Did you know that there are now more than one billion websites online ... impressive isn't it!
So if you are planning on adding to this ever growing number, then you will first have to decide how you want to go about building your website. If you are already a skilled web developer than your decision will be easy, however if you are like many other people in business, and have little to no experience with web development technologies, then you are left with two options. You either hire a web developer to do the job for you or you jump on the DIY merry-go-round and use a website builder.
There are a number of website builders out there, including Site builder, Wix, Shopify, SquareSpace and Weebly. These types of programs rely on drop and drag with pre-designed template options for you to use. Some are free, but most have a per month cost, and in many cases these costs seem quite low, so it makes this simple do-it-yourself platform very appealing. They will promise you professional results, after all it's their marketing mantra, but there are no professionals involved. Over time these "low costs" will add up, after all that is the revenue model behind these website builders, but we will go into this a little bit further down in this post.
Another thing you may need to be aware of with these DIY website builders is that you may have to put on many hats in building your website yourself and these hats may include brand strategist, graphic designer, web designer, UX expert, copywriter, and marketing professional.
These DIY solutions may sound like the perfect fit, especially if your business is just starting out, but it can also be a very risky choice to make.
I'm going to talk a little bit to you about Site builder. You may be offered this product when you purchase your domain and host account; two things you need to have a website sit online. This free website builder may come with a couple of pages to start you off, anything more you would have to increase your monthly plan. With these pre-built templates you don't really have to think too much about the design. Creating your website using the Site builder is simply a matter of choosing the appearance you want to have, by following the step by step wizard and by selecting a design and entering your site information. This wizard gives the user the impression that the whole process is very easy and doable.
Also with Site builder there is no need to upload any files (aka your website) when it is finished. The Site builder will create the files directly in your web hosting account. Uploading a website can seem like a daunting process, so for many people this option has tremendous allure for businesses looking to save money on web development, however for your web designer it's as easy as 1, 2, 3 and really should be included in your cost of development.
With website builders such as Wix, SquareSpace and Weebly, you only need a web browser to operate them, and they allow users to build their website without any manual coding. Since they first began these website builders have advanced over the years and do offer more user-friendly features such as drop and drag, social media integration, as well as eCommerce solutions.
While these website builder options can accommodate most basic needs in web design, anything more advanced and in need of customization will require a developer. If all you are promoting online with your business is information about you and your services, then these static website builder options could answer most of your needs in promoting your business online but take note, these DIY website builders are very limited in their capabilities and professional developers are not, so you really need to have a good idea of how you want your brand to be represented online and what the goals are that you have for your website in promoting your business in this ever growing market place.
Below we are going to look at some issues that you may face with Site builder (the free option provided by your host) and other website builder options that we have mentioned in this post. It is good for you to be aware of these issues when making your decision.
1. Flexibility of the program, you being in control of and the transferability of your website. Despite what many people think, there is a lot more to developing a website then just the visual appeal. A couple more important aspects to web design that you need to think about should include its usability and search engine friendliness. As you become more educated about these things, you will probably want to modify your website so that it is more user friendly as well as more search engine friendly, because let's face it, just because you have a website online does not mean your target market will find you. When you limit yourself to a DIY website, you are surrendering this flexibility, as well as loosing total control of your website in exchange for the initial ease-of-use in building it. There may be some DIY website programs that provide you with some facilities that enable you to modify each aspect of your website pages, but you will have to spend time learning the interface so you know how to work with it or have to work around it, so that you can accomplish your goals in building your website. However, all the skills you learn when working with these builders will never be transferable, which basically means the moment you leave your web host company, you will have to re-learn everything again because you will need a brand new website.
2. Many businesses using the Site builder provided by their host means that their website is locked to that particular web host provider because they used their host's website builder. Now this is very important so take note, the template and graphics used by the builder are copyrighted, and licensed to them for use on their website only if the site remains with that host. So if you were to move to another web host provider, you could no longer use that template. Your website is one of your most important promotional tools online, so basically if you move you have to start all over again from scratch.
NOTE: Never allow your site to be locked into any web host. What if the hosting company service deteriorates or they decide to unreasonably increase their prices, or even worse they go out of business altogether. Your website and your business will be held hostage and there isn't anything you can do about it and this scenario actually happens more often than not.
3. Content is one of the most important aspects of your website. When you use Site builder you still have to invest time and effort in creating good content and the only person who can do this is you, unless you hire a professional of course to do all your content writing. Google also loves content, and even more fresh content, so the more content in particular keyword rich content the better off you will be. With a free website if you are limited to only 1 or even three pages, then this can affect the overall presence of your business online when it comes to how much content you can have within your website.
4. Domain holdup issues. If you are a website builder user and you decide to move away from them you may find that your domain registration is tied up with the company the website builder is with. Now if you've been marketing and branding your business online and offline with this domain name, imagine the ramifications if your domain name is forever lost, at worst or tied up in red tape, at the very least.
5. Another issue is not having much differentiation between you and your competitors and non-competitors. Any professional marketer will tell you that your BRAND is important. How you choose to market yourself will cross many tunnels both online and offline. Presently, host companies offering Site builder and other website builder options, have hundreds, thousands and maybe even millions of users. Actually, one company boasts over 42,000,000 users. That's a HUGE number, and we suspect very over-inflated, but if this is the case then guess how many other people have a website that looks like everyone else's.
6. Customer support, after all you are not a professional web developer right! If you have questions, no one can hear you scream in frustration if you are not sure how to do something, like change the font on the template, re-size images, how you can set up a blog and so on. They will have support staff there for you to use, but in many cases you will probably have to pay for this service.
7. Years ago Flash was very popular in website development, and if you are not up-to-date with development trends then you may not know many developers will not use Flash anymore. In the case of many website builders, websites are usually created with Flash. No matter what anyone tells you, Flash is not SEO friendly. Google actually recommends against using it and is going to war with Flash. Last year, Google's Chrome browser automatically paused web ads that use Flash and this year plans to start blocking most Flash content with Chrome will come into effect. Under its current plans, nearly every website that has Flash content will be blocked by default on Google. Visitors will still be able to enable Flash content only on a site-by-site basis, but they would have to specifically choose to do so. You can imagine that this will get very annoying if you have to accept Flash every time you go onto a website. Other search engines like Mozilla are also making the move away from Flash content showing up. Only the top 10 sites will have Flash enabled by default and these include YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo, and Amazon. But they'll only have a one year exemption. After that, they will also have Flash blocked by default, just like everyone else. Security is also a major concern for any site using Flash, as well as its thirst for using system resources.
8. If you want to be found in search engines, then this issue is pretty important. Google can't verify your site in Webmaster Tools. You are probably wondering for non SEO people, what does this mean? For web developers it means that tools like Analytics Codes and Webmaster Tools allow us to monitor site downtime, crawl rates, broken links, and search traffic. Poor site analytics, caused by older scripting technologies, don't allow many DIY website builder users to get an accurate picture of their site's traffic and performance. Many developers, if they have your best interest at heart when building your site, use Google's highly recommended analytics service and install a code which tracks everything that is happening on your website. We set this up in all of our clients Google accounts, install the code and Webmaster Tools and verify their site with Google. If you are on one of our SEO plans then each month you receive a detailed report. I should point out here that as a marketer, this research is very useful when it comes to promoting your business and where to spend your marketing dollars.
9. Today with more and more users searching on their smartphones for websites it is extremely important your website is mobile friendly. Slow-loading self-built sites, that are data and graphics laden, turn off all mobile users and churn through their data plans faster. Only desktop users can see your site and usually they won't wait longer than 5 to 10 seconds for a site to load. After all would you wait?
10. I mentioned before how important branding is. Another point to make here is that without a real domain name, having a URL of suchnsuch.com.au/username would be a bit of a pain to put on your business cards, or say over the phone and for many people an unprofessional representation of your business. I should point out here that many website builders, such as Wix are enabling you to connect a domain name to your site, but you have to be on their premium plans to do this. According to Wix, you can upgrade to a yearly Combo, Unlimited or ecommerce Premium Plan to receive a free domain for a year. It is great that they are offering this, but I think you should take note of my next point.
11. YOU WILL NEVER OWN YOUR WEBSITE. You will indefinitely pay a monthly fee to have your website online, and you can never leave and take it with you.
It is important for me to point out of course that I am bias in my views, as the owner of a marketing and web development business, but you can't argue with some of the issues above when it comes to using a DIY website builder. It might be a good idea to start with, but there are also many limitations that can and will stunt the growth of your business online in the future.
Your web developer should care and have an investment in the successful building of your website; after all, if you grow then they grow. Once you have your website there is no ongoing costs other than the domain and hosting renewal costs.
So the choice is yours, you can ditch the Forever Costs and have a developer build you a website that will put your best foot forward both visually and SEO friendly or DIY your website yourself.
I hope the information above has been of some help and will give you more freedom in your choice. No matter which way you go we want all businesses to succeed, after all it's what you are passionate about.