No doubt you’ve seen their ads online: “build your own website today – for free!” or words to that effect. If you need a website to promote your business, it’s very tempting to consider using a DIY site-builder tool such as Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. After all, there’s no better price than free! But there are some good reasons why you should think carefully before going down that road.
Obviously, as a web design agency, you expect us to be partial in this debate. Of course we’d try and discourage you from pursuing a DIY option: we’d rather you paid us instead! But there are aspects of site-builders that the likes of Wix and co. won’t necessarily tell you. Here’s what you need to know…
1. You’ll end up spending money on your “free” website
Yes, it is true that you can create, all by yourself, a functioning website for free. But just like budget airline companies do, these site-builders will try and sell you lots of premium extras – extras that are in fact indispensable. Unless you’re OK with having “Proudly Created With Wix” in the footer of every page, or with having a domain name that looks like “yoursite.weebly.com”, you’re going to need to spend some amount of money on your “free” website.
A non-customised domain name and third-party adverts in a footer… it all diminishes brand value, trust and the likelihood that anyone is going to contact you. It screams “this website owner doesn’t care enough to invest in a real website”.
2. You’re putting lipstick on a pig
Maybe you have a natural flair for design, and you’re fairly handy with a PC. It’s true that with many site builders these days, you can create something that looks decent enough – especially if you start with one of their templates. (These are pre-designed models you can use that will save you time, but will guarantee you end up with a website that looks just like several thousand others).
But what you see on the screen is only one small part of the picture. Imagine a shiny new car: you love the colour and it’s all nicely polished. But under the bonnet, the engine’s half missing, something leaks, and it makes a funny noise whenever you drive it.
Creating a website is more than just the design: you need to ensure the code is clean and valid, that images are optimised for the web, that your text is google-friendly… all of these and more are things that only a professional will know how to do.
Anyway, even if you did think you could do it all yourself, do you have the time? You’re setting up your own business, you have a client base to build. When are you going to find the many hours needed to build your own site? It can take us weeks to get a new site live, and its our job. Can you afford to set aside that kind of time?
3. Your website? It’s not actually yours…
Nope, that’s not a joke. Whether you go with Weebly, Wix, or WordPress.com, the website you build is not actually yours. All you are doing is renting the use of their server space and their tools. Your finished website does not belong to you and never can as long as you use a site builder. Nor can you move it to a different provider – it’s not yours to transfer away. You’re locked in for good.
If you are considering a website for your business, are you really OK with that kind of a deal?
4. Site builders are not Google-friendly
One of the worst aspects of site builders is the code they generate. In order to make it easy for non-professionals to design a website, they use all sorts of inefficient and bloated code. This is a Google no-no. And a knock-on effect of all that bloated code is that site-builder websites are often slow-loading and glitchy: another thing that Google tends to punish.
And as we mentioned above, unless you personally happen to know a lot about SEO, you simply aren’t going to be presenting your content in an SEO-friendly way. There is no expert to tell you how it should be done.
5. You really are on your own
What if your website goes down or something stops working? Site builder companies are notorious for their lack of support. Don’t believe me? Google a few! You’ll see page after page of horror stories: “my site was down for three days”, “they don’t even have a support phone number”…
What’s worse, there’s nowhere else you can turn to. If you were to locate a web agency and ask for help with your free website, they most likely wont be able to do a thing, even if they were inclined to. These site builders are enclosed, proprietary systems: there’s little a third-party can do. That means you and your business are at the mercy of the site-builder support staff.
To Sum Up…
So we’ve been quite critical of site builders, but to be fair, it depends what your aims are. If you just want a personal blog, and aren’t fussed about a having your own branding, then they’re an excellent way to get a decent-looking site, and for free.
But when it comes to professional business sites, they are wholly unsuitable. Imagine a house built by a team of accountants instead of builders. There’s a reason we hire professionals for important projects.