be hard to impress your audience with a generic website that doesn’t convey the unique characteristics of your business.
These are some of the points to consider before signing up for a DIY website builder. This is an important decision for your business, one that reflects on your brand, reputation, and income. While these services sound convenient and reasonable, make sure you consider all of the consequences before you commit yourself. Make sure you choose a solution that lets you show the world what makes your business special. A DIY website builder doesn’t always let you do this.
By: Frank DePino
Frank DePino is Principal and Founder of Mediaboom. Since 2002, Frank has led Mediaboom’s award-winning staff of creative and technical professionals building the most effective marketing and advertising solutions for its clients.